Oil Painting For Beginners Part 2

Although this is part two of the beginner series it’s actually an addendum to part one. There are two categories of oil paints that I didn’t mention in part 1 because I’m trying to keep this is simple as possible, but to not mention two sub-types of oil paints would cause confusion when you’re looking to buy oil paints.

Before we look at the two sub-types a quick bit of knowledge on oil paints in general. This information is superfluous, but necessary in order to understand what these sub types of oil paints are for. In this case it’s all about how oil paints “dry”.

It’s typically said, when referring to a painting being ready, we need to wait for it to “dry”, or oil paints take a long time to “dry”. That’s not strictly correct, and while it’s okay to refer to your painting as drying, what’s happening is oxidisation.

When something dries it’s through the evaporation of water, but oil paints don’t contain water. The process of oxidisation is the polymers in the oil reacting with the oxygen in the air. This oxidisation creates a film on the surface of the paint which will feel dry to the touch, but underneath your paint will still be wet until it has fully hardened or cured. How long will that take? There are a number of factors that will influence how long your painting will take to fully “dry” but that’s a topic for a further post. If this all getting a bit too confusing, ignore all this for the moment and we’ll look at the two sub-types of oil paint:

Water Miscible or Water Mixable Oil Paint

Water soluble oil paints are oil paints that include an additive that allows them to be mixed with water, allowing you use and clean up after use without needing solvents. They are still oil paints, and for the most part, behave in the same way as oil paints – and that includes “drying”. They still contain oil so the oxidising process will still occur.

The main reason for choosing water miscible oil paints would be if you are sensitive to or have an intolerance to the solvents used in traditional oil painting (usually turpentine). However, I will be covering solvents and less harsh versions in a future post about mediums (mediums are things you add to oil paints to alter their properties like the thickness and “drying” time).

It’s really important to use the correct mediums for the type of paint you buy and I wouldn’t mix water-miscible oil paint with traditional oil paint. Water-miscible/mixable/soluble oil paints will have their own range of mediums (we’ll get on to mediums later), so if you do go for this type of paint, make sure you stick to one brand – especially when starting out – to ensure you get consistent results.

The most widely available water-miscible oil paints in the UK are Daler-Rowney’s Georgian water mixable oil paints and Winsor and Newton’s Artisan water mixable oil paints. Be careful on selection however, as Daler Rowney also has a set of traditional oil paints using the Georgian label! There are other manufacturers of water mixable oil paints such as Cobra from Royal Talens and the range from Mont Marte.


Here comes the science part….. Not really. If you read the section above about water-miscible paints you’ll already know that oil paints don’t dry, they oxidise. And that the process is caused by the formation of polymer bonds as the oils react with the oxygen in the air to cure the paint.

Oil paint with a resin binder that reduces drying time and increases gloss is known as an alkyd. Traditional oil paints leave a lot of latitude for reworking the surface before they “dry” but the long “drying” time can also be a drawbacks of working with oil paints. Later we’ll be looking at oil mediums (additives that change the way oil paints behave) and how to speed up curing time. Using alkyd oils specifically will reduce overall curing time, but like the water miscible oils you have to be careful – especially when starting out – not to mix different types of oil paints as you might not get the result you expect, or want.

Alkyd oils paints in the UK are most popularly the Griffin series from Winsor and Newton and Fastmatte from Gamblin.

For beginning oil painting, that’s enough to be going on with in regards to paint itself. Get yourself a decent set. Don’t worry about anything else for now.

Part 3

Want to know when I post more information on painting, exhibitions, or general art related goings on? Join my mailing list (it’s a two stage opt-in which means you’ll need to confirm your subscription so please check your spam folder):

Subscribe to our newsletter!

Links in the above post are affiliate links, this means that if you buy any of the linked products I will receive a small fee.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *