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Oil paints have been the material of choice for artists for centuries, and it’s easy to see why. The luscious pigments and beautiful shine they produce make any subject feel like royalty. But did you know that there is a way to increase these qualities in your painting? Linseed oil is a painting medium that can be added to slightly alter the pigment in order to behave in a different way. Depending on the type of linseed oil you use, it can slow down your drying time and improve the flow of paint on the canvas.

Flaxseed oil, sometimes called flaxseed oil, is a substance made from the dried seeds of the flax plant. It has been used in painting since at least the 12th century; author Theophilus Presbyte “Describes paints and varnishes in which linseed oil and resins have been used”. Linseed oil was originally used as a binder – artists added pigments to the substance and created their own paint. But later it was learned that it was not needed as a binder and could be added to the paint at the artist’s discretion.

It’s easy to start using linseed oil in your painting. Read on to learn more about the types of flaxseed oil available and how (and why) you can use it in your art practice.

Why use linseed oil?

Brushes and linseed oil

Photo: Photo bank by Simonidadj / Shutterstock

You do not have to use linseed oil or other oil medium to paint. But using flaxseed oil can help increase your pigment. Basically it makes your colors fatter and one thinner consistency. (This can be an alternative to thinning with mineral spirits.) This improves paint flow and is a great option when using the glaze technique. Adding flaxseed oil will also change the drying time (often making it longer). When completely dry, the extra oil will create an extra shine in your image.

Types of linseed oil

Like acrylic paint mediums, there are multiple variations of linseed oil. Each has its own characteristics and advantages that you will need to consider when choosing a linseed oil for your painting.

Refined linseed oil

Refined linseed oil

Gamblin | $ 6 +

Refined linseed oil is the most popular variety of flaxseed oil available today. Add it to your paint to thin its consistency and slow down the drying time. If you choose the frosting, it is best to add less flaxseed oil to your first layers so that they dry faster. As you continue to increase the layers, you can add more refined flaxseed oil. But be careful not to overdo it, this strain tends to yellow your dried paint over time.

Try that: Gamblin Refined Linseed Oil

Cold pressed linseed oil

Cold pressed linseed oil

Gamblin | $ 13.77

Cold pressed linseed oil is extracted without heat and is generally a better quality oil. It dries faster than refined linseed oil and will make your pigments brighter. Because this type of oil is of “purer quality”, it is a good option for adding ground pigments and making your own paints.

Try that: Gamblin cold-pressed linseed oil

Thickened Linseed Oil (aka Stand Oil)

Linseed oil stand

Marimeri | $ 11.99

Thickened linseed oil, also called oil stand, has the consistency of honey. Its translucent qualities make it a good option for frosting – it has a less yellow tint than other oils. The thick consistency makes the brush strokes smooth and lay flat on the canvas. So if you don’t want your strokes to show up in your painting (if you’re depicting skin, for example), stand oil is ideal.

Try that: Maimeri oil stand

Dry linseed oil

While other types of flaxseed oil slow down the hardening time, drying linseed oil accelerates it. It’s darker than refined flaxseed oil, so be sure to use it sparingly to avoid over-coloring your pigments.

Try that: Winsor & Newton Drying Linseed Oil

How to use linseed oil

Paint brush

Photo: Photo bank by Stanislaw Mikulski / Shutterstock

The advantage of linseed oil is that it is easy to use: just mix it with your pigment! But you’ll want to start slow. Linseed oil has a color ranging from light yellow to medium yellow to darker yellow. If you add too much to your pigment, it can affect the overall color and make it look hotter appearance. It might be worth making a little test painting to see how your linseed oil usage will be (or not). change color of your oil painting.

For demonstrations on the use of linseed oil in painting, check out the following helpful videos.

Beginner Oil Painting Medium

How to use refined linseed oil

Use of stand oil

The fat over lean rule (to apply medium)

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12 best oil paintings for beginners and professionals

Top 8 Oil Painting Techniques That All Beginners And Professionals Should Know

What is the difference between acrylic and oil paint?


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