Experimenting with your oils is one of the pleasures of painting and you’re going to try quite a few mixes. At times art feels a little like alchemy in that way. If you are wondering ‘what can I use instead of linseed oil for oil painting’ then you’ve come to the right place.
You can use things like poppy oil, safflower oil, and walnut oil and each of them has their own particular perks and caveats. For instance, you can paint with poppy oil over linseed, but you don’t want to paint linseed over poppy as the poppy oil dries a bit slower.
In this article I’ll tell you a little more about these oils and what you can expect when you experiment with them. I wholehearted recommend that you give each a try, as you might find that you actually like them better than linseed.
Without further ado, let’s talk oils!
Do you have to use linseed oil when oil painting?
Nope, you absolutely do not, but there are some advantages to using linseed. It can give your pigments a little more ‘oomf’, for one thing, and it makes them quite a bit shinier in the bargain. It also thins your oils out a little bit so that you can do a bit finer work rather than feeling like you are simply splashing it around. Different linseed oils also do different things. Here are a few examples:
- Cold pressed linseed oil – Cold pressed linseed oil adds a bit of gloss to your paint pigments and it dries faster than refined linseed oil, so it’s a very popular choice among linseed options. You can also add ground up pigments to it to make your paints, due to its relative purity compared to other linseed options.
- Refined linseed oil – This is the most popular option and it’s great for thinning your paints, doing a little glazing, and to slow down drying time. You just have to be careful not to use too much or it can yellow your paint up as it dries. Not a problem if you use it sparingly.
- Stand oil (thickened linseed) – This stuff is really thick, like a syrup, making it the best choice for glazing and for making sure that you don’t have too many brushstrokes showing in your work.
Can I use olive oil instead of linseed oil?
Olive oil is not going to be good for your oil paintings. The reason for this is that it is a non-drying oil, unlike Linseed. Almond oil falls into the same category and is also unsuitable for mixing with your paints. While you’d think that an oil is an oil, that’s not the case when it comes to painting. Using olive oil with your oil paints seems fine when you are painting on that first layer, but then you’re going to notice something that you won’t like.
Your oils paints won’t be drying.
Linseed oil and alternatives like poppy and walnut fall into the ‘drying oils’ category and this makes them more suitable. While they will have different drying times (there’s even a linseed variety called ‘drying oil’ that makes your paints dry much faster), they WILL dry. The olive oil simply keeps it’s oil consistency too long to be of practical use in oil painting.
What oils can be used for oil painting?
When it comes to alternative oils for linseed, you’ve got quite a few options. As we only have a little space for today’s article, I’ll tell you about the 3 alternatives I mentioned in the beginning of this article – walnut, safflower, and poppy. Let’s take a look:
- Walnut oil – This is what Da Vinci used. It’s slow drying but if you like to sun-dry your oil paintings, the walnut will brighten up the colors when it dries.
- Poppy oil – Also good for bright colors, poppy oil doesn’t interfere with color as much as linseed, although it’s going to dry slower and it’s not suitable for lower layers. That said, if you do the lower layers with linseed and the top layers with poppy, you’ll get a much brighter painting.
- Safflower oil – Dries faster than poppy and it’s easier to get a hold of. It rarely darkens up your painting and it’s pretty cheap to buy and test out. Due to that cost-efficiency, it’s actually used as a paint binder quite often these days and I haven’t had any problems using it.
Some closing comments on oils
In this article we’ve talked about some oils that you can use instead of linseed and as you can see, there are a lot of options out there. Walnut, Safflower, and Poppy are 3 good examples of oils that you can use to great effect. Walnut and poppy, for instance, will brighten up your colors, though they do take a little longer to dry, and Safflower is popular enough that it’s used as a commercial binder.
While we’re on the subject and before I go, you can find a great article comparing Da Vinci’s favorite –walnut—with linseed oil. Just take a look at this 3rd party link and see what you think.
I recommend giving it a try for yourself. After all, don’t you want to try Da Vinci’s favorite? You know you do!