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Pingo, if you wouldn't thin oils with oil, what do you use?I'm not very good (read: zero knowledge) on getting good oil consistency, my portrait is almost entirely straight tube oils. But wouldn't the last layers be thinned with some oil to preserve fat over lean? Wouldn't turps start to lift layers after a while?I'm such a newb, so much to learn. The portrait still has some surface oil sitting on it, a sheen where I last oiled it (and wiped it down) but didn't work any paint.

Please be aware that there is a lot of folkloric misinformation constantly repeated in the arts community, so that sometimes there may seem to be a consensus which is in fact dead wrong but which at least on the internet drowns out more accurate and useful advice.


Part of the reason for this is that oil paintings dry very slowly -- over the course of decades -- and there are many practices which appear to make them more pleasing-looking at the moment but which will destroy them a few decades down the line. Meanwhile the artists pleased with their effects will spread the practices they used unaware of the consequences, which are generally only faced by a later generation of collectors and museum curators.


The art world is littered with cautionary tales of paintings ruined by the use of the latest "miracle medium" or hot new paint. Géricault's 1818-1819 "Wreck of the Medusa" was recognized as a wreck itself by 1890 due to Géricault's liberal use of the gorgeous unctuous oily new black, "Asphaltum", which looks beautiful briefly, but never fully dries and cracks and blisters and sags and "alligator-skins" (with devastating consequences to a myriad of nineteenth-century works). Van Gogh and Seurat's works have undergone and are still undergoing irreversible color changes because they used untested pretty new pigments which gave their paintings a visual "kick" for a few years.


As for my oil painting practices, on the whole I follow the simple ones of the Renaissance masters: pure linseed-oil paint whenever possible, on a white lead oil ground over rabbitskin glue on linen canvas or wooden or MDF board, with careful attention to the "fat over lean" principle as elaborated below, allowed to dry for at least a full year before being varnished with the thinnest coat of damar in turpentine.


I believe this simplicity gives my paintings the best chance of surviving without too much distortion.


I thin my oils with turpentine or odorless paint thinner for the most part, but I don't use much. I have a jar of homemade painting medium, a mix of turpentine and stand oil, which I sometimes use very sparingly in the topmost layers of my paintings if I am looking for a particular effect, and never in blues, violets, or whites because whatever they say, no oil suitable for painting is truly "non-yellowing".


Once or twice I have thinned my paint with artists lavender oil or clove oil, which is what was used before turpentine was invented. Smells great, but slows down the drying time by weeks.


The thing is, more oil that is present in a paint, whether as ground or added, the more that paint will simultaneously darken and go transparent over time, yellowing and even browning if too much or the wrong kinds of oil are introduced (Walnut oil in particular is notorious for darkening catastrophically, which is why it is not used as a standard oil paint oil despite drying to a nice strong non-brittle film -- in fact, there is a direct relationship between yellowing and film flexibility, with the nicest "non-yellowing" oils drying to particularly brittle films prone to cracking, but frequently used because in the very short term they look prettier.).


Every addition of oil will make the paint doomed to yellow and darken more in the future, no matter how nice and shiny it seems to make the painting look right now.


The best practice in "fat over lean" is not to add oils to colors to make them "fatter" but to use "fat" pigments over "lean" ones. That is, to use colors with a low oil absorbency on the lower layers of a painting and those with high absorbency on the later ones.


I have seen a lot of misinformation on online artists sites, including the mythic rule of thumb that "lean" colors dry fast and "fat" ones slow. This is straight out untrue, as the drying rates of an oil paint relies on a combination of the oxidising rate of whichever particular oil is used and the chemical structure of the pigment itself (and local atmospheric conditions, but let's not get too far afield).


For example, Burnt Umber is a "lean" color (with a low oil content) which dries very quickly. The presence of manganese in the pigment naturally speeds up drying. But the Cadmiums are also "lean" colors and they take a very long time to dry.


Zinc White (which should never be used in oils!) is a very "fat" color which dries slowly, but it also dries to a film so brittle and prone to cracking and flaking off that museums and curators started begging artists not to use it one or two decades ago -- far too late for all the damage done to millions of paintings over the last century, but maybe a little more hope for future ones.


The only way to know for sure which pigments are "lean" is to research the actual oil absorbency. Since most artists these days no longer make our own oil paints, we do not know this from experience but from paint manufacturers information.


Now, as for "oiling" the paint surface.


Please don't do it. It's better far to stick to simple, basic, good long-tested practices, like painting with high-oil-absorbency colors over low-oil-absorbency ones with a minimum of added mediums, than to add all kinds of unstable ingredients in pursuit of momentary effect.


The fine art world is swamped with old paintings ruined from such practices.


If you have any oil still sitting on the surface of your painting, please gently wipe it off as thoroughly as you can.


The practice of "oiling out" has been known to be harmful since at least 1834, but it continues to circulate within the arts community as an easy solution to the non-problem of uneven glossiness in dried oil paint -- a natural result of the differing nature of pigments and one that is solved the moment varnish is applied to a painting anyway.


Plain drying oil films are much weaker and more prone to damage than those which include pigments.


Over time a plain drying oil film, no matter how thin, will turn orange-brown and wrinkle like an orange skin -- and it is completely non-removable from your painting.


I shudder when I see online discussions among artists who routinely "oil out" the entire surface of their paintings. That is a recipe for disaster.


I realize I have gone on at possibly tedious length here. I hope this will prove helpful.

Edited by Pingo
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Tamiya's paints are an acrylic lacquer, its thinner is (to the best of my knowledge) isopropyl alcohol with some acrylic flow aid and retarder. (If you look around online, you can find home-made Tamiya thinner formulas.) As with any reactive thinner, use in a well ventilated area.


I remember quite some time ago purchasing my first bottle of Tamiya X-20 thinner at my local hobby shop. I brought it to the counter and the shop employee looked at it and said: "Let me save you some money. Open the bottle and smell it."


A little unsure, I did what he said. He said: "Remind you of anything? Smells a lot like rubbing alcohol, doesn't it? I use that as a thinner all the time and it's a lot cheaper."


I showed my appreciation by using the money I saved to purchase more colors.

I use rubbing alcohol all the time to thin my colors down to wash consistency.  It works really well for me and my budget.


Not saying it is as good as a commercial thinner, just saying it works for me.  

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I shudder when I see online discussions among artists who routinely "oil out" the entire surface of their paintings. That is a recipe for disaster.


I realize I have gone on at possibly tedious length here. I hope this will prove helpful.

Aesome stuff that will take me a long time to digest! Not in the least bit tedious, I find it fascinating!


I don't oil out the whole painting. Our classes were 3 hours, once a week. When we'd return to the mostly-dried painting, the instructor had us oil the area we were going to work lightly, and then sponge it off again. She said it helped the new paint work into the existing layers. I can only see a little shine where I last worked it, just in the areas I never actually put paint.

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I am looking for a translucent dark red I can add the iridescent effects to for a sheen I can place over scales. I had a very lovely one that was an enamel for car/train hobby painting, but really don't want to work with enamels.

Is there a better brand you prefer? Liquitex and W&N are what I'm most familiar with.


Have you tried any of the Tamiya transparent paints? The reds and oranges are really nice, and easy to work with.

To each their own.  I love the smell of these paints, though its probably no good for me.  the colors can be used with an almost magical quality.  shiny and transparent, they make wonderful easy small gems, windshields and glass, mysterious liquids in glass bottles, etc.  I really love these, but a single bottle will last forever.


And red is a wonderful fresh blood, blue and yellow make great alien goo, and overlaying the gray over another color makes it look like color in a bottle.

If they are "flammable" they are not water-based acrylics.




  Ayup,  They're an alcohol based acrylic, much like GCB already mentioned.  And while they're situationally useful, and absolutely wonderful on the translucent Bonesâ„¢, I absolutely would not recommend getting them as a "base" color.  Yeah, they're great for gems, and for liquid effects, and ice, and other translucent effects.  They're not easy to use at all - they can be thinned with water and cleaned up likewise, but I've had much better results using an alchohol based thinner for both thinning, and cleanup.  And they're absolutely brutal on brushes especially if they get into the ferule.  They do not play well with mixing:  even mixing the different translucents together is very iffy, about the best I've come across is thinning them down to lighten the shade, and adding Clear Smoke to darken (although that's not a neutral grey by any definition of the word:  it shifts towards purple).


Using them as a glaze over scales to get a lacquered effect works pretty well in my experience, you can also paint Tamiya Clear Red over a yellow metallic to get a similar look to Candy Apple Red metallic car paint:  it'd probably look decent for a dragon but the effect is super glossy and would probably look... odd as a base layer over an entire large figure rather than highlights on a specific area.  Still, might be worth a try if that's the sort of look you're looking for. If you want to shade it after application I'd strongly recommend using ink washes.

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