Water Soluble Oil Paints

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Water-soluble or miscible oil paints are not widely known or advertised in the art world.

It is similar to regular oil paint, with the exception that they may be thinned and cleaned with water.

Regardless of the devil-may-care, innovative roles they portray to the world, artists are creatures of habit at heart.

Oil painters have their own special brands, colors and mediums that they use, and the idea of something as radical as water used with oil paint just does not compute with most of these otherwise free thinkers. Consequently, water-soluble oil paints have not been leaping off the store shelves. They have a place in the art world and only time and general acceptance will make them as popular as the manufacturers wish them to become.

Mixing And Blending

Water miscible oil paints are water mixable out of the tube, but not water-soluble when dried. Therefore, when dried they have the same properties of traditional oil paints. They may be used in conjunction with standard oil paint, but they lose the miscible quality if they are blended with them.

The artist may continue to thin them with oil, if desired. By using oil as the medium, he extends the drying time to that of standard oil paints. If the artist wishes to have the work dry more quickly, he can use water to thin the paint. Water-soluble oil paint still takes a significant amount of time to dry, unlike acrylic paint, so the artist may continue to work with the painting without fear of premature drying.

Healthy Alternative

The main reason for the existence of water miscible oil paint is the elimination of some hazardous ingredients for the artist. Turpentine has noxious fumes, some people are allergic to the thinners and oils used with oil paints, and many colors of oil paint may have ingredients that may be toxic or have health risks. Traditional oil paint solvents require proper ventilation and many artists and students simply do not have the ability to keep the air in their studio safe, or keep the unwanted fumes from invading the rest of their home.

This type of paint eliminates a great deal of the potential dangers and unpleasantness associated with oil painting. This makes the studio a great deal safer if it is located in a home with small children or the occasional house pet who may invade the sanctity of the work place.

Compare Water Soluble Oil To Traditional Oil Paints

Every manufacturer has its own formulations for creating oil paint. Some may be fairly stiff while others have a buttery consistency. Therefore, it is hard to compare the various brands of traditional oils to water miscible oil paints. It is possible, however, to give some general observations about the water-soluble versions.

Used directly from the tube, it may have a slightly gummy texture. As liquid is added to the oil paint, a gouache-like texture becomes evident, and when further watered down it has some of the characteristics of watercolor. However, adding too much water may cause the layer not to adhere firmly to the previous layer and cracking or flaking may result. The same fat-over-lean rule of oil painting still holds true when using this type of paint.

Stickiness and tackiness are words that are used in reviews of these products. The artist will need some experience working with this paint to become comfortable, as it handles a little differently than that which he may be accustomed. As with all paints, there will be variances between manufacturers, and the artist will find the right brand for his needs only through experimentation with various products.

Clean-Up Is A Breeze

One of the great things about working with water miscible oil paint is the ease of clean up. There is no need to soak the brush in turpentine to dissolve the paint from the bristles. The artist is able to use soap and water to clean the brush, and after rinsing simply give the brush a good drying and apply some oil to protect and moisturize the bristles. Hands, arms and face are not exposed to drying and damaging turpentine to remove smears and the artist does not breathe the noxious and potentially harmful vapors. Clothing will not be relegated to the rag bin, as washing will remove paint stains if done before the paint has dried.

To Varnish Or Not To Varnish

Varnishing an oil painting is a personal preference, and there are a number of finishes available. The addition of water may tend to make the work lose its sheen, and this may be uneven depending on whether the amount of thinners or water used was consistent. There are high-gloss varnishes as well as satin and matte finish products. The rules remain the same for varnishing water-soluble oil paint as with traditional oils. The paint must be totally dry before varnishing, not just dry to the touch. It can take up to six months for an oil painting to dry completely, so varnishing must be delayed.

When the painting is thoroughly dry, the painting must be cleaned of any dust. Using a damp, lint free cloth, gently clean the surface to remove any loose particles. Apply a thin, even coat of varnish to the painting, working in one direction. When the surface has dried, apply a second thin coat, working in the opposite direction.

Brands Of Water Soluble Oil Paint

Listed below are some popular Brands and Manufacturers of Oil Paints that are Water Soluble.


Holbein’s Duo Aqua paint is a professional grade paint that has a buttery consistency, and is available in 100 colors. Holbein has been a leading name in paint manufacture for decades and produces reliable professional products.

Royal Talens

Royal Talens produces their line of Cobra water miscible oil paint in 70 colors as well as companion glazing and impasto mediums.

Winsor & Newton – Grumbacher

Winsor & Newton and Grumbacher, both well-known names in the art world make their own lines of water miscible oil paints and have a good range of colors available.

Weber – Lukas – Reeves

Other manufactures such as Weber, Lukas and Reeves produce less costly paints in a smaller range of colors. These may be appropriate for the student who wishes to try out the concept without investing a lot.

For the person who has avoided oil paint because of the aroma, chemicals and mess, water miscible oil paint can be a real option. The costs are similar to traditional oils, but the need for some of the associated costs such as turpentine and specialty mediums may be reduced.

This type of paint is attractive for the plein aire painter, the parent of small children and anyone concerned with health issues.

Although not as widely available as traditional oil paint, it is readily available through larger art supply sources. It is yet another medium to add to the arsenal of the mixed media artist.

Try it, you just might like it.

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