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Making a good oil painting medium

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Making a good oil painting medium

Postby Singular » Tue Feb 27, 2007 2:20 pm

The most important thing to understand about painting mediums, are the characteristics, that each component of a medium possesses, so that the artist can create a desired paint film. For example, if one wanted to create a glossy surface, one would use a Dammar varnish. Dammar, though a fine varnish on its own, is too viscous in its manufactured state and therefore needs to be thinned with turpentine. Dammar also dries into a very
ittle film and therefore should be made more flexible by the addition of an oil. This is only an example of how to ascertain a desired finish and knowing how to compensate for its shortcomings. In order to help ascertain other qualities for a desired paint film, here is a list of available oils, varnishes and driers and their characteristics.


    Linseed Oil
    A drying oil that dries to a semi-gloss to matte finish, depending on the pigment it contains. It dries relatively slow.
    Walnut Oil
    Also a drying oil that dries to semi-gloss to matte finish as well. It is usually used in oil-egg tempera emulsions.
    Poppy Oil
    A very slow drying oil, that is very clear and dries to a
    ittle film and therefore recommended to be used in combination with a more flexible oil such as linseed oil.
    Sunflower Oil
    A non-drying oil that is very clear.
    Lavender Oil
    A slow drying oil, which retards the drying time of other oils.
    Clove Oil
    Also a very slow drying oil, which can be added to other oils to retard their drying time. Use only drops.
    Larch, Venetian and Strasbourg Turpentines
    Very viscous turpentines, which are left in their post extraction state or made more viscous by the addition of colophony resins. They make a beautiful thickener for oil painting mediums. Especially suited for mediums that are used in fine detail or glazing work. They must be used in combination with an oil to prevent cracking.
    Canada & Copaiva Balsam
    Also gained by extraction from trees, that contain a mixture of resins and oils. These two are hailed as the best because of their workability and the ability to use them as a sole medium.
    Rectified Turpentine
    The product of the distillation of the viscous pine tree sap. In the distillation process such resins as colophony are removed to create a clear liquid which makes a great thinner and drier for all oil painting mediums. Turpentine has no binding power on its own and can therefore not be used alone in combination with pigment.
    Dammar Varnish
    A combination of rectified turpentine and the crystalline Dammar Resin. As mentioned earlier it creates a glossy film that needs to be stabilized with an oil and can be thinned with turpentine for easier
    ushability. By the addition of beeswax the glossiness of the film can be reduced from a semi-gloss all the way to matte finish.
    Mastic Varnish
    Manufactured in a similar fashion as Dammar Varnish. It also dries to a glossy finish, but remains more flexible in film than the Dammar and is therefore preferred as a picture varnish.
    Cobalt Drier
    A very potent drier that should be used in very small (drops) quantities. Too much drier causes paint films to crack.
    Also acts as drier and can be added generously as drier to oil paints.

All of the above ingredients can be intermixed to create any sort of paint medium (slow drying, glossy, matte, viscous, etc.). However, it is important to consider whether the painting medium will dry in a reasonable amount of time and whether the dry paint film will be flexible enough to keep from cracking.

My personal choice is 3-parts turpentine - 2-parts linseed oil - 1-part dammar varnish.
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Postby ehoeveler » Wed Feb 28, 2007 4:47 am

Blessings upon thee, Joe; I'm adding this to my 'favorites'. ehoeveler
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Postby johnwalkeasy » Sun Jul 01, 2007 7:55 pm

Joe, What do you know about boiled linseed oil?
Perfection is what drives an artist.
The inability to achieve perfection is what creates a work of art.
John A. Barandon
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