So Confused About What Paints to Get

VioletViolet -
edited June 28 in Painting
I am new to oils also. I had a set of W&N Artisan water mixable oils that I got about 10 years ago in an art swap and decided to try to use them. They smell horrible. They literally reek. I did three quick paintings which came out okay but I went super fast as the smell. When I finish one, I have to put it in a plastic sealed box to dry as the paintings stink up the house until dry. I am gonna take the rest of the paints to the disposal site as I just can't use them.

Now I am hooked on using oils though and want to get some oil paints that don't reek but I'm totally confused as to what to get.  Because:

- Some say smell is from solvents, but that is not true in my case as I didn't not use any except linseed oil for water mixable oils that came with the set.

- Some have said it might be because the paints are old and rancidified.

- Someone suggest I should get water mixables as they are non toxic, but when I pointed out I was using   water mixable and they reeked, they said a different brand of them like Cobra or Holbein.

- Some say it is the linseed oil that smells bad to some people and that it is in most oil paint. So in that case, I should get safflower or walnut based oil paints. Some suggestions were Sennelier, M. Graham, and Blick.

- Some say I should buy one tube of various artists brands and compare what works best for me. But oil paints are not cheap and that seems like a big investment of money on something I might end up tossing or giving away.

I am totally confused as to how to proceed. Any advice? What would you try if it were you?  

PS. I am tempted by the Geneva but they have linseed oil and also solvent (Correction... MEDIUM) in them as well so no idea if they would have a smell that bothered me. 

PPS. I have used acrylics, no bad smell but I don't favor them. I have used and loved oil pastels (some smell, but not bad at all and doesn't bother me) but hate that they never dry and have to be put under glass.
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Comments

  • Violet

    Welcome to you.

    I have used W&N Artisan Oils for about 12 years mixed with slow dry medium (SDM) and have not noticed any bad odours. SDM contains solvent and clove oil that is noticeable but not unpleasant.
    You may need to arrange for some flow through ventilation for your studio as all oil paints contain drying oils. Probably the least odorous would be Michael Graham Oils as they use walnut oil. This brand is not easy to find around Perth, Australia so I use walnut oil to adjust consistency of other brands and clean brushes.

    Denis
    Violet
  • VioletViolet -
    edited June 28
    Hello Denis,

    The Artisans might have some additive in them to make them water mixable that has gone bad maybe?

    Thanks for the advice and the mention of Graham. They are ones I am considering but they don't seem to be very popular and not sure why. Does anyone here use them?
  • edited June 28
    Hi, Violet. Welcome to the forum. 

    Not sure why your paint smells so bad. I can only imagine the oil has become rancid over time. However,  it is hard to see how this could happen in sealed tubes.

    The smell of traditional oil paints made with linseed oil is distinctive but, for most people, not unpleasant.  I don't use solvents to thin my paint. I just use walnut oil which has a pleasant, nutty smell. Maybe you could try that.  Or, you could just buy dry pigments and mix them with walnut oil yourself if you can't find a brand made with walnut oil. 

    Good luck with it.
    Violet
  • Thank you, Tassie. The M. Graham do use walnut oil and that is one that is on my list to investigate more. And I will for sure try mixing whatever paint I get with walnut oil as suggested.

    I was wondering about that rancidity of the linseed too. Or also thought that maybe there is some chemical they add to the paint that makes the Artisans water mixable which goes bad over time? IDK.
  • Violet

    SDM is Slow Dry Medium. Here is Mark’s recipe.

    medium recipes

    There are currently no mediums on the market that slow the drying rate of oil paint adequately, so you will need to make it yourself.

    recipe for slow-dry medium (for all colors except titanium white):

    • 10 parts odorless mineral spirits (any artist-grade odorless mineral spirits will do)
    • 5 parts stand oil or linseed stand oil (this is viscous like honey and is not the same as refined linseed oil)
    • 1 part refined linseed oil
    • 5 parts Venice turpentine *
    • 2 parts oil of cloves †

    For burnt umber, you will need extra clove oil. Please watch this video for instructions on how to incorporate the extra clove oil into burnt umber: youtu.be/lpU9egKu-kM

    recipe for slow-dry medium for titanium white:

    • 10 parts odorless mineral spirits
    • 1 part stand oil or linseed stand oil
    • 5 parts refined linseed oil
    • 5 parts Venice turpentine *

    Venice turpentine is not at all the same as what is commonly known as "turpentine", a solvent commonly used by artists many years ago (and still used by some artists today). Venice turpentine, on the other hand, is simply tree sap — a thick resin which is thick like honey.

    † Oil of cloves is sold as "clove leaf oil", "clove bud oil", or simply "clove oil" — any of these forms is fine. You may try looking for it in drug stores, health food stores, or from an online supplier.

    Here is a video tutorial on mixing paint with medium: youtu.be/lpU9egKu-kM


    The popularity of M Graham oils is constrained by the price and the availability. I have a few tubes, bought to try them out. Have not used them yet. Don’t remember anyone on the forum using them.

    Denis




    Violet
  • @Violet, Geneva paints are sold as having no toxic fumes from driers or solvents - which is why I bought them. Haven’t opened them as I can’t paint yet due to an unrelated health issue. I hope whoever told you there are solvents in Geneva paints is wrong.

    Previously I bought a bottle of Gamsol but can’t use it - toxic fumes aplenty was my experience. Odorless does not mean nontoxic. I didn’t understand that at the time. And it stunk.

    Everybody’s sense  of smell is different of course. I know a lot of people line up to buy fast food from places that smell up the air with rancid cooking oil smells so bad I’ve had to roll up my car window while driving by them on the road. 

    I do have some very old tubes of Windsor&Newton oils that I got for next to nothing from a local art store which went out of business last century. Never used them, though, because couldn’t take solvent fumes. I checked up on them recently - the  tubes are still soft and and not a trace of rancid oil smell. The only thing that went wrong with then, that I know of, was a tube of genuine vermilion that burst from it’s corroded out tube and dried up. These paints were so old the cad red’s sticker read $3.35.

    There are people I know who have had problems after Covid infections who have rancid oil smell problems with nothing rancid in the air to smell. I think what they are smelling is coming from their internal fried tissue or something. :( 
  • VioletViolet -
    edited June 28
    My bad Suez... I used the word solvent and it is medium that they mix in. I am new to oils this past week, so haven't gotten the lingo down. And honestly I'm not clear on the difference in a medium and a solvent being added to the pigment and oil. But I'm sure there is a huge one. I edited the post to correct that mistake.

    As for the W&N, I am wondering if it is because they are the Artisan water mixable. Maybe the stuff they add to make them water mixable is altered by advanced age. IDK.

    That is sad about your friends with Covid. Hope they recover their smell.
  • Odorless mineral spirit (OMS) is a solvent. The medium contains OMS. 
  • Paints with linseed oil as a binder smell stronger than those with walnut, safflower or sunflower. I would recommend going to a store that sell oil paints, removing the cap and smelling. It may be you don't like the smell of oil paints.
    Violetdewald
  • @Violet I’ve used Graham oil for years.  I use walnut oil to thin the paint. For raw umber I use walnut oil and clove oil 98%walnut oil 2% clove. I clean the brushes with walnut oil.  
    I do not use any turpentine or solvents at all. 
    I have also used Geneva paint but still clean Ed and thinned (if needed) with walnut oil. 
    Violet
  • @GTO, I’m confused. I thought you said you use Geneva paints on your thread about the painting with the rippled surface. 

    Are you using Graham walnut oil in conjunction with Geneva paints? Are you thinning Graham raw umber paint with walnut oil before it is mixed with Geneva paints in the same painting? Or do you mean something else?

    Seems possible mixing walnut oil and/or walnut oil based paints is not a good idea, technically, to add to Geneva paints to avoid wrinkling paint in paintings. Certainly a matter worth getting to the bottom of, imo.
  • @tassieguy, the SDM recipe for using with paints other than Geneva oils contains OMS as a solvent.

    As I understand it Geneva paints do not contain solvents. That is the main selling point of Geneva paints for people who want to avoid toxic solvents - like me.

  • edited June 28
    @Suez, unless I'm reading it wrongly, the slow dry medium is as follows:

    recipe for slow-dry medium (for all colors except titanium white):

    • 10 parts odorless mineral spirits (any artist-grade odorless mineral spirits will do)
    • 5 parts stand oil or linseed stand oil (this is viscous like honey and is not the same as refined linseed oil)
    • 1 part refined linseed oil
    • 5 parts Venice turpentine *
    • 2 parts oil of cloves †
    Geneva paint is made with the medium mixed in so you don't need to add it. But it contains slow dry medium which contains OMS. For use with other brands of paint, you make the slow dry medium yourself as per the recipe above.

    But maybe I'm misunderstanding something. It's been known to happen. 
  • The slow-dry medium contains solvents. Geneva paints do not.
  • edited June 28
    Ah, well, there you go, @Richard_P.  Seems I'm wrong, then. I just assumed that Geneva was formulated with the same slow dry medium as in the above recipe.  I assume that it was this that is added to the paint when manufactured. 

    I came to that conclusion based on the info on the Geneva website which states:

    ABOUT OUR OIL COLOR

    Geneva Artists' Oil Color is premium-grade artists' paint. We do not add driers to our paint or to the medium we mix into it, and therefore it dries slowly and remains wet on the canvas for about 5 to 10 days (depending on the pigment, paint thickness, and ambient temperature). In general, Geneva paint was formulated to benefit artists who like to work alla prima (wet-in-wet).

    • Made with the highest-grade pigments and finest artist-grade linseed oil
    • Ready to use — already has slow-dry medium incorporated into it
    • High pigment load
    • No toxic fumes from driers and solvents
    • Forms a durable long-term paint film
    • Thoroughly tested
    • 100% made by us in our workshop in Austin, Texas
    It might be the just lawyer in me looking for loopholes, but it does not actually say above that no solvents are added to the medium which is added to the paint, only that there are no toxic fumes from driers and solvents. That may be because OMS is, well, not so toxic and more or less odorless. But OMS is a solvent nonetheless. What is not clear is whether the medium used in formulating the paint contains any OMS.

    Whatever the case, everything I have read by those who have used them indicates that Geneva paints are excellent, high quality oil paints. 
  • @tassieguy, yeah there’s always that “Secret Sauce” loophole available to manufacturers. l’m hoping there isn’t one used here.

    If there is my canary-in-the coal-mine self will detect it pretty quickly. No amount of clove oil fumes will shroud it. I have no problems with heavy duty clove oil. 
  • Cheers, @Suez.

    I don't use solvents but I think OMS is relatively safe, provided again, that you don't drink it or snort it. I find clove oil unbearable. It seems to permeate the whole house so I don't use that either. Just walnut oil which is fairly slow drying anyway. 
  • @tassiguy, OMS is not safe for me - that I know. 

    Clove oil is cloying but I have special expensive air filtration which better take care of that. I do worry about eventually painting in the same room as the parrot, though. When the time comes I’ll do those investigations.
  • @Suez. I’ve used Geneva paint on the last three or so paintings.  The Geneva White is fairly thick so I thinned it down with walnut oil when necessary.
    All the other paintings before that used Graham paint.  My brush dipping oil for between painting sessions has always been walnut oil.
  • Thanks for all your input guys. 

    Today I got VERIFICATION that it is NOT JUST ME. I met up with my two daughters and one of their hubby and three grandkids. I took two tubes of the W&N Artisan water soluble that I have (the ones that are old, btw... not trying to dis the product in general). We did the test OUTSIDE since we met at a park and it was kinda windy and yet still BOTH my daughters thought they smelled bad. One agreed with me that it was awful. The other one said it definitely had a bad smell but she didn't consider it bad enough to say it reeked. LOL. Her hubby smelled it and said that he has trouble with smelling things in general but to him it kinda smelt funny. That was all he had to say. LOL. 

    I didn't let my granddaughters smell as they are young.

    I feel much better to know its not just me. So now I am gonna try to buy some new paints. I think I AM going to take you guys advice and look for ones that are safflower or walnut based... I think there are three I know of... Sennelier, M. Graham, and Blick. Anyone know of others? I will maybe buy one tube of each and try out.
  • Correct me if I am wrong but I think you will want to avoid safflower.  I think it takes forever to dry.  Walnut oil would be a better choice.  
  • @GTO I have read that walnut oil is as slow to dry as safflower. Also that many brands of oil paint use safflower in some of their lighter colors to avoid the yellowing one can get with linseed oil. Here is the info that I found. Is this not accurate?

    Linseed – 2 days drying
    Walnut – 4 days drying
    Safflower – 4 days drying
    Poppy – 5 -7 days drying 

  • @GTO, Thank you! 

    Have you solved the problem of rippling? I hate the thought of such things damaging your lovely paintings. Do you paint more thinly now?
  • @ Violet, so glad you are getting things sorted out! Happy you’re happy.  :)
    Violet
  • @Violet thanks for that info on the drying times.  I’ve avoided safflower in the past because I thought it dried slower.  I’ve been happy with the walnut oil drying time, so safflower should be good too.
    @Suez. I ended up sanding it down wiped it with alcohol and repainted that section.  All is good now.😀
    Suez
  • @Violet–  

    Drying times have multiple contributing factors, not just the type of oil.

    Some pigments dry faster than others. Off the top of my head, the mineral and metal-based pigments dry faster: cadmium, cobalt, iron, lead, tin, etc. Also the earths: siennas, umbers, and the natural ochres (these have a lot of iron and manganese).

    Some manufacturers put drying compounds (siccatives) in their line of oil paints to make them dry faster or more uniformly across all the colors. These driers are metal-based, for example, CoZirCa. They don’t necessarily tell you of these additions.

    Some environmental conditions will cause the paint to dry faster: hot, dry, or sunny. I have lived in different parts of the US, and the drying times were greatly affected by temperature and humidity. So, the same oil paints which dry in 3 days here in Phoenix AZ took up to 5 weeks in the cold winter in Flagstaff AZ and 2 weeks in humid coastal Virginia.

    Some mediums added to the oil paint from the tube will cause the paint to dry faster: turpentine, OMS, and alkyds with driers added (like Liquin).

    You are a talented artist (I love the cat portrait!),and write that you want to get a good understanding and control of your materials. My suggestion to you would be to buy only a few tubes of paint in the colors you want, and then play with them. I am conservative in my approach, and from this approach, suggest that you buy your colors all in linseed oil only. This way, you can see how, with the same oil, the colors dry faster or slower than others, based on the pigments and other factors. Then, later on, you can add more colors or with different oils, and know what the difference is.

    PS – the yellowing of linseed over safflower is greatly exaggerated IMHO. Also, it will take a few centuries for it to be noticeable. All oils yellow and darken over time.


  • GTO

    Safflower has a tendency to leave a sticky, gummy residue on brushes, palettes and containers.
    Yes, it can be washed off with alcohol but it gets tedious.
    Don’t have any problem with walnut with 2% clove oil.

    Denis
    DesertskyGTO
  • VioletViolet -
    edited June 29
    Thanks for the excellent info @Desertsky
    My main reason to consider the other oils in the paints was someone said all linseed oil paints smell. But maybe I will take your advice and order a few tubes and see if they smell as bad as the old tubes I had been trying out. I wish I could go to an art store as some have suggested, but it is over two hours to make the trip to one and the price of gas is so high now that it is cheaper and easier to just order a few tubes.

    @dencal
    clove oil? Like clove essential oil? I have not read about that yet other than the drying recipe someone shared (but the recipe uses solvents and I won't use due to sensitivity).

    So much to learn.
    Thanks.
  • Violet



    Clove oil extends the open time of oil paint. An important component in Mark’s SlowDry Medium.
    This product from iHerb about AUS$24.

    Denis
    VioletDesertsky
  • Violet
    Have you tried water based mediums like Gouache? Opaque. No mediums. Not stinky. It's not oil paint. If you find water soluble oils offensive I'd go for Gouache. M. Graham.  Casein is similar and more permanent. It can be very stinky.

    Here's a link to a traffic gouache painter Mike Hernandez.

    https://www.instagram.com/p/CeccIXQpttM/?utm_source=ig_web_copy_link
     
    GTOVioletDesertsky
  • Thanks @dencal
    I actually have a jar of that which had been purchased for something other than paints. 

    @KingstonFineArt
    Thank you so much for your suggestion. I like being able to blend. I used oil pastels for years and really like them, but they are made from non-drying mineral oil so they NEVER dry and pretty much always have to be put under glass. Oil paints seem to be a great answer for me from my experimentation. I am not ready to give up on it without some more trials.

    This morning I stopped into a Hobby Lobby when I had to make a run to town to get some medicine for my dog. They only carried W&N (both student and artist) and Grumbacher. I smelled the tubes and both did have smells, although not as strong as the old W&N watermixables that I have. This leads me to think it most likely is  the linseed oil. Maybe it's something folks get used to over time? IDK.

    I think I'm just gonna order the M. Graham ones to test.

  • I found this article about water-mixable oil in which the artist interviewed says:

    "There are several major paint manufacturers of water-mixable oil paints: Grumbacher (Max — nice, great colors, but can be stiff), Holbien (Duo — very nice, a bit more expensive) and Winsor & Newton (Artisan — can be smelly, contains only “hue” colors, and has somewhat less pigment load, also can remain sticky when dry), and Royal Talens (Cobra — newer brand, very nice buttery consistency, yet some colors are “off” such as the too-pale cadmium yellows and a too-strident French ultramarine). Newer brands have come on the market: such as Weber (sOil), Lukas (Berlin), Daniel Smith, and Reeves, but I have not tried these. Each brand seems to have its quirks. I use a mix of Max, Cobra, and Duo paints."
  • Violet

    If you are quoting such a damning quote published by some authority, could you please name the author , journal and date of the publication. Better still, if a web page, a link.

    https://www.outdoorpainter.com/working-out-the-kinks-of-water-mixable-oils/

    Is the artist sponsored by Holbein? Is this a propriety publication eg Weber Users Guide? Was this published in 1953?

    Denis
    Desertsky
  • @Violet, it's likely that you are just going to have to accept that all oil paints are going to have an odour. Some oils smell stronger than others. If none are suitable then you may want to try a water based medium like gouache.  Wonderful effects can be achieved with gouache. 
    Desertsky
  • Violet said:
    Thanks @dencal
    I actually have a jar of that which had been purchased for something other than paints. 

    @KingstonFineArt
    Thank you so much for your suggestion. I like being able to blend. I used oil pastels for years and really like them, but they are made from non-drying mineral oil so they NEVER dry and pretty much always have to be put under glass. Oil paints seem to be a great answer for me from my experimentation. I am not ready to give up on it without some more trials.

    This morning I stopped into a Hobby Lobby when I had to make a run to town to get some medicine for my dog. They only carried W&N (both student and artist) and Grumbacher. I smelled the tubes and both did have smells, although not as strong as the old W&N watermixables that I have. This leads me to think it most likely is  the linseed oil. Maybe it's something folks get used to over time? IDK.

    I think I'm just gonna order the M. Graham ones to test.

    I agree, M. Graham (being walnut oil based) do smell less and differently than linseed oil paints. I also think Walnut oil is a good compromise between Linseed and Safflower oil in terms of paint film strength.
    DesertskyViolet
  • @Violet – you have gotten really good advice and observations here. But, only you can decide what your priorities are. You want something that doesn’t need to be framed under glass, is easy to blend, and which doesn’t smell bad or too much. Also, perhaps which doesn’t take too long to dry. Or doesn’t have a solvent. Pick a priority and then figure out how to accommodate the drawbacks to that. That is what all painters do. 

    All water-miscible oil paint has had modifications to the oil or has had something added to it to allow the oil paint to be workable with water (this results in an emulsion I am guessing). So, these still have oil in them and will smell like the oil.

    All brush-applied mediums (oil, gauche, watercolor, casein, acrylic, or even fresco) can be blended; the techniques differ.

    I find it useful to discover an authoritative source and study it. Random and perhaps conflicting observations from strangers on the internet (even here on DMP!) may only confuse you.  Here is a source I use a lot:

    MITRA (udel.edu)

    It has both resources and a forum.  

    tassieguy
  • ps - it is not true that the Winsor Newton water-miscible oil paint only contain hues. You can verify this yourself by going to the Dick Blick website, searching for the WN water-miscible oils, and clicking on the pigment information. Some hues, some single pigment colors. The website you quoted is not a good source. But may be more recent than 1953 :smile:
  • @Richard_P, I tested some edible English walnut oil from my fridge on my fingers as it is very slippery compared to other oils in my fridge. Seems to have a lower surface tension. So does my black walnut oil.

    Do you find walnut oil used in painting oils has the same quality? Does it make painting with it like painting on glass?
  • If you add enough drops of walnut oil the paint takes on a very slippery feel, which I do like. You have to add more than a few drops though. M Graham go on smooth, but they don't have the same slippery feel unless you add more walnut oil if I remember correctly.
    Suez
  • @Richard_P question on Walnut oil……,  I have gotten a bottle of California cold pressed walnut oil thinking i could use with my oils but I’m wondering if it’s not the right type??  Is the M Graham walnut oil different? I see it’s called a medium. 
  • edited June 30
    I use pure, cold pressed walnut oil from a health food store. It's great. Yours sounds the same, @joydeschenes. Make sure it is pure cold pressed. Buy it from an art supply store and it will be double the price. California is a leading producer of walnut oil so I assume it's widely available in the US.

    When mixed with paint from the tube walnut oil creates a silky smooth paint with good levelling properties.  It also adds luster. It is slightly less viscous than linseed oil. Adjust the amount of oil depending on how stiff or fluid you want the the paint. It takes longer to dry than linseed oil so you may not need clove oil to further retard drying. 

    The bonds formed as walnut oil dries (oxidizes) are not quite as strong as those formed by linseed oil but they are strong enough. 

    Walnut oil, like all oils used in painting, has its own particular smell, but it is not strong. It's sort of sweet/nutty and, to me, quite pleasant. It also makes a good brush dip. And it's very safe. You could drink it or make a vinaigrette dressing for your salad with it.  It contains lots of polyunsaturated fatty acids (72% of total fats), particularly alpha-linolenic acid (14%) and linoleic acid (58%), oleic acid (13%), and only 9% saturated fats. (Wiki)  It's good for you. You could add solvent to it but I don't see the point unless you want it to to dry quicker.  I hate solvents in my studio. They give me sinus headache and a heavy chest.  :)
    joydeschenesVioletwhunt
  • @Richard_P question on Walnut oil……,  I have gotten a bottle of California cold pressed walnut oil thinking i could use with my oils but I’m wondering if it’s not the right type??  Is the M Graham walnut oil different? I see it’s called a medium. 
    I think @tassieguy answered this :)
  • @tassieguy great , thank you so much for your input.. I’ll give it a try. 
    Happy painting  :)
    tassieguy
  • VioletViolet -
    edited June 30
    I thought I DID include the link. I did a copy and paste and then copied the quote. But must have overlaid or something. Thanks for adding. 

    I don't consider it a damning quote though... just an opinion that she thought they smelled as well.
  • jay80 said:

    As for the watermixable oils, when I used them I do remember that the artisan did smell somewhat different, I also used the winsor artisan thinner which I remember had a weird smell.  And could be a reason for the smell of the artisan paint if they use it in their paint.  The artisan painting medium didn't smell much from what I can remember.  


    Thank you so much, Jay, for sharing. I also noticed that the linseed medium I had with the kit smelled very strong. And so you are right, if they mixed it... that could be the answer.
  • VioletViolet -
    edited June 30
    Thanks @Desertsky for your excellent input and suggestions. 

    Regarding the hues thing... I ONLY shared the article with the artists's opinion to show that I am not the only one who feels that brand of paints SMELLS. That it was not just me being hypersensitive and needing to just go use some other medium. But I am sorry  if the article offended anyone. Or if my opinion on the paint's smell offended anyone. I said up front that my paints are very old and that it might not even be the brand but the age or turning bad or something.   :/

    BTW, I ordered five tubes of M. Graham and walnut oil. Also a small sample set of five of the Cobra water mixable because they were super cheap and I was curious.
    tassieguyDesertsky
  • Cobra are not bad. They are nice and smooth but not as rich in pigments as Artist grade oils. But price wise they are in between a student and an artist range.
    Violet
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