Choosing an Oil Painting Thinner

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Actually, an oil painting thinner has a primary role in painting process. Not everything concerning oil paints  is as simple as watercolor painting, gouache,  acryl  thinned with water. There are different types and functions of paint thinners for oil-based paints.

There are many thinner bottles in an art store, but what should we choice? First of all, let’s see some types: thinner, vegetable oil, varnish, two-component thinner, three-component thinner.

A thinner.

A thinner is a liquid appeared to be a solvent for oil paints. It contains turpentine, white spirit, pinene. Thinners have got different numbers (different composition). A thinner can also clean and wash your paint brushes and painting palette.

A thinner – vegetable oil.

An oil is one of the oldest thinner for paints. In fact, oil-based paints were diluted with an oil long ago. Actually, oil paints took a name from an oil, because a colour pigment was ground-up with it. Linseed oil, poppy seed oil, hempseed oil, walnut oil and sunflower-seed oil are considered to be oils for oil-based paints.

A thinner – varnish

A varnish for paints is a resin diluted  with a solvent. A varnish is a good helper in painting. It makes paint’s structure more thicker: when a paint is dry, it sticks better than after a pure thinner or an oil. Also, varnish using makes the paint brighter and gives shine, also it helps to get rid of such an unpleasant thing as “fading” in painting. Varnishes are often added to different thinners for oil paints. A varnish is a part of two-component thinner and three-component thinner. There are different varnishes in oil painting: mastic varnish, dammar varnish, copal varnish, cedar varnish, fir varnish.

 Two-component thinner

Two-component thinner is a thinner which includes two components. Art varnish + oil, mixed in

Three-component thinner

Three-component thinner   as you have already guessed is two-component thinner plus third component (a thinner). It includes three components: art varnish + vegetable oil + thinner mixed in different proportions. It is a classical three-component thinner


I’d like to say, on a personal note:

Artists often choose a thinner depending on their goal.

If the painting is quick process, you can use a pure thinner. It dries very quickly on the canvas and thus it speeds up the drying of the paint (a thin layer of paint with a pure thinner dries for a few hours).

If you mix oil paints with vegetable oil, your painting will dry out fpr a long time (depending on the oil and the season of the year for 3-5 days).

Three and two-component thinners will help to achieve something in between. Experienced artists make thinner themselves, and realizing what the drying rate of a painting is for, they can change the components in three-component thinner. The paintings dry for 2-4 days.

 I’d like to advise you to choose odorless pure thinner for oil paints. There is no great price difference, but you will be more satisfied.

The purest paint oil I have ever seen is poppy oil. It is so clear.

If you would like to take a varnish for your thinner, then cedar and fir will have a very pleasant pine aroma. We got it covered, but what about “Choosing an oil can for oil paints?”

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