The Ultimate Turpentine Vs Linseed Oil Medium Comparison!

With so many people recently taking up oil painting as a way to get creative as well as to pass the time, we have noticed a huge increase in the number of questions that we see about using oil mediums with your oil paints. Although we have already posted our ultimate guide to oil painting mediums, we have noticed more and more people requesting a dedicated turpentine vs linseed oil comparison article.

Due to linseed oil being the most popular oil paint medium out there right now and turpentine being in second or third depending if you are in North America or Europe, we have decided to publish this article going over the two. We hope that going into the advantages and disadvantages of linseed oil will be able to help our readers choose the correct medium for their needs for their oil painting.

That said though, although oil paint mediums are able to improve the performance of your oil paints in multiple ways, we already have an article going over if you actually need a medium for oil painting that may be helpful. Due to so many people using either turpentine or linseed oil, we hope that this article will be able to help a large number of our readers though as both have a relatively unique use as far as a medium goes.

The Ultimate Turpentine Vs Linseed Oil Medium Comparison!

When it comes to the actual medium that you want to use with your oil paints, your actual end goals for your painting will come into play. On top of that, you also have to factor in the actual layer of your painting that you are working on as turpentine is commonly used to thin oil paints for base layers so they will dry as quickly as possible and then switch over to linseed oil for the outer layers of the painting.

Thankfully, both refined linseed oil and distilled turpentine are both very budget-friendly meaning that the budget of the reader should not come into play for the medium that they have to use for their oil painting. We know that there are some specialist mediums for oil painting that are expensive and often out of the budget for a beginner so it is nice to only have budget-friendly mediums to talk about for a change.

The final generic thing between the two featured mediums before getting into their specialist breakdowns is their toxicity level. More and more painters are starting to switch over to non-toxic mediums and this is one of the reasons that the popularity of the toxic turpentine medium is slowly declining whereas the non-toxic linseed oil gains popularity. If you do want to avoid toxic mediums then we have a dedicated article on how to thin oil paints without using turpentine.

The Advantages And Disadvantages Of Linseed Oil!

Linseed oil is a generic, jack of all trades, master of none type of oil paint medium that is usable in a wide range of different situations with your oil paints. Due to this, refined linseed oil keeps on growing in popularity amongst the community due to the amount of versatility that you are able to get out of the medium with ease. If you are on a tight budget then you can simply opt to use linseed oil as your medium of choice for pretty much everything that you could ever need to keep your costs as low as possible.

Although linseed oil does tend to yellow with age and tweak the colors of your oil paints, it tends not to be anywhere near as much as turpentine will helping to score it point. If the yellowing of your colors if a major factor then you can look to use stand oil that is essentially a highly refined linseed oil that tends not to yellow at all helping to keep the colors of your oil paints true as your artwork ages on the canvas or paper.

When compared to some of the other mediums that are commonly used, linseed oil offers the advantage of increasing both transparency and gloss of your paints once dry too. Although this is often overlooked amongst people when considering their medium for their oil paints, it is a rare effect amongst the competition.

Although some people do try both raw linseed oil and boiled linseed oil with their oil paintings, the performance tends to be very poor as use as a medium is not their intended purpose. The usually yellow much worse than refined linseed oil and can have issues with consistency while usually being a very similar price to the refined linseed oil we recommend to our readers.

Unlike some of the other popular mediums, linseed oil can be used with all oil paint colors without any major issues other than the slight yellowing on some of the lighter colors that we covered above. This helps to score it points as some mediums can totally change the color of lighter oil paints with some whites and yellows potentially looking brown with other mediums.

Although we touched on the versatility of the medium earlier, we have a dedicated article going over how to use linseed oil for oil painting online that goes overusing it to great effect in a number of different situations. If you are new to using linseed oil with your oil paints then we would highly recommend that you checkout that article as it will help to ensure you get the best performance possible out of linseed oil when used with your oil paints.

The Advantages And Disadvantages Of Turpentine!

Before we go any further with the advantages and disadvantages of using turpentine for your oil painting, we just want to point out that we are specifically talking about distilled turpentine that has been specifically designed for use with oil paints and not regular house hold turpentine. We do sometimes see a little confusion between the two, especially with beginners to oil painting so we just wanted to quickly make the distinction.

The main advantage of turpentine when used with oil painting is that it dries so incredibly quickly that it is the perfect medium for any base layers onto your canvas or paper as they will dry much quicker than other mediums would. This is the main use case for turpentine and the only reason that so many people over look the toxic nature of the solvent and the fumes that it releases into their art studio as very few other mediums come close.

As we touched on earlier in the article, we do have an article going over some turpentine alternatives but we feel that lavender spike oil is the only one that even comes close to the drying times of turpentine. Even then though, lavender spike oil does tend to take a few more hours to dry than turpentine and if you are working on a time-sensitive commission for a client or just some personal art then this can make all the difference.

The main disadvantage of using turpentine with your oil paints is that it does tend to yellow your paints, especially lighter colors with the change in color usually setting in relatively quickly when compared to other mediums that yellow. This is very common with the oil mediums that dry quicker as the fast dry time usually does result in poor quality oxidisation for your oil paints with yellowing being a very common side effect.

Another potential downside of using turpentine for your oil paints that linseed oil does share but to a lesser extent is the fumes that it can give off when used in large quantities during your painting sessions. This is why you should only ever use a medium as strong as turpentine when you are in a well ventilated area to prevent any issues from occurring with the air supply in your art studio.

Although we may sound like we are being overly negative towards turpentine when used with your oil paints, it really is an excellent option for those layers that you have to have dry as fast as possible and we can see why it is such a popular option. We have a dedicated article on how to use turpentine for oil painting online that may be worth reading if you are new to using turpentine with your oil paints to help ensure that you get the most out of it.

The Best Of Both Worlds?

There are actually a small number of oil painters that are steadily increasing in number of make their own mixture of both turpentine and linseed oil to use as a medium for their oil paints. They tend to use a ratio of two parts linseed oil and one part turpentine in an attempt to get the advantages of both options while minimising the downsides too.

We have a dedicated article going over how to use linseed oil and turpentine at the same time as a hybrid medium. Although the theory is sound and using both mediums together in the correct ratio can work well, it is usually too much hassle to mix the two correctly due to oil and solvents usually not mixing well. It can take a good half hour before the hybrid is ready to go and the oil and solvent have mixed together correctly and are ready to use with most people simply not having this time to spare.

This is why the vast majority of people in the oil painting space tend to stick to a single medium for each layer of their oil paints rather than try to mix two different options with each other. The difference between the two really is minimal and usually not worth the time and the effort required to actually make the linseed oil and turpentine hybrid.


That brings our ultimate turpentine vs linseed oil comparison article to an end. Although turpentine does have its place amongst oil painters, we feel that using linseed oil as your oil medium of choice does offer you more versatility in the long run. Due to this, we usually do recommend that any of our readers who are looking to add one single medium to their collection go with linseed oil instead of turpentine.

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