Art Blog

Learn How to Get Started With Oil Painting Using Water-Soluble Paints

Artists have comfort zones in terms of creativity, and mine has always been drawing with paper and pencil. In black and white. They are uncomplicated and recyclable. At the same time, oil paintings rendering texture and luminosity with rich color amaze and inspire me. But, mixing color, adding mediums and dealing with solvents loomed like a daunting, and environmentally unfriendly, science project. (Hazmat training, anyone?)

For me, water-soluble oil paints removed that concern about chemicals and felt doable.

palette_water-soluble

I knew of no one who had used them and was hesitant to invest in more paints in case the result was uninspiring. But these new oils turned out to be the perfect introduction to oil painting. Water-soluble oil paint lines have been formulated by many of the most respected makers of traditional oils including: Grumbacher Max, Winsor & Newton, Lukas Berlin, Van Gogh, Holbein Duo and Royal Talens Cobra. As with traditional oils, artists will have personal preferences.

What are water-soluble oil paints?

Also known as “water-miscible” or “solvent-free” oils, these are real oil paints, formulated with the exact same pigments as traditional oils. They are not water-based, the oil itself is modified making it possible to clean up with soap and water. Really. No turpentine or other solvents are needed.

Do they perform the same?

In a word, YES. Water-soluble oils can be used on the same supports: stretched canvas or linen, hardboard, wood, etc. They offer the same consistency and finish as oils. There is no difference in gloss or texture as there can be for acrylic paints or gouache, since these literally are oil paints.

The Happy Couple

The Happy Couple by Dorothy Lorenze

For those who are used to water-based paints, it’s tempting to treat these paints as watercolors, but they are not. They’re oils. They just clean up easier. Liquid Dawn or a basic bar soap will clean brushes. That’s it. Oil paints dry by oxidation rather than evaporation so these paints will remain flexible and workable for about 48 hours. When thoroughly dry, they are as permanent as any other dry oil paint.

Do’s and don’ts of water-soluble oil paints

  • DO clean brushes with water and soap (basic bar soap, liquid or solvent-free brush cleaners)
  • DON’T leave brushes soaking in water — It’s just bad for brushes under any circumstances.
  • DO use a medium to thin paint if you like. There are mediums specific to water-soluble oils but linseed and walnut oil work just fine.
  • DON’T thin oil paints with water for transparency. Paint thinned with water will become cloudy. Think of water as ONLY for clean-up.
  • DO use a wood or glass palette. After painting sessions, wipe mixed paint off your palette, lift and store squeezed out paint in an airtight container. Paint can be left on the palette if it’s stored in an airtight palette box.
  • DON’T use a paper palette as it will tend to pull moisture from the paint.
  • DO expect paint to dry slightly faster than traditional oils. Only slightly.
  • DON’T have to wait for paint to dry. Like traditional oils, you can blend paint wet-into-wet.
  • DO recognize that, as with traditional oils, there are differences between drying time for some colors (cadmiums dry slower) and differences in consistency between brands. Find your favorites!

After working in mainly graphite for so long, I was totally overwhelmed by the array of colors available and bought almost everything offered. No need to do that! I paint with my favorites more often than not.

Daniel Smith Water Soluble Oils

Daniel Smith Water Soluble Oils

This is a typical list of colors to consider:

  • Ivory black
  • Ultramarine blue
  • Raw umber
  • Burnt umber
  • Burnt sienna
  • Alizarin crimson
  • Cadmium red
  • Sap green
  • Permanent green light
  • Yellow ochre
  • Cadmium yellow
  • Naples yellow
  • Titanium white

Are there any negatives to using water soluble oils?

As with any new technique or materials, it takes time and practice to gain a level of familiarity, comfort and consistency. With oils, often wet paint is blended on the canvas for soft edges. Within the balance of wet and dry, there can be a slightly tacky stage where it’s harder to add new paint. Using a bit of medium helps. This also happens with traditional oils, but perhaps slightly sooner with the new oils.

One other “negative” is worth mentioning because it should be quashed. Some established artists and teachers relegate these new oils to “beginner” quality, which is not accurate. Possibly that’s because the paints are relatively new and those artists have never used them. Recently a successful blogger, workshop teacher and daily painter said she was surprised that my work was executed with water-soluble oils, saying my paintings were “so professional.” I’ll take that as a compliment! And proof that putting in the time to learn your craft and master new material makes all the difference.

spoon_munchkin_sm

Munchkin Spoonful by Dorothy Lorenze

This painting, Almost Wine, was awarded Honorable Mention in an online contest using Lukas brand water-soluble paints. Professional results are possible.

still life

What’s holding you back from trying oil paints? With water-soluble oils, it IS easy being green!

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90 Comments

rrashaaa

Thanksssss

Reply
Dorothy

My pleasure!

Reply
Yvonne Lilley

Hi Dorothy, I am blown away by your pictures, they are fantastic, only tried oils once but I found they were so wet I had difficulty blending them as I am used to acrylics but you have inspired me to have another go with these type of oils. I presume that there may be a medium for speeding up drying?

Reply
Dorothy Lorenze

Hi Yvonne,
Thank you so much for your kind comment! I Had a similar experience with oils initially, and it turned me off of oils completely for years. I’m so glad that the new oils enticed me to try again. There are several mediums specifically for water soluble oils. Craftsy sells a Winsor Newton Medium that is an excellent water soluble extender (http://www.craftsy.com/supplies/winsor–newton-artisan-water-mixable-oil-painting-medium/11401)
It’s not the one that speeds drying. Winsor Newton also makes a “Fast Drying Medium” in their line of water soluble products which can be found at Dick Blick, ASW, AC Moore, etc. I tried it early on but I no longer use the fast drying medium because I like being able to prolong blending on canvas.
I hope you will give them a try! It’s always great to expand your artistic horizons – just don’t get frustrated! Every new venture involves a learning curve! 😉
Thanks for writing. Happy painting!!!

Reply
Marsha

All of this very helpful. Another question about mediums: can you use acrylic mediums with these paints? like modeling paste, etc.? Thanks!

dorothy

Hi Marsha,
I have not tried modeling paste so I’m not certain. But, my sense is that as long as you follow the “fat over lean” rule, it should not cause a problem. Any acrylic-based material would be leaner than an oil-based layer, so don’t put acrylic products on top of oil-based material. Sorry I can’t be more specific regarding modeling paste. I hope this helps.

Dorothy

Hi rrashaaa,
My pleasure! I hope you give them a try?

Reply
Deanna Deal

Hi,
I am currently working with oil water based paints. I am wondering about vanish. Do I need to wait the same amount of time as I would for traditional oils, which I am told is 6 months. Also a friend was recommended the spray varnish for easy application. Do you have any experience with this?

Reply
Dorothy Lorenze

Hi Deanna,

You should wait about 6 months before applying final varnish, depending on how thickly you apply the paint. Longer for thick application. But you can use RETOUCH varnish as soon as the painting is dry to the touch – be sure to lightly check all areas as some colors dry much slower than others. For more information about varnishing in general you can take a look at my post on why and how to varnish:
http://www.craftsy.com/blog/2016/08/varnishing-oil-paintings/
Water soluble oils ARE oil paints so the same theories apply. The main difference is that water soluble oils may dry slightly faster.
Spray varnish is a little harder to control than brush-on varnish. If the valve becomes partially clogged, instead of releasing a fine mist it may dribble or splatter and not go on evenly. I only use spray varnish for isolation layers when I am re-working an area.
If you do use spray varnish, be sure to have good ventilation. And when you are finished turn the can upside down and spray into an open area or trash can to clean out the nozzle to prevent clogging. Don’t spray on a very humid day as it can cause a slightly cloudy finish.
I hope that helps!

Reply
Frank Penfold

What is the time scale as when a finished varnish can be applied ?

Thanks

Reply
Dorothy

Hi Frank,
As with any oil retouch varnish can be applied immediately but final varnish needs 4-6 weeks depending on how heavy the paint is applied. “Officially” companies may recommend longer but this timing works for me. Water soluble oils are actual oils and should be treated as such. The main benefit is ease if clean up with non-toxic products (soap!)
Hope that helps. Thanks for your question.

Reply
Mearced

thank you so much for all this information! i’m being commissioned to paint a wood instrument and needed to know how long to wait prior to sealing. Again, thankyou!

Reply
Hal

Actually, due to the advent of fantastic new dish soaps like Dawn Ultra for example…I now clean up my traditional oils using nothing but Dawn Ultra and water. No more stinky toxic thinners and brush cleaners.
The very same reason Dawn dish soap works on greasy pots, pans and dishes is exactly the reason it works wonderfully on artist brushes and traditional oil paint as well.
In fact, I have been experimenting using straight Dawn dish soap as a non-toxic thinning agent for my oil paints and have found fantastic results.

Reply
dorothy

Thanks for the feedback, Hal. Dawn has been the preferred clean-up method at some oil painting workshops I’ve been to. I personally would not use it as a thinning agent because the nature of detergent is to separate and “dissolve” oils. But it’s the oil that binds to the pigment to make paint. Without it, pigment is a powder. I would worry that adding detergent to paint would effect stability. Please understand, I have not studied this, just my gut reaction. I do know that I have been told by painting instructors not to thin oils with solvent because it could break down the paint. However many do mix solvent with their paint. I suspect if there is a negative effect to be seen, it would occur over time, not immediately. I’d rather not take that risk.

Reply
Rhonda

Thank you. This is one of the best articles I have ever read about water-soluble oils.

Reply
Dorothy

Thank you Rhonda! That’s really kind of you and so great to hear!
Happy Painting!
Dorothy

Reply
Janice

i have been painting with water soluble paints bought from Wayne Clements, artist, Woils, from Tamborine Mountain Queenslsnd. They are excellent to paint with and I have had success. I usually do miniatures. My smallest is a 1 inch by 1 inch landscape. I just love this medium

Reply
Dorothy Lorenze

Hi Janice,
It’s great to hear that you enjoy working with W oils – they’re great paints!
Wow, 1×1″ miniatures! I can’t quite imagine working on such tiny landscapes. Congratulations on your success!

Reply
Delores Rhodes

Hi Dorothy, Thanks for the info. I am wondering though, if I can mix my regular oils with the water soluble until the regular oils are gone or must they be used separately. Thanks, Delores

Reply
Dorothy

Hi Dolores,
Excellent question! I have not combined water soluble and traditional oils as yet but have read that they can certainly be combined. When you use proportionally more traditional oil than water soluble oil it will likely be necessary to clean up as you have done with your traditional oils. If the ratio is more like 3/4 water soluble and 1/4 traditional oil, you should be able to clean up with soap and water.
I have sent an inquiry to Windsor Newton to ask about the durability of a painting done with a combination of traditional and water soluble oils. When they get back to me I will follow up with you here.
Thanks for your question.

Reply
Dorothy

Dolores, following up on your question about combining water soluble oils with traditional oils, I reached out the technical experts at Windsor & Newton who state that it is fine to use both water soluble and traditional oils in the same painting. Both are truly oil paints and can comfortably interact. If traditional oils are in the mix, clean up will still require solvents. Once you transition to water soluble only, clean up can be done with soap and water. They reiterated that water should be used in the clean up process only, not for thinning. Mediums are best for thinning water soluble oils. I hope this clarifies things.

Reply
Jeanette Gilmore

My friend and I have been using water soluble oils since they first came out and love them. It is best to use a medium when painting. I like to paint with a painting knife and they work great. I have a palette that has a piece of plexiglass in it and I seal it and put in the freezer when not in use. Use a glass cleaner (scraper) to clean your plexiglass.

Reply
Dorothy

Hi Jeanette,
That’s a good point about storing your palette in a sealed box and in the freezer between painting sessions. I use a Masterson* palette box to keep my paint fresh. Since I paint every day, I don’t bother with the freezer but I have friends who find it works well. Thanks for pointing that out.
* any sort of flat “tupperware-esque” container can be designated for paint storage. If you don’t have a palette box just lift the squeezed out paint and transfer to a freezer container for storage.

Reply
Keith Hall

I have recently tried water soluble oils and have found they work perfectly as long as you don’t thin them with Water, think only of the water as a cleaning up method and thin the paint with a proper solvent manufactured for Water Soluble oil Paint.

Reply
Dorothy Lorenze

Hi Keith,
I agree completely, that’s the best way to look at the new oils. Ease of clean up is the key. Thanks for chiming in!
dorothy

Reply
Donna

I find my brushes are a bit hard when I clean up with soap and water. A bit tacky. I scrub them very well. Has anyone else found this to be true? What is an alternative recommendation?

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Dorothy Lorenze

Hi Donna,
Thanks for the question. Water soluble paints do not rinse out as easily as water color but they should get clean with soap if you clean them before they have a chance to dry at all. It might help for you to condition your brushes with linseed or walnut oil before using. I actually prefer these oils over using medium while painting because they tend to be less sticky.
The first thing I do after painting is blot and squeeze out any excess paint. I put Dawn dishwashing liquid in the palm of my hand and gently work it into the bristles, rinse and repeat until there is no sign of any color left. I lay clean brushes on a paper towel (Viva is best) with the handle slightly elevated. Viva will draw the water out pretty quickly and if there is the slightest stain, they get washed again while still wet. Finally, be sure all soap is out and excess water and reshape the bristles in a point to dry.
There are products for restoring brushes (Winsor Newton Brush Restorer is non toxic) if they have been cleaned a lot and don’t seem to bounce back but in my experience the best course is careful prevention. Be sure not to load the brush too full to avoid paint getting into the ferule. Dried paint in the ferule joint is impossible to remove. For artists whose technique includes “aggressive” painting to build texture, brushes will likely have paint collecting in the ferule.
Of course brushes don’t last forever but they can last longer if care is taken. I hope this helps!

Reply
Camilla

Hi Dorothy,

I’ve just bought a pack of Artisan water-mixable oil paints from Winsor Newton, but I had a few doubts.
Firstly, have you tried this brand? What do you think about it?
Also, what kind of brushes do you use with these paints? Synthetic or natural bristle? Because I’ve searched for information but people say different things. I assumed you would use natural bristle because they are oils, but would they get ruined when cleaning them up with water?
Lastly, I wanted to ask why you can’t thin the paint with water since they are water-soluble. Is it because it gives a different effect or would it cause problems? And to avoid buying mediums, could you use thinned acrylics to do the underpainting, and then continue with these water-mixable paints without water?

Thank you very much,
Camilla

Reply
Dorothy Lorenze

Hi Camilla,
Lots of good questions here! Yes, I have used WN’s Artisan paints and they work very well. I tend to use soft brushes because they suit my style of painting but bristles can also be used with these paints. However, if you clean up with water it is best to reserve that brush for water soluble use only rather than also using it for traditional oils. That way you can avid the possibility of water mixing with your traditional oil paint. Here’s a link to my post about brushes for further explanations about brush choices.
http://www.craftsy.com/blog/2015/08/oil-paint-brushes/
Regarding thinning with water – in theory you can do that but I find that when you paint with too much water, it dries cloudy. You can certainly used water-thinned paint for your underpainting since it will be covered with subsequent layers. Thinned acrylic will also work for underpainting and dry even faster. Just remember the “fat over lean” rule and never paint acrylic or watercolor over any kind of oil-based paint. It is likely to crack. (Oil is “fat”, water is “lean”)
There are totally natural mediums that can be used with tradition or water soluble oils, including walnut oil. In fact when traveling, to avoid packing extra materials, I have used regular old canola oil! (tried olive oil but it had a bit too much color). Generally, I would recommend sticking with mediums designed for painting – rather than cooking – except in a pinch!
Have fun!

Dorothy

Reply
Camilla

Hi Dorothy,

I’m sorry for the amount of questions I have asked you, and thanks for your feedback, it’s very helpful!

Because I asked so many questions, I think I might have not expressed myself very well when asking about the brushes. The link was very helpful as were your tips on the soft or bristle brushes, but I was wandering whether you can use natural brushes for these water-mixabe oil paints instead/with synthethic ones – would the natural hairs get ruined when cleaning them with water and soap afterwards?

Thank you for all your answers, I can’t wait to try these paints!

Camilla

Reply
Dorothy Lorenze

No worries, I’m happy to help with answers and glad you found the link about brushes to be helpful.
Yes, you can use natural brushes for these water soluble. Treat them with the same tender loving care you give to all your brushes and they will work well and last longer. After cleaning with soap and water, you can use a bit of brush conditioner if you like, it’s a personal preference. Never leave brushes sitting in any solution – even if it is just water – because it will damage the shape of bristles. Soaking in water is also bad for the handles, causing the finish to peel.
I hope you enjoy painting with these new oils.

dorothy

Reply
Julie

Hi Dorothy. Thanks for all the useful info! I have just ordered water soluble oils as I can’t bear the smell of the regular ones in my home. You mention ONLY using water for cleaning purposes; however when I use regular oils I my brush into a bit of artist grade turps to thin the paint for drawing or to help mixing my colours. How would I do it with water soluble ones? or no need? Thanks in advance for any advice

Reply
dorothy

Hi Julie,

Guess I was a bit emphatic about the “no water except for cleaning” rule because I have seen watercolorists transitioning to water soluble oils who use water too much resulting in cloudy paint. I use medium to thin when painting and water for underpainting. Turps of course can be used but that defeats the purpose of avoiding solvents.

Below, I’ve copied my response to another artist since she had a similar concern. Please let me know if I have not fully answered your question and I will get back to you.

Regarding thinning with water – in theory you can do that but I find that when you paint with too much water, it dries cloudy. You can certainly used water-thinned paint for your underpainting since it will be covered with subsequent layers. Thinned acrylic will also work for underpainting and dry even faster. Just remember the “fat over lean” rule and never paint acrylic or watercolor over any kind of oil-based paint. It is likely to crack. (Oil is “fat”, water is “lean”)
There are totally natural mediums that can be used with tradition or water soluble oils, including walnut oil. In fact when traveling, to avoid packing extra materials, I have used regular old canola oil! (tried olive oil but it had a bit too much color). Generally, I would recommend sticking with mediums designed for painting – rather than cooking – except in a pinch!

Reply
Julie

Hi Dorothy, thanks so much for taking the time to answer. It was all very helpful and what I was looking for! I will be testing out my new Cobra paints this week! Best, Julie

Reply
Old Eyes

Hi am new member also pretty newby painter I have only used normal oil paints but due to the smell of the mediums and clean up stuff I have just purchased a small trial pack of Water based oil paints
and have gleaned a fair bit of info already by just reading through there post
just like to mention in regards to brushes and cleaning of them, my first teacher told me that after
using and cleaning them in Turps it will keep them supple if you them through with Vaseline
so am wondering if the same would apply tp brushes used with water based pints
tho do understand that Vaseline is a Petroleum based product
happy painting and stay safe wishes to all, along with thanks for the opportunity to join with you

Reply
Old Eyes

sorry rub them through with Vaseline lol

Reply
dorothy

Thanks for your comment. I agree that vaseline can help condition brushes, but am not sure if it would be beneficial for water soluble oils unless you are willing to use solvents to remove the vaseline. you might try Murphy’s oil soap for that purpose. I haven’t conditioned brushes with vaseline but would suggest you try it on one or two brushes and see if you can remove the grease without solvents.

Good luck!

Reply
Shirley

I have a oil painting started with oil paints. I am having a problem with the smell on those paints and the cleanning materials that one has to use. My question is this: Can I use water mixable oil paints to finish painting over my oil painting? It is years old now. I think I can use Walnut oil to go over the whole painting and then paint over it. What do you think? Thank you for your time. Shir

Reply
dorothy

Hi Shirley,
I must admit that I have not painted over an older, dry oil painting, but there are a few facts to consider. Most important is the “fat over lean” rule. Since your original oil painting totally qualifies as “fatty” you would not want to use water in new layers on top of it. Any layers on top the dried traditional oil of your original painting should be as oil-rich as possible. Water mixable oil paints ARE oil so you can use them as long as you don’t thin with water or turpentine while painting. If you want to thin the paint in the new layers, I would suggest an oil medium. Don’t use turpentine or water since that will make your new layers leaner than the fatty layers of your old painting.
In terms of readying the old painting for new paint, the makers of Gamblin oils recommend “oiling out” rather than using retouch varnish. To oil out you would apply a thin layer of oil or medium in areas that are dull or sunken to bring them back to full luster. Please note that Gamblin further recommends that you wipe off all but a very thin layer before adding new paint.
Good luck with your work and I do hope you are able to revitalize your old work and enjoy using the new water mixable oil paints.

Reply
Shirley Everhart

Thank you very much.!!! I wanted to tell you that My picture was JUST started. No blumps or anything but smooth canvas, as I just staarted it. But I let it go for years. I was so disappointed that I have trouble getting air in my lungs that I just gave up! Now I am some what better, but I think I could just put the walnut oil on it and take off with it. Just like anything, it is a learning game.. I am 78 and never did much painting, but what I did just blows my mind. I LOVE IT!!!!! I love drawing, painting, really anything to do with it. I have spent all my life, raising babies and taking care of others. My husband has Dementia, but I am going to use each day to try and do SOMETHING with my art! Thank yo for your time. God bless you and yours. Shir

Reply
Cheryl

HI,

I have just bought some water mixable oil paints and was wondering if I can use Liquidtex ultra matte medium or gloss medium with them.

Thanks

Reply
dorothy

Thanks for checking in Cheryl!

I don’t have personal experience with Liquitex, but I did a little research and in the FAQs on the Liquitex website they say that their water-based varnish CANNOT be used on oil paintings. That makes sense based on the “fat over lean” rule. Oil is “fat” and water is “lean”. Since fat and lean dry at different rates painting anything lean over fat will cause cracking.

In any oil painting, the leanest layers should always be on the bottom. So, it’s ok to thin your paint to do an underpainting ébauche (a lightly colored study). Or, you can paint thinly to create a value study beneath your painting, a grisaille. As you build up layers, the topmost layers should always be the oiliest.

In my opinion, IF you were to use a water medium (assuming Liquitex is water based) you would have to be sure that all top layers had less Liquitex in them. I think it would be difficult to keep track of how much medium was used and where, because if you are like me, you never know which areas are going to be re-worked, multiple times!

So I think I would play it safe and not use Liquitex with water soluble oils. Meanwhile, I have contacted Liquitex to get their perspective and will let you know what they have to say.

Enjoy the paint!

Reply
dorothy

Cheryl,

The good folks at Liquitex responded to your question about using Liquitex mediums with water soluble oils and they confirmed that it will not work.

You can still use your acrylics to underpaint value or light color studies.

Enjoy!

Reply
Riva Grant

Is there a special retouch varnish for water mixable oils?

Reply
Dorothy

Hi Riva,

Thanks for asking. Since water soluble oils are actual oil paints, there is no need to use a special varnish, or special mediums for that matter. Even though some companies (Windsor & Newton) make a varnish and mediums labeled “water soluble” you can use any oil paint varnish or medium. In fact, I MUCH prefer linseed or walnut oil to mediums designated “water soluble” which tend to get quite sticky. The only thing “water” about these paints is the ability to clean up with soap and water. Also, since they tend to dry slightly faster than traditional oils you may be able to do your final varnish slightly sooner than you would with traditional oils, but it’s safest to wait if possible. As with traditional oil paints, retouch varnish can be used as soon as the painted area is dry to the touch.

I hope this helps clarify things. Enjoy your painting process!

Reply
judy gibson

I have just begun using these paints–having only ever done watercolours. I find having to frame them makes it too expensive and I am playing with a new style for me–abstact–similar to Sonia Delaunay–20th century geman painter. Sooooo having sketced and painted -I want to know how to tackle a background wasy–what I did was streaky looking; because i thinned with water–now I know why. So do I thin my colours with a medium. Am doing figures–dresses etc–should I do a wash first??/ Have learned so much through your answers to question on this page
regards Judy

Reply
Dorothy

Hi Judy,
You can do an underpainting thinned with water if you like. Always remember the “fat over lean” rule, with water being leaner than oil. However, medium is generally oilier, and therefore “fatter,” than oil paint alone. So, once you have put down an oil-rich layer of paint with a high concentration of medium, subsequent layers should also have a high concentration of medium, rather than straight paint. This is because the drying time of different layers will vary and cracking can occur.
I feel that oil paint is best suited to be used in a more opaque manner and so I don’t personally work with oil washes. I do use thinned paint for underpainting and value studies (which I will be writing about soon). In that case, I thin with water for the base coat or underpainting only.
Regarding framing, oil paintings are generally framed unless they are painted on “gallery wrap” canvas or cradled wood panels where the painting can be carried around the sides so no raw canvas or wood is showing. This tends to be a more modern look. There are many reasonably priced sources of standard and custom frames online. Since no glass is needed for oil paintings framing costs should be less than framing watercolor paintings.
I feel sure that if you experiment with your own technique (always keeping to the fat over lean rule) you will come up with a method of painting that creates the effect you are looking for. It can take a while to become familiar with the distinct attributes of a new material and to get comfortable achieving the effect you desire. Patience and perseverance help!!!

Reply
Megan

Hi I use water based oil paint and I bought a varnish for oil. On the back it says used for oil and acrylic. Can I use it on the water based oil paint?

Reply
Megan

Sorry the water mixable oil paint is what I use.

Reply
Dorothy

Hi Megan,
Not to worry! Since water mixable/soluble/miscible oil paints are indeed OIL paints you can use an oil varnish. Just follow the standard advice for drying time before final varnish. Retouch varnish can be used as soon as the paint is dry to the touch but final varnish should not be applied until the painting is at least 3 months dry if you paint fairly thinly, 6-12 months if you apply paint thickly.
Thanks for reading the article and for checking in with your question.

Reply
sung rielly

i enjoy reading everone’s comments about water soluble oil paint.
I learned a lot!

Reply
dorothy

Sung, I’m happy to hear that you found the information useful. Thank you for taking the time to let me know.
Happy Painting!

Reply
Eric

Hi Dorothy, I finished water soluble oil painting eleven months ago and was wondering what type of varnish to use. From the information I have looked at on this site, I think I can use either water soluble or regular oil based varnish. Thanks for explaining all this!

Reply
dorothy

Hi Eric,
Yes, you are correct. Since it’s been 11 months, your painting is thoroughly dry and you can use regular varnish (whether or not it specifically states “water soluble”). You could also have used a bit of retouch varnish between painting sessions if you wanted to bring back the gloss of paint that has become dull when drying. You’ve probably noticed that some colors get quite a bit more dull than others when they dry which can make it difficult to match paint or rework areas as you go. Always be sure the paint is dry to the touch before brushing on retouch varnish! Retouch varnish is mixed with turpentine so should be used sparingly.
Before applying final varnish on a finished painting (one that has dried for 3-6 months or more) notice if there are any particularly dull areas. If so, you might want to give those areas a preliminary coat of varnish to bring up the gloss a little first. Let it dry well and then varnish the whole painting, working systematically across the canvas. Holding your painting at an angle will help you to see any areas that you might have missed – they will be dull. A light even coat is best. Let the painting dry standing vertically so that dust does not settle in wet varnish. Varnish is toxic and some folks are allergic so use in a ventilated area… but not in the breezy outdoors!
Congratulations on completing your artwork!

Reply
Mojca

Hi, I bought Cobra water mixable oil paints, but now I’ve realized that my paints are of Study quality…

Do you think I can still make good flower paintings with this quality or is it necessary to buy Artist quality Cobra paints?

Thank you very much!

Reply
dorothy

Hi Mojca,
I have not used cobra student quality, but I can tell you that my feeling is that each variety of paint has it’s own distinct qualities. If you are consistently using one paint, you will become familiar with that brand’s characteristics. Typically student quality paint has less pigment (part of why it’s less expensive) so you may notice that it takes more paint to mix color.
Just remember that the key to better painting is painting more often. Just like athletics, the more time spent practicing, the better the proficiency.
Enjoy the paint!

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Marla

Hi Dorothy! Thank you for this article. I have been painting with the Winsor & Newton Artisan paints for about 15 years now, and there is nothing beginner about them. My work has been published, I have won awards, and I have sold internationally for as long as I’ve been using these paints. They are beyond wonderful! The only problem I have with them is when I make black (I don’t use black, I mix prussian blue and raw umber) it dries quickly. Prussian blue is the fastest drying color I have used. I paint using very thin layers, so when I use a black it will dry overnight. If I don’t finish the painting, and I have to mix another color next to the black, the darks will become more matte, causing the final finish of the painting to be inconsistent. I have been using the artisan satin varnish with wonderful success, but last night I varnished a painting and some of the paint was pulled off. It was on a canvas that I had gessoed to be completely texture free, by using multiple thin layers and a credit card to apply the gesso (it worked like a charm!), and it was my first attempt at that. I am not quite sure what to do about this! Paint on top of the varnish and re-varnish? I just don’t know… Any thoughts? You can see my work here: http://www.marlakarimipour.com

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dorothy

Hi Marla,
Sorry for the delayed response. I somehow missed your post. Painting over varnish is not a problem. I typically varnish small areas when I continue on a painting if I need to restore the depth of color to an area that has become dull, or “sunken in” (usually earth colors).
For color matching you’ll want to use the same black mixture you started with, but in the future you might try Pthalo Blue and Alizarin Crimson. Alizarin is slow drying and Pthalo is slower than Prussian (I hear, haven’t tried it). Be aware it’s also more transparent which could be very nice … or not, depending on your painting. I generally use French Ultramarine and Burnt Umber, which I very much like.
Good luck! Although, by now you have probably tried a solution and I hope you are pleased with the result. Your work is lovely!

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Rhett Owings

Thank you for the very informative discussion on watermixable oils. I have been using Cobras and Aqua Duo oils for about a year now and like them very much. I had been painting on Centurion panels and like them, but wanted a smoother surface without the texture of the canvas. So I have been working on Gessoboard panels. I like them, but I am finding that the W oils seem to take a long time to dry on them. If I brush a little the paint actually comes off. I tried to “oil out” some of the sunken areas with a thin coat of WN quick dry medium thinned with water (just a little water) and the paint came off in places. The painting was slightly tacky. Some of my paintings I painted on the Gessoboard, even weeks ago, seem slightly tacky. Have you had a problem with W Oils drying on Gessoboard?
Also FYI there are 8 EXCELLENT videos on YouTube on Cobra W-mix able oils. The videos explain much about how the paints are used and produced.
Thank you again for answering questions about these paints.

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Dorothy Lorenze

Hi Rhett,
I haven’t used Gessoboard panels so I’m not familiar with their properties. And I don’t use quick dry medium either, but I think it helps dry when mixed with the paint rather than as a layer on top of the paint. So that’s just an assumption on my part but I can give you one important reminder: always follow the “fat over lean” rule. Oil paint is always considered “fat”. Anything that is not oily is lean, so that means water or thinners are lean and should not be used over oil paint. Using water in your medium on top of oil paint breaks the fat of lean rule and could cause cracking over time as the paint and medium dry at different rates. This is not really relevant to your question, but an important fact to keep in mind
As far as the paint drying more slowly when applied to Gessoboard, it should help to apply it in thinner layers, but that might not suit your painting style. I’d suggest contacting the Gessoboard folks. Water soluble oils ARE oil paints and should not need any special application that differs from traditional oils, so you can follow whatever their suggestions are for working with traditional oil on their material. Good luck! Let us all know how you make out!

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Francis

Hi Dorothy,

Did you find any differences in the ease of cleaning between water soluble oil paint brand? I tried with different brand and found Daniel Smith to be way harder to clean up. I even had to use solvent to completely clean up my brushes. With other brand (Artisan, Holbein and Royal Talens) it works flawlessly.

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dorothy

Hi Francis,
I haven’t used much Daniel Smith paint and don’t recall noticing a difference. I wonder if you use an oil medium with the Daniel Smith paints if it might make a difference? Your comment points to the fact that all brands are different so it’s worth experimenting. Of course, within brands, different colors behave differently as well. The challenge is to find the combinations that suit your style of painting – and stick with it!

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Dawn Royer

I have used Winsor & Newton oils exclusively and only recently discovered the new water clean-up oils from the same manufacturer. I was delighted to find your tutorial on these “new” oils as I just purchased a small set, because I was curious, and the idea of easy clean-up appealed. Now, I look forward to trying them out!

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dorothy

Hi Dawn, Thanks for your comment. As a traditional oil painter you will probably not be tempted to “thin” your paint with water but I like to remind folks to consider water only for clean-up. Painting with water-thinned oils will give you a cloudy application of paint. If you want to thin, use oil mediums or a mix of oil and thinner. Best of luck to you as you branch into new media.

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Benjamin Austin

Send some demos of figure portraits, still life, landscapes, in oils.

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dorothy

Benjamin, thanks for taking the time to comment. I’m not sure what you are looking for (examples of still life are included in the article), but you can see more of my work on my website http://www.dorothylorenze.com and there are some demos – as well as other art observations – on my personal oil painting blog at http://dorothylorenzepainting.blogspot.com/ Feel free to wander for more insights.
dorothy

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Karen Anderson

Dorothy, when you clean your brushes after using the water clean-up oils, do you do it in the sink? I was wondering if it could go down the drain without creating any problems?

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dorothy

Good question Karen and the answer is YES! The oils have an emulsion added that allows them to be broken down with soap, so in terms of dissolving and going through the pipes there is no problem at all. I would compare it to washing a greasy pot. However, there are toxic metals in pigment that should not go into the ground water: cadmiums, cobalts, zinc and others. The best practice is to wipe out as much of the paint as possible onto a paper towel before washing your brush. That way more of the paint will be in the trash rather than washed into potential drinking water. Also, be sure to keep you hands clean as toxins can be absorbed through the skin so wash your hands often or wear gloves, don’t eat near open paints and never put a paint brush in your mouth (this used to be common practice to reshape the point of a brush). Water soluble paints free you from using toxic solvents for clean up but the paints themselves still have varying degrees of toxicity. So be safe and environmentally aware!

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Karen Anderson

Thank you for your quick and informative reply, Dorothy!

I have one more question. Are the water clean-up oils more toxic than acrylic paints?

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dorothy

Hi Karen,
I’m not at all experienced with acrylics so I wouldn’t want to make a statement about them specifically. However, I will say that it’s the pigments that are most toxic. The same pigments are used for watercolors and oils so acrylics would also be toxic to the same degree when the same pigments are used. Obviously, since both acrylics and water soluble oils do not use solvents for clean-up, you eliminate those chemicals in both cases.
I hope that helps.

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Karen Anderson

Thank you, Dorothy. I appreciate your help. Thank you for having this blog. I love your paintings!

Dorothy

Karen,
I’m happy to help. And thanks so much for your kind comments about my paintings as well.
You can also read more about my personal art journey on my blog at dorothylorenzepainting.blogspot.com. Take a look and sign up if you like updates on my work.

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Laura

I need to use water soluble paints for an art project and I am wondering what type of surface I should paint on for a beginner. Thanks!

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Dorothy Lorenze

Hi Laura,
You can use anything that you would use for traditional oils. Most people find canvas or canvas board to be the best surface to begin with. If you use a canvas board, try to get a better quality board, because the cheapest ones tend to have an uneven surface. Prepared panels such as Ampersand gessoed panels or masonite board prepared with gesso will also work but the surface tends to be a little slick which can make it more difficult to blend colors. Canvas has more “tooth” so it can hold the paint a bit more easily. I hope this helps.

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Donna

Hi. I am psyched to start painting with my water soluble oils. Thanks for this great article! It is very helpful and your pictures are inspiring.

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dorothy

Hi Donna,
Isn’t it great to be psyched about a new creative venture! I’m happy the article helped.

dorothy

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Andrea Way

I’ve painted the edges of my wrapped canvas two days ago and they are taking a long time to dry. The painting is due for delivery tomorrow and it is still very wet to the touch on the edges. Is there a fasts drying medium I might be able to overpaint?

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dorothy

Andrea, the “fast” drying mediums are meant to be mixed (small amounts) into the paint while painting – to effect blending colors. It won;t act to dry wet paint. I would suggest carefully spraying with RETOUCH varnish. Do not use regular final varnish, as that cannot be used until the paint has been thoroughly dry for months. Spraying is tricky so test it out first. You will need ventilation (as the fumes are rather toxic) and low humidity. Don’t know where you are located – here in NY it’s not humid in November. High humidity can create a cloudy film. Retouch varnish dries in about 15 minutes but it’s a very thin coating so you will still have to be careful handling edges but it should help a little. Good luck!

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Linda Umstead

I bought a set of water based oils but have not used them yet. I had an idea of doing a painting in thin acrylic on canvas, allowing it to dry, and then repainting it in the new oils. Is there a downside to this for a first time user?

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dorothy

Hi Linda,
Since acrylics have no oil and are thus “lean” using them under oil paints adheres to the Fat (oily) over lean rule so it should be fine. However, you can also use a thin wash of oil paint for your initial layer, if you prefer. Best of luck and enjoy!

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Deborah Cicconi

I’ve been oil painting for years and I decided to try the Water-Soluble Oil Paints. I had a very bad experience. The paints did not mix well. I added very little water. The paint was heavy and dragged on my canvas, not covering well. It’s been 4 days and it is still not dry. I took them back to the art store and bought traditional oils instead. I’m not even sure you can mix traditional oils with this Water-Soluble oil Paint. Have you ever tried that? I had painted in a lot of my dark background on my canvas so we’re talking a large area of my canvas. I need advice.

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dorothy

Hi Deborah,
I do think it can be an adjustment to go from one type of oil to another but it can be done with patience and a few adjustments. I rarely mix water WITH the water soluble paints. I only use water to clean up. Water seems to change the consistency of the paint in a way that makes it more difficult – for me – to manipulate the paint as I like. It becomes a bit more tacky. That may be what you were experiencing. I have used a medium made specifically for those paints but generally use linseed or nothing at all. The medium seems to increase drying time.
You can certainly work traditional oil over water soluble oil because it follows the fat over lean rule (having mixed your water solubles with water, they are more lean that a fully oil layer). But, you can ALSO mix about 25% of traditional oil into you water soluble as you use it and still maintain the ability to clean up with soap and water. If more than that of the traditional paint is added you may have to use a solvent to clean your brushes.
I hope this information has helped. Good luck!

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Barbara Barbour

What do you do with the cleaning up materials , whether it is low odor cleaning solution or baby oil. I use both at differs times. Do I pour them out in the yard or put in the trash can in a container? I know that the paint settles at the bottom. You have to dispose of it sometime. What is the safest way to go?

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dorothy

Hi Barbara,

I’m probably not the best source of an educated or conservative answer to your question. I reuse solvent by putting it into an extra jar and pouring off the liquid (for reuse) after the pigment has settled. This liquid solvent can be used indefinitely. The pigment can be used to tone your canvas as it will usually be a midtone grey neutral. But I’ve got way more pigment than I need for toning – and so far, I have not tossed it or recycled it. At some point I will check into my town’s recycling options and dispose of it as they require house paint and other chemicals to be disposed of. For small amounts I would not worry about putting it in a metal trash container. Solvents are flammable and you should take care not to store rags or cloths soaked with solvent in your home or studio.

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Barbara

can these oils be used to paint on tee shirts?

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Dorothy

I have never tried that. You could do a small test using the actual colors you need, since they vary in oiliness and let sry thoroughly before washing.

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John Nelson

I’m really interested in trying out these paints. I hope you can answer a couple of my questions.

Are these paints of the same consistency as the Bob Ross oil paints and are they suitable for those of us who paint using his method?

If the answer is yes, would I use the same mediums such as Liquid White, Liquid Clear and Liquid Black to prep my canvas before I start painting?

Thanks,
John

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Dorothy Lorenze

Hi John,
I have not used Bob Ross’ painting method but I think I can give you a bit of guidance that should help. You can certainly tone your canvas with any ground that is fully dried before applying oil paint. If canvas preps you mention are acrylic, they would be fine. The “mediums” I’m familiar with are mixed with paint to obtain a specific consistency. If that is your goal, I would suggest using mediums designed for water soluble paints. Always remember that the “water” in the name water soluble refers to clean up. Although some people have mixed water WITH these paints to thin for painting, I don’t recommend it.
A;so, if you are looking for a looser, creamier paint, you might like the Cobra brand. As with regular oils, consistency can vary with different colors but theirs seems creamier overall. Other brands can be a bit more dense, like traditional oils.
Try starting with a limited palette. You can expand your palette by mixing some your traditional oils with the water solubles (less than 20% added traditional paints) and still be able to clean up with soap and water. I hope this helps.
dorothy

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Hollie Vaughan

Thank you for your information. Because we now have a bird I have been afraid to use my regular oils because of using the chemicals to clean up brushes. It sounds like I maybe can use these new oil paints.

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