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Clove oil drying experiment

edited September 2018 in Studio & Supplies
I have just completed my first proper test of clove oil for extending oil paint drying time. Although I have used it for a few years I've never tested it out properly with different pigments.
For this test I mixed several of my core paints I use (cheap, low chroma, high opacity) with walnut oil until they took on a slippery quality. I then applied each mix to two separate sheets of PET-G with a W&N clear acrylic gesso ground.
Each sheet was stored in an A4 sided clear plastic folder and sealed (so probably not air tight, but not open to freely moving air). They were stored side by side in a dark (but not totally light free) house temperature environment. Each night I would open both boxes and test if the paint had dried by drawing down a vertical line with the use of a rubber shaper tool.
One sheet was left as it is, while the other had a cotton wool pad placed inside and two drops of clove oil were added to it each night. So no clove oil was added to the paint itself and the paints on each sheet came from the same mix. I then recorded once a day over a period of 14 days for each sample when they had touch dried.
The results were surprising.. and interesting. I didn't expect to see much variation in drying times in the same pigment between brands. If anything I expected that the stiffer brands which had more walnut oil added might take longer to dry.
Instead I found the complete opposite! The stiffer paints seemed to not have their drying time extended very much at all by the clove. I am not sure if this is due to the the presence of driers, or waxs/aluminium stearate in the paint to add body. Or maybe it's for another reason as yet unknown?
I though I would share the results as they might prove useful to others. Next I want to examine the difference with clove oil present in the actual paint, as well as not replenishing the clove oil drops each day.

Photo of the folders used and test surfaces:

Final results, stopped after 14 days.



  • Any thoughts about Clive oil yellowing or darkening with age? What is the composition of the premixed medium in Genevapaints? Check out this opinion:

  • It states in the article that there isn't any evidence that clove oil causes darkening or yellowing. In fact there is evidence that it does not actually cause this

    It may weaken the paint film though.

    Seems like this is pretty much all there is to know on the topic. Only Mark knows how much he puts in his paint, although there is a lot used in his SDM recipe for burnt umber.
  • This is very interesting - I know that because someone mentioned it here (could have been you?) - I have been adding a q-tip with clove oil to my masterson box - it has made a big difference.  Why did you add more clove oil each night?  I don't add more after the initial application. I never thought of applying more - I wonder if there would have been a difference.  the clove oil trick is magic - thank you
  • Ive tried the clove oil lately too. I use W&N artist oils and if I've paint left on the palette I put cling film over it and pop it in the fridge with the intention to use the paint in a few days (I don't always manage to though)).
    I happend to have a small bottle of out of date clove oil, it still smells pungent and put a few drops on the palette near the used paint. Its made it last noticeably longer.

  • Mark Carder mentioned not adding too much clove oil saying he didn't know how much was too much only that he was certain what he uses was not too much. His SDM for Titanium White contains no clove oil. SDM for colors is about 20% of the SDM formula but far less than 1% of  the total when mixed with paint. The exception is the Burnt Umber which requires more because it dries so much faster than the other colors. There should be no need to add more to any of the paint once mixed but you can extend the drying time by putting a few drops on a cotton ball or piece of paper towel under the palette cover.
  • Julianna: That was just for the test, I intend to do the same but with just one amount of clove oil at the start to compare the differences. :)
  • edited November 2018
    I was hoping you would say that!!!  Yay!!!!!!!  
  • Any thoughts about Clive oil yellowing or darkening with age?
  • I've not seen this, not has Mark or Kyle Stugess who tested this out on Whites and reviewed them after 2 years:

    The only reference I could find for this was someone who worked for Winsor & Newton. But I haven't found any other references for this.

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