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  1. #1
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    Safest oil painting materials?

    What are the safest thinners, mediums, and paints I can use?

    I don't have good ventilation in my new apartment and don't want to be painting at all if it's going to give me cancer or something.

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  3. #2
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    OMS (Turpenoid or Gamsol) for thinner. Or google solvent-free oil painting if you really want to go all out. M. Graham's Walnut Alkyd is pretty much the lowest odor pepared medium, or just use straight oil or oil/OMS.
    Pigment shouldn't be a concern if you keep your hands clean. Avoid lead white unless you can't live without its specific characteristics.
    Use common sense, don't get paranoid. Don't eat while you work. Don't smoke with paint on your hands (but if you do smoke, taking any other health precautions is pretty stupid). Whatever you do, don't waste you money on so-called water soluble oils.


    Tristan Elwell
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  5. #3
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    Gamsol is the way to go for your turp. And like Elwell said oil painting is not like playing with some kind of mutagenic acid. However, I'm not sure I'd do a lot of it in a poorly ventilated apartment. Set up near your largest window and have that open with another window open elsewhere and set a fan to exhaust out the large window. Should be fine.

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    Elwell: Sir, I have a question regarding your statement on water-soluble oils.
    You state it's a waste of money. In what regard? Just plain, waste of money, never use it at all? Or waste as in, not as great as real oils.

    I'd say water-soluble oils are technically not oils, but more like slow drying acrylics. For slow drying acrlyics they are fine in my opinion.

    I do use them because I haven't got a studio and the best light in my house (that I rent) is in the living room. I didn't like the idea of sitting in thinner clouds wafting in the air where I'd also recieve visitors and where I'd like to be able to eat. So for me, they are actually quite nice.

    Of course, they're not really oils, but they do dry quite slow (several days) so you can mix them like oils, and to me they do feel kind of like oils, regarding flow. Anyway, just my 2 cents.

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  8. #5
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    They're a waste of money because you can't do anything with them that you can't do with real oil paint. As I mentioned before, there are "safer" solvent choices available, and it's perfectly possible to use real oils without any solvents whatsoever, should you feel the need. Because they are, strictly speaking, not water soluble but water miscible, you can't thin them with water in the same way you can use solvents with real oils, you get wet-dry color shifts and odd consistencies. They manage to combine the disadvantages of oils and acrylics. They are pure marketing, a solution in search of a problem, and to sell them, manufacturers have exaggerated the "dangers" of traditional oils. And, most of them are second-rate paint, to boot.


    Tristan Elwell
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    I paint with traditional oils and I can't remember the last time I used solvent for painting. I wonder why people have this notion that you have to use solvents to oil paint? There's only a couple brands that are so thick and pasty that you might want to thin them, but even then, just use a drying oil like walnut oil {my personal favorite}. Brush cleaning? A rinse in linseed soap then straight up soap and water. It's so simple

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  12. #7
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    Learning to see

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    With respect to Tristan, I feel that he's wrong about the water-solubles. They are not a waste of money.

    I've been using water-solubles for about 6 years and they are good paints. There are some caveats to it, though. If you want to thin them, don't use water. Makes them too runny (even with a little) and uneven when placing them on a canvas. You can use liquin or some other standard oil thinner, but you have to still need some sort of ventilation system, if you are using too much of the thinner.

    The standard brand that is pushed for Water-solubles is awful (Winsor & Newton). They are too stiff, tacky, grainy, etc. I prefer the Holbein's, which are more creamier. The other part about water-solubles is that they get tacky by the second day. However, I paint alla-prima and I typically have a painting almost done in one sitting (granted, some of the sittings are pretty long).

    Here are some articles on Muddy Colors about it:
    http://muddycolors.blogspot.com/2011...able-oils.html
    http://muddycolors.blogspot.com/2011...ls-vs-old.html
    http://muddycolors.blogspot.com/2011...y-posting.html

    The reason that I went with the water-solubles is that my wife has an incredible sense of smell. My easel is in the living room and the traditional oils gave her a headache (Note: I don't use any thinners... this was just the paint, itself). So, I tried out the water-solubles and, even though she could still smell them from across the living room, they didn't give her headaches.

    Now, saying all of that, I'm now transitioning over to traditional oils. I've moved my easel to a separate room in the upper part of the house and the smell no longer bothers her. I DO like the feel of the traditional oils and, using a brush cleaner, I still don't need to use thinners or anything else to clean up the brushes. If I need a thinner, when I'm painting, I use a little bit of walnut oil.

    So, in my opinion, a nice safe alternative would be to use regular oils (if oils is what you want to do) without any thinners. Just use it straight from the tubes.

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  14. #9
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    Nothing you posted, including those links by Justin, fundamentally contradicts what I said, especially when you read the links in chronological order (3,1,2).


    Tristan Elwell
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  15. #10
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    Well, what I meant to say is that they are not a waste of money due to the situation where I could not paint in my house due to my wife's sense of smell. So, yes, I agree that the traditional oils handle better and, if you can get away with using traditional oils versus water-solubles, I would go with the traditional oils, etc... however, in my previous situation, traditional oils were not an option.

    Now they are.

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  16. #11
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    Doug, given that oil paint is made of vegetable oil and pigments, and water-soluble oil is made with chemically modified vegetable oil and pigment, I doubt it makes any difference smell-wise if you don't use thinner with the normal oils anyways.

    To reply to the original question, I haven't painted in oil in a long time, but it's also important to note that you should only open your thinner container when you are actively using it. There is no point in having an open jar of solvent sitting next to you.

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