Oil Paints and Toxicity

Oil paints

In the minds of many people, oil painting is toxic. Some believe it so heartily, that they will immediately become nauseated at the scent of oil paint. 

In order to overcome that needless fear, you have to retrain your brain, and look at the facts.

Oil paint is made from oil–a refined, artist grade version of certain kitchen oils you smell all of the time. In history, have been made from linseed oil, safflower oil, poppy oil, walnut oil and even olive oil.

Oil painting for the most part is non-toxic. What had made oil painting toxic in the past, is the use of toxic pigments, such as lead and cobalt, as well as the uses of petroleum and other solvents to clean and thin the paints. 

Today, we are spoiled rotten with a variety of non-toxic colors, such as Hansa Yellow in place of Cadmium Yellow. As in the very early history of oil painting, you can still thin paint and clean brushes without the use of solvents. Simply use a slow drying oil such as safflower oil to clean the brushes while you are painting. 

To speed the drying time of my paints, I use Gamblin Solvent-Free Fluid medium, which is an alkyd safflower oil instead of traditional turpentine or mineral spirits. Gamblin states that the solvent-free fluid and gel are non-toxic. I use a drop of the fluid in my paints, and it works fabulously.

In order to clean the brushes at the end of the painting session, dip your brushes in oil, wipe with a cloth and then use The Master’s Brush Cleaner and Restorer. If you purchase a large tub of this, it will last a long time and save you money. In other words, a small 1 ounce jar will cost you about $8, whereas a large 24-ounce tub costs about $25. I scoop a bit out and put it into a small jar to fit into my paint box.

For the palette, I use wax paper, which is about $2 for a roll just about anywhere. If there is any paint left, I just fold over the piece of paper, and it will keep for the next painting session. If the palette is completely used up, toss it into the bin. 

For paints, I recommend the following manufacturers:

Gamblin Oil Colors

M. Graham Oil Paint

Winsor & Newton Oil Colors