Linseed Oil for Oil Painting | Beginner’s Guide

Oil painting is an old and impressive form of art, but often requires a lot of materials that are not useful in other mediums. This article will outline one of the most popular mediums to use with oil paint: linseed oil.

Pairing linseed oil with your oil paints will give them a smooth, hard finish as well as extend their drying time. It will also make your oil paints more transparent while increasing their ability to flow over the canvas. A final layer of linseed oil mixed in with your oil paints will make your painting less likely to crack.

Finally, you can combine linseed oil with turpentine in a way that makes for an ideal paint medium to use in combination with your favorite oil paints.

best linseed oil for oil painting

What is linseed oil?

Linseed oil is also known as flaxseed or flax oil. This is because it is made from flax seeds.

Linseed oil can be processed in various ways, some of which are edible. Linseed oil supplements are a source of Omega-3 fatty acids, however, you should only consume linseed oil that is advertised as a supplement.

Linseed oil is used to manufacture linoleum, add a finish to wood projects, and as a hardener for putties. But this article will focus on linseed oil’s uses in oil painting.

Why is linseed oil used for oil painting?

Oil painters mix linseed oil with paint to thin the texture and extend its drying time.

It is one of the most popular mediums to use in combination with oil paint. You would use it similar to using water with acrylics – it thins the distribution of pigments in the paints, making them more transparent.

Linseed oil vs turpentine

Turpentine has almost the opposite effect on oil paints. Linseed oil is a retardant that will make your paint dry slower. Turpentine (or mineral spirits) is a solvent, and it will make your oil paint dry much faster.

Because it makes the paints dry faster, it is best to use turpentine on the first few layers of your oil painting. Slower-drying paint, such as that mixed with linseed oil, should always be applied over completely dry layers.

Turpentine is a useful medium and very popular among oil painters. It is usually found in every oil painter’s studio because it also works well for cleaning brushes.

Which linseed oil works best for painting?

Since linseed oil has so many uses, you should only purchase linseed oil from an art supplier. Other varieties will have adverse effects on your paints and your finished work.

Most linseed oil made for artists is known as refined linseed oil or cold-pressed linseed oil. There are slight differences between both of these varieties. Refined linseed oil has less of a chance of yellowing over time, while cold-pressed has had less added chemicals and is considered more stable.

How will linseed oil affect your paint?

Smart artists will know the effects of their mediums before they apply them. Linseed oil will add multiple new properties to your oil paint when you mix the two.

First, linseed oil will make your oil paint buttery smooth. It will be easier to mix with other colors in this form.

When you first squeeze oil paint out of the tube, it can be quite hard to smooth. Linseed oil will help your paint become smooth and workable, both with other colors and on your painting.

In addition to making the paints smooth to work with, they will also increase in transparency. The particles of pigment in the paints will separate with the added medium. Semi-transparent glazes are a popular way to add interested, layered colors in oil paintings.

It’s important to note that linseed oil, especially if it appears yellow in the bottle, may tend to yellow your lighter pigments. Mediums such as walnut oil can extend drying time without yellowing paint. However, the drying time will extend even longer than the drying time of linseed oil, so be cautious when trying other oil-based mediums.

Linseed oil mixed in with oil paint.

Next, linseed oil will extend the drying time of your paints. Oil paint already takes quite some time to dry, and linseed oil could easily extend this to about a week’s worth of time, depending on how thick your final layers of paint are.

Be sure to note that you should apply the “fat over lean” rule when it comes to linseed oil. This oil is the “fat” that adds drying time to your oil paints. Because of this, it should always be painted over top of “lean” layers, such as those without added oil or those mixed with turpentine.

Finally, linseed oil will help make your paintings more durable. Once they dry, the paints mixed with this medium will dry hard. Your paintings will be less likely to crack and crumble if their final layers of paint are mixed with linseed oil.

The hard paints will also be glossier, giving a shiny finish to your pieces. This fact is crucial to note if you prefer a matte finish – linseed oil will add a noticeable sheen to your work.

How do you mix linseed oil with your paint?

Artists have different preferences when it comes to mixing mediums with their paints. Some prefer to place their medium on the palette and mix it in, like it was another paint color. Others prefer to dip the tips of their brushes into the medium and transfer it to their paints in that way.

One useful way to use linseed oil is to mix it with turpentine to create a useful oil painting medium. Dan from EmptyEasel.com suggests using a ratio of one-part linseed oil to two-parts turpentine and mixing them in a glass jar with a tight lid. The oil will be resistant to mixing with the turpentine, but after a few days the mixture will be fully integrated.

Once mixed, this medium allows artists to get the benefits of linseed oil, including the extended drying time and increased durability of the paint. It also assists in mixing different brands of oil paint smoothly. It will not take much of this medium to improve the mixing capabilities of your paints.

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