We are independent & ad-supported. We may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.

Advertiser Disclosure

Our website is an independent, advertising-supported platform. We provide our content free of charge to our readers, and to keep it that way, we rely on revenue generated through advertisements and affiliate partnerships. This means that when you click on certain links on our site and make a purchase, we may earn a commission. Learn more.

How We Make Money

We sustain our operations through affiliate commissions and advertising. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a commission from the merchant at no additional cost to you. We also display advertisements on our website, which help generate revenue to support our work and keep our content free for readers. Our editorial team operates independently from our advertising and affiliate partnerships to ensure that our content remains unbiased and focused on providing you with the best information and recommendations based on thorough research and honest evaluations. To remain transparent, we’ve provided a list of our current affiliate partners here.

What Should I Know About Painting with Oil Paint?

By Holly Collins
Updated May 17, 2024
Our promise to you
WiseGEEK is dedicated to creating trustworthy, high-quality content that always prioritizes transparency, integrity, and inclusivity above all else. Our ensure that our content creation and review process includes rigorous fact-checking, evidence-based, and continual updates to ensure accuracy and reliability.

Our Promise to you

Founded in 2002, our company has been a trusted resource for readers seeking informative and engaging content. Our dedication to quality remains unwavering—and will never change. We follow a strict editorial policy, ensuring that our content is authored by highly qualified professionals and edited by subject matter experts. This guarantees that everything we publish is objective, accurate, and trustworthy.

Over the years, we've refined our approach to cover a wide range of topics, providing readers with reliable and practical advice to enhance their knowledge and skills. That's why millions of readers turn to us each year. Join us in celebrating the joy of learning, guided by standards you can trust.

Editorial Standards

At WiseGEEK, we are committed to creating content that you can trust. Our editorial process is designed to ensure that every piece of content we publish is accurate, reliable, and informative.

Our team of experienced writers and editors follows a strict set of guidelines to ensure the highest quality content. We conduct thorough research, fact-check all information, and rely on credible sources to back up our claims. Our content is reviewed by subject matter experts to ensure accuracy and clarity.

We believe in transparency and maintain editorial independence from our advertisers. Our team does not receive direct compensation from advertisers, allowing us to create unbiased content that prioritizes your interests.

Oil paint is a mixture of color (pigment) and oil (medium). Paints are usually mixed by the artist for each specific project. The mixing of pigment with a medium is the basis of successful oil painting. Oil painting involves the application of the oil paint in layers on a canvas or other surface.

Commonly used mediums are linseed, walnut, and poppy seed oils. Mediums have different properties. Linseed oil dries the most thoroughly so it is frequently used on the bottom layers of oil paintings. Linseed oil tends to yellow color, so it is hard to use with lighter pigments. Poppy seed oil is the least yellowing of the mediums and is also the slowest to dry. It is often used in whites and lighter colors as well as on the top layers of an oil painting.

Oil paint is applied in layers to achieve desired colors and textures. Thicker paints will produce more texture, sometimes revealing brush strokes. Thinner paints are more transparent allowing for the creation of color variations. The layering of oil paint correctly is essential to the process.

The primary principle of oil painting is the rule of “fat over lean.” Leaner paints, paints mixed with lesser amounts of oil, must be applied under fatter paints, pigments mixed with more oil. Leaner paints need to go under fatter paints because they dry faster than those with more medium. The bottom layers of an oil painting need to contain less oil because they will absorb some of the medium of paint layered on top of them. Paints with less oil will dry faster than fat paints. If the top layers of a painting dry before the bottom layers, the paint will crack.

Oil paint does not dry by evaporation like most paints. Oil paint dries by oxidation, which is a much slower drying process. A fresh oil painting will be dry to the touch in about two weeks' time. It will be dry enough to finish with a varnish in about six to twelve months. An oil painting will not be considered finished drying until it is 60 to 80 years old.

Because oil paints remain wet for such a long time, it is possible for an artist to change colors and textures while working on a painting. Entire layers of paint can be removed from a work in progress with a rag and turpentine or alcohol. Once the paint has begun to dry, paint removal may require scraping.

The origin of oil painting dates back to Ancient Roman times. Shields decorated with oil based paint were thought to be more durable than those without.

WiseGEEK is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.

Discussion Comments

By anon23996 — On Jan 06, 2009

what is the slowest drying painting medium?

WiseGEEK, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.

WiseGEEK, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.