Skip to Main Content
Sign In
Toggle Navigation

Open the Navigation Management window, which can be used to view the full current branch of the menu tree, and edit it.

  • Instagram
  • Facebook

MITRA Forum Question Details

Image Picker for Section 0


  • Water-Miscible Oils, RevisitedApproveRejectUn-ApproveSubscribeUn-Unsubscribe
    Question asked 2019-11-16 13:22:49 ... Most recent comment 2019-11-19 18:39:44
    Oil Paint

    ​Hello MITRA folks. I've inquired about water-miscible oils (as a option for underpainting) here before, and the response was that there was some concern about their long-term stability, being a relatively new product, because of some of the surfactent ingredients in some of the products on the market. Do you know if there are brands that do NOT incorporate these questionable ingredients? And if there are working practices that would mitigate any possible de-laminating effect down the road? On a related note, could using egg tempera (in the tube product form) be a reasonable substitute for washy underpainting techniques for an oil painting? I'm looking for a solvent-free option that is fluid, longer open time than acrylics, and one that can be left exposed in some areas (i.e. edges) of the finished oil painting. Thanks for any thoughts!

Answers and Comments

  • EditDeleteModerator Answer

    ​While some have remarked about issues involving surfactants, I don't think anyone here has specifically cautioned against the use of water-miscible (WM) oils. The issue in my opinion is that, if the received marketing message for WM oils is that they are "the same as" traditional oil paints except for water miscibility, that doesn't really tell the whole story. And, maybe "traditional oils" isn't the best terminology, because of the ubiquity of driers and stabilizers in tube oils. The essential information I think artists need to know is:

    -Surfactants are used to achieve water miscibility, and those elements are not present in solvent-miscible tube oils

    -Substitutes for stearate stabilizers are used in WM oils. These ingredients (sometimes borrowed from the food and cosmetics industries) are relatively new in professional artists' colors, and conservation experts don't yet have antique dry films containing these to study

    -WM oils were developed by paint chemists and art materials experts who have conducted testing on finished products, BUT...

    -This category of product is still relatively new, and artists should not be surprised when manufacturers need to protect proprietary information

    I'm not aware of any WM oils produced without surfactants, but because most brands don't share details of their formulas, we don't know. (I doubt there are any.) I do think WM oils are a good choice for thin underpaintings, but as an alternative, egg-oil emulsion might be an attractive option. In that case, egg is the emulsifier in a well-understood, mature medium.

    Matthew Kinsey, Utrecht Art Supplies
    2019-11-17 11:12:50
  • ApproveRejectUn-ApproveUser Comment

    ​Thank you so much for the clarification, Matthew. I am relieved to hear that WM oils are still a reasonable option for a thin underpainting. While I have you, would you clarify "thin?" I can recognize "thick" but "thin" is a little trickier...or point me somewhere else on this sight that might talk about that? Much appreciated!

    2019-11-17 12:48:48
  • EditDeleteModerator Answer

    ​I simply said "thin" in response to your question about suitability for washes prior to subsequent oil painting; it wasn't necessarily a recommendation to avoid thicker mixtures. With WM oils, it is important to avoid over-dilution, because reduction to a very watery consistency (just as with hydrocarbon solvents) can destroy the envelopment of vehice surrounding pigment. WM mediums are available which can help preserve vehicle viscosity in thinned paint.

    Matthew Kinsey, Utrecht Art Supplies
    2019-11-17 14:17:30
  • ApproveRejectUn-ApproveUser Comment

    ​Thank you, Matthew. I think I'll look into Schmincke's Medium W, as a place to start, and not over-thin the paint mixture with water. Once again, really appreciate MITRA as a resource. 🍁

    2019-11-17 15:29:25
  • EditDeleteModerator Answer

    Sorry for coming in so late on this. I have been away from home and the computer. What Matthew writes is sound. As to the applicability of egg-oil emulsions for underpainting, the bigger issue is ground choice. However, as you are also mentioning water miscible oils in the same remark I am guessing that your ground is an acrylic dispersion ground or another that would allow for the application of a water-borne paint without beading, etc.

    Brian Baade
    2019-11-19 15:44:52
  • ApproveRejectUn-ApproveUser Comment

    ​Yes, that's right, Brian. Thanks for double-checking!

    2019-11-19 18:39:44

Page Settings and MetaData:
(Not Shown on the Page)
Page Settings
MetaData for Search Engine Optimization
MITRA Forum Question Details
This page cannot be accessed until you accept the Terms of Use, which can be found here.
Please note that this Terms of Use system uses cookies. If you have cookies disabled you will not be able to accept the agreement. If you delete our cookies you will need to re-accept the Terms of Use.
  • The Department of Art Conservation
  • 303 Old College
  • University of Delaware
  • Newark, DE 19716, USA
  • Phone: 302-831-3489