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Geneva paints question

What exactly do you mean when you say there are no solvents in Geneva paints? I thought it contained oil of cloves, which technically is a solvent. With no solvent, how do you achieve its mobility?


  • Technically water is a solvent too. Anything you can dissolve another substance into to create a solution is a solvent in the strictest sense.

    However, in the art industry, solvent refers to volatile substances which play a particular role in the structure of paint or are used for particular applications like paint/varnish removal or cleaning tools. For example, if you look through The Artist's Handbook of Materials and Techniques by Ralph Mayer (preferably the Fourth Edition, before some stuff was omitted), there is a whole chapter listing and comparing solvents. While Mayer discusses clove oil in other parts of the book, he makes no mention of clove oil in the thorough chapter on solvents. In fact, he even mentions the literal meaning of the word solvent and differentiates it from the way the word is used in the art industry.

    As for what solvent is/was used for, and why it's not needed in Geneva, I'll copy/paste from an answer we gave on YouTube:
    Solvents like turpentine or mineral spirits are used to thin down paint because they will evaporate out, leaving paint without an excessive amount of oil and thus a strong structure. There are other ingredients (look up "organoclay" for example) which are widely used in modern artists' paints that in addition to rheological benefits can provide this structure or even better structure if properly incorporated into the pigment and oil, and that's why it isn't necessary for us to add solvent to Geneva paint. While clove oil evaporates out completely (albeit far more slowly than volatile solvents), it is not used for this property but rather for its drying retardant properties.
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