Yellowing of the linseed oil.

Hi guys! I have a problem with my recent painting. I normally use linseed oil to thin my paints and normally have no problem with that. But in this painting I have many snow areas that I painted with only white and linseed oil. The white paint is impossible to use right out of tube and I have to thin it down a lot. But I realized those parts are getting yellow. Unless it's completely dry I can't paint over it with white thinned down with mineral spirits. But I don't have that much time. What else can I do in this situation? If I paint over it again with white thinned down with linseed oil and keep it away from sunlight will that stop the yellowing? Or should I buy another white that I can use right out if tube or with less mediums?


  • I am no scientist, but I can see a really good painting when I look at it.   This is one of those!
    Even if you have the time you speak of not having, I would never thin down paint with turps to use over paint mixed with oil.    Fat over Lean; not the other way round, so that would not have solved your problem, even if you had tried it.  It would have added to your issues in the long run.

    Can you remove the offending sections of paint? 
    Failing that, see 2 obvious solutions to the situation.
    1. Buy some safflower or walnut oil which are less likely to yellow.  Or a commercial product such as liquin.
    2 buy another brand of paint as you suggest.
    Best of luck and please let us know how you get on.
  • asya

    Nice work.

    If you leave the painting exposed to light the ‘yellowing’ should fade away.

  • Thanks for the comments! First of I scraped it off pretty much thoroughly I can say. Now I think I should buy a white paint that I can use right out of tube or get a medium that doesn't yellow like liquin.

    About exposing to light, I heard that a lot but I can't really understand it well. I try to keep my paintings away from the light as I was told it causes the yellowing. But recently I've been hearing if you expose it to light the yellowing goes away. As I said I can't really understand well but I'll study more on it. 
  • Beautiful painting. You could try using an oil that yellows less such as walnut. 
  • Exposing to light helps the yellowing that resulted from storing painting in darkness. But that was just painted, a different case. And if it's already too yellow because if the oil used to thin, it will also yellow more (in a few decades, or if stored in darkness).
  • edited January 20
    First of all, this is a beautiful painting. It seems odd it would yellow so quickly.
    1. Sinking in - 'skin of medium': I think it is very likely the pigment is sinking in (settling because it's heavier than all that oil you've added) and you are getting a layer of linseed oil. You're thinning it down too much. I don't understand your statement, 'impossible to use without thinning down a lot.' I paint straight from the tube in almost every situation. Even glazing. Are you using firm brushes or soft water colour brushes? What brand of paints are you using? Are they artist grade? If so they should have the perfect ratio.
    • "...oil is rising to the surface at a microscopic level, and forming a thin, yellowed film around the topmost layer of pigment. This phenomenon around the formation of a skin of medium on top of the paint has been noted by current researchers of modern oil paints." (Sarah Sands,
    • "Another issue that members of this group fail to identify is what conservators have identified in modern oil paintings—medium skins. The cause of this phenomenon is not well understood at this time, but certainly the practice of adding oil and oil painting mediums contributes to this effect. This is not the same as primary yellowing in oil painting, but is likely what most artists observe when they say their paintings have yellowed." "The Yellowing of Oil Paint" George O'Hanlon 12-2018
    The solution is to paint over it without medium to let the pigment sit on the surface. The risk of cracking is caused because all that oil will settle (over about 2 years I think?) as it oxidises and this is what can cause cracking of thinner layers over the top. If your layers have been thin and it's only drying now you should get away with a layer of pure paint on top - but I honestly don't know.
    2. Light: The unlikely possibility is that you are you viewing the painting in different light. If you painted under a light leaning blue it will look more yellow when you change to more neutral or more yellow light. However it seems unlikely as you're still painting.
    Dark yellowing: Is yellowing of oils because the painting is kept in a dark place like a closet - for a few months I would expect. Light does clear it but don't sit them in direct sunlight, just a nicely lit room. This isn't happening here, clearly.
    Age-related yellowing: All oils yellow eventually, liquin included, almost to the same level. This takes ages though and isn't relevant here.
  • Thank you for compliment and taking your time to reply! When I bought that white paint it was said that it was artist grade. I bought a huge tube and didn't have to replace it till now. So I honestly thought I guess white paint just has a thicker consistency than others. All the other colors I have can be used directly from the tube but this white paint can't. So I used lots of linseed oil to bring it to the consistency I wanted. And obviously that was the problem. So I'll try with a different one that can be used right out of tube without much medium.
  • @asya, if it was thick, and artist grade, it is most likely a very good paint. Unless it is very old and stiffened . You may be better off getting walnut oil to soften it. I have or tried different varieties. The one from Schmincke was very clear, no hint of yellow. It is sold in small bottles, not cheap therefore and so no way to use it to clean brushes, but is perfect for thinning .
  • edited January 22
    I use walnut oil and have no problem with yellowing/darkening of whites. It takes a bit longer to dry than linseed, and the bonds formed are not quite as robust as linseed oil (although plenty strong enough) but it is a clearer, lighter oil. It's a good vehicle/medium that has been used for centauries.
  • dencaldencal -
    edited January 25

    Wood panel on left has not been sealed prior to applying gesso, exhibiting Support Induced Discoloration.

    Caused by lignins and tannins 

  • Thanks Dennis! I use canvas that is already primed and ready to use and also add an acrylic base. But I've been thinking about using wood panels for a time, so it's a good tip to remember later!
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