The number of questions that we have seen relating to paint mediums has been steadily increasing with each month that goes by and we have noticed more and more people reaching out about using coconut oil for oil painting. Due to this steadily increasing demand for information on how coconut oil performs as a paint medium as well as some misleading posts on social media about using coconut oil with your oil paints, we have decided to publish this dedicated article.
Our hope is that we are going to be able to help make our readers aware of the various issues associated with using coconut oil with your oil paints and why it should be avoided in our opinion. We know that there are photographs published to social media showing oil based artwork using coconut oil but these are usually taken directly after the artist completes their work where as the negative effects of coconut oil take a week or so to start showing.
In our opinion, if you are looking for an oil based medium for your arts and crafts then you should always be looking to use one of the main types of medium listed below:-
These tend to offer you the best possible performance for your oil painting while usually being a similar price oil to coconut oil. We have seen more and more people asking about using olive oil as a medium for oil painting too and we recommend that you avoid this due to similar issues as coconut oil but we go into this more in our article on why you should not use olive oil with oil paints.
Can Coconut Oil Be Used For Oil Painting?
Although coconut oil can technically be used as a medium for your oil paints, it has too many downsides to make it a realistic option for any serious artwork. Just because something is oil and will mix with your oil paint does not mean that it will have the same properties as the other popular mediums on the market as each oil tends to have their own unique advantages and disadvantages. When it comes to coconut oil, it is usually only disadvantages and we will go into the more prevalent ones in more detail below.
Coconut Oil Is Not A Hardening Oil
The main reason that you should be looking to avoid using coconut oil is that it is not a hardening oil meaning that it is very difficult to get coconut oil to dry solid when compared to something like linseed oil. As you can imagine, if your oil paints never dry then it is a pain to layer or blend correctly as everything just ends up mixing together and ruining your artwork.
The main feature of any decent paint medium is that it has to dry else it is essentially pointless rendering coconut essentially useless for oil painting. That said though, there are a number of other uses in the arts and crafts space that you are able to use coconut oil for but in our opinion, it should be avoided for use with oil paints.
Coconut Oil Yellows Very Quickly
The second main drawback of using coconut oil as a paint medium is that it tends to yellow much quicker than the more established paint mediums potentially ruining your work. Although there are some other popular oil mediums that people do tend to use with their oil paints that yellow over time, it tends to be after years rather than weeks like coconut oil.
Unlike some of the other oil mediums that will usually only have a yellowing effect on lighter colors, coconut oil can add a slight yellow hue to darker colors too. We have seen a few people recommend various things that you can add to your oil paint when using coconut oil to prevent this yellowing effect but in our opinion, it is more hassle then it is worth when you can just use something like linseed oil from the very start as your medium and be done with it.
Coconut Oil Does Not Mix Well With Pigment Sticks
Although you are able to add both pigment sticks and pigment dusts to coconut oil to make your own oil paint at home, the consistency of coconut oil tends to make it difficult to mix either pigment option with the oil correctly. This then results in an inconsistent spread of the pigment on your canvas, paper or other surfaces causing undesirable effects and making it look like your paints are fading.
Although most people do still tend to use an oil paint directly from a tube, more and more people are starting to take the pigment option and add their own pigments directly to oils for use as an oil paint. We only expect this trend to continue over the coming years so want to make our readers aware that coconut oil is not really a suitable option for a homemade pigment based paint.
Coconut Oil Is Temperature Sensitive
Although this is partly down to the issue with coconut oil not drying or hardening that we covered above, the consistency of coconut oil tends to change drastically depending on your local temperature. This is a pain and can actually end up causing the coconut oil to drop down your canvas as gravity takes its tool in hot weather. This is due to the internal bonds of the coconut oil weakening when warm and the consistency becoming even runnier than usual.
On the flipside of this though, coconut oil can end up turning slightly white in colder areas as the bonds strengthen causing additional issues with the oil tweaking the color of your actual pigment or paints. That said though, even in a cold area coconut oil will not fully harden either so this is not a valid workaround to getting coconut oil to perform better as a paint medium either.
Coconut Oil Can React With Canvas
Although rare, we have seen reports of coconut oil reacting with canvas to thin its threads and cause it to frey. Although people often refer to this as the canvas rotting, it is due to a reaction to some of the chemicals in the coconut oil thinning the canvas rather than it actually rotting due to decay.
Although this is rare, it is less than ideal as in some cases we have seen people report that actual holds end up forming in their canvas. On top of this, this effect seems to be unpredictable as it only seems to randomly occur in a small number of cases and we have no additional information on what causes it or how to avoid it.
Coconut Oil Results In Bugs And Mold
Additional factors such as your local climate and the area you store your artwork will come into play with this one but coconut oil can end up attracting bugs as well as encouraging mold to grow on your artwork too. Unfortunately, this does tend to be unavoidable when using coconut oil with paints as any of the protective sealants that you may be able to use over your paints to prevent this will usually cause additional issues with your paint anyway.
In addition to this, due to coconut oil not drying fully and hardening many sealants will simply not work when used on top of your paint anyway. Although we have seen a number of work arounds to try and prevent this from happening such as adding a small amount of salt to your paint mix prior to using it, we feel that just using something like linseed oil from the very start offers better performance without these additional steps being required.
Coconut Oil Can Cause A Film To Form
The final issue that can occur when using coconut oil as your medium for your oil painting is that a thin film can form in colder areas above your paint layer. This tends to add a silver effect in addition to the potential yellow effect that were covered earlier in the article totally warping your colors.
Unlike the yellowing effect that tends to be more prevalent in lighter colors, this silver silm is more obvious on darker paints but can still usually be seen on lighter colors. This effect is due to the bonds strengthening in the coconut oil in areas where it is cold enough to effect the consistency of the oil but not cold enough to cause it to start to toughen up completely.
That brings our article going over why you shouldn’t use coconut oil for oil painting to a close. We hope that we have helped our readers realise why they should not be using coconut oil as a medium as there are much better options available with similar price tags. These other options tend to be usable right out of the bottle too without any additional steps needing to be taken as well as being free from most of the issues covered above.