Other Oil Materials & Equipment
More oil painting bit and pieces that are needed or are additional/alternative materials or equipment.
More oil painting materials and equipment needed. Some rather basic, others have a wide range of choice, cost, size etc... while others need both time and experience.
Solvents for oil painting:

Top quality oil paint consists of pigment and oil. There are however a number of additional products that the artist can add to alter the characteristics of the paint.

A solvent is used to thin oil paint and to clean brushes (as the first stage) afterwards. If using any solvent while painting, have the painting space/room well ventilated, even if using a low-odour variety.

You don't have to use solvents, you can paint with oils without it and use only oil medium to thin your paint and clean your brushes (but you'll need more patience because the paint doesn't "dissolve" in oil like it does in solvent).

Because a solvent evaporates quickly evenly and totally, it means the oil paint will dry quicker than if using an oil medium. It also "dissolves" the paint which makes cleaning a brush faster.
Commonly used for thinning the consistency of oil paint but is also used to clean brushes, palettes etc. Turpentine, which should be colourless, has a fast evaporation rate but it is also releasing harmful vapours, therefore it should be used in a well ventilated area and can be absorbed through the skin.

The worst thing regarding turpentine is the smell, if that is an issue, try one of the low odour products or turpentine substitutes. It is recommended that artists only use 'artist quality turpentine' as the varieties find in DIY stores may well contain impurities.

Mineral spirit, also know as white spirit:
This is based on petroleum and has a moderate evaporation rate. like turpentine it also releases harmful vapours, while not absorbed through the skin, it's sensible to take precautions.

Pure mineral spirit is a stronger solvent than its odourless version along with being cheaper than turpentine. Although odourless mineral spirit cost more than the normal due to the cost of having some of the harmful aromatic solvents removed. Despite the more pleasant smell of citrus-based thinners , don't assume that they don't give off any harmful vapour.

As an alternative to both Turpentine and Mineral Spirit, look at Zest-It - a product that I use daily, which is made from citrus oil (food-grade) combined with a non-toxic, non-flammable solvent.
Zest-it Oil Paint Dilutant and Brush Cleaner:
I use Zest-it daily when oil painting and is my alternative to using Turpentine and Mineral Spirit. If you want more information about Zest-it please visit the web site which has much more information and details about the range of products.

Its a much safer solvent for home or studio use and more pleasant to use, is environmentally friendly, non-flammable and biodegradable and is made using the zest of citrus fruit although there is a non-citrus version which also has a faster drying time. It lasts a long time with only a very small amount needed if mixing with paint and after brush cleaning can be reused.

I won't repeat all that's on the Zest-it site but if you have any problems or issues with the use of Turpentine or Mineral Spirit, be it smell, headaches etc then give Zest-it a try. The
Zest-it site
Mediums, Drying Oils or Mediums Used in Oil Painting:

Oil mediums are usually mixed with oil paint to modify the way it handles, thicker, thinner etc. Most of the oils used as mediums for oil painting are known as drying oils and each has different drying times and properties. The medium is mixed with oil paint to a: modify the way the paint handles straight from the tube (drying time or thicker/thinner) and b: alter the character of the paint from what you get straight from a paint tube (gloss, matt, transparent or opaque).

Refined linseed oil is the most commonly used medium, but it's worth giving others a try, even as a beginner, as they all have slightly different properties.

Many artists don't use any medium, apart from maybe a small amount of Refined Linseed Oil thereby allowing the paint to become more workable, as some paints are thicker straight from the tube. Oil painting mediums is really a matter of personal taste, experience in their use and is not a requirement.

Linseed Oil:
Linseed oil is used as binder in today's oil paints. It is also used to thicken the consistency of the oil paint. Linseed oil not only adds gloss and transparency but it dries thoroughly and forms a strong paint film. Linseed oil dries slowly, therefore the paint remains in a workable state allowing further work to be carried out for some time. It however also dries thoroughly, so makes it ideal for under painting or the initial layers. When linseed oil ages, it does tend to yellow. Many artists avoid using linseed oil with lighter colours.

Below are further linseed oil based products.

Linseed Oil - Cold Pressed:

This oil is made by extracting (using pressure and not heat) the oil from raw flaxseed and creates a pure linseed oil, considered the best quality and therefore more expensive. It dries slightly faster than refined linseed oil. Along with being used as a medium to thin oil paints, it can be used as a binder, heighten gloss & transparency plus reduce the visibility of brush strokes.

Refined Linseed Oil also called Steam Pressed Linseed Oil:
Unlike cold presses, Refined Linseed oil is steam heated and then pressed, which yields more oil, making refined linseed oil less expensive. Refined linseed oil is an all-purpose, pale to light yellow oil which dries within three to five days and is used as a binder in oil paints and artists use it for thinning oil paint and transparency.

Sun Thickened Linseed Oil:
Sun thickened linseed oil is a thick bodied medium with a honey like consistency. It's produced using the heat of the sun when an equal amount of linseed oil and water are mixed together in a container and left for a few weeks, or longer, in the sun where the linseed oil and water eventually separate.

Sun thickened linseed oil isn't used as a binder in oil paints but does improve flow and increases gloss plus it has less of a tendency to yellow compared to others and speeds drying.

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Stand Oil
Stand oil is another thick medium, similar to sun thickened linseed oil. The Linseed oil is heated at a high steady temperature, in an air tight container, which results in a very thick honey like consistency.

Stand oil is useful as a glazing medium when mixed with a diluted or solvent such as turpentine. It helps improve the flow of the paint and has resistance to yellowing but is slow drying and produces a strong paint film without any brush marks.
Other Oils and mediums:
Because linseed oil has a tendency to yellow as it ages, other oils have come onto the market. Amongst these oils are poppy seed and safflower oil.

Poppyseed Oil:
Being a very pale oil, it is often used with whites, blues and pale colour, it's more transparent and is less likely to yellow than linseed oil. Poppyseed oil does take longer to dry compared with linseed oil - five to seven days, which makes it ideal for working wet on wet. The downside of the slow drying is when working wet on dry or applying paint thickly, as the paint will be liable to cracking when it finally dries, therefore its best avoided in the lower layers of an oil painting.

It gives oil paint a consistency similar to soft butter. Poppy seeds naturally contain about 50 per cent oil.

Safflower Oil:
This oil, made from safflower seeds, is similar to poppy seed oil in that both are suitable when used with whites and light colours but does dry a bit faster. It's less inclined to yellow when compared to linseed oil.

Walnut Oil:
A thin pale yellow-brown oil that helps make paint more fluid, yellows less when compared to linseed oil, again good when using pale colours and dries in four to five days. It has a distinctive small, is expensive and needs to be stored properly.

A much used oil painting medium. It's an alkyd medium produced by treating a natural oil with alcohol and an acid. This produces a product that greatly speeds up the drying time (up to half) of oil paints and is one of the main reasons for its use.

The painting still needs to be fully dry before varnishing - which can be six to twelve months, so it doesn't save time with that. If you need to add some protective surface before then, Artists Retouching Varnish can be used.
Copyright: Alistair Butt #021206 - oil painting
Copyright: Alistair Butt #021209 - oil painting
Varnish an Oil Painting: a how to.
Varnishing an oil painting will bring out the colours as they were when first applied, plus it's a layer to protect the painting, from both pollution, usually in the atmosphere or possible abrasion.

Most important, is that the painting is 'completely' dry. Allow months (min 6 up to 12) for an oil painting to dry properly but this depends greatly on the thickness of the paint. Retouching Varnish can be applied before if protection is required before final varnishing.

Make sure the painting is also free of any dust, dirt, and grease. Clean if required.

Use a flat bristle brush (used only for applying varnish) to apply the varnish and apply a thin coat. There are both gloss and matt finishes to choose from.

With the painting flat, work from the top to the bottom, applying the varnish in parallel strokes from one edge of the painting to the other. At times holding the painting at a slight angle so a window or light source reflects in the varnish helps you see if you have missed bits.

Depending on the varnish two coats can give a very glossy finish which is too much so do some tests first to see what you like. If you need two coats, allow the first coat to dry then apply a second coat.

Leave the painting flat for 15 minutes or until dry, as this will stop the varnish running down the painting. I place the paintings on small tester pots so that they are clear of any surface. It's best to work in a dust free or animal area while varnishing and more so when the paintings are drying. If you have a room or studio, do the varnishing last thing and leave until the next day.
Copyright: Alistair Butt #021217 - oil painting
Copyright: Alistair Butt #021221 - oil painting
Other useful items include:
Medium Containers:
Use either the metal containers found in many art shops, come in either single or double, that clip onto the side of the palette, or use small containers that will not be knocked off or over.
Clothing protection:
An apron, old clothing, overalls or artist smock are all better than getting oil paint on your better cloths - and yes accidents do happen, even something as simple as dropping a brush can make a mess. Also, if not working in a dedicated studio, where paint landing on the floor or walls isn't an issue, protect any flooring, carpets, rugs, funiture etc