When you’re using oil paints, you might find that you often need linseed oil in order to alter the drying time of your paints and thin them out to get lighter, smoother layers. Many people use linseed oil and it’s considered a staple of oil painters everywhere, but if you don’t have access to any or you don’t want to use it, you’re probably looking for a linseed oil alternative. Fortunately, you have quite a few choices that you can turn to that should work just as well as linseed oil.
Oil paints are popular for their vibrant colors and the energy and flow that they will add to your work – and they also last well and create a stunning aesthetic that’s perfect for large, impressive pieces that you want to stand out. However, they do have some disadvantages, and one is that you can’t just dip your brush in water when you want a thinner layer; you have to use an alternative substance that is compatible with the paint.
It’s crucial to make sure you are using a medium that will work well, or you are at risk of ruining your painting and possibly the paint you have doled out too. In this article, we’re going to look at the top linseed oil alternatives so you know what you can use and how effective it is likely to be. This should put you in a great position to purchase whichever alternative would suit you best.
Turpentine is a commonly used alternative to linseed oil, and it’s made from the resin of certain trees – often pine trees, which lend it its distinctive scent. Turpentine is sometimes referred to as Spirit of Turpentine or Oil of Turpentine; it doesn’t matter which you choose, as they are all the same product under different names – however, you do want to make sure you are using Artist’s Turpentine for your projects, not Household Turps (which will probably leave a gummy residue on your brushes and in your paints, and may prevent them from drying).
Turpentine serves many purposes in oil paintings, and it’s a good way of ensuring that the first layers dry more quickly, so that the upper layers do not crack as the moisture leaves the paint and your artwork dries. It can be used to thin your paints, and it tends to be readily available, especially in art stores, because it is one of the most traditional solvents used in oil paintings. You can use it to clean your brushes as well as change the consistency of your paints.
You should be aware that turpentine is a toxic substance that will cause volatile compounds in the atmosphere around your painting as it dries, and it should be treated with caution. It can cause allergic reactions and the fumes may result in headaches. Always ventilate your space well before using it.
Liquin is another good alternative to linseed oil, and it has multiple advantages when mixed with the paint, including a faster drying time, thinner paints, and better glazes – so it’s a popular choice with many artists. It is an alkyd resin that will help you to control how your oil paints behave on the canvas and it tends to be easier to apply than turpentine. Many artists like using Liquin because of the degree of control it offers, and also because it stays on the palette, rather than being runny, as many thinning mediums are.
Liquin comes in various types, which further adds to its popularity; you can choose a type that suits your needs, and create glazes, fine details, leveling, and more. However, some people find it frustrating because it can erase brush strokes and may reduce the overall quality of your work. It also tends to add a shine that many artists do not want in their paintings – although if you are looking for a glossy finish, it’s an ideal additive.
Liquin is not designed for cleaning brushes, so you will need to use another chemical for this; it is only intended for adding to your paints, and not for repairs or varnishing. You won’t get good results if you try to use it for other purposes, and it’s best to stick to mixing it with paint.
Safflower oil is another popular alternative to linseed oil, and it has some additional benefits that you may not get from linseed oil (although linseed oil still tends to be the more popular option). Safflower oil can increase the glossiness of your paints, and may improve the transparency of the colors too, especially if you are using hues such as Indian Yellow. Perhaps more importantly, it is resistant to the yellowing that many oil paint mediums suffer from as the paint ages, so it’s ideal if you want your artwork to last for as long as possible.
Safflower oil does not dry your paint as quickly as some of the other mediums, however, and this is a big disadvantage if you are used to using the quick-drying options, such as Liquin. You will need to pay more attention to drying times and leave your work for longer, but this does have the advantage of giving you longer to adjust your lower layers and create more build-up effects. You can also adjust the consistency of the paints to form unique textures on the canvas.
This medium was traditionally expensive, but it has dropped in price in recent years, and even entry-level artists who don’t have much of a budget can often acquire this oil. It’s fun to experiment with and opens up a wealth of painting techniques that you might not get with other thinners.
Some artists love to use clove oil (sometimes alongside turpentine to disguise the latter’s unpleasant scent) to thin their oil paints and slow down the drying time, and this is another viable alternative to linseed oil – especially if you want a retardant, rather than something that speeds up drying. However, there are some significant disadvantages associated with this medium, and a lot of artists discourage beginners from painting with it for several different reasons.
The biggest of these reasons is cited as clove oil darkening over time, especially when it is exposed to light; this will change the appearance of your painting and prevent it from looking as you intended when you applied the paint to the canvas. However, whether this is true or not is still under debate; some experimentation indicates that it makes minimal difference to the hue of paints, even after years. On the whole, however, most artists prefer not to risk this and would rather use another oil.
Additionally, clove oil is problematic because it is thought to weaken the paint once it has dried, and this means the painting is less likely to stand the test of time. Paintings that include clove oil are often harder to clean, and although clove oil can give you more control over the drying time of your paints, it’s not an ideal option.
Walnut oil has been used by painters for centuries, and it has many advantages; it doesn’t yellow, it has a pleasant scent, and it can be used to remove paint from brushes and other tools. It is also thought to dry paints more quickly than the other options, which could be an advantage or a disadvantage, depending on how you like to work and what your texture preferences are. One of the problems with walnut oil is that it often turns rancid, so it can be challenging to store and it needs to be kept in the fridge if possible.
Make sure that you buy artist’s walnut oil, rather than the cooking oil that you may have in your kitchen, as the culinary oil often contains additives and vitamins that may alter how the paint behaves and extend the drying time. Artist’s oil will be the most suitable option for mixing with paints and should behave consistently every time.
Walnut oil is often a great choice if you are painting using light hues, and it won’t cause the surface film that is associated with some oils when they are mixed with paint. You can even use walnut oil to make your own oil paint if you choose to.
Any artist who is looking for a linseed oil alternative is bound to be pleased by the vast array of choices that they can turn to, but it’s important to do thorough research into each and test how it works before you adopt it as part of your daily palette. All painting mediums will offer different benefits and drawbacks, so you’ll need to choose according to your particular style and the effect that you wish to achieve, rather than just opting for the first oil you come across. Test the different options and see which you prefer, but steer clear of ones such as clove oil, which is generally agreed to be unsuitable for mixing with oil paints and which could damage the longevity of your art.