Simon Bland

A Blog About Oil Painting

How Can I Make My Own Oil Painting Mediums?

by Simon Bland / Nov 29, 2016

Bottle of home made oil painting medium

I've used Liquin as a medium for many years, but sometimes I miss the smell of linseed oil and the way that it feels under the brush. But I don't want to give up the drying qualities and the overall toughness of an alkyd-reinforced paint film. What are my options?

The answer, of course, is to either buy a ready made alkyd-oil medium or create your own. This post is about how to do that. It's really easy and anyone can do it.

I mix and store my home-made formulations in those empty TSA-approved travel bottles that you can find at most pharmacies. You can draw some lines on the outside with a marker pen to give you an idea of the proportions and take the guesswork out of measuring (see the image above). The contents can easily be mixed by shaking the bottle a few times. I write the type of medium on the lid (G for glaze in this case) and the proportions are also written on the side of the bottle.

Before I continue, a note about studio safety. Any rags or paper towels that have linseed, walnut or any other type of drying oil on them are at risk of spontaneous combustion and should be disposed of properly. In the studio that means that they belong in a steel trash can with a lid on, and they should be taken outside the building and put in a closed trash can at the end of every day. Rags that are saturated with oil should never be wadded up together: soak them in water and lay them out flat to dry outdoors.


Basic oil painting medium

50% linseed or walnut oil, 50% Liquin

This results in a nice medium, a good balance between the drying properties of Liquin and the flow of oil. You only need to add a small amount to your paint - a drop for every large splodge. If you substitute a solvent free alkyd for the Liquin you may need to add a few drops of solvent (although I thought it worked fine without any). Note that I often add a little odorless mineral spirits (OMS) to my paint as I put the first layers on the canvas, and I always do when laying down a block-in. It would be perfectly OK to add this OMS directly to the medium instead - you would just need to pre-mix a range of mediums with varying amounts of solvent to use in subsequent layers of the painting.

Glazing medium

25% stand oil, 25% Liquin, 50% odorless mineral spirits or equivalent.

Liquin isn't so nice when used for glazing as it tends to bead, but the long polymer chains of the stand oil seem to care of that problem. The recipe is derived from that given in Ralph Meyer's "The Artist's Handbook of Materials and Techniques"; the Liquin is a substitute for both the dammar and the cobalt drier, and I find that it needs about half of the OMS of the original formula. As the Liquin starts to dry it takes the stand oil along with it, and drying time is about 24 hours at room temperature.

For glazing and scumbling purposes it's possible to vary the ratio of paint to medium until the right transparency is achieved. I use this for creating most of the layered abstract effects in my landscape work.

Jar of home made cold wax medium

Cold wax medium

1/4 cup bleached beeswax, 1/2 cup odorless mineral spirits or equivalent, 1 tablespoon alkyd medium

Making this medium is a bit trickier (and potentially more hazardous than the previous two. Here are a couple of links to recipes for making your own:

I used bleached beeswax pellets which made it somewhat difficult to judge the volume correctly. Although the wax medium turned out a little softer than I expected, it actually worked very well.

The alkyd medium adds strength to the wax medium and prevents crumbling, but it's not an essential ingredient. I used Gamblin solvent free alkyd gel.

Never use solvent, linseed oil or any other oil painting medium anywhere near an open flame or heating element. The solvent should be added outside because it gives off a lot of fumes when it's warmed by the hot wax.