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Why paint with a solvent-based medium?

I'm sensitive to solvents so I paint solvent-free, using either linseed or walnut oil as a medium. I've painted both with "regular" oils - Rembrandt, Gamblin, Winsor & Newton - and Geneva oils. Both are great, although nothing beats the smell of Geneva paints and their ease of use. 

I've used solvent-based mediums on a couple of occasions in the past and don't see a big performance benefit over an oil-only medium. I know there's got to be a reason so many folks swear but I don't see the point.

Could an experienced oil painter who has a lot of experience with solvent-based mediums enlighten me?



  • dencaldencal -
    edited December 2017

    solvents are a means of rapidly dispersing the pigment on a dry surface. The second benefit is rapid evaporation, ideally without residue, to leave the oil and pigment to polymerise in due course.

    Using oil only and to achieve the same dilution consistency would require too much oil. It would be difficult to keep to the fat over lean rule in this circumstance.

    Solvent and pigment is an ideal combo to paint a tonal image by means of rubbing out the highlights and reinforcing the darks wire more pigment/solvent mix.


  • Right. But other than creating underpaintings, for later stages of a painting what is the point?
  • davidgp

    Dispersion, evaporation, consistency.


  • edited December 2017
    I added extra solvent to paint for the first time recently to paint in a black background completely flat without leaving raised brushmarks. Made a big difference... so that's one reason for using solvent. With oil only, as Dencal mentioned, you might have to use a lot of oil to do the same thing and even then it would be different I guess.. using very oily paint compared to very "lean" paint.

    I do agree though that more people could probably get away going solvent-free but they've never thought about it or known it's possible. Or they learn to paint in layers which I guess would change things
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