Although distilled turpentine has been one of the top three most popular options for thinning oil paints for decades, more and more people are wanting to move away from toxic solvents in their art studio. Over the last year or so, more and more people have reached out either asking how to thin oil paint without turpentine or for an actual turpentine substitute.
Although we already have our ultimate guide to oil painting mediums online as well as our article going over 11 alternative mediums for oil painting, we have decided to publish this article going over natural turpentine alternatives that you can use for oil painting. Our hope is that we will be able to help our readers find an alternative medium that they are able to use in their arts and crafts that meets their needs without it being toxic or solvent based.
Thankfully, there are a number of natural alternatives that you are able to use that all have their place within the arts and crafts community. Although some options are more popular than others while others definitely do perform better than some of the alternatives, we hope that we are able to help you choose the perfect turpentine substitute for you for your oil painting.
What Can I Use Instead Of Turpentine For Oil Painting?
Lavender Spike Oil
One of the best turpentine substitutes for oil painting has to be lavender spike oil. Although it is not as popular as some of the other alternatives on this list, lavender spike oil does tend to dry in less than twenty four hours making it one of the faster drying oils on the market that can be suitable for your base layers.
Although lavender spike oil does not dry as quickly as turpentine, it is probably the closes natural alternative that you are going to find. Although there are some reports of lavender spike oil darkening the colors of some oil paints, this is rare and the majority of people should be fine using it to thin their oil paints without issue.
Please note that lavender spike oil and lavender essential oil is NOT the same thing and you should not use lavender essential oil with your oil paint. This is a very common mistake that we see people make time and time again so be sure that you are actually getting the right option for use with your oil paints!
Although it is not an exact turpentine substitute for your oil paints, refined linseed oil is the most popular medium in the world and for good reason. It is very cheap, easy to use, and offers very good performance relative to its price tag. Although the drying time of linseed oil is slightly higher than the drying time for turpentine, it is only by six to twelve hours so usually doesn’t take that much longer to dry.
If you do have the additional time for your layers to dry on your canvas and are not in any specific rush then linseed oil can be an excellent option to go with. Although people do sometimes use raw linseed oil, it does tend to yellow and has some other minor issues when compared to refined linseed oil that tends to be considerably better.
We also have a dedicated article going over how you are able to use linseed oil for your painting that may be helpful too. It goes into how you can use linseed oil as your medium of choice with both oil paint from a tube and by adding suitable pigments directly to it. Thankfully though, linseed oil is very user-friendly and one of the easier mediums to use so even a beginner to oil painting shouldn’t have any problems working out how to use it correctly.
Stand oil is essentially an extremely refined linseed oil that has been refined to the highest possible grade for arts and crafts with all impurities removed. This offers two main benefits as a turpentine substitute, the refining process of a high-quality stand oil prevents it from yellowing your colors as much as raw or regularly refined linseed oil and turpentine can helping to protect your colors in your art.
The second advantage is that stand oil tends to dry quicker than linseed oil and although it is not as fast as turpentine, stand oil will still usually dry within a day. If you are looking for an alternative to turpentine for your oil painting then this may fit the bill due to it drying quicker than most of the other alternatives on our list helping you get your base layers down and dry as fast as possible.
Due to being refined to an even higher grade, the price tag of stand oil can be considerably more than the other mediums on this list though. If you are a beginner or are on a tight budget then this alone may put you off and some of the other featured alternatives may be better options for you. That said though, we cover this in more detail in our article on using stand oil for oil painting.
We are huge fans of using safflower oil as a medium for oil paints but it is not a direct turpentine substitute for a number of reasons but it can still work if you have the time to wait for it to dry. The main issues with safflower oil is that it is only a semi-drying oil so it is only really suitable for use in the outer layers of your paints where as turpentine is usually used for your base layers.
The second issue is that safflower oil does take a long time to actually dry and can take multiple days rather than just a few hours. Depending on exactly what you are trying to do with your oil paint, this may make safflower oil unsuitable for your specific needs but for most cases, safflower oil is an excellent medium and in our opinion, it is underrated by the community.
We have a dedicated article on how to use safflower oil for oil painting that may be helpful but for the most part, it is the same as using linseed oil and is relatively straight forward to use. One benefit of safflower oil over both turpentine and linseed oil is that it tends not to yellow anywhere near as much helping to keep the colors of your artwork as true as possible.
We were actually skeptical about adding clove oil as a possible turpentine substitute for oil paints as it is usually used in smaller amounts with solvent-based thinners to make them smell nicer. That said though, clove oil can perform to a decent standard as a stand-alone medium for arts and crafts with it usually performing well for oil paints.
That said though, in our opinion, any of the other featured alternatives to turpentine for thinning your oil paints in this list will be a better option as they tend to perform better as a stand alone solution. On top of this, some people really don’t like the strong scent of cloves with some people reporting that to them, it actually smells worse than solvent based mediums.
Clove oil can also take as long as a week to dry correctly too essentially pidgin holing it into a different role for oil painting that turpentine. Although you could use it for your base layers on your canvas if you really wanted to, it would drastically extend the time required for each layer to dry correctly for the next layer to be applied.
The final potential turpentine alternative that we have decided to feature on our list is walnut oil due to it performing very well for oil paint-based artwork with it rapidly growing its popularity over the last few years. It is a natural oil scoring it points for any of our readers who want to avoid the solvent-based medium route and tends to be much cheaper than it was a few years back.
Walnut oil does tend to take a long time to dry though so its usual use cases are often for the outer layers of your artwork rather than the base layers that turpentine is usually used for. Due to so many people ditching the toxic mediums such as turpentine for the natural options such as walnut oil, we wanted to include it in our list though to help make out readers aware of the options open to them.
We have a dedicated article going over how you can use walnut oil for oil painting that may be worth reading especially if you are wanting to make your own oil paints by adding a pigment to your medium. Walnut oil tends to be thicker than the majority of other mediums with stand oil being the only popular medium that is thicker than it slightly changing how you have to mix your pigment with the oil.
That brings our article going over how to thin oil paint without turpentine as well as our six primary turpentine substitutes to an end. Due to the prices of many of the alternative mediums that are suitable for oil painting decreasing over the last five to ten years, you have a huge range of options available to you that are also very budget-friendly. Your specific alternative to using turpentine will usually depend more on what you need the medium to do though with linseed oil usually being the more commonly chosen option.