The most common oil paint thinner that people use is turpentine. This is because it has numerous benefits that come with its use, specifically the fact that it dries incredibly quickly (normally just a few hours).
However, turpentine does come with some downsides due to it being a solvent. The main downside is that it can be toxic to work with, especially in not very well-ventilated spaces.
So, many people opt for using more natural thinners when working with oil paint. Due to the fact that turps is the most commonly used paint thinner, many people, especially beginners, might not be entirely sure what the safer and more natural alternatives that can be used are.
1. Linseed oil
Linseed oil isn’t a specific one-to-one alternative thinner to turpentine, it is however one of, if not the most commonly used medium among artists all over the world.
It has a number of benefits that come with its use. Linseed oil is incredibly easy to use and it is also rather cheap. It is incredibly versatile so many people choose to use it as a great all-rounder when working with oil paints.
One downside to its use though is the drying time; it can sometimes take weeks for it to dry. So, artists that don’t like the idea of that might end up sticking with turpentine.
2. Gamsol Oil
Gamsol oil is an odourless and non-toxic alternative to turpentine. It will relax oil paint effortlessly and will allow artists to paint in traditional and contemporary methods without compromise. It is one of the safest thinners and considered The Standard for Studio Safety.
“Gamsol is a petroleum distillate but all the aromatic solvents have been refined out of it, less than .005% remains. Aromatic solvents are the most harmful types of petroleum solvents. In addition, Gamsol’s flashpoint allows it to ship via air cargo as a non-hazardous material.”Gamsol Oil
Sansodor thinner is also a great safer alternative to turpentine. It is much lesser hazardous and has minimal odour. The Sansodor solvent evaporates slowly, and so, like linseed oil, has a slow drying time.
Sansodor costs roughly the same as turpentine, but is three times less hazardous than turpentine.
4. Lavender Spike Oil
Since the main benefit to using turps is the drying time. This is a great natural alternative due to the fact that it dries significantly faster than linseed oil, but a little slower than turpentine does, on average it will take about a day for it to dry.
A downside that comes with using lavender spike oil is that, it might potentially make some of the oil colours that you use turn darker than expected or intended. This isn’t common but it is important to keep in mind.
Lavender spike oil isn’t nearly as commonly used as linseed oil is but it is a great alternative to using turpentine.
Safflower oil is similar to linseed oil. However, it is less likely to turn yellow over time than linseed oil is and also it is definitely less likely to yellow than turpentine, which turns yellow quite frequently. Safflower oil itself is also thinner, so it is typically easier to use.
Again, though the downside of safflower oil is the drying time, this alternative takes much longer to dry and that’s why it is typically used when working in wet-on-wet (painting with wet paint on top of wet paint).
6. Stand Oil
Stand oil is essentially just linseed oil, except it is significantly more refined than regular linseed oil. When you get stand oil that is of the highest quality, it will not yellow over time and it will dry significantly faster than linseed oil, just not as fast as turpentine.
The main drawback of it is that it isn’t cheap, so if you do a lot of painting and you are on a tight budget, this one might be a holdback for you. It is a great alternative to turpentine though, so maybe you should try using it, just not as frequently as other thinners.
7. Poppyseed Oil
Poppyseed oil is another great alternative to turpentine too, as it is significantly less likely to yellow than turpentine. It is also great for changing the viscosity of the paint to what you work best with, it also makes the painting glossier for those that like that.
Poppyseed oil though dries slower than linseed oil, so you might be better off using that and compared to turpentine, it also dries way slower. Again, it can be useful when working on wet-on-wet.
Walnut oil is also much less likely to yellow over time than turpentine, it is also less likely to yellow than linseed oil. It is great when you are working with lighter colours as it is on the paler side.
Walnut oil doesn’t store as well as the others, and it will expire quicker than the others. Even though walnut oil does dry faster than some of the other alternatives, such as poppy seed oil, it will still dry slower than turpentine.
Which One Should I Use?
Well, all the thinners do what you want them to, and that is, of course, thin the paint. The best way to find a personal favourite is to learn is to use them, try different ones and see which one you prefer. The list given above are all great alternatives to using turpentine. Natural alternatives have become a lot more popular in recent years and it is clear as to why that is the case.
Many people are under the impression that they have to use turpentine when working with oil paints, and due to this choose not to work in this medium. That is just not the case anymore, there are much safer and easier to use alternatives that are readily available for everyone.
Solvents can be a somewhat health hazard, but, if used sensibly, they don’t present a major risk to most of us. Saying that, if you wish to avoid using solvents altogether, why not use water mixable oil paints with water mixable oil thinners.
- 4 Key Differences Between Traditional Oil Paints & Water Mixable Oil Paints
- Can I Use Regular Linseed Oil With Water Mixable Oils?
- Can You Use Walnut Oil With Water Mixable Oils?
- Water Soluble Oil Paint Mediums & Painting Surfaces
- Do You Have To Use Linseed Oil When Oil Painting
- Making Oil Painting Less Toxic (Quick & Easy Solutions)