Oil Painting Mediums – Choosing the Best Medium for Oil Painting

When it comes to painting with oil-based paint, there are so many oil mediums that can be added to the mixture. This is done to change the finish, consistency, drying time, and transparency of the paint. Additionally, it can also be used to stretch out the use of your paint by making it last longer. An oil medium can come in many different forms and, as a result, can and will produce different effects. This can make it tough to determine the best medium for oil painting from the get-go, but not to worry! When it comes to oil mediums, we have everything you need to make an informed decision.



Why Use an Oil Paint Medium?

The most obvious question you may be seeking to answer is why do you even need to consider an oil paint medium? Well, an oil medium can alter the properties of the paint, making it more malleable and easier to manipulate. The oil paint that comes directly from the tube can be thick and difficult to work with. Different colors of the same brand may offer different viscosities in addition to drying times, and oil painting mediums can assist in giving the different colors the same qualities.

Oil Medium

It is worth noting that most oil paints already have some sort of oil medium in them. In most cases, an oil binder is used to bind the pigment. That is all oil paint is – oil and pigment mixed. However, by introducing new mediums into the mix, you can take this already versatile art supply and make it your own.

Oil painting mediums recipes will create different outcomes, which is something that needs to be considered when it comes to finding the best medium for oil painting. Achievable effects including thinning or thickening the paint as well as influencing the drying time and texture. It can also change the finish from matte to gloss and even smooth out brush strokes.

By knowing which oil paint medium achieves which results, you can find the option best suited to your needs and create your own oil painting mediums recipes.



Using Different Types of Oil Painting Mediums

A painting medium allows artists to control oil-based paints more accurately by altering their characteristics. By knowing and understanding these oil mediums, different results can be achieved and take the piece of art to a whole new level. Using an oil paint medium requires some research and experimentation to achieve the specific result, but once you have the oil painting medium recipes sorted, the rest is smooth sailing.


Using a Solvent as an Oil Medium

When you use a solvent as an oil medium, you are able to give the oil-based paint a matte finish, increase the flow, thin out paint, increase transparency, and speed up the time it takes to dry. A solvent is usually used to clean painting gear and equipment like for cleaning oil painting brushes; however, many artists use it to facilitate their creativity and bring their imagination to life. When mixed with oil-based paint, the solvent then evaporates and leaves the binder and pigment to oxidize. This can then make the color appear brittle, dry, and dull.

It is recommended that you use a solvent only in the early stages of your painting, as this way it will not affect the end result.

Knowing how much to use will further assist as you work on your painting. Using too much of a solvent will result in a chalky effect that often cracks and distorts the art. When it comes to using a solvent for the first time, the general rule of thumb is to work on color blocking with pigment and solvent, working your way to a 1:2 oil-to-solvent ratio, and then gradually increasing the amount of oil with each additional layer.

To make your own oil medium, add linseed stand oil or cold-pressed linseed oil to your solvent of choice. The oil needs to be added to the solvent for this to work and not the solvent to the oil. Combine the mixture and let it sit for 48 hours to combine.

Oil Painting Mediums Recipes



Turpentine, or turps, is the go-to choice for most artists as it is compatible with oil paint. When mixed, paint pigments will be perfectly dispersed and provide a beautiful, even finish. You need to buy artist-grade turpentine, however, as it contains fewer impurities. It is worth reminding you that turpentine is toxic when inhaled, so work in a well-ventilated space when using this oil medium.


Recommended Brand of Turpentine: DIAMOND G FOREST PRODUCTS Pure Gum Spirits of Turpentine

Slash pine trees are used in this turpentine, sourced using sustainable forest practices in south Georgia. The raw gum is fire distilled based on hundreds of years of tradition before being hand-packaged and labeled for shipment. This historical blend is ideal when it comes to thinning out the paint.

DIAMOND G FOREST PRODUCT Pure Gum Spirits of Turpentine
  • Sustainably made from slash pine trees growing in south Georgia
  • 100% pure turpentine made from fire-distilled raw gum
  • Bottled, labeled, packaged, and shipped by hand
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  • 100% pure and free of impurities
  • High-quality product
  • Affordable price tag


  • Toxic and not suitable for human consumption


Oil of Spike Lavender

Oil of spike lavender is a great alternative to turpentine as it mixes well with oil mediums and can break down and dissolve resins. This makes it the best product when it comes to thinning out thicker paints. What you may not know, however, is that this product is stronger than turpentine when it comes to solvents, which means that you can use less of it to thin out your paint. It can provide improved clarity, particle dispersion, as well as an adhesive for the different layers of paint. While this solvent is stronger than turpentine, it is less toxic, producing strong vapors with a more pleasant aroma.

Spike Oil Medium


Recommended Brand of Oil of Spike Lavender: CHELSEA CLASSICAL STUDIO Lavender Spike Oil

This product by Chelsea Classical Studio is natural and does not pose adverse health effects to artists using the solvent. The pleasant aroma makes it appealing to use and does not stink up your workspace. This oil medium can also be mixed with varnishes and resins, in addition to paints.

  • A safer, natural alternative to Turpentine with a sweet lavender scent
  • A natural solvent that thins oil painting mediums, resins, and varnishes
  • Perfect for use with fine oil colors, blending colored pencils, and more
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  • Natural product
  • Sweet-smelling odor
  • Dissolves varnishes and resins


  • Lavender smell is very strong




Odorless mineral spirits are another artist staple when it comes to thinning paint and are a great option if you are looking for a solvent that does not have a toxic odor – although it is still a toxic substance. Unlike turpentine, mineral spirits are not as compatible with oil paints due to the abrasive nature of the substance. This medium is also waterier and dries a lot slower than turpentine.

We recommend spirits as a brush cleaner and not as an oil medium as it can weaken the paint and provide a less desirable finish.


Recommended Brand of Spirits: WEBER Odorless Turpenoid

This Weber product is almost as powerful a turpentine without the strong odor. It has all of the solvent-like qualities associated with turpentine without smell, and can easily be used to clean brushes or thin out oil paints.

WEBER Odorless Turpenoid
  • The best odorless, volatile, and thin turpentine substitute
  • Same painting properties and drying time as turpentine
  • Odorless - does not have the strong odor like turpentine has
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  • Responds to paint the same way as turpentine
  • Odorless
  • Compatible with alkyd and oil
  • Will not affect paint color


  • Not as strong as turpentine


Using an Oil as an Oil Paint Medium

Now that we have taken a look at the solvent aspect of oil paint mediums, you are now ready to look at the next part, the oils. When you decide to add oil, you are more than likely looking to thicken paint, increase paint flow and transparency, and slow down the drying time. It is worth noting that not all oils can be used when painting with oil-based paint.

Oil Paint Medium

This because these oils are siccative and have gone through a process known as polymerization, which allows the oil to combine with air and create a solid layer. This oxidizing ability is why many people refer to these mediums as drying oils.

Tung, perilla, and soybean oils are also common mediums, although they are not as user-friendly as linseed, walnut, poppy seed, and safflower oil.


Linseed Oil

This oil comes from the ripe, dry flax plant. This means that it is sometimes sold as flaxseed oil or flax oil. This oil is incredibly durable, which is why it is often used to create oil mediums. It provides a glossy finish to paints, slows down the time they take to dry, and reduces the paint’s viscosity. Another favorable quality of this oil is its linoleic and linolenic acid, which help to produce a durable, long-lasting paint film, although they can result in yellowing of the paint with age. When it comes to selecting an oil, look for an oil with linolenic acid, as it builds a strong film.


Recommended Brand of Linseed Oil: WINSOR & NEWTON Linseed Oil

When it comes to oil mediums, Winsor and Newton have a product range that meets all needs. This prodyct has all of the properties you look for in linseed oil and produces the long-lasting, glossy finish that artists seek to achieve when using this oil medium.

WINSOR & NEWTON Refined Linseed Oil
  • Refined linseed oil is the most commonly used oil by artists
  • Add to oil paints to slow the drying time or to reduce consistency
  • Increases the gloss and transparency of oil paints
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  • Slows drying time of paint
  • Reduces oil consistency
  • Adds gloss
  • Improves transparency


  • The cap of the bottle can be tricky to open


Cold-Pressed Linseed Oil

Cold-pressed linseed oil can be used with oil of spike lavender to create a lean medium if that is what you are looking to achieve. This variety of linseed oil creates a harder, shinier finish, and also takes less time to dry. This high-quality oil is used as a binder in many oil paints and is often mixed with professional paints made using rich, pure pigments. The acid content makes it a great choice for a binder and coats pigments a lot more effectively than other oils.

Best Medium for Oil Painting


Recommended Brand of Cold-Pressed Linseed Oil: DANIEL SMITH

As one of the most innovative paint manufacturers, it should come as no surprise that Daniel Smith offers a high-quality cold-pressed linseed oil. This product is fantastic for extending the use of your paint while improving flow, gloss, and transparency.

DANIEL SMITH Original Cold-Pressed Linseed Oil
  • Increases the transparency and gloss of oil paints
  • Allows artists to extend their oil paints and use less paint
  • Thins consistency, improves flow, and speeds up drying time
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  • Increase glossy appearance
  • Adds transparency
  • Thins paint
  • Speeds up drying
  • Increases flow


  • Can be expensive


Linseed Stand Oil

Linseed stand oil, or linseed bodied oil, is also derived from the flax plant. It is different in that it is made from refined linseed oil that has been heated to high temperatures in a vacuum-sealed chamber. It is more concentrated as a result and has a thicker consistency, which stretches out your paint and allows you to do more with a lot less. It is also ideal for glazing and will leave a glossy finish.

Another great benefit that comes with this oil is that does not yellow with age like other linseed oils, and it is also not as easily absorbed into the layer, which makes the paint appear dull.


Recommended Brand of Linseed Stand Oil: WINSOR & NEWTON

Winsor and Newton are big names when it comes to painting. Their linseed stand oil provides a durable, smooth finish while slowing down the drying time of your oil paints. It also reduces the risk of brush marks and helps make the paint and color last longer.

WINSOR & NEWTON Stand Linseed Oil
  • A pale viscous oil that slows the drying time of oil paints
  • Increases film durability and leaves a smooth, tough enamel finish
  • Ideal for glazing and fine details when mixed with a solvent
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  • Smooth finish
  • Tough, durable film
  • Reduced brush marks
  • Suitable for glazing


  • Lid is difficult to open


Safflower Oil

Safflower oil only contains linoleic acid and, as a result, is seen as a weaker binder. As an oil medium, this oil reduces viscosity while increasing flow. Paint is, therefore, more easily spread. Safflower oil also produces a film that does not wrinkle with age; however, it is weaker than other oils. It is also slow drying to the point that it never completely dries or cures. When exposed to excessively hot temperatures, the paint has been known to melt.

What Is a Paint Medium

Safflower oil is not often recommended as an oil paint medium, although, when used sparingly, it can provide great results. One such example is applying thin layers to your painting with the intention of mixing it with lighter colors. As with most mediums, there are ways to even out the unwanted and negative properties. For example, to counteract the weaker film layer, you can always apply a varnish to seal the paint layer.


Recommended Brand of Safflower Oil: MONT MARTE Safflower Oil

Mont Marte’s safflower oil is suitable for all colors, including white and pale hues, as the oil does not cause the paint to yellow. It can add gloss to your painting while slowing down the drying time, resulting in more time to fine-tune your masterpiece.

MONT MARTE Premium Safflower Oil
  • Increases the flow and transparency of oil paints
  • Medium-viscosity oil improves gloss and slows down drying time
  • Resists yellowing, making it great for pale hues and white colors
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  • Improved flow