For Solvent-Free Oil Painting (Video)
You like the idea of trying oil paints, but the practicalities of cleaning up your brushes with solvents is out of the question.
It could be you paint in a small room without good ventilation, or you’ve had to stop using traditional oils due to skin sensitivities or asthma.
So what’s the alternative? Acrylics? Watercolour? or go old school with some Egg tempera?
How about real oil paint that can be mixed with water or natural drying oils and cleaned with soap and water? Long working time, soft blends, buttery consistency, no solvents and super easy cleanup.
Mmm, sounds too good to be true, so what’s the catch?…
What is Water-Mixable Oil Paint, and how are they Water-Mixable?
Water soluble oils (also known as water-mixable oils or water-miscible oils) are oil paints that can be diluted and cleaned with water rather than solvents. They contain dry pigments (colour), an oil binder (usually Modified Linseed or Modified Safflower Oil) and an additive used in the manufacturing process that acts as an emulsifier.
The additive helps form a stable blend of tiny oil droplets within the water. In essence, it’s a bit like traditional Egg tempera, which is also made by mixing a binder and water with dry pigment to make paint. It consists of dry pigments, egg yolk and water. The egg yolk acts as an emulsifier to create the vehicle binder for the paint.
Are Water-Mixable Oils real Oils?
Yes, they are. Water-mixable oils are real oils. They are water mixable, not water-based.
They can be mixed and applied using the same techniques as traditional oils, but whilst wet, they can be removed from brushes and palettes with soap and water, and I’ve found Masters Brush Cleaner works a treat!
How do water mixable oils Dry?
When water is used to dilute the paint, it dries in two stages. The first stage is the evaporation of the water. It will then start the second stage, a further curing process, drying by oxidation, which is exposure to the air, just exactly the same as conventional oils.
Water-mixable oils dry through oxidation if used straight from the tube or mixed with natural drying oils.
Water-mixable oil paintings cannot be reactivated with water when dry.
How long do water mixbale oils take to Dry?
When diluted thinly with water, they can dry within 5 – 10 minutes. When used straight from the tube or mixed with drying oils, they can dry within 1 – 3 days. Depending on how thick you paint, the water-mixable oils retain their elasticity and workability for up to 48 hours.
Also, the more drying oil medium you add to the paints, the longer they take to dry. Many whites use Safflower oil rather than Linseed oil as a binder because it is a paler oil, but this takes even longer to dry. And I’ve found when painting with whites can take even longer to dry than traditional oils.
How do you prepare a surface when using Water-Mixable Oils?
If you intend to use very watery washes at the underpainting stage, then Acrylic Gesso should be used as the starting ground to ensure proper adhesion and absorption. You can also use canvases labelled as ‘universally primed’ (suitable for oil and acrylic).
It is possible to paint on canvases prepared in the traditional way using an oil-based primer if you use the paint neat or mix it with a drying oil medium.
What are the handling properties when mixed with Water?
Good when diluted with water to a thin consistency, water-mixable oils tend to feel and behave more like watercolour than oil paint thinned with turpentine.
The watery layers are best used when ‘working in’ an underpainting stage onto an absorbent ground, so the paint ‘grabs on’. The more water you use, the quicker the paint dries, and it dries very matte.
Because of the inclusion of water, you’ll find the pigments tend to temporarily lighten in colour and then dry matte as the water evaporates. The principle is similar to when you cut through traditional oil paint with turpentine for the first few stages of a painting, creating a matte surface. Remember, it’s the oil within the oil paint that creates the glossy sheen, so the more you dilute it, whether it be with turps or water, in this case, the less glossy it will become.
This is easily remedied by applying a final varnish. Once touch dry, they are just like any other oil painting and take about 6 months to cure before you varnish with traditional varnishes (With Gamvar from Gamblin, you can varnish when the oil paint is touch dry).
Problems with the thin layers
When painting an in-direct method (multiple layers), the first block-in helps you establish your tonal range and get an idea of your colours within the scene.
When you’re only thinning the water-mixable oils with water to a thin layer, it’s harder to get a solid tone established in comparison to if you were to do the same thing with artist-quality acrylics or traditional oils.
The paints behave more like a student-grade acrylic in their coverage, and they are not as opaque at this stage.
Pro tip: If you also use acrylics, you can block in the first layers with watered-down acrylics to establish your tonal range and then switch to the water-mixable oils to work on top.
A few drops of Water for a thicker layer with Water-Mixable Oils
If you want to paint thicker than a wash and thin the paint with just a few drops of water, the mix becomes a little stickier to work with, and I’ve found it’s harder to get a nice flow.
This is when I introduced a medium of drying oil to dilute the paint and extend the drying time.
A whole range of water-mixable mediums are available to achieve a good flow and desired consistency.
So if you think of the paints as water cleanable, and solvent-free, rather than a paint you only use water with, you’ll achieve much better results.
A Painting of Two Halves
In the video below, I show the different handling properties between water-mixable oil and traditional oil and demonstrate techniques using water and mediums. I’ve approached it in the same way I would build up a painting with traditional oils or acrylics to see how they compare to my current workflow.
I start with a very watery wash to see how far I can push it, then use the paint neat, straight from the tube with no dilution, and then jump to using a medium to get past the stickiness.
Some artists mix water and a water-mixable medium to dilute their paints, but I found this mix to be cloudy, and it didn’t give me the feel under the paintbrush I was after.
I demonstrate with Duo Aqua water-mixable oils from Holbein.
- Holbein Duo Aqua Permanent White
- Holbein Duo Aqua Yellow Ochre
- Holbein Duo Aqua Burnt Sienna
- Holbein Duo Aqua Ultramarine Light
- Winsor & Newton Titanium White
- Winsor & Newton Yellow Ochre
- Winsor & Newton Burnt Sienna
- Sennelier Ultramarine Blue Deep
Video Comparison Review: Water-Mixable Oil Paint vs Traditional Oil Paint
What Mediums can be used with Water-Mixable Oils?
Confusingly, artists use the word ‘medium’ to describe different paint types, such as acrylic, watercolour or oils.
However, in this context, the word ‘medium‘ is used to describe substances that add flow and transparency and change the consistency of paint. The other benefit of using a medium is that the paint mix stays wetter on your palette for longer.
Mediums for traditional oil paints are usually a mix of a thinner (turpentine or odourless mineral spirits) with a drying oil (linseed or walnut oil).
When working in layers, the traditional rule of “fat over lean” or “flexible over less flexible” apply, so you would progressively add more oil or ‘fat’ but the underlying layers must dry first. For the later stages of the painting, thicker oil (stand oil) or resins (dammar) can be mixed in to create a more enamel-like finish.
Water-Mixable Linseed Oil
The same principles apply to water-mixable oil paint, your leaner layers would be mixed with water, and then your fatter layers on top would be mixed with a medium.
Holbein produces a special range of mediums that are designed to work with their DUO range, and you’ll find all manufacturers of water-mixable oils do too:
Walnut Oil Based Medium
M Graham & Co – Walnut Alkyd Medium
I prefer a walnut oil-based medium because I can dilute the paint with it. A little goes a long way, and I already use it in my studio practice.
Because you need such a tiny amount, I can still wash out my brushes with soap and water without using any solvents.
Walnut oil has been used in paintings for centuries. Many Renaissance paintings use Walnut oil as their medium. It’s harder to determine if turpentine was used initially due to the turpentine evaporating from the picture surface.
You can also use walnut oil to clean your brushes and then an oil soap cleaner (Murphys Soap cleaner gets good reviews)
It’s paler than linseed oil and less likely to yellow, it doesn’t quite have the same viscosity, so it can feel a little slippy under the brush but it is slower drying. This M Graham Walnut Alkyd Medium makes the water-soluble oils flow more easily with only a tiny drop, and the alkyd addition counteracts the slow-drying nature of the walnut oil.
I find the walnut alkyd medium with traditional oil paint can be a little too glossy, but as the water-mixable oil leans towards the matte side, they balance each other out nicely.
Pro tip: An Alkyd is a resin that can be mixed with oil to speed up the drying process (often by 50%). This is why Alkyd oil paints are often known as ‘quick drying oils’ because they dry within 24 hrs.
What is the Paint Consistency and Opacity straight from the Tube?
Pretty good. They’ve got a nice flow from the tube, but Holbein Duo Aqua isn’t as buttery, thick or opaque as some artist-quality oils. For example, if you’d been working with Old Holland, you’d notice a big difference. The consistency is similar to a student-grade oil.
Can you mix Water Mixable Oils with Acrylics?
Yes, Duo Aqua is the only brand I’m aware of, which says it can be mixed with acrylics, watercolour and gouache, as well as with traditional oil paint.
Can you mix Water Mixable Oils with Traditional Oil Paints?
Yes, amazingly, with every brand of water-mixable oil paints, you can even add a small amount of up to 20%-30% of traditional oils paints in with your mix, and they still remain water-soluble.
Can you mix them with Thinners?
Winsor & Newton make a water-mixable oil thinner – Artisan Water Mixable Thinner, that can be cleaned with water. It will give you more working time than if you dilute only with water. Here is the description from Winsor & Newton:
This thinner (Artisan Water Mixable Thinner) has been specially developed to maintain the oily feel & keeps Artisan colour open longer than water. Although water is suitable as a diluent for the colour, its speedy evaporation can make the colour thicken upon the palette much quicker than conventional oil colour would when used with turpentine. As Artisan thinner does not form an emulsion with the colour, there is less colour change than there would be with water.
Are Traditional Oil Paints Toxic?
There isn’t anything inherently toxic about a tube of oil paint. It is just dry pigment suspended in a binder, usually a drying oil such as Linseed oil (from flax seeds), Safflower oil (from Safflower) or Walnut oil (from erm..Walnuts)
It’s the thinner or solvent, usually Turpentine, that you mix in with conventional oil paint that can cause issues.
Now there are certain pigments such as Cadmium, Lead and paints containing hazardous heavy metals, but these are always labelled as such on the tubes, and they’re at their most risky when in a dry powder form. (These are labelled as Elite colours in the Duo Aqua Range)
It’s also worth noting that the modern manufacturing process mills Cadmium pigments to larger sizes that cannot be absorbed into the skin.
What are the most Toxic Solvents used with Traditional Oils?
The strongest smelling, most toxic thinner used in the traditional oil painting process is distilled turpentine.
Often called ‘turps’, is considered toxic because some of the species of pine trees from which it’s distilled can produce a solvent that causes skin irritation and allergic reactions in some people.
By adding turpentine to oil paint, you cut through to create a ‘lean’ paint. This dilutes the paint and dries quickly, evaporating into the air, so isn’t recommended if you’re working in a small space without any ventilation.
White spirit is a petroleum distillate and is often used for cleaning artists’ brushes rather than diluting the paint as it evaporates quicker than turpentine.
Because it has high levels of “aromatic hydrocarbons” present….it’s got a harsh aroma but is a strong solvent good for cleaning dried-on paint.
Mineral Spirits/ Odourless Mineral Spirits
There are more modern solvents like OMS (Odourless Mineral Spirit) that also cut through oil paint to make it leaner. They are are not as strong smelling as turpentine but should still be considered solvents.
Sansodor (Winsor & Newton) and Gamsol (Gamblin) are two common lower-odour mineral spirits.
Here is a Safety Data Sheet (SDS) for Gamsol, which shows that it has an Exposure Limit Value higher than most solvents available to artists, which means you can be exposed to it longer. However, it’s still not recommended to keep unlidded pots of the solvent in confined studio spaces, and it’s not advisable to eat and drink in the same area when painting with mineral spirits.
It has a very low ‘aromatic hydrocarbon‘ content.
“Gamsol is a petroleum distillate but all the aromatic solvents have been refined out of it, less than .005% remains. Aromatic solvents are the most harmful types of petroleum solvents.“
When solvents dry, they release Volatile Organic Compounds (or VOCs) into the air. The lower, the better.
- Gum Turpentine – VOC 865 g/litre
- White Spirit – VOC 795 g/litre
- Odourless Mineral Spirit – VOC 767 g/litre
- Acrylic Gesso can also release VOCs but are much lower. For example, Liquitex Acrylic Gesso has a VOC of 49.3 grams per litre
Can I really just clean up with Soap and Water?
Yes, Masters Brush Cleaner (also make a nice hand soap) Fairy Liquid (I personally love Platinum) or more commonly available in the USA – Murphys Oil Soap (can also be found on Amazon)
What are the best Water-Mixable Oil Paint Brands?
- Holbein – Duo Aqua Oils (can be mixed with acrylics and oils)
- Daniel Smith makes some fab watercolours and also produces some nice water-mixable oils
- Royal Talens – Cobra water soluble produce have a good range of mediums and varnishes
- Winsor & Newton – Artisan water-mixable oils
- Grumbacher’s Max Oil Colours
- Martin/F. Weber Co
- Jacksons Art (in the UK) has its own brand of water-mixable oil
How do they compare to Alkyd Oils?
- Alkyd paint dries much faster than water-mixable oil colours, touch dry and can be repainted over in 24 hrs.
- Solvents are necessary to thin and clean Alkyd paint
- I’ve found Alkyd oils tend to have a thicker consistency and better opacity
- Alkyd paints dry at the same speed
- Some Alkyd mediums contain 2-Butanone Oxime, which is used as an anti-skinning agent in the formulation of the mediums and can cause irritation.
How do they compare to Traditional Oils?
Drying times for the water-mixable oils are a couple of days quicker than traditional oils but much longer than Alykd quick-drying oils, and the main huge benefit is the ability to work without any harmful solvents whilst still experiencing the longer working time available with oils.
Water-mixable oils don’t have the same ‘spread’ as traditional oils, and Holbein Duo Aqua isn’t as buttery, thick or opaque as some artist-quality oils. A little goes a long way with traditional oils, and a small amount of paint can cover a larger surface area without adding any medium.
I found the biggest handling differences with the paints are the flow and opacity, and it was all about finding the right medium to mix in to suit my painting style.
Although water is okay to dilute the paint, it’s best used for an underpainting that you want to dry quickly and for cleaning your brushes in-between mixes.
You can get a water-mixable thinner (you can see a comparison video here) which will give you more similar handling properties to turpentine if you wanted longer working times in thinner layers, or you could use a Quick-Drying medium for the first stages instead of water.
To make the paints behave as similar as possible to traditional oils, you’ve got to use a combination of mediums that gives you a more viscous mix so you can work and adapt techniques even closer to traditional methods.
Finally, there can be a disparity in the drying times between layers if you paint the first with water and the second with thicker paint. It’s difficult to achieve the smooth smokiness you’d get between 2 creamy texture paints.
You can, of course, remedy this by painting a thicker background with less water dilution to start with, but if you’re adding water to blend, it will cut through the paint layer and can sometimes pull it off the canvas.
So water-mixable oils give you the opportunity to paint with oil paint but with the ability to wash up with soap and water and work in a non-toxic painting environment.
If you think of them as ‘water-cleanable’ oils and use a water-mixable thinner and a water-mixable oil medium, you will get the best paint flow and handling results.
The best way to give them a go is to grab a starter set and give them a try out!
If you want to learn more about them, I have a new Absolute Beginners Water-Mixable Oil Course you might find helpful.
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This Post Has 167 Comments
Thanks for the info will give a try
Cheers Nuala, hope you enjoy experimenting with them.
Thank you for your in-depth investigation and comments on these paints. I have only ever used water based oils so I wouldn’t be able to tell the difference (I have an severe intolerance to turpentine and other similar solvents). I was stuck with watercolour and acrylic for years before these were devised and I absolutely love them. Also, cleaning up is fabulously easy :)
My pleasure Jennie, pleased you’ve been enjoying working with them in your portraits.
Very wonderful write up on the topic. I’ve learned a lot from your site, and while I’m not experimenting with oils (let alone water soluble oils), my acrylics are being more intense and beautiful. With time and practice, I’ll get there.
Keep up the good work, we all appreciate it.
That’s very kind of you to say John, pleased your acrylics are coming on well.
Very interesting post indeed.
Could you mention something about prices of the water-mixable oils? Are they easily obtainable?
Hi Mario, the Duo-Aqua tend to be more expensive in the UK, here’s a rough guide based on a few brands with Titanium White:
Holbein Duo Aqua – 50ml Titanium White – £10.70 (0.21p ml)
Daniel Smith – 37ml Titanium white – £8.90 (0.24p ml)
Cobra Water-mixable Oils – 40ml Titanium White – £4 (0.10p ml)
Winsor & Newton Artisan – 37ml Titanium White – £4 (0.11p ml)
Jackson’s Art – 56ml – Titanium White – £3.40 (0.06p ml)
Old Holland – 40ml – Titanium White – £6.90 (0.17p ml)
Michael Harding 40ml – Titanium White – £5.90 (0.14p ml)
Winsor Newton – 37ml – Titanium White – £5.80 (0.16p ml)
Hope this helps,
Hiya Will, thanks for the informative article. I haven’t painted in ages (I like acrylics) but am now very inspired to try oil painting. The water mixable alternative might be a good intro to oils for me. I see a lot of email questions in your future!
Ha, ha, pleased you found it helpful Maria.
Having spent a number of years painting with powdered lead-based paint on porcelain,
I purchased Holbein paints and switched to canvas painting…a safer product in many respects. They work just as you’ve described. As time went by, I purchased oil paints and you can mix the two but you do need to treat as oils using Gamsol and I love Daniel Smith Oil Painting Medium in the tube. It stands up on your palette rather than runs like Liquin.
Holbein dries faster than oils but slower than acrylics and doesn’t emit any odor when drying. I love Gamvar Varnish…self leveling and beautiful results. Not too shiny and not too dull.
Thank you, Will, for your careful attention to detail.
Hey Kare, thanks for the info on the Daniel Smith Medium, good to know. Yes, Gamvar is a real revelation isn’t it for being able to varnish oils when touch dry. Pleased you enjoyed it.
What a great write-up! This “If you also use acrylics you can block in the first layers with watered down acrylics to establish your tonal range and then switch to the water-mixable oils to work on top.” is so useful to me. Thank you!
Hi Celina, yes this method can be very effective (it works with alkyd and traditional oils as well) as long as the acrylics are diluted slightly with water so the layer of oil can create a good bond.
EXCELLENT… GREAT NEWS..can you suggest a short list of products to use as a beginning test of these water-mixable oils.
Hi Anndell, the paints I use are listed above the video and the brushes and canvas board I demonstrate with are also mentioned in the video.
A quick list would be:
Canvas or Canvas Board
Acrylic Gesso (Golden Brand)
Water-mixable oil starter set
Synthetic Brush (a round and filbert)
Either a water-mixable linseed oil or I demonstrate with a Walnut Alkyd Medium.
thanks for the very nice written and video paint comparisons. I also switched to water soluble paints because I was worried about solvents but I didn’t like their feel (sticky) or their coverage, except for Duo- which is pricey. When I learned that I can easily clean regular oil paint from my brushes with rag and a jar of safflower oil I switched back. I can underpaint with acrylics or casein or just with oil paint if I add a touch of medium to the next layer. I think artists can easily use regular oil paints totally solvent free if they want to.
Hi Jeff, nice to hear from you, pleased you enjoyed it. Thanks for sharing your techniques and glad you’ve found a method that suits your painting style, yes traditional oil can be easily adapted, the acrylic underpainting can work a treat.
Thank you so much for the emails I do love receiving them and appreciate all the information they contain, everything I do at the moment is a learning curve as I only started painting last year and as a very mature student with no art school training I find my progress very slow. I purchased your portrait course and as yet have to have a go, but I will and will let you know how I get on, once again, thank you very much Will
Hi Sue, lovely to hear from you, often it’s a case of starting a painting that can be the hardest stage, once the first ground is on and then a little drawing the enthusiasm to progress through the harder stages comes, but yes, it can definitely seem like a lot of information to take in. Hope you enjoy the portrait course.
Thank you for answering so many questions I had about water mixable oils in a very easy to understand format of demo and writing! All painting mediums are fairly new to me and I have only tried pastels and acrylics so far but have been wondering about oils. It was the smell and toxins that I was concerned about and hadn’t even given a thought yet to how they would differ in application to the canvas. So, thanks for anticipating and answering even more questions that would eventually occur to me.
My pleasure Frieda, really pleased it helped to answer some of your questions about trying oils, hope you enjoy experimenting!
Thanks for this write up!
It’s a real good read . . . .
John – Carlisle UK
Cheers John, pleased you enjoyed it.
WOW, AND HERE I THOUGHT I KNEW EVERYTHING ABOUT OIL PAINTS. HA HA. SERIOUSLY, I LEARN A LOT FROM YOUR INFO. THANK YOU SO MUCH, I HATE CLEAN UP FROM OIL, SO I SHY AWAY FROM IT. YOUR TIPS HELPED SO MUCH. THANK YOU. I MOSTLY USE ACRYLICS. AND THE THEY ARE SO MUCH FUN TO PLAY WITH.
Ha, ha, thanks Cheryl, so pleased you learnt about some new painting mediums.
Very informative, thanks for your hard work! Lately, I have tried Lavender spike oil, a solvent said to be a low-toxic substitute for turpentine(https://www.naturalpigments.com/spike-oil.html). The outcome for me is that in a small, closed room, it seems to be not better than OMS. So the water-mixable oil is worthy to consider.
Hi Ping, I find Lavender spike oil can have a very strong smell when working in a small space, it really cuts through paint and can sometimes even go through an upper layer of paint to the one below. If using it you only need a really tiny amount on your brush.
Hi Will, thanks for your clear demo. So well organized in the vertical. I’m interested to know what to use to do the original drawing onto the canvas. Many thanks, Syl
Hi Syl, pleased you enjoyed it, I used an acrylic marker, Liquitex makes a good range.
Your output, both in quality and quantity, amazes me. Thank you.
This question may be a bit off-topic:
House paints are engineered to resist wind, sun, salt, heat, cold … Surely they are now good enough for use by artists (unlike Pollock’s paint which is now falling apart).
In particular, I have just ‘inherited’ several large acrylic paintings, rejects which were destined for the bin. On Belgian linen, clearly expensive. I would like to repaint them. I’m happy to incorporate the existing textures but would like to cover them in white. Money being the root of all evil, I would like to save by overpainting with an acrylic house paint (quality brand, probably a paint designed to be a primer/undercoat).
Is this a good idea?
Thanks again for all your hard work.
Hi Alan, mmm, it’s a tricky one because in theory, yes acrylic house paint could be used as an undercoat and I know of many framers who use an acrylic based paint to create a traditional gesso effect on wooden frames, the only thing is the archival quality and yellowing of the paint that can happen over many years as they aren’t designed to last for longer periods of time. You might find this article of interest, it’s got some info from Mark Golden, founder of Golden Paints: Is it Okay to use house paint for Art?
Hope this helps,
I have used the Artisan Windsor & Newton paints for 10 years now and like them. I have not tried the Duo Aqua. Do you prefer one over the other, or how do they differ?
Hi Lydia, I find the Duo-Aqua tend to be a little thicker and better tinting strength and they have a wider colour range, but are more expensive than the Artisan range.
Thanks Will for another informative posting. Can you find the same range of colors with water-mixable oils as with oil and acrylics? I paint with a limited pallette but sometimes reach for a tube of teal or Chrome green.
Hi Dave, yes different brands have different ranges, I think Artisan have about 40 colours, Holbein has about 90 colours.
Great info and demo Will. Thanks for taking the time to demonstrate the differences! It’s good to know that if I develop and allergy there’s an alternate choice now. I did have problems with using the strong smelling turpentine, but have since changed to the low odour turpentine which solved that problem.
My pleasure Janet, pleased you’ve been enjoying working with the OMS.
As ever, nice work Will. Great to see your info on oils in recent times. Acrylics are brilliant but there’s still something magical about oils and your calm, highly informative and enjoyable videos are in a class of their own.
That’s very kind of you to say so Gary, really pleased you found it helpful.
Thanks, the article is so informative.
I use Gamvar varnish and am always keen to do so, watching the colour fade/dry from a painting is so disheartening. I never realised I could apply Gamvar when touch dry, I’ve been waiting months before applying! Brilliant… that’s my weekend sorted! :)
Keep up the good work
That’s brilliant news Darren! happy varnishing!
This is just the video that we need! During a Yes-R I use watermixable paint and my busbanen acryl. We try to convince eachother and have lots of reasons bit iT is hard. Now you have put the hamer om the nail….
Thank you Will , we love you.
Frances and Karel
Sounds like perfect timing Frances, pleased you both enjoyed it.
Thank you so much for this great demonstration. Someone gave me a set of “water mixable oil colors” a while back and I have been sort of terrified to try them. Now I can’t wait.
One question: you talk about “smoking” the edges of the image. Perhaps because I’ve mostly watched your demos on acrylics, I haven’t come across this term before and don’t understand the purpose. Can you explain further?
Hi Beverly, smoking the edge is another way of saying blending the edge, it comes from the Italian word ‘sfumato, translated into English means soft, vague or blurred.
Hope this helps,
Great issue, Will!
Have you ever tried the Medium W by Schmincke to make your traditional oil paint water mixable or has anyone any experiences using this particular medium?
Hi Stef, hope you’re well, I’ve read about the ‘Medium W’ in the past but completely forgot about it for the article, I haven’t personally used it but would also be interested to see how it works with traditional oils. You might find this article on Jackson’s Art Blog of interest where they review the Medium W
Will, I am most grateful for the generous sharing of your extensive knowledge of painting. I have wondered about the water soluble oils, but needed your explanation and demonstration in order to give them a try. These will give me a better option for painting when we visit the beach. Thank you.
That’s great to hear Austine, so pleased they will help with your paintings at the beach.
Thanks for your very informative article Will. I am reluctant to return to oils now that I have got so used to acrylics, and enjoy using them. Having read all the information and watched the video, I may add a starter set of water based oils to my Christmas wish list!
All the best, Peter B.
Hi Peter, my pleasure, glad you’ve been enjoying the acrylics and hope it’s helped to give an overview to the water-mixable oils.
Thank you Will for sharing. I have only worked with watercolor and acrylics. I think I will soon try the water-mixable oils, thanks to your very helpful information..
My pleasure Shirley.
Great side by side demonstration, love the comparison especially of the blending/mixing/smoking differences.
As always, brilliant video.
Thanks Connie, hope you’re keeping well, really pleased it helped.
Hi Will, Just wanted to let you know how much I appreciate this very comprehensive
Video .I started using the water based oils a few months ago and you answered many of the struggles that I have noticed ! I haven’ found much info on this subject, so was really delighted to find your Video !
By the way, I have painted and taught in water colors and pastels for years , just wanted to learn something new … But intended it to be a love- affair, not a struggle.
Thanks again !
So pleased it helped Dana, that’s great to hear and hope your new experiments with the paints will go really well.
Thank you so much for the information… as usual it is very helpful . I wanted to try those but did not know what to expect or how to use them… i will try them.. thanks again Will
Good one Nicolle, really pleased you found it helpful.
since artist’s grade oil paint is characterized by consisting more pigments and less fillers, how would you judge the water mixable oil paint from that particular pointof view. I know that talens offers two, an artist grade and a student grade version of their cobra oil paint. But I am not sure whether espacially the cadmiums have the same pigment load and color intensity like traditional oil paint. Water mixable oil paints are in common cheaper than traditionals with the exeption of the Holbein Duo Aqua. Thus, if you would chose a water mixable brand on your own, what brand will you get?
Hi Stef, coverage-wise about the same as student grade oils, Holbein a little better, I like the Holbein Duo Aqua and Daniel Smith.
Thx , Will
Thanks for the info, very helpful. I have been painting with WSO (Cobra & Holbein) for a while, and while they are very good I do miss the regular oils (a bit richer colour and more “spreadable” I think) and am switching back to them. I have quite a lot of water soluble linseed oil and am wondering if it is ok to use it to mix with my regular oils and also use it to store my brushes in an oil bath. Thanks again for the generous information.
Hi Peter, mmm, good question, if switching back to traditional oils I’d be tempted to use standard linseed oil as when you’re using solvents again the water soluble linseed oil might change the handling properties if you’re using a lot in the mix.
Makes sense, thanks Will.
Great review Will, as usual. I think is important though to consider water soluble oil “water cleanable” and not “water mixable”. If you use water only for the clean up and specific w. mix. mediums and thinners for painting you’ll have much better results. Also the notion that w.m. oils can be mixed with acrylic and watercolors is dodgy to say the least, and I’d consider it only an advertising stunt.
Keep up the good work!
Hi Lorenzo, pleased you enjoyed it, yes exactly, water cleanable is definitely the way go with them.
Great stuff. Thank you for sharing. Beautifully produced and edited your video.
At the end I don’t see a great difference between the two paints except if you mix the water mixable oil with water. Having said that do you find that the blending of the two paints when diluted with Walnut Alkyd medium you can achieve the same results?
Hi Franciso, pleased you enjoyed the article. I find that traditional oils have a greater spread and blend-ability when working in thinner layers, even with the walnut alkyd medium.
Thanks for your article on water mixable oils using walnut/ alkyd oil as
Can I ask if paint mixes will last long on the palette as for portrait work,
or will mixes on the palette dry out quickly .
thanks again for your articles they are so help full . cheers Alex]
Hi Alex, really pleased you found it helpful, both the water-mixable and standard oils dry by oxidation and they will both stay wet for long enough for detailed portrait work. The larger amount of paint you squeeze out the longer the paint will stay wet.
Hello Will – thank you so much for this – very helpful as usual. I have started experimenting with my new W&N water mixable oils (have never used oils before) and I’m confused about when I am supposed to thin the paint (I am using their recommended thinner instead of water), when to use it straight from the tube and when to use it along with the linseed oil. I’m also wondering what type of painting would require certain layers to dry before moving on to the next step – is it only when you cannot finish something in one go? I would imagine there are circumstances that require under layers to dry but I have no idea what those might be. Can you provide guidance?
Thanks very much.
p.s. I am so looking forward to working on your flower painting tutorial. It looks splendid!
Hi Helle, the type of paintings that requires multiple layers are called in-direct painting and many renaissance paintings were created in this way. Most of the teaching on this site focuses on the in-direct style of painting. Painting in one sitting is known as ‘alla-prima’ where you can just use one medium with the paint. Really hope you enjoy the flower tutorial, the courses goes through the steps on building up an in-direct painting.
Looking forward to trying some of these ideas!
Hi, I just came across your informative website. I am mixing egg tempera with the Holbein h2O oils. I like the ease of the wet “oil” pigment on the palette and not dealing with water based media (which dry much to quickly– I paint in the landscape often) or powdered pigments. I dip my brush into the egg and mix with the h2O oils on the palette.I paint on a very thin chalk ground on linen, using many layers of paint. The problem is that the paint never seems to fully dry. Even after several months it comes off easily with the old finger nail test. Any idea’s about what’s going wrong here?
Hi John, does your egg tempera dry to a tough film just when using dry pigments?
Well not tough, but it does dry harder than the layers of H2O oils plus egg T. I also mix water in with it. John
And how hard is it when you test the water-mixable oil on its own? Even with traditional oils, if the paint is quite thick (about 5mm) I can still push and squash the paint and make an indent with a fingernail after a few moths of the paint curing.
I apply it in very thin layers, so there is no thickness to speak of. Never painted in pure H2O oils only so can’t answer your question.
Hi John, I’d set up a mini-test, paint a small swatch of just water-mixable oil, two-thirds water-mixable oil and egg tempera and half water-mixable oil and egg tempera, then check every couple of days to see how they are drying.
Hope this helps,
Thanks for your thoughts, Will. I will do the test as you suggest.
All the best,
Wow! That was more info on water-mixable vs regular oils than I’ve gleaned from years of inquiries elsewhere! Thanks so much! At one local art store (in the US), I asked about the ‘cons’ of water-mixable oils (we all know the ‘pros’!), and the store owner seemed to think one of the problems was the color selection was smaller (i.e. less options). Have you found this to be true? Is there one brand that has the largest selection of pigments/colors? Thanks. I can’t wait to check out more of your site. Nancy.
Hi Nancy, pleased you enjoyed the article. Holbein paints have a good colours range as do cobra.
Thank you so much for this information and all the other wonderful instruction and advice you give. I am fairly new to painting, and have never painted in oil. I am in the process of switching from Golden Open Acrylics because I paint very slowly and it is too hard for me to control. (It either dries too fast to blend or gets too watery when I add medium.) I just purchased some tubes of Holbein Duo Aqua Oils and a small bottle of the Duo Aqua Linseed Oil. Should I mix anything into the Linseed Oil before I add it to the paint? Also, could you please explain the best way to create a glaze with these products?
Hi Julie, you can just use a little of the Duo Aqua Linseed Oil in with the oils to dilute the paints but if you tend to work thinly you can use a water-mixable thinner from Winsor & Newton. Here’s the description from W & N:
This thinner (Artisan Water Mixable Thinner) has been specially developed to maintain the oily feel & keeps Artisan colour open longer than water. Although water is suitable as a diluent for the colour, its speedy evaporation can make the colour thicken upon the palette much quicker than conventional oil colour would when used with turpentine. As Artisan thinner does not form an emulsion with the colour, there is less colour change than there would be with water.
Cobra paints make a water-mixable glazing medium
This is from Cobra paints:
“The first layer must be applied lean. For this, the paint is thinned with water (or the W & N thinner). During the drying of this layer no compact film of paint is formed, but rather a porous one. Oil from the following layer will, therefore, be absorbed by the underlying lean layer and so when drying will adhere to the numerous pores.
This helps to create good adhesion between these two layers. As an underlying (lean) layer abstracts oil from the top layer, it has to be ensured during painting that the underlying layer has relatively more oil. If this is not the case this will affect the quality of the painting.
As of this point, there are various possibilities for continuing further:
Thin each subsequent layer with increasingly less water; each subsequent layer, therefore, contains relatively more oil. You can eventually end up with pure paint.
Thin the paint for the following layer with painting medium.”
Hope this helps,
Will, thank you for checking into this for me and, again, for all your terrific help!
I recently signed up for your “How to Glaze an Oil Portrait” class. This is a big leap for me as I haven’t painted in years! In the past I used water-mixable oil paints, and was really hoping to be able to use them for this class. So far I have only looked at your ‘materials list’ and watched your introduction, and it’s not looking promising for my WM oils! Any thoughts? Or should I just have another glass of wine and go with the traditional oils? :-))
I have peeked around your site and watched a few videos, and so far I love your teaching style. So glad I found your site! Nancy.
Hi Nancy, nice to hear from you and glad you’re enjoying the first lessons of the portrait course. The course demonstrates with traditional oils but you’d be able to replace the thinner with a water-mixable thinner (available from Winsor & Newton) and use a water mixable linseed oil. The painting methods will be the same, there just might be some slight variations in drying times.
Hope this helps,
Forgive me for my ignorance, but for clean up, do I still need to put any paint soaked rags/paper towels in a metal trash can or hazardous waste can? And have a tightly-closed jar. Or are they safe enough to just throw away? (With the idea of using water mixable oil paints and safflower/walnut oil).
Hi Karen, it’s more the oil content of the rags that can produce issues if they are heavily soaked with oil as heat is released during the oxidation process. Any drying oil undergoes an exothermic reaction when exposed to oxygen so storing rags in an airtight metal container is always an extra precaution.
It’s only dangerous when the oxidation process produces enough heat to reach the ignition point of the rag (The temperature for cotton is 120℃ (250 ℉) and this can happen if there are lots of folds and lots of oil for the temperature to build.
If you’re using small amounts of oil and the rags are kept loose/flat so the oxidizing oil is dissipated into the air you’ll be fine.
Hope this helps,
Thank you so much for information very useful!!! I usually paint with aqua olis (WN) and foud it tricky sometimes. I now will try Cobra, Holbein is not avalable in sweden. Yvonne
My pleasure Yvonne, really glad you found it useful.
I typically paint with acrylics and use gesso if I need to make major corrections. What product should I use to do that with water based oils?
Now that’s a tricky one Kathy! if you’re using watered down water-mixable oil to start with using an acrylic gesso would give you better adhesion, but you would then have to apply an oil-based gesso over the top of the water-mixable oil if you wanted to make any changes and then continue the painting without diluting the paint with water.
Hope this helps,
Thanks so much for your comprehensive tutorial on water-based oils Will!
I was disappointed once I moved to the Winsor Newton Artisan series to find that even though they’re water-based they still give off a significant odor of oil paints in my home-based studio. I will be trying the Holbein Duo paints now that you’ve mentioned that they don’t have that unpleasant side effect. Thanks for that tip along with so many others!
My pleasure Mary, glad you found it helpful, hope you enjoy experimenting with them.
Thank you for this tutorial, this year I decided to try oil painting, and I think water-soluble oils are really promising. Before I start it, I must buy some paint, and I’d like to ask your opinion about mixing Daniel Smith and Holbein. Holbein has all of the colours I like except Phthalo Blue green shade. As I don’t really want to leave it out, I was wondering if the two brands can be mixed together. To tell the truth, I know nothing about oil painting, so maybe it is a stupid question. Theoretically, based on what I have read on your blog, they can, but it is better to be sure. :)
I can hardly wait to start your lesson. ;)
Hi Dora, yes, you can intermix brands. there might be very slight differences in paint consistency and drying times but I personally intermix brands in nearly all of my paintings, both with acrylic and oils.
Thank you. :)
I have tried Holbein duo aqua oils, and I love painting with them. I think my acrylic era has passed, and the new oil era has begun. ;) Thank you for this tutorial, I really enjoyed it.
I have a question about the walnut alkyd oil. My favourite art shop did not have it in stock, so I used the Holbein quick drying liquid instead. I found the Holbein a little bit tacky, and it dried quite fast (about in 5-10 mins) on my palette as well. It felt like a thick resin. Do you have a similar experience with the walnut alkyd oil?
I wish you had more land/city/seascape oil painting courses in the future. ;) I hardly have inspiration on portraits, but I love your classes. It is amazingly easy to connect with you through your videos, and you impart a great knowledge in them.
Hi Dora, really pleased you’ve been enjoying working with the water mixable oils. The walnut Alykd tends to dry off quite nicely and has a bit longer working time. The standard Holbein linseed oil should give you a better open time with the paints on the canvas.
I have used an application of oiling out my oil paintings to help achieve an even varnish when completing. I use 3 parts gamblin alkyd lite and 2 parts gamsol. What can be used to oil out if needed for Duo Oil painting. Perhaps walnut alkyd medium with gamsol? can it be done, is it necessary or is there less sunken in areas that occur with Duo Oils. I have started using Holbein Duo OIls for traveling and have had great results and these are smaller works because of travel. Curious about oiling out process with Duo Oils, if I ever need to do this for an even sheen finish if necessary.
Hi Carol, for oiling out using the Holbein Duo Oils you could use Artisan Water Mixable Painting Medium from Winsor & Newton (it’s a water mixable version of the traditional oil medium).
Hope this helps,
Thank you for your in depth article. My question is how can you make water mixable paint more opaque? I have been having trouble getting the colors to be deep and rich, they seem to just meld into the colors around them. I find the oils to be very transparent. I have been adding white to my colors, but is there another way?
Hi Irene, opacity will depend on the brand and colours you’re using. Most artist paint tubes will label the opacity of the particular pigment on the tube to give you an indication.
Irene, I use Holbein WSO’s and found they don’t mark the tubes with regards to opacity. I took their online brochure which states the properties of the paints and printed out small labels and put them on each tube with O for opacity, S for semi-opaque and T for transparent. It’s helped considerably with my workflow which includes a lot of glazing at the later stages of completion.
All paints that I’ve ever used have various levels of opacity/transparency. You just have to study and learn their properties. Hope this helps.
Hi Will – Enjoyed all your great knowledge about aqua duo paints. Thanks for sharing! I paint using indirect methods but am finding that after my duo paints dry they are lighter and they dry significantly less smooth than when I have used traditional oils. So instead of smooth it’s rough. I use duo linseed oil and a cobra medium. Any thoughts to what is happening?
Hi Courtney, if there is a higher ratio of water when diluting this will cause more of a colour shift from wet to dry, if you use water just for washing brushes and the mediums for diluting it should help to lessen the colour shift.
Hi Will – Thanks for the feedback! Yes, I only use water for cleaning the brush – I use mediums during the painting process. Any thoughts on the paint looking smooth when wet but drying somewhat rough?
Thanks for all your ideas!
Hi Courtney, does the effect change in appearance when varnished? or does it stay the same.
Hi Will, I’m a fan of your website and have purchased several of your video courses – they are helping me tremendously. I would like to paint with thick layers of paint, kind of like the Van Gogh style, and am finding that acrylics don’t work that well. Can the thick impasto style be effectively achieved using water miscible oil? How much better is traditional oil than miscible oil for that purpose? Would appreciate your thoughts before I invest in a bunch of new paint.
Thanks so much for your helpful information. By the way, I love the music that goes along with your painting videos. :-)
Hi Cindy, so pleased that you’ve found the courses helpful in your painting journey. Yes, you can work impasto with the water-mixable oils. Standard oils often have a slightly thicker body to the paint and you can use a gel such as Oleopasto from Winsor and Newton which will retain the body of the oils but improve the drying time (by half). you could also use alykd oils.
hi, i want to try watermixable oils, because i can’t get details in my painting with acrylics, can i find an article where this is explained? that is the only issue i have with paint, to much blobs on my brush, or to thin the paint so you can’t paint proper.
Hi Astrid, it’s just a case of practicing the differences of dilution and consistency with the paint, try just dipping only the tip on the brush into the paint.
Very informative and professional article, even better since there was none of the usual boring blah, blah, blah. Well done! I am inspired to try something new after many years of traditional oil painting. Many thanks for sharing your experiments.
My pleasure Nancy, really glad you enjoyed learning about the water-mixable oils.
Will, I am very appreciative of the depth of information and advice you have provided here. I am new to this medium after many years working with traditional oil paint. As you have noted, experimenting with various brands and mediums has been important as I have certain desired outcomes and these paints are a bit different than traditional oil paints. That being said, the discovery process has been interesting. I have been successfully mixing water soluble and traditional oil paint, too, which is very cool! I do have a question. Is it possible to use water soluble oil paint on top of a completely dry (as in a year or two), lean layer, thinned with turpentine only, of traditional oil paint? Thanks!
Hi Rebecca, pleased you’ve been finding the website helpful if it’s a very lean layer I think you’d be okay as there will still be a canvas surface for the new oil layer to grab on too.
Thank you so much for this very informative article. I am about to start my first water-mixable oil painting and was going to just wing it but now feel more confident. I have not painted with oils for years, instead have done watercolours, but always liked the texture of oils. And cleanup with water is such a bonus. Well, here goes…
Good one Barbara, so pleased you found it helpful. Hope the painting goes well.
Thank you Will,
I haven’t been painting for years because of my wife’s issues with gum spirits. I was quite dubious of water soluable oils in general but I am going to give these paints a try. Wish me luck!
Really hope you enjoy working with them.
Thank you Will!
I started to paint three weeks ago using oils but I love the way you teach and I find here a lot of good tips, advices and a lot of inspiration. It has helped me a lot and I love coming here for all you share with us. Thank you! (I am also a photographer.)
So glad you’ve been enjoying the lessons Petr.
Excellent—thanks so much! I was wondering about the comparison between water soluble oils and regular oils and you covered it perfectly. I especially loved your demonstration video!
Good one Lesli, really pleased you enjoyed learning about the water-soluble oils and their pros and cons, just painting with them at the moment!
Maybe you answered this question in one of the comments – Do you notice a change in colour once the water soluble paints have dried on the canvas? I’ve always noticed that acrylics don’t keep there tone, they turn a bit darker once dried.
Hi Bev, it’s not as noticeable due to the slower drying of the oil paint in comparison to acrylics. With the acrylics, they often have a white acrylic binder that then dries clear so the colours shifts darker, however, Winsor and Newton professional acrylics use a clear binder so have much less of a difference from wet to dry:
Hope this helps,
Always wondered about the differences – this article is SO thorough and helpful! Though I teach and paint watercolor, I had no idea water-sol oils could be successfully diluted with water. You’ve opened up a new world for me and my students. Thanks, Will!
Good one Joan, really hope you and your students enjoy experimenting with them.
I really enjoyed your comparative water-mixable oils with traditional oil painting.
I’m back to traditional oil painting after a long break and decided to go as non-toxic materials as possible. I’m interested in glazing and trying to figure out how to follow the fat over lean rule without using OMS and solvents. I’ll be using walnut oil and walnut alkyd as my medium however I’m trying to figure out how to start my lean underpainting first and after watching your video I wonder if it’s okay to start with the “water-mixable oils” first and very watery brushing and one or two layers of water-mixable oil and afterwards start applying layers of “traditional oil” (this is my favorite oil) and slowly building up with a mix of walnut oil? I’m just trying to figure out how I can build up the glazing layers starting lean, without using solvents (water instead). Would this combination work? Thanks!!!
Hi Daniela, really pleased you found the article of interest.
If it’s okay to start with the “water-mixable oils” first and very watery brushing and one or two layers of water-mixable oil and afterwards start applying layers of “traditional oil” (this is my favorite oil) and slowly building up with a mix of walnut oil?
It’s a tricky one, because sometimes you’ll find the water-mixable oils in an underpainting may dry slower than traditional oils used with a quick-drying medium (depending on the pigments used) If you have a thin underpainting just diluted with water, that could work ontop, but it would depend on how thick/application of the underpainting you prefer.
Thank you for your response but I’m still confused. If I’m diluting the WMO with water wouldn’t they dry quicker than traditional oil?
It depends on the pigments, some brands of traditional oils umbers will dry quicker (12-24hrs) than WMO with water, unless the WMO application is thin and the surface is absorbent.
Hi Will,Like everyone I thankyou for your generous help in answering questions. i have moved from acrylics to Winsor and newton Arisan Oil paints and Im loving them. like one of your previous questioners I like to paint a little more thickly so it looks rich and textured. I use the Winsor and Newton Artisan thinners and Linseed Oil and with each layer use more linseed in the mix. However I am trying the Impasto Medium to give the paint more bulk. I’m confused by the fact that it says it dries faster. Do I add the impasto medium to the paint, then still blend with linseed to make it a more buttery consistency?
Hi Lynda, pleased you’ve been enjoying working with the WMOs. You would just mix in the impasto medium with the paint and then paint with that in a thicker application. You might add the slightly drop of oil to tweak the consistency, but its more to build up thicker areas of the painting that will dry quicker than if you just built it up with the paint on its own.
Hope this helps,
i was interested in your comment that you tend to find Water soluble oils to be on the matter side. I think I am finding this too. I have been using primarily Winsor and Newton Artisan and they’re the most easily available in Australia. Recently I got hold of a few tubes of Cobra which Ive found I can get here. The consistency is different, creamier from the tube, less solid if that’s a description I can use. It crossed my mind that felt i would be able to paint more freely with this and not have to work the paint before use. Is this something you have experienced?
Hi Lynda, yes I find the Cobra WMO is more workable from the tube than the Holbein Duo Aqua, you don’t need much medium to get a nice flow with it.
Re clean up for water based oils. If I use water soluble linseed oil and/or M. Graham alkyd walnut medium, do I need to follow traditional careful method of disposing of rags, paper towels etc. Are they combustible?
Thank you so much for your web site, your courses and answering all our questions!
Hi Leslie, yes the same methods of apply due to the linseed oil and walnut oil.
(BTW I’m working on a new water-mixable oil course for beginners that should be available soon)
I can hardly wait for your course…you are a super teacher! While I wait, I have a question – might be useful for you as you are planning the course. I am thinking about “fat over lean” and layering with water soluble oils. I want to avoid using water as thinner but also want to thin the consistency of the oils for first layers and possibly build up layers, finishing with glazes.
I like the feel of the oils with water soluble linseed oil but this would be very fat and only ok for final layers? Cobra has a glazing medium and I know glazes are final finishes but just by their nature a glaze seems thin not fat! So confused. And then there are water soluble painting mediums.
If I were doing three layers and for each I wanted to add something to improve viscosity and ‘feel’ of paint, would this be right?:
bottom layer – WSO painting medium (fast dry or not)
middle layer – WSO linseed oil or walnut oil
top layer – WSO glazing medium
Thanks Will for any advice you can give.
Hey Leslie, great to hear from you, apologies for the delay in response, the fat it more about the ‘fat content’ rather than the thickness of the layer (although this does come into play) Yes, that sounds like a good three layer approach. With the Cobra mediums you can ‘cut’ them with water to have the first layers leaner as this will give you more latitude. The medium will go white when you mix in with water but that’s absolutely fine.
I am the beginner, just bought now Winsor and Newton Artisan water soluble oil colors, which sound very attractive to me. I am very exited to try to do the painting, following one artist from YouTube (he uses traditional oils). So, first he put thinner, after this a decent amount of one after another numbers of layers. Tell me please, what will be exactly my steps on canvas to achieve pretty much same effects of oil? First to put water, wait for 0.5 hrs and instead of his thick layer to put thin? and how long to wait before next color, or I can mix immediately after this? Or it will be poor results and I need to buy thinner instead of water and to add medium for each next color without waiting for drying? and in case I will be interrupted for more than 48 hrs how to continue? I am sorry for stupid questions, but I’ve heard before, that those Winsor & Newton work well with water only, achieving same “like real oil” results, so I am a bit confused now… Thank you, I am glad I have an opportunity to ask you.
Best regards, Alla
Hi Alla, the closest way to replicate traditional oil mediums using water mixable oils is by using a water mixable thinner and linseed oil.
Thank you so much Will for answer. Tell me, please, if I decide to use Holbein or Cobra (pure or combination with Winsor&Newton), can I use water mixable Thinner and Linseed oil from Winsor&Newton, or each brand requires its own medium.
Thank you, Regards,
Hi Alla, it’s a personal preference, some artists prefer to stick to the mediums from one brand but I tend to intermix thinners and mediums from different brands.
….and another question, sorry. I’ve noticed that HUE colors (Winsor & Newton) are cheaper and it’s difficult to mix them with the other colors to get good results. Could you, please advice, how to use them (or avoid)…
Hi Alla, ‘Hue’ just denotes that different colours have been used to try and replicate a pure pigment. So Cadmium Yellow Hue, doesn’t contain any cadmium pigment, but other pigments that try to replicate the original colour. They can often be more affordable, but have less opacity/pigment load.
Thank you Will. Tell me, please, is it good idea to adjust colors from traditional colors to water soluble paint (I tried winsor&newton). For instance, to get dark green (like swamp) color the artist from youtube mixes brown and blue. I’ve tried to mix umbra with cobalt blue hue or phthalo blue or ceruleum blue hue, but can’t achieve the result, which is very frustrated. So, finally I’ve got something close just using pure sap green (with a bit black). I will appreciate your advice.
The colours will act the same, but you might have different pigment strength issues between an artist quality traditional oil and a water mixable oil (depending on the brand) The Artisan range are kinda halfway between an artist quality and student quality so won’t have as much pigment. For example a Winsor and Newton Cadmium Red in traditional oil is £20, a Winsor and Newton cadmium red hue in Artisan is £5.75. You might find this article helpful: Student vs artist quality paints
Thank you very much Will for your very useful info. Tell me please, I am going to start 1-st layer with winsor & newton Thinner instead of water, right after that immediately to put different colors with Linseed oil. Will it be correct to keep “fat over lean” ? Is it ok to mix the thinner with linseed oil? My goal is to create slippery creamy conditions on the canvas (with consistency, like sour cream) to paint the pond. I want to be maximum close to the style of traditional oil and to have longer time for my slow maneuvers. I am very appreciate your deep knowledge, many thanks. Alla
Hi Alla, yes, that will work fine.
Thank you for reply Will. I did my painting, using the thinner and linseed oil. I have now the issue with remodeling. I made a mistake and decided to redo my painting (after 3-4 days). So, I removed part of the painting by palette knife and towel paper, after that tried to repaint again, using only Linseed oil, but for some reason a few spots a can’t cover by new paint. (only umbra or black color can cover, which is not suitable). Maybe, I should use the thinner again, like from the beginning? So, is it possible to redo after 4-7 days? I am doing slow, need some time…I will appreciate you advise, thank you, Alla.
Hi Alla, if you have removed the paint back to the canvas then yes, you can use your thinner on its own again.
thanks for this review – super helpful. One thing I wonder is – with wm oils, how do you clean your brush in between colors? with traditional oils, i use odorless mineral spirits to clean off and then dry on paper towel. but if you’re not supposed to use much water, do you use water instead of spirits and then dry on towel? Just not clear on that….thanks!
Hi Nena, yes that’s right, clean with water in-between colours and dry off with a paper towel.
Great info, thank you Will! A few questions— Does M Graham Walnut Alkyd Medium mixed with Duo paints dry less glossy than plain walnut oil which I tried today? I did a quick study with first layer mixed with a little water which dried to a matte finish and the second thicker layer over certain areas of the painting mixed with the walnut oil which look very glossy. Is the solution to use Gamvar varnish when the painting dries in a few days to even out the glossiness? Is Gamvar varnish non-toxic? Is it OK to use walnut oil from the grocery store? Do water-based oils need to have a final varnish? Not a huge fan of glossy finishes.
Does M Graham Walnut Alkyd Medium mixed with Duo paints dry less glossy than plain walnut oil which I tried today?
They will have a similar glossyness due to the oil content of the medium
Is the solution to use Gamvar varnish when the painting dries in a few days to even out the glossiness?
Yes, you can apply a varnish coat to even out the glossiness. Although, standard Gamvar is Gloss finish but they also have a satin version.
Do water-based oils need to have a final varnish? Not a huge fan of glossy finishes.
No, they don’t need to. You might find this article of interest: 7 questions to ask before varnishing an oil painting
Hello, thank you for your information about water soluble oils. I have used acrylics some time and always wanted to try oils. I found out about these and I picked up a set from Jerry’s Art store online. It’s Luke’s water soluble oils. I think. I picked up the water soluble linseed oil also. But as I went into to their information videos they say that you shouldn’t use water to thin the oils paints, but to only use water to clean up your paints. So now I’m trying to find out what I’m supposed to be using as far as the fat over lean method with water soluble oils. I know that there are pre-mixed for regular oils that literally have for fat or lean on the bottle, but I haven’t seen anything like that for these water solubles. I’m wondering if you could help me with this issue?? And if they make these in the water soluble oils or if they at least make the items I would need to mix to use with these water soluble oils ?? Thank you!
Hi Julie, nice to hear from you. For creating mediums you can use a water-mixable thinner and a water-mixbale linseed oil. Winsor and newton make a water-mixable thinner. I’ve also recently launched a beginners water-mixable oil course if you’d like more in-depth tutorials on them and how they compare to acrylics.
Hope this helps,
Hi Will, not just a terrific artist but a superb teacher too, i am always impressed that you are able to bring your expertise clearly and concisely to any level of painter! thanks for this , i was looking for info on oils over water mixable oils – couldn’t get better than this.
You’re very kins to say so Sandie, really hope you enjoy it. I’ve also recently launched a water-mixable oil course if you need a more in-depth look.
Hi Will, I took your course on painting with water mixable oils. It was great and I learned a lot. Especially since there doesn’t seem to be much information on this media. Water mixable oils seem to fulfill so many preferences in oil painting, I’m wondering if there is a “catch”. Do you know if the additives in water mixable oils (whatever makes them able to mix with water) could have an impact on the longevity of the paint? Thank you!
Hi Fred, really pleased you found the course helpful.
Do you know if the additives in water mixable oils could have an impact on the longevity of the paint?
On page 52 of this document (from the Getty conservation, Tate & National Gallery you can see a study on ‘The performance and properties of artisan water mixable oil colours‘ You might find interesting. There are some sections such as ‘The test results showed that after two years, the adhesión of the paint to the canvas is very similar between Artisan WMO and Winton Oil Colours.‘ Hope this helps,
I’m about to paint on a BIG Ampersand Gessoboard with Windsor newton water mixable oils. Can I do the thin underpainting with Acrylics first and then do the detail with the oils?
Hi Michele, yes, if you dilute the acrylic slightly with water that will work fine.