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 readymade alkyd-oil medium or mix your own. This post is about how to do that. It's easy and anyone can do it.
Note for those looking to find out how to make your own Liquin or other type of alkyd resin: to the best of my knowledge, it's made using a manufacturing process that requires access to industrial-grade chemicals and equipment—not the kind of thing you can mix up in a bucket in the shed. See here for more information: https://polymerdatabase.com/polymer%20classes/Alkyd%20Resin.html
I mix and keep my mediums in small travel bottles.
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).
It is perfectly OK to add solvent directly to the medium as you go, although I do find it more convenient to pre-mix my mediums with varying amounts of solvent to use in different layers of the painting.
Since I always add solvent (OMS or d-limonene) to my paint as I put the first layers on the canvas, I find it convenient to have two bottles of medium on my palette: one with solvent (50% solvent, 25% linseed oil, 25% Liquin) and one without solvent (50% linseed oil, 50% Liquin). I switch from one to the other as the painting progresses.
40% stand oil, 10% 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 it needs about half of the solvent 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.
[Originally, I tried this recipe with an equal amount of stand oil and Liquin. Although the glazes tended to dry to a harder film, the high Liquin content made it difficult to get varnish to stick.]
I use a glass jar for cold wax medium because it's made while the wax is hot
Cold wax medium
I've changed the proportions used for this medium in response to feedback that said the medium was too runny. It's worth experimenting a little to find the proportions that work best for you.
1/2 cup bleached beeswax, 1/4 to 1/2 cup odorless mineral spirits or equivalent, 1 tablespoon alkyd medium
Note that it's difficult to judge how much solvent to use because the wax mixture stays liquid when solvent is added. You must wait for everything to cool before you know what you've created.
Making this medium is a bit trickier and potentially more hazardous than the previous two. Here are a couple of links to techniques for making your own:
Using bleached beeswax pellets makes it difficult to judge the volume correctly. Although the wax medium turned out a little softer than I expected, it worked very well.
The alkyd medium adds strength to the wax medium and prevents crumbling, but it's not an essential ingredient. I've tried this with both Solvent Free Alkyd Gel (Gamblin) and Liquin (W&N).
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 warmed by the hot wax.
This blog post was originally published in 2016. It is revised and edited to keep up to date with the way I mix and prepare mediums. Last revision August 2021.