How to dilute oil paints easy and effective


    Are you approaching this painting technique first and don’t know how to dilute oil colors? Don’t worry, and this doubt is not as trivial as it might seem. Maybe you are a painter or a painter experienced with watercolors and acrylics, and therefore you are used to it to dilute your colors with just water. Perhaps he has never painted in your life, and therefore you need general lessons on color dilution. Or maybe, again, you have already started to use tubes of oil paints for some time, but the many and different tips read on the net and heard by friends have created a lot of confusion. In this article, we will talk about oil paints and explain various techniques to dilute them.

    A guide to understanding what to dilute oil paints with

    Someone uses linseed oil, someone else turpentine essence, still others odorless thinner or walnut oil. And these are just some of the thinners that are used! So no, the question ‘how to dilute oil paints’ is by no means trivial, nor is the answer. We anticipate, for now, that there is no absolute correct solution that silences everyone: and this will suffice for you until the next paragraphs! Before seeing how to dilute oil colors, we will do a quick review of the composition of these paints to understand why you cannot use simple water like we do watercolor and acrylics.

    The composition of oil paints

    What do you find inside the tubes of oil paints? And why can’t you use water to dilute them? Well, you must know that these colors are essentially composed of two elements. The pigment defines the color. The pigments for painting can be of various types, organic, inorganic, natural, or synthetic. There are more or less valuable pigments, and this essentially determines the final price of the color. You have probably already seen some tubes of paint, even just 35ml, with quite high prices. It is generally due to the use of very fine pigments. To bind the pigments and allow the colors’ effective usability is the second constituent substance that is the binder.

    The binder can be made up of virgin linseed oil or, in rarer cases, walnut oil or poppy oil. There are also special cases, such as Mussini Schmincke oil colors. In this case, in addition to the classic binders we talked about earlier, a special resin called Resina Damar is used, which gives the paint greater brightness, improves the refraction of light and the duration of the color over time. It is the same composition of oil colors. Therefore, that suggests, at least in part, how to dilute oil colors.

    How to dilute oil paints

    Not all painters use the same techniques and the same products to paint. To understand how to dilute oil colors, all the main solutions must consider.

    Dilute oil paints with white spirit

    Some painters, for example, are used to diluting oil colors with white spirit, which is, in fact, a mixture of hydrocarbons obtained from the fractional distillation of petroleum. In reality, fine art and print shops do not sell white spirit to dilute oil paints but rather to clean brushes – so much so that white spirit is not a thinner but rather a solvent. At MomArte, we strongly advise against the use of white spirit for diluting oil colors. Your small painting studio can certainly include the use of white spirit, but only to clean brushes and other accessories, such as spatulas: using it improperly as a diluent, you would end up ruining the colors and causing damage to your paintings and drawing ideas easy.

    Dilute the oil paints with turpentine

    Much better to dilute the colors with the essence of turpentine or with a distillate obtained from the resin of the pine. Moreover, this tool can also use for cleaning brushes, but unlike white spirit, it has a real diluting function, which allows for more elastic, softer, less dry, and ‘dusty’ colors. Its action as a solvent reduces the greasy part of the paint, thus “leaning” the color. It is often used in combination with linseed oil (read below how).

    Dilute oil paints with linseed oil

    Following the famous rule of ‘fat over lean oil painting, the first brushstrokes must be rigorously less oily than those that will come later. For this reason, in the beginning, the colors will be diluted mostly – or even only – with the essence of turpentine. After the first few strokes of lean, however, what is the real diluent of our oil colors will enter the field, that is, precisely, the oil. The most common is certainly linseed oil, but you can also change and throw yourself on walnut oil, poppy oil, and so on. Here, then, is how to dilute the oil colors: after squeezing your tube on the palette, you will mix the paint with a little turpentine and a little oil to adjust the viscosity and the color rendering.

    During the first phase of your pictorial work, the essence of turpentine will prevail over the oil, which instead will predominate towards the end of the canvas when you give the last strokes, the fattest ones. It must be said, is the basic method for diluting oil colors: the most experienced artists mix different oils and solvents to obtain the perfect oil from time to time, sometimes using desiccants and other times, on the contrary, retardants.

    How do you paint with oil paints?

    In this article, we have explained how oil colors are diluted shortly and concisely. Of course, these notions alone are not enough to say that you are capable of painting in oil. So how do you paint with oil colors? It is a question that is not easy to answer, as we are talking about the “queen” technique, the painting technique of the ancient masters.


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