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MITRA Forum Question Details

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  • Thinning oil paints with solventsApproveRejectUn-ApproveSubscribeUn-Unsubscribe
    Question asked 2019-08-19 19:05:24 ... Most recent comment 2019-08-20 19:09:57
    Oil Paint

    ​RE: how much can you thin down tube paints without encountering adhesion problems? I have frequently read that the maximum dilution of solvent: oil paint is somewhere between 1:1 to 2:1. Any more than this will leave the paint film underbound, i.e. not enough oil binder to stick the pigment to the canvas. But recently I read/heard somewhere that it doesn't matter anyway provided you paint over this immediately with paint layers with much less solvent as subsequent layers would contain enough binder to provide adequate adhesion. I have watched numerous YouTube videos of professional artists using really watery washes (the wash runs down the canvas) to either tone the canvas or lay-in a drawing. I have seen this so many times (an in art classes) that if it was such a detrimental practice to the longevity of the final painting surely they would have changed their practices by now. After all, if you are doing paid portrait commissions and a few years later they fail in some way then that would be disasterous for business. How do they get away with flouting the common sense 'rules', or doesn't it really matter provided you paint immediately into this watery wash with thicker paint?

    Would love to hear some definitive statement on this.

    Many thanks

Answers and Comments

  • EditDeleteModerator Answer

    How do artists "get away with" deviating from proven (or assumed) best practices? Good materials used in a conservative way will often allow some tolerance for pushing the limit, something artists are supposed to do. Sometimes it takes a while for trouble to arise- not every paint failure manifests immediately or spectacularly, and often display conditions and other factors can contribute. It also depends on what is meant by "get away with" something- if you mean avoiding career-ending reputational damage, that's a pretty low bar.  Paint failures are not hard to find in the work of trained, respected career artists- museums are full of pictures that show signs of potentially avoidable defects. 

    Yes, subsequent layers of paint and medium generally will supplement adhesion of an underbound, thin wash. Does this mean the initial layer achieves a degree of adhesion equal to what would have been possible had the first layer not been over-diluted? Probably not 100%, definitely not where a larger amount of loose pigment is present. Is the degree of adhesion achieved by top-coating adequate? Usually, yes, and sometimes, no.

    Matthew Kinsey, Utrecht Art Supplies
    2019-08-20 17:25:14
  • ApproveRejectUn-ApproveUser Comment


    many thanks your detailed answer. I used to just paint for my own enjoyment, but are now producing portraits for others, so I think I will stick to the generally quoted practice of solvent: tube paint between 1:1 and 2:1 (max.), then I don't have to worry about any other issues possibly arising down the track.

    2019-08-20 19:09:57

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