As with other types of paint additives, there are a whole host of oil painting mediums to tempt you.
But which ones do you really need and which can you do without – at least for now.
It’s easy to believe that your painting will be a complete mess unless you use each and every one of them – every time…
It won’t. But a little prior knowledge helps as well.
Don’t forget we’re using the term ‘Mediums’ in this article in relation to oil painting additives and not in its other context as the type of paint you’re using ie: acrylic paints, watercolor paints, etc.
Have a look here at the main oil painting mediums and a brief description of what each one does.
Damar Medium, also spelled dammar, traditionally is a mixture of Stand oil, Damar and Pure Gum Turpentine. Damar resin is extracted from fir trees found in Indonesia and Malaysia. In making the medium, damar crystals are commonly dissolved in Gum Turpentine. Wet Paint carries dammar crystals and a pre-mixed dammar medium that uses citrus thinner instead of turpentine.
Flemish Maroger is an oil varnish painting medium discovered by Jacques Maroger, painter and former curator of the Louvre in the early 20th Century, who claimed to have found the secret formulas used by Old Masters such as Titian, Rubens, Van Dyck, Velasquez, as well as others. Consisting of Black Oil and Mastic Varnish, this medium comes in the form of a soft jelly, and is used for its great versatility in oil painting.
“The jelly is of an amber color … It is like a liquid glass with which the painter invests his pigments. It possesses the extraordinary property of congealing in the air and of becoming ductile again at the touch of the brush. Drawn by the brush, it moves fluently over the canvas. As soon as the brush is removed, it becomes firm and congeals immediately.
Maroger medium is a modified oil-resin mix which imparts luster and a unique brush-ability to tube oil paint. The medium is a mixture of mastic (tree resin) and black oil (heated or polymerized walnut oil) and litharge (lead dryer). LeFranc Oil (distributed by W&N) produces two specific mixtures based on older European formulas. Flemish oil medium inparts a glossy enamel-like finish to the surface and is productive for glazing; while Venetian medium is similar to Flemish in composition but differs with the additional presence of bees wax which reduces the gloss to a satiny luster. We also carry maroger in a tube from Sennelier which is significantly more expensive and is more paste-like. It produces a satin finish when thinned with turpentine. All oil-resin mixtures such as maroger need to be thinned with turpentine. Oil spirits will not properly reduce these formulas. It is important to mention that all of these mediums have a significant amount of lead in them and are considered toxic. Also, maroger medium has been shown to darken the paint film over time making, its permanence less than ideal.
COPAL PAINTING MEDIUM
Traditional copal painting medium is made from fossilized resins that are exuded from living plants and mixed with linseed oil. It should only be used in small amounts. It will speed drying time, improve flow, and increase gloss.
VENETIAN TURPENTINE RESIN
Venetian Turpentine Resin is a viscous natural balsam made by Schmincke. It is tapped from European larch trees and therefore is sometimes referred to as larch turpentine. It is good additive because it contributes to the stability of the film. It is more flexible than other resins and is relatively non-yellowing. Use sparingly.
Alkyd Resins are a synthetic resin for oil paints. Made by combining an alcohol/acid resin with soy oil, these resins make good binders that are durable and dry fast. When used as a binder or medium alkyds are for the most part clear; some yellowing has been reported. Winsor & Newton makes a line of paint using alkyd resin as the binder (Griffin). These paints or mediums can be used interchangeably with other paints and mediums.
Neo Megilp is made with an Alkyd resin base. It is Gamblin’s answer to toxic black oil. Unlike Black oil, Neo Megilp will dry very fast without becoming brittle or darkening. It is a great glazing medium.
Galkyd is made from Alkyd resin by Gamblin. It dries very fast and is great for glazing. This medium can be used as an alterative to traditional Stand oil / Dammar / Turpentine painting medium. There are different varieties of Galkyds highlighted below. Over all it will add gloss and clarity of color to a painting. Similar effects can be had using Stand Oil.
Galkyd: fast drying; high cohesion; great leveling properties
Galkyd Lite: low viscosity; fast drying-medium cohesion; will show brush strokes
Galkyd SD: slow drying; low cohesion; great level properties
WALNUT ALKYD MEDIUM
Walnut Alkyd medium is made from Alkyd resin and Walnut Oil. It is for accelerating drying time and enhances in adhesion between layers. This medium is great for glazing. Like many glazing mediums it dries glossy. Because it is Walnut Alkyd it is non-toxic and will not yellow like other mediums.
Liquin is another modified resin used for glazing, made by Winsor & Newton. Dries very fast. Improves the flow and transparency of the paint.
Wingel is another modified resin made by Winsor & Newton. This comes in a tube form, but it is not an impasto medium. It is know as a thrixotropic gel because as it is mixed it liquefies and then re-gels. Over all it is quick drying, improves flow, transparency, and dries glossy.
Impasto Mediums are mediums that will help to strengthen and extend without thinning the paint. Another benefit is that thick strokes of paint will dry much faster and more evenly with the aid of a medium. In fact the thick rough stokes may not hold up without the added strength of a medium.
Oleopasto is Winsor & Newton is oil modified alkyd resin, impasto medium. Dries fast, extends colors, and is resistant to yellowing. Will add gloss to a painting.
Res-n-gel is an alkyd made by Weber. Non- toxic, non-yellowing, glossy, and quick drying.
Galkyd Gel is Gamblin’s impasto medium. It is quick drying, full-bodied and glossy.
ZEC is made by Grumbacher they use stand oil and natural resins for their medium. It is full-bodied, and speeds drying time.
SENNELIER IMPASTO MEDIUM
Sennelier impasto medium is an emulsion of water in oil made possible by the incorporation of China Clay, along with safflower and stand oil, egg yolk, synthetic resins, gum Arabic and several types of drier including lead. Thickens oil paints for impasto and relief techniques that are usually inadvisable with oil paint. It can be applied directly to the support, left to dry and then painted over with oil colors. Mixed directly with oil colors (in any proportion) it produces a creamy paste of a slightly lighter hue depending on the amount used. It can be thinned with turpentine, mineral spirits or water. Adding turpentine makes colors more matte. Dry time: 1mm approximately two weeks, ¼” may take a few months.
COLD WAX MEDIUM
Cold Wax Medium can be used as an impasto and a glazing medium. It has a matte finish, and can also be used as a protective coating. Wet Paint carries two types of cold wax mediums. Gamblin’s cold wax is made from bee wax and mineral spirits (Gamsol), while Dorlands is made from a compound of waxes and resins. It should be used in limited amounts on inflexible surfaces in order wax to prevent cracking.
Driers, as the name implies, help oil paint to dry faster. They are traditionally referred to as siccatives. Driers work by accelating the rate at which oil molecules absorb oxygen. Traditional siccatives use lead, manganese or cobalt metals to promote oxidation whereas alkyd resin is used in modern driers. Excessive use of drier can weaken the paint film and cause discoloration.
Japan drier is Alkyd resin, Mineral Spirits, Aromatic 50 Solvent, and Cobalt Naphthenate made by Grumbacher. Speeds drying, improves gloss. Add directly to color in small amounts. Color should not be thinned beyond a soft free brushing consistency.
Cobalt drier is made from Aliphatic Petroleum Distillate; D-Limonene and Cobalt Tallete by Grumbacher. Speeds drying. Add small amount to color, mix well, test before using. It’s very important not to overdo it with the cobalt drier, it is strong and can weaken your paint film if overused (use very little).
The best known thinner and cleaner for oil paints and brushes.Use the distilled artists version rather than the household version for best finishes on your painting. Traditionally mixed 50/50 with linseed oil for an excellent medium. However, its powerful odor is not always welcome in the house and may be an irritant for some artists.
Low Odor Thinners
An excellent substitute for turpentine, in all the areas mentioned above – without the smell!
After turps, probably the best known of the oil painting mediums. On its own gives colors a high gloss. Added to colors it produces a glaze effect. Used 50/50 with turpentine or low odor thinners, it provides a good, general purpose paint medium for oil painting. Slows down drying time. Compared to some oils, it can go a little more yellow over a period of time.
A cheaper version of low odor thinners and turps. Ok for thinning paints for underpainting, but probably not for quality work. Fine for cleaning brushes.
Prepared Oil Painting Mediums
Varying from one manufacturer to another, a combination of white spirit and other oils to provide a ready-mixed, user-friendly paint diluent. A beginner could use this, instead of mixing their own combination of oils and other additives.
A faster-drying version of linseed oil. Reduces consistency of paint and brush marks.
For adding to lighter colors and white. Less inclined to yellow than linseed oil. However slower drying.
Gloss or Matt Picture Varnish
A spirit based varnish, equally at home on acrylics as well as oils. Dries to a gloss finish and will not yellow or bloom. Gloss and matt varnishes can be mixed to give a satin finish. Can be removed with turpentine or white spirit.
A thin varnish which can be painted over a touch-dry painting to ‘lift’ areas where the oil has sunk into the canvas, leaving dull spots. Can also be used as a temporary varnish, say for exhibitions, where thicker paint on a recently completed painting may take many months to dry through completely. Can be removed prior to, or left on underneath, the final varnish coat.
Dries in a few hours with a satin – medium gloss. Removable.
So there we are. If you’ve read this far, it’ll be obvious already that several oil painting mediums do fairly similar things.
Probably the best ones to start with are Low Odor Thinners, one of the mixing oils such as Linseed oil and one of the other additives that promote quicker drying.
Then as you become used to them, try out the other oil painting mediums one by one. This way minimises confusion over what to use and when and stops you wasting your money.
(in Italy, called Zecchi)
Venice Turpentine is a balsam – the sap of a Larch Tree. Add to oil paints, mediums and varnishes for an exquisite jewel-like quality and tough, enamel-like surface.
Real Venice Turpentine is derived from European larch trees, this resin has the consistency of honey and is offered in its pure, undiluted state. Dilute with 20% turpentine and use sparingly to a 5% maximum of the total paint mixture.
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