How To Use Turpentine In Oil Painting!

Our content may have affiliate links that can result in commissions for qualifying purchases, full details in our privacy policy.

Although we have already covered a number of different paint mediums that you are able to use for your oil painting, we wouldn’t consider any of them to be essential additions to your collection. You can usually pick and choose between the mediums that we have already covered based on their advantages and disadvantages. That said though, we feel that adding a decent distilled turpentine solution to your collection is an essential addition to your collection due to the versatility of using turpentine in oil painting.

To be clear, we are specifically referring to a distilled turpentine produce throughout this article, not a regular household turpentine. Regular turpentine that you use for other tasks in your house causes a film to form over your paints as well as a number of other negative effects so please note we are only referring to distilled turpentine products that have been specifically designed for use in arts and crafts.

With distilled turpentine still being a solvent rather than an oil based product, we often see a number of people reaching out to ask how they are able to use turpentine in their oil based artwork to get the best possible results. Due to this, we have decided to publish this article going over the various ways that you are able to take advantage of turpentine to try and ensure that our readers are getting the most bang for their buck and getting the best end result possible with their oil based artwork.

Is Turpentine Good For Oil Painting?

Due to its versatility, turpentine is an excellent material to have access to for your oil paintings with a huge number of people from the community deciding to carry it in their arts and crafts collection. Although linseed oil is still probably the most popular medium on the market for use with your oil paints, almost just as many people tend to carry turpentine in their collection too these days.

Another feature of turpentine that helps to score it points over the competing paint mediums is that it will rarely yellow no matter how old your artwork is. Although some of the other popular oils and substances that people use to thin their oil paints may have a delayed yellowing reaction due to them being refined, where as turpentine tends not to have this issue.

Please note though, as we touched on earlier, we are specifically talking about distilled turpentine where as household turpentine does tend to have issues with yellowing at a rapid pace. This is why you have to specifically pick up a distilled turpentine product that has been designed for arts and crafts rather than general purpose turpentine.

Why Do You Use Turpentine In Oil Painting?

Turpentine tends to offer artists three main benefits and uses when oil painting but it does have a few additional benefits for wider arts and crafts that we won’t be focusing on in this article. The main use of turpentine for your arts and crafts is to thin your oil paints directly out of the tube prior to applying them to your canvas or paper. Due to turpentine having a fast dry time, it makes it an ideal option for any base layers or parts of your artwork that you need to dry as quickly as possible.

The second use that turpentine offers artists is to mix a paint pigment with it directly to make your own oil paint at home offering you the same fast-drying benefits as paint directly from a tube. That said though, in our opinion at least, something like linseed oil does offer you better general performance for direct use with a pigment. If this is the main thing that you need your medium for then going with linseed oil will probably be a better option for most people.

The third and final main use of turpentine that oil based artists take advantage of is its solid cleaning properties for your paint brushes. Although some of the other oil mediums can be used for use when cleaning your brushes, we feel that turpentine is the only one that offers solid performance and actually does a good job essentially offering you a third benefit that most other mediums don’t offer you.

Can You Mix Pigment With Turpentine?

Although you are able to mix paint pigment with turpentine, we feel that something like linseed oil or safflower oil will offer you better performance for the majority of pigments. That said though, you are usually able to get away with mixing the following three main pigment types with turpentine to get decent performance:-

Although people have started to use some alternative options such as food coloring and various type of make up such as eye shadow as their pigment option, these tend to perform poorly with turpentine. On top of this, both food coloring and make up tends to perform poorly in general even with other mediums such as linseed oil too with the three main pigment options covered above usually being the best option for long term performance in your artwork.

How To Use Turpentine To Make Your Own Oil Paint!

If you are set on using turpentine to make your own oil paint at home then the process is usually much easier than many people think provided you have a decent paint pigment as well as some distilled turpentine. Pour some of your turpentine into a mixing container and then add a small amount of your paint pigment to it and mix the two together thoroughly.

Once you are confident that the majority of the paint pigment that you added to your turpentine has been mixed through, you can compare the color of your current mixture to the color that you desire. It is likely at this stage it will need to be darkened so you add another small amount of pigment and then remix everything together and keep repeating the process until it is complete. The thin consistency of turpentine also works to your advantage making it much easier to mix with your pigment then some of the oil options that people use too.

It is much easier to mix your pigments this way with small amounts being added to your turpentine in stages rather than just adding everything at once. It is highly likely that your homemade turpentine based paint will need to be lightened if you just randomly drop a large amount of your pigment into it and having to add a lightening agent, even something as simple as white paint ends up dragging the process out and making it more complicated.

Does Turpentine Make Oil Paint Dry Faster Or Slower?

Turpentine has a very fast drying time helping to get your oil paints to dry as quickly as possible once applied to your canvas, paper, or other surface. Unlike some other popular options, turpentine always has a fast drying time too no matter what surface you are applying your oil paint too helping you to plan out your layers with ease.

Due to its fast drying time, the majority of people usually use turpentine as a medium for their oil paints for their base layers to get them onto their canvas and dry as quickly as possible. That said though, if you are on a budget and need to keep your costs as low as possible then you are able to use turpentine on all layers of your oil based artwork if needed.

Depending on what you are specifically doing with your artwork as well as your budget, you may want to add an average drying medium such as linseed oil to your collection too as well as a slow drying medium such as poppy oil. This tends to cover you for all possible use cases with your oil paints but if you are a beginner artist or on a tight budget, there is no need for this as keeping your costs as low as possible tends to be the better option.

Do You Have To Use Turpentine When Oil Painting?

Although turpentine is not technically an essential item in your arts and crafts kit, we do consider it to be one of the better items to carry due to the various use cases that we covered for turpentine earlier in the article. That said though, due to the toxic nature of turpentine, more and more artists are switching over to other suitable mediums for their oil paints each year such as the options covered below.

What Can I Use Instead Of Turpentine For Oil Painting?

We feel that there are seven main mediums used with oil paints with turpentine being one of the more popular ones but there are some excellent alternatives to using turpentine with your oil paints if required. In our opinion, the following six options tend to be the best for use with oil paints:-

Although sunflower oil is becoming increasingly popular, it simply has too many drawbacks in our opinion to be considered as a realistic alternative to turpentine but we go into this in more detail in our article on using sunflower oil with oil paints. On top of this, coconut oil has seen a spike in popularity but we have a detailed article going over why you should avoid using coconut oil with oil painting.


That brings our article going over using turpentine in oil painting to a close. We hope that we have been able to help our readers get the most out of their turpentine to get the best possible results from their artwork. In our opinion, turpentine is definitely one of the better mediums for oil paint on the market and it definitely has its place in the majority of peoples arts and crafts kit.