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oil paint additivesThere are various techniques for working with oil paint. When working with oil paint, various additives are generally used. In this article, I attempt to provide an overview of what mediums are actually available and what they do. Although I use the general term "mediums" for convenience, this is not entirely correct. The additives are actually divided into 6 categories, each with its own specific purpose. An overview of the most commonly used ones can be found here.

1. Primers

Primers are substances that provide a good adhesive surface. They also reduce the absorption of the paint or oil into the support, ultimately resulting in a better outcome. There are also primers that can create relief surfaces.
Some primers include:

  • Gesso; for flat surfaces, can also be mixed with color. Gesso is available from various brands.
  • Underpainting white; for relief surfaces (Talens)

Many supports are already prepared. There are canvases in various sizes from many different brands that are already primed, so you can use them straight away. There is also specially prepared oil painting paper, and canvas boards that do not need to be primed.


2. Solvents

Solvents thin the consistency of the paint. They make it "lean." This means that by adding solvents, relatively less oil is present in the paint. In glazing techniques, you work fat over lean. Therefore, you start with a layer to which some solvent may be added. Solvents are also used to clean brushes and palettes after painting. The most well-known solvents are:

  • Turpentine; This is the strongest solvent for artists, but also the most dangerous and pungent. At Talens, this is called "rectified turpentine" and at Winsor & Newton "English Distilled Turpentine."
  • Mineral spirits; this is a mineral alcohol and therefore not the same as turpentine. Mineral spirits are watery and evaporate quickly. They are slightly less dangerous than turpentine. Odorless mineral spirits are also available from Talens. This product is otherwise comparable to regular mineral spirits from Talens. Mineral spirits are also known as "White spirit."
  • Sansodor; This is a viscous and slow-evaporating substance. Sansodor is less dangerous than turpentine and mineral spirits. Additionally, it is odorless. Its use is similar to turpentine. You can use it to make the oil leaner or thinner. Sansodor is produced by Winsor & Newton.

3. Mediums

You can create painting mediums yourself by combining oil and solvent. Nowadays, there are also many ready-made mediums on the market. These generally have specific properties and cannot be easily made by simply combining oils and solvents. Mediums can have different applications. Usually, they thin the oil paint and improve its flow; sometimes they immediately accelerate drying. There are also mediums that maintain the consistency of the paint but reduce color intensity. Finally, there is also a special medium for glazing techniques

An overview of Talens mediums:

To improve paint flow:
  • Painting medium; for thinning oil paint
To improve paint flow and accelerate drying:te laten drogen:
  • Fast-drying painting medium; for thinning oil paint and accelerating drying
  • Alkyd medium; for thinning oil paint and accelerating drying

Special for glazing techniques:
  • Glazing medium; for thinning oil paint, enhancing flow. Especially for glazing techniques.
  • Venetian turpentine; for thinning oil paint, enhancing flow. A traditional medium for glazing techniques

To reduce color intensity:
  • Painting paste; increases the amount of paint while maintaining consistency. It reduces color intensity.


An overview of Winsor & Newton mediums:

To improve paint flow and accelerate drying:
  • Liquin original; is an alkyd medium. It accelerates drying, improves flow, enhances gloss, and is resistant to yellowing. Brush strokes are hardly visible. This medium is very popular. Liquin is quite pasty.
  • Liquin Fine detail; more liquid than liquin original. Very suitable for fine details. Gives smooth surfaces.

Special for glazing techniques:
  • Liquin light gel; brittle quick-drying gel. Especially for glazing.

To give the paint more body:
  • Liquin impasto; matte medium that preserves brushstrokes. Gives the paint more body.
  • Winsor & Newton; accelerates drying and improves flow while maintaining a slightly stiffer consistency than liquin
  • Oleopasto; accelerates drying and ideal for impasto techniques

To slow drying:
  • Artist’s painting medium; ready-made medium, improves flow, slows drying, and increases paint layer durability. This medium is also suitable for saturating paint.


4. Oils:

Oils are used to reduce the consistency of the paint. The paint becomes slightly thinner. Moreover, they improve flow, making brushstrokes less visible. Oils are also used in glazing techniques, and you can use them to make your own painting medium.
An overview:
  • Cold-pressed linseed oil; can be added to paint to thin the consistency and improve flow. It also increases gloss and transparency.
  • Refined / purified linseed oil; has similar properties to cold-pressed linseed oil but dries more slowly. This is the most popular oil.
  • Bleached linseed oil; accelerates drying, improves flow, and is particularly suitable for working with light colors due to its light color.
  • Thickened / boiled linseed oil; accelerates drying even faster than bleached linseed oil, improves flow, gloss, and durability of the paint layer.
  • Drying linseed oil; promotes the drying of all drying oils and increases gloss.
  • Stand oil; improves paint flow and ensures better leveling. Stand oil is very suitable for glazes and fine detailing. Slows drying and is the best choice when oil is used as a medium. It is best to apply stand oil in the final layers.
  • Poppy oil; slow-drying oil, suitable for use with light colors.
  • Drying poppy oil; accelerates drying. Resistant to yellowing and very suitable for use with light colors.

Retouch varnish

5. Varnishes:

(Final) Varnishes provide an even gloss layer and protect your painting. Varnishes are usually available in matte and glossy finishes. Oil paintings must be completely dry before applying a varnish layer. For thin paint layers, this takes a minimum of 6 months. There are several types:
  • Dammar varnish; traditional high-gloss varnish. This varnish can only be thinned with a powerful solvent like turpentine. Talens also provides Dammar varnish in matte.
  • Painting varnish (Talens); available in matte and gloss.
  • Acrylic varnish (Talens); available in matte and gloss, suitable for both oil and acrylic paints.
  • Artists’ gloss varnish and Artists’ painting varnish (Winsor & Newton); high-gloss and crystal clear. They are the modern replacements of Dammar varnish.
  • Consev-Art varnish (Winsor & Newton); available in matte and glossy. A crystal-clear varnish that can be easily removed for over 100 years.
  • Wax varnish (Winsor & Newton)

There is also retouch or retouch varnish available. This provides temporary protection to recently completed oil paintings. The paint must dry for at least a month. Then, when the paint is completely dry, a layer of final varnish can be applied over the retouch varnish. Retouch varnish is also used to revive matted or dull spots on the painting.

protecting and cleaning hands

6. Other Products;

In addition to the mentioned products, there is, for example, siccatif. This is a product that reduces the drying time of oil paint. There is siccatif Courtrai, which is clear in color, and siccatif Harlem, which is slightly darker in color.
Under the category of other products, there are also special cleaning agents such as hand cleaner, for example, Artgel from Winsor & Newton or Hand Cleaner from Talens. Winsor & Newton also has a protective cream that you can apply to your hands before painting. This prevents harmful substances from penetrating your skin and simplifies cleaning.

ll in all, there are many possible additives, and these are just two brands. Other brands generally have similar products. If you want to delve into this further, you can find an overview of manufacturers under the "Materials" category. Most manufacturers have a website where their products are extensively described. Ultimately, the product you choose largely depends on personal preference. This overview provides a good idea of the possibilities. Of course, you don't need to purchase everything. This depends, among other things, on the technique you use, and with a few additives, you can go a long way. Some examples of how to work with these additives in practice are discussed in the article "Oil Painting - Working with Mediums."