5 things to know before using oil paints

When you begin painting with a new type of medium it can be quite daunting as it’s difficult to know where to begin as everything can be very foreign. We often have customers come in who want to start oil painting and just don’t know where to start. Hopefully this post will answer some questions for anyone who is just beginning, wanting to begin or anyone wanting to refresh their memory.

Things you MUST know before you begin:
1) Typical oil colours require a lot of drying time
Depending on the thickness of the layer it may take days, weeks, months or even years to dry. Standard thin layers should be dry to the touch within 2 weeks, but highly texturised thicker layers may take months to years to harden and even if they seem dry on the surface this does not necessarily mean they are underneath.

2) Oil paint oxidises to ‘dry’,  it does NOT evaporate
So what exactly does that mean? Oxidisation is the loss of electrons and in this case oil paint loses electrons to the atmosphere which means it constantly remains active until it slowly hardens. Technically oil paintings do not really ‘dry’ until they almost a century old. Acrylic and watercolours evaporate to dry as they contain water.

3) Some pigments take longer to dry than others
When using certain colours you need to take into account they may take longer to dry than others. This is especially important when painting your initial layers, as they may affect the top layers. If you would like to speed up the drying time of slow drying colours it is best to sparingly mix Liquin, an alkyd resin, into them.

Slow drying pigments include:
• Alizarin Crimson
• Arylamide Yellow
• Cerulean
• Green Earth
• Ivory & Lamp Black
• Quinacridone
• Rose Madder
• Titanium & Zinc White
• Vandyke Brown
• Yellow Ochre

4) You need to paint using the ‘Fat over Lean’ technique
‘Fat’ refers to the thicker layers whereas ‘lean’ refers to the thinner layers. When beginning an oil painting to avoid any future cracking you should follow this technique. Essentially the layer before your next needs to be thinner, this allows each layer enough time to harden. There are plenty of mediums to help aid this process some examples include: Solvents, Medium 1, 2, & 3, Fat or Lean medium.

5) You cannot varnish for at least 6 months
As outlined in point 2) oil paint does not technically ‘dry’, but actually hardens with time and because of this it is necessary to allow your oil painting to ‘breathe’ for a few months before you put any kind of varnish on top. If you do not give it sufficient time to dry then the varnish and paint may crack over time.