6 Types of Oil Painting Mediums

Best Oil Painting Mediums

You may have only recently begun oil painting techniques or have been doing so for some time, but you have almost certainly heard professors or other artists discuss oil painting mediums. A medium is a conveyance for thinning paint and altering the drying rate. Varied mediums have different properties; some dry paint faster, while others keep it wet longer. 

An oil painting medium is a substance that is used to change the texture, quality, or drying rate of oil paint. Understanding when to utilize a medium can help you gain control over your paint, offer variation to your mark-making, and extend your approach by allowing you to employ additional paint options.

All oil paints already have a medium in them. Because paint pigment is a dry powder, oil binds it together. It’s just color, with oil added by the paint makers. These days, most paints are produced using safflower or linseed oil. Let’s have a look at few different types of oil painting mediums and why they could be used by a painter.

Types of Oil Painting Mediums

Oil mediums exist in a variety of forms, and as a result, they may and will generate a variety of effects. This might make deciding on the appropriate media for oil painting difficult from the start, but don’t panic! 

Artists can fine-tune the properties of oil-based paints with the use of a painting medium. Different effects may be obtained by learning and comprehending various oil mediums, and the work of art can be taken to a whole new level.

1. Linseed Oil Painting Medium:

  • Linseed oil has been the most common drying oil since the 14th century, owing to its flexibility, which allows for simple mixing and glazing.
  • Linseed oil such as Grumbacher Linseed Medium, like other drying oils, undergoes a chemical interaction with oxygen that causes it to polymerize, encasing the pigment and assisting in the long-term preservation of color vibrancy. 

Cold Pressed and Refined Linseed Oil are two of the most common types of linseed oil.

Cold-Pressed Linseed Oil:

  • If you want to make a lean medium, combine cold-pressed linseed oil with oil of spike lavender.
  • This kind of linseed oil produces a tougher, more lustrous surface and dries faster.
  • This high-quality oil is commonly combined with professional paintings created with rich, pure pigments as a binder in many oil paints.
  • Because of the acid component, it works well as a binder and covers pigments much better than other oils.

Refined Linseed Oil:

  • The most often used oil medium is this one, U.S. Art Supply Refined Linseed Oil.
  • It reduces the time it takes for paint to dry, which is beneficial when working in layers.
  • Apply the ‘slow over the fast rule,’ which states that you should paint your quick-drying layers first, and then each layer on top should dry slower than the one before it.
  • As a result, with each layer, you may use more of this material.

2. Turpentine Oil Painting Medium:

  • Most painters choose turpentine, often known as turps since it is compatible with oil paint.
  • Paint pigments will be evenly spread and produce a lovely, even finish when combined.
  • Artist-grade turpentine, on the other hand, is required since it has less contaminant.
  • It’s worth noting that turpentine is hazardous if breathed, so use it in a well-ventilated area while working with it.
  • Turpenoid Natural is one of your finest choices for repair if your oil painting brush has grown stiff owing to inadequate washing.

3. Low Odour Thinners

  • The distinctions between turpentine, white spirit, and low-odor thinners or mineral spirits are often misunderstood.
  • Turpentine, on the other hand, is made from natural resins taken from trees, whilst white spirit and low-odor thinners are made from petroleum.
  • White spirit offered for oil painting is exactly as effective as turpentine, however, it has the same odor problems as pure turpentine, and therefore you can use low-odor thinners instead.

4. Poppy Oil and Safflower Oil:

  • Because safflower oil only contains linoleic acid, it is considered a weaker binder.
  • This oil decreases viscosity while improving flow as an oil medium.
  • Safflower oil, like other oils, forms a coating that does not shrink with time, although it is weaker.
  • Poppyseed oil is transparent oil that will not yellow with time or change the color of your painting.
  • Poppy oil is ideal for painters who want to work wet on wet because of its delayed drying period.
  • It may add a lovely buttery texture to your paint.
  • However, because there are concerns about its long-term durability, it should only be used in tiny amounts, and if you want to layer your paints, avoid using it in the first layers.

5. Walnut Oil Painting Medium:

  • For existence, this was the ‘go over to’ oil medium, and some of the ancient masters preferred it over linseed oil because it was less prone to ‘yellow.’
  • It also dries faster than safflower and poppy oils, giving it a number of benefits.
  • This oil may be used in the paint much like other oils, and it can also be used to clean brushes if you want to keep your workspace solvent-free.
  • Walnut oils from Mahoney’s Finishes are extremely glossy, have a lot of color depth, and are long-lasting.

6. Alkyd Medium:

  • Alkyd medium from M. Graham & Co. can also be used to create an isolating layer known as “sealing.”
  • Simply defined, this is the technique of using alkyd to lock entire layers of paint in place so that glazes or additional paint may be applied without removing any of the paint underneath.
  • Alkyd can be used to seal a painting once it has dried.
  • After the alkyd layer has dried, the artist can proceed to paint with opaque or glaze paints, sealing as needed to keep the layers below in place.

How to Choose Oil Painting Mediums:

Mediums are used to adjust your painting’s consistency, drying period, and finish. Depending on which you choose, you may produce a range of various sheens and lengthen or decrease the drying period of the paint. You may either mix them in with the paint on your palette or dip your brush in them like water.

Moreover, if you use good paints, you won’t need a medium. The medium, on the other hand, is an excellent choice whether you need paint to dry fast, slowly, or be a little thinner. Because most oil mediums have a small yellow tinge to them, you must be cautious when combining them with lighter colors. They can also turn your paintings yellowish over time, so be careful how very much you use while combining with your paint.

  • Fat Mediums Take a Long Time to Dry:

A medium with high oil content will take longer to dry, providing for a longer open period and more opportunity to manage the paint. Because these media are considered ‘fat,’ they are best utilized in the middle and end phases of a layered painting to lend depth to the color.

Over-painting leaner, faster-drying paint mixes over fat media should be avoided because the fat medium will progressively expand as it dries, pushing away the leaner layer above that has already created a hard film, producing cracking. 

  • Fast-Drying Lean Mediums:

Driers, along with large volumes of solvents and resin and a minimal amount of oils, are frequently employed when a prolonged open period is not desirable and a quick-drying medium is required.

This sort of medium might be touching dry overnight depending on the specific mix, components utilized, and application. To speed up the drying of oil paint, siccative media is applied drop by drop with a pipette.


  • Various media are employed for various reasons.
  • When selecting what media to use in your paint, this is critical.
  • Consider linseed oil if you want to lengthen the drying period.
  • However, if you want your paint to dry fast, a mixture of linseed oil and alkyd or pure alkyd can assist.
  • You may also build your own oil medium formula to guarantee that you get the results you want.
  • To figure out all of this, you’ll need time, patience, and ingenuity.
  • The first step in any of this, though, is to identify what you want to accomplish.
  • This will direct you in terms of which medium to attempt and how to improve your painting.
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