What medium should I mix with oil paint from the tube?

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SKBreeding wrote
on 12 Feb 2014 10:54 PM

Hi, I am brand new to painting and quickly decided I preferred oil paints. However, I am very confused about what to medium to mix with the oil paints (artists quality Winsor & Newton) to make them more fluid and what to wet the canvas with for the alla prima technique. 

I watched a video by Igor Sakharov on YouTube and he wets the canvas with something that looks like water but in an English translation, he refers to it as solvent. He also mixes something with the paint on the pallet so it is nice and fluid as opposed to stiff the way it comes out of the tubes. Does anyone know what he uses or what I should be using? Here is a link to one of his videos which shows him wetting the canvas: http://youtu.be/3c5hbdMuiIc

Despite my ignorance, I plunged in. I bought Winsor & Newton artists quality paints, orderless turpenoid because I read turpentine is hazardous to your health and I paint in my breakfast area which doesn't have good venilation, cold pressed linseed oil because I read it didn't cause yellowing of whites, Liquin because an art student recommended it and Bob Ross' magic white and liquid clear because I wanted to use the alla prima/wet on wet technique. Later I plan to use the traditional fat over lean technique and try glazing.

Since I don't know what "solvent" Igor is using, I wet the canvas with a little of Bob Ross' magic white or liquid clear. Should I be using linseed oil or a mixture of linseed oil and turpenoid?  

Also, I don't know what medium or mixture of mediums to mix with the paint when it comes out of the tube to make it flow easily. I've tried adding a little oderless turpenoid, but that didn't work very well. It made the paint thinner but also seemed to thin the other paint on the canvas. I've also tried adding a little liquid clear or magic white or Liquin or cold pressed linseed oil, all of which worked better than just the turpenoid. The Liquin is so thick it is hard to get out of the bottle. The cold pressed linseed oil and the Liquin seemed to work the best, but I want to know what I should be using. Your help will be most appreciated. 

I've read about many different recipes but they all use turpentine and I'm concerned about the health issues since my work area is not well ventilated. Some of the recipes used stand oil or a varnish or walnut oil or poppy seed oil. So I am confused and could really use some guidance. 

Thank you so much!!! 

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JDWooldridge wrote
on 13 Feb 2014 9:49 AM

By solvent he means either odorless mineral spirits (OMS) or possibly even turps.  I have used that method before.  I use odorless mineral spirits both as my brush cleaner and for wetting the surface when I choose to bother to do that.  There is no right answer to this question as it all depends on how you prefer to work, what surfaces you prefer to paint on, and a myriad of other parameters.  Ask 10 painters and you will get many different answers.

For me, I use the OMS as a medium in the very early block in stages and then nothing at all after that.  I use a variety of paints, most commonly Rembrandt but I also use some W&N and I've never found their top of the line paints to be stiff at all.  Their Winton line, however, is very stiff and that works great for those who like to work impasto.

I would recommend trying to work without mediums for a while.  If you're brand new to painting, why complicate it with another thing to have to figure out?  Especially since artists with 20 and more years of experience argue over the "best" medium you have to figure there is no right answer.  It's already hard enough to make a really good painting.  Learn the basics of color mixing, composition, paint application, edge control, etc before adding this in.  You may learn you don't even need it.

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SKBreeding wrote
on 13 Feb 2014 1:01 PM

Thank you JDWooldridge. I sincerely appreciate you responding so quickly to my question. I especially appreciate you letting me know that you and Igor do sometimes use OMS to wet the canvas. 

I am using the Winton line because this is what the only art store in town sells. Most of the paints are so stiff, especially the white, that it just clumps on the brush instead of flowing onto the canvas. It is extremely frustrating, especially when I see videos where the paint flows so freely. I must mix something with the paint. 

Here is a link to my second winter landscape:  http://fineartamerica.com/featured/winter-landscape-ii-samantha-kay-breeding.html

I used an entire tube of white paint because I had so much difficulty getting the paint off the brush and onto the canvas. If I decide to continue painting, I will eventually search the internet for the Rembrandt paints you use. I just can't afford any right now, especially after I have spent so much on the Winton paints. Live and learn. 

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JDWooldridge wrote
on 13 Feb 2014 2:15 PM

I painted for a long time using Winton. Yes those are very thick.  As I said, if you paint with thick impasto, it works great because of that thickness and how cheap it is.  White is pretty much always your most used  paint.  Buy it by the biggest tubes you can find.  A trick I learned for dealing with that thick Winton white is to whip it up with your palette knife really well.  That seemed to make it behave a little better.  Admittedly, I kind of like my white a little thicker.  I can load the brush up with a lot of it have it stick but that's just the way I paint.  If you are having trouble just applying the paint, well I totally see how that could make learning all the other basics difficult!

You've already tried a lot of things.  IMO, the linseed oil is your best bet to combat your immediate problem with the Wintons.  Stand oil would be slightly better because it will reduce yellowing in your high values over time but linseed is fine since that's what you have.  But again, there isn't too much of a  hands down best for everything answer here, only what works best for you.  The only wrong answer is to use a solvent as a medium for the entire painting.  It really only works for the very initial efforts.  By the way, turpentine, turpenoid, and odorless mineral spirits are all solvents and are fairly interchangeable.  You can produce great paintings using stand oil, linseed oil, liquin, a combination of these, or one of many many esoteric recipes that can be found out there just as well as you can by using nothing at all (just in the case of these paints, maybe not in the style you would prefer!)  Personally, I'm a Keep It SImple Stupid type of person and that drives my preference to work with no medium at all.  Whichever works best for you right now is the right answer!

It sounds to me like you were doing the right things by experimenting but got overloaded with info from the internet.  Stay the course and be brave!

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SKBreeding wrote
on 13 Feb 2014 7:36 PM

Thanks again! I was really disappointed when I realized I had bought the student's paints instead of the artist's quality. But I'm glad you told me before I wasted anymore money on them. 

I actually did buy some stand oil because I saw it listed in one recipe. I just haven't tried that recipe yet because I didn't have the other ingredients. I bought the cold pressed linseed oil thinking it was suppose to minimize yellowing. You are right, all that info confused me. I also like things simple. I will try just the stand oil. Thank you SOOO much! :D

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Jay Babina wrote
on 14 Feb 2014 2:04 PM

Hello: First a medium is like the paint itself without pigment. Thinners are not a medium. Mediums can make oil paint flow better but it is not weakening the paints structure.

I used to use Liquin but the smell and fumes bothered me.  I switched to Alkyd Walnut Oil made by M. Graham. There's also a Walnut oil but the alkyd one speeds up the drying. It does create gloss but that doesn't bother me and often I like it. I am more and more conscientious about fumes and health issues especially when painting inside. Apparently the Alkyd Walnut Oil is all natural.  For thinner, I use hardware store odorless thinner (Sunnyside). From what I read, there's not a lot of difference between that and the more expensive art stores "safe" ones. I clean my brushes out of the studio to keep fumes out. I'd love to see an actual chemical test on thinners to really know which one is really the safest (not put out by the advertiser)

You can also just use Linseed OIl too. I have done that and believe it or not, Linseed oil speeds up the drying. I like the smell of Linseed oil. It may be bad for you as well, but it just seems less - bad. It is an oil from a plant. 

There's also the new product by Gamblin called solvent Free Gel made with safflower oil. Non-Toxic.

As the other poster said, you can just use paint right out of the tube as well.

 

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SKBreeding wrote
on 14 Feb 2014 5:19 PM

Thank you for clarifying the difference between the mediums and the paint thinners Jay! I really appreciate it! 

I thought I had bought artist's quality paints, but it turns out I bought the student grade, which is extremely stiff and difficult to get off the brush and onto the canvas. Hahaha. I laugh now, but it has been so frustrating that I considered giving up. However, I have been encouraged by family and friends because when they saw my second winter landscape they asked where that photo was taken. :D So I shall persevere, with the help of a medium and the kind guidance provided by more experienced artists willing to share their knowledge. I sincerely appreciate your help and JD's help. :D

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RobTheMonk wrote
on 16 Feb 2014 4:27 PM

Rather than creating my own thread, I thought I would simply toss my question into the ring as it pertains to mediums as well.

I'm still in my first months of oil painting and have begun using liquin and have been painting primarily wet in wet landscapes. Starting out I had a hard time transferring paint from palette to canvas and found that medium really helps with that. But isn't this backwards? I understand that I should be applying fat over lean, but the thinner layers I've already applied always seem to want to "wick" up the brush unless I use some medium to thin the new layer first, allowing it to "wick down."

I know the word "wrong" sometimes sets of a flurry of criticisms into motion, so is there a BETTER way to get a new layer to stick? And how much does brush quality come into play here? What about a base layer thinned with a traditional medium (like 50/50 linseed/thinner) and subsequent layers with liquin or some other medium that doesn't involve a solvent?

Thanks much,
RTM

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Jay Babina wrote
on 17 Feb 2014 7:51 AM

You should probably go on YouTube and watch some oil painting videos. There might be some on this site as well. Go to the library and look at books which show paintings in progress. I would normally say "take a course" but there's so many stylists that one person may not teach you want you want. There's  a lot of crummy teachers.

There's as many ways to paint with oils as there are artists. Most paintiers start with a fairly thin but not watery paint to draw in their subject and gradually start adding more opacity and some  thickness as they make satisfied decisions on the drawing. You usually don't go in and paint an entire paintng with a layer and go over that layer with another in oils. Unless there is some drying time because you'll just be pushing around wet paint from the first layer.

Also, what are you painting on? When I paint on a store bought stretched canvas, I usually sand the surface a bit with softens the tooth of the weave. I also paint on panels which I make myself and I like the cheapest Utrecht Gesso. It gives some tooth and a bit of absorbency to my first layer. Some gessos are too hard and the paint does not want to adhere well.

I would suggest watching videos. I'm not quite sure of what your problem is by your description. Forget the fat over lean for now and just paint. Some people paint quite thick from the first layer but that's all they put down because they want that thick, intentional brush stroke look too.

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RobTheMonk wrote
on 17 Feb 2014 12:38 PM

Well, specifically, when I paint trees over mountains in the background; or when I draw in the shape of a tree in a dark color and then do highlights for the "near side." The brush tends to want to pull paint up more than it wants to put it down unless I continue to thin as I go. 

 

I've watched videos and checked out a few books from the library, none seem to mention this problem and seem to carry right along without mentioning or encountering it. I will try a light sanding of my support in future; that seems like it might help. 

 

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SKBreeding wrote
on 17 Feb 2014 12:51 PM

Dear RobTheMonk,

The fat over lean technique applies to traditional oil painting where you do allow the paint to dry between layers. The wet on wet technique is the opposite. When the paint is still wet, a thin layer of paint will stick better to wet paint. Bob Ross had his paints specifically formulated such that the colors used for highlights are thinner than the darker colors. 

I also am using the wet on wet technique, as much as possible, and have run into this problem. Adding a little Liquin or Linseed oil will thin the paint so that it flows off the brush a little better, even though I realize adding oil to the paint actually makes it "fatter". Sometimes I have to let the painting dry some before I can continue to avoid making mud when the colors accidentally mix while wet. I hope this helps some.

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SKBreeding wrote
on 17 Feb 2014 12:51 PM

Dear RobTheMonk,

The fat over lean technique applies to traditional oil painting where you do allow the paint to dry between layers. The wet on wet technique is the opposite. When the paint is still wet, a thin layer of paint will stick better to wet paint. Bob Ross had his paints specifically formulated such that the colors used for highlights are thinner than the darker colors. 

I also am using the wet on wet technique, as much as possible, and have run into this problem. Adding a little Liquin or Linseed oil will thin the paint so that it flows off the brush a little better, even though I realize adding oil to the paint actually makes it "fatter". Sometimes I have to let the painting dry some before I can continue to avoid making mud when the colors accidentally mix while wet. I hope this helps some.

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Jay Babina wrote
on 17 Feb 2014 2:53 PM

Rob, you're doing exactly right. Yes, you would thin the paint to put it over other wet paint. Or.... wait a day or more for it to stiffen up. Adding thin paint over other wet paint works better with a softer brush as well. Here's a case were you are putting lean over fat and the world doesn't come to an end.

The lesson here is to paint fairly thin in the beginning so you can continue adding to the painting without dragging paint around.

You can just use thinner or any medium that would thin the paint. Some people also pick up a little light paint on one side of a flat brush with darker paint on the other to get a highlight effect on trees. Some people just take a paper towel and wipe out the tree shapes and then paint them. And some people will take a fairly large glob of paint and just float it on top of whatever's beneath it. In other words one stroke rather than any brushing motion.

When I work outside, I use liquin on all of my underpainting or drawing layers. If it's  a sunny warm day, that first layer is tacky or even hardening in hours and I can easily add further layers or detail right on top.

If you're painting with the big brush (Bob Ross) type of thing by laying in an entire background or even an entire canvas and then painting on top of that, then you will have to thin the paint for a subsquent layer or make sure the first layer is thin.

Here's a fairly typical way that most seasoned oil painters work:    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xwRPlkF9P8w



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JDWooldridge wrote
on 18 Feb 2014 10:19 AM

I agree totally with Jay on the thinness of the initial layers or block in.  But thin here doesn't mean "thinned" it means very little paint.  Try to use the smallest amount of paint possible to cover when you do your block in and don't really worry about covering every square inch of surface.  If you feel the need to thin the paint, thin it with solvent at this early stage, not oil or liquin or some other medium.  Save those for later if you need them.

Your brush could very well be playing a role as you suspect.  Bristle brushes are great for block in and maybe a little further but once you get into highlighting and accenting you should probably switch to a softer brush.

I might also suggest you try to fully compose your picture in the block in stage so you aren't trying to apply that tree over a mountain.  Know where everything is going to go.  Use a neutral paint color with low tinting strength like an umber.  Get all of the big shapes in place before you start applying the thicker layers of paint.

Lastly, a soft touch when applying those finishing touches is often critical.  Plowing the paint onto the surface will never work no matter how thin your block in or how much medium you use or how soft your brush.  This is a skill that you just have to learn with practice.

Also, there is absolutely nothing wrong with letting your painting dry and working in layers.  This method is, in some ways, superior to alla prima.

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steve c rowe wrote
on 26 Mar 2014 11:24 AM

you are confusing fat over lean with thick over thin. fat over lean refers to the oil /medium content of the paint. when you paint in layers it is important that the base or bottom layers dry first to avoid cracking The issue with having a problem of paint out of the tube is that you are trying to apply a thick paint on top of a thin base .thin will stick to thick but not the other way around. paint can be thinned by oils or solvents or a mixture of them your lower levels should be thicker and leaner (strait out of the tube and with a higher solvent content. ) increase the oil content in the upper layers. paint out of the tube is pigment mixed with oil adding oil (fatter) lengthens the drying time. adding solvent (leaner)decreases the drying time. a mixture of say 50/50 oil and solvent mixed in differing amounts with the paint out of the tube will thin the paint but will not make it fatter or leaner. I hope this will help.

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