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Solvents (thinners)

Thinners are used to dilute the colour and clean brushes and palettes after painting. The same solvents can be used with all types of oil colour, with one exception. Water mixable oils are intended for use with water to avoid the need for traditional solvents.

Turpentine is the traditional solvent, with a characteristic smell. It maintains the oiliness of the colour in use. White spirit (mineral spirits) and Sansodor are petroleum distillates. The first petroleum distillates were thought only to be good enough to clean brushes. This is no longer true of solvents supplied as artists' quality.

White spirit makes a watery mixture with the colour and evaporates more quickly. Sansodor performs like turpentine but has a low odour and is the least hazardous of the solvents. All solvents should be used in a well ventilated room.

Using artists' solvents

Make sure you use artists' quality solvents. Solvents sold in hardware stores are not expected to be used in fine art and yellowing or non - drying can result.

Avoiding overthinning

Solvents thin the oil colour by diluting the linseed oil. If too much is used, there will be insufficient oil remaining to bind the pigment.  A matt or uneven finish will appear on the painting and the work will be susceptible to scuffing and damage. Overthinning is avoided by the use of mediums in addition to solvents.

White spirit makes a watery mixture with the colour and evaporates more quickly. Sansodor performs like turpentine but has a low odour and is the least hazardous of the solvents.  All solvents should be used in a well ventilated room.

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