Howdy, Stranger!

It looks like you're new here. If you want to get involved, click one of these buttons!

You can send an email to [email protected] if you have questions about how to use this forum.


I am new to oil paints... came over from acrylics ... I use non toxin turpenoid as a thinner... i work in a small room... sometimes i get paint on my skin... i try to wash it off right away... am i poisoning myself? also, is it okay to sleep in the same room as the paintings dry...etc? ive read conflicting reports on the internet... some are saying in our modern time we have nothing to worry about, unless you literally eat the paints... also, if your using hues instead of the 60$ a bottle paint, you should be okay... since there aren't metals in the hues... im not really sure... should i get gloves? will that make the brush slippery? should I just try to be more careful? should i move my studio if possible?


  • [Deleted User][Deleted User] admin
    edited June 2015
    If you are using solvents and you don't have adequate ventilation ("adequate" will be different depending on the solvent and your sensitivity), then the toxic part is the fumes you're inhaling. But if you're using Geneva Artists' Oil Color, there are no solvents, so there are no fumes. If you're using different paint, it depends on what medium you're using and if it has solvents in it.

    As far as getting it on your skin, the Geneva medium has linseed oil (which people eat, although it's usually called flaxseed oil in that case) and clove oil (the stuff dentists sometimes soak gauze with and stuff in your mouth after they pull a tooth, since it acts as a local anesthetic). Both are totally safe. The Geneva pigments themselves are all also totally safe, with a small disclaimer about the cadmium pigments (which I'll get to in a minute). The cadmium used in cadmium pigments — Geneva's for sure, but all manufacturers' I think — is a type of cadmium compound which is insoluble. In short, this means when painting with it normally, even if you're getting it on your skin, it's fine.

    People put all kinds of stuff in their paint. I smelled boiled linseed oil once (the modern stuff, which has metallic driers in it, and is not the same thing as refined or cold-pressed linseed oil we use in Geneva paints) and while I don't know exactly how toxic it is or if it could cause problems if in contact with skin, there is no way I would risk it. It smelled like bad news, ugh. Some other things people put in the paint… before we came up with the Geneva formulas, we used to recommend using Venetian turpentine as part of a medium formulation. Again, this is totally okay. It's tree sap basically, so having it in your studio is no different than having a Christmas tree in your studio. It is not the same thing as spirits of turpentine (commonly known as simply turpentine, leading to much confusion), which is a hardcore solvent you do not want to be using without plenty of ventilation, if at all. And there's all kinds of stuff in pre-formulated mediums as well, some of which is benign and some of which is kind of nasty.

    So the short answer is: it depends. But if you're using good paint without a bunch of crap added to it, and you're using a medium without solvents, and you're not painting with lead white or certain other colors with special safety considerations, you have absolutely nothing to worry about. If you are working with solvents, then just make sure you're have adequate ventilation (or switch to Geneva paint!).

    One disclaimer about the cadmium paint I mentioned. Yes, it's safe to use for painting, but it can be toxic if used as SPRAY paint (because the spray can will emit fine particles in the air which you then inhale into your lungs) and likewise you don't want to use sandpaper on dry cadmium paint for the same reason. The one health risk is getting air filled with cadmium particles in your lungs, which does not happen unless you are doing one of those two things or working with the dry powder pigment before it is turned into paint (which you're not). Once the powder is dispersed into oil, it's perfectly safe to use with a paint brush and it's not going to hurt you if it gets on your skin. The paint on your palette or painting is not going to emit pigment particles into the air.

    Sorry for the long answer.
  • Thank you for your quick reply as i was pretty worried.... I use mostly linseed oil with a touch of non-toxic turpenoid from weber... i use winsor & newton paints... the cad red i use is a hue... and i use titanium white ... Id love to give Geneva paints a try, but at the momment its a tad out of my budget... for sure in the future :)
Sign In or Register to comment.