Can You Use Vegetable (Olive/Sunflower/Cooking) Oil For Oil Painting?

Can You Use Vegetable (Olive/Sunflower/Cooking) Oil For Oil PaintingOne of the nice things about the information age is that we have a lot of knowledge at our fingertips. The caveat, of course, is that there is also a lot of misinformation. If you’ve been wondering ‘Can You Use Vegetable (Olive/Sunflower/Cooking) Oil For Oil Painting’ then I’ll address that question today. The quick answer is no, you should not use these oils. They are considered non-drying oils and so the biggest problem is that your oil painting will never dry. At best, you’re going to end up with a kind of sticky mess when it becomes pseudo-dry.

Since this is something that I get asked a lot, I’ll try to go into detail about some of the different types that people always ask about. Let’s discuss why it’s best to stick to linseed, walnut, or other art-specific oils!

Can you use cooking oil for oil painting?Can you use cooking oil for oil painting

Now, I mentioned that you can’t use cooking oils for oil painting and that statement is technically not 100% accurate. There are two cooking oils that you can use with oil painting as a solvent for cleaning your brushes. Those oils are safflower oil and canola oil. What you want to do is simply use these for cleaning your brushes out and then after that, you want to give them a cleaning with some mild soap and water and then you might touch the tip of the brushes into some moisturizer.

Aside from these, however, cooking oil is going to be completely incompatible. You don’t want to get it anywhere near your paints, as they are going to cause issues with the drying and you’ll end up having to start over with something more conventional like linseed.

For cleaning, though, canola and safflower cooking oil are a lot cheaper than solvent, so that’s at least a little gem that you can file away for later and save yourself a little cash for some of those new paints you’ve had your eye on!

Can you use sunflower oil for oil paintings?

Can you use sunflower oil for oil paintingsWhile some people have had a little success with this, I can’t really recommend it in good conscience. For one thing, it’s considered a non-drying oil, and so you are most likely just going to end up with a bit of a mess as your paint tries unsuccessfully to dry. If it somehow manages to dry, then you might be okay, but more likely the process is going to take so long that you have to worry about another possibility.


Bacteria is going to be attracted to that yummy sunflower oil and as the little monsters snack on it, there is an increasing possibility that the sunflower oil is going to become rancid. While you could conceivably add a drying agent to it and get away with using sunflower oil, the odds are still mostly against you and having to use drying agent kind of defeats the purpose of finding a cheaper oil.

You also don’t know what it will do to the curing process, so there’s also that. All in all, Sunflower oil is just not a very good idea when you are going to invest all of that time painting the canvas.

Can you use vegetable oil to make paint?Can you use vegetable oil to make paint

Technically this is something that has been done for a very long time. Linseed oil is the most common example. That’s because linseed oil is made from the Flax plant. There are also paints made from soy beans which are known as ‘Soya-alkyd’ paints, so these also fall into the category of vegetable oil paints.

Turpentine isn’t made from vegetable oil, but it is plant-based, as it is made from Long-leaf Pine trees.

As far as making your own paint at home, however, that’s not going to be so practical unless you are talking about using ground pigments in your linseed oil. Standard store vegetable oil and cooking oils aren’t going to be compatible and using these is simply going to result in oil paints that will never dry on your canvas or which will become rancid from bacterial infestation.

Some final words

Well, that’s it for our myth-busting little foray into the world of using vegetable or cooking oils with your oil paints. Vegetable oil and cooking oils are simply not going to be compatible with oil painting, with the exception of safflower and canola oils, but those can only be used as a solvent for cleaning brushes. The problem is that they will not dry properly and so the oil paint will always be wet.

Before I go, I’ve got a 3rd party link that you’ll like that explains a little more about drying oils. Click here if you’d like to take a peek. Until next time, be sure keep those cooking oils in the kitchen and away from your paints – they’re more trouble than they’re worth!