Oil Paint – The Good Oil

What is oil paint?

Without getting too technical, oil paint is made from pigment ground into a drying oil. The most popular forms of oil used in the manufacturing process are safflower and linseed, which have been used for generations. Because of its properties, oil paint is slow drying meaning an artist can work on a painting over an extended period of time, just one of the many benefits associated with oil paint. Modern advances have seen water soluble oil paints become widely available which can be thinned and cleaned with water instead of potentially toxic chemicals.

Oil paint and pigment

Pigment is what gives an oil paint its colour. Today, many pigments are synthetic but centuries ago painters relied on Mother Nature. Oxides such as zinc, titanium, and yellow to red cadmium were widely used as were clay earth pigments such as ochre, umber and sienna. As a matter of fact, our earliest artists were big fans of sienna – it was often used in cave paintings.

Choosing the right oil paint

When you begin your search for the right oil paint you’ll probably be faced with two main choices – student grade and artist grade. Your budget and artistic aspirations will dictate your final choice, with student grade containing less pigment and therefore less colour and richness than artist grade. If you’re a beginner, student grade is a relatively inexpensive way to paint with oil. The more you paint, and the better you get, you’ll probably look to invest in the more expensive but superior artist grade.

Good oil paint needs good brushes

It’s simply a waste of money to invest in good oil paint only to use the wrong brush to apply it. There are many brushes that are good for oil painting but as a rule of thumb, every brush collection should contain china bristle brushes made from pig hair as they are strong and durable enough to apply heavy paint to the canvas and clean easily. Sable brushes, while expensive, are also ideal for oil painting, being particularly good for blending and painting more subtle lines. While it may be tempting to choose cheap brushes, this is false economy as they need to be replaced more frequently than more expensive but better quality brushes.

Oil paint storage

There are many differing opinions on the best way to store oil paint once you’ve finished painting for the day. Some suggest using a glass palette and leaving it under water once your painting session is complete. Others use old film cartridge containers – great for their airtight qualities but a little difficult to find in the digital era! Plastic pill holders are also useful. Opinions certainly differ – but the best source for storage tips is usually the manufacturer. They’re the experts after all! Check the paint tubes, or the manufacturer’s website for instructions.

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