5 Best Paint Thinners For Oil Paint

Oil painting is popular today, with so many effects and benefits as the canvas is transformed into a beautiful work of art. A good paint thinner is an important part of the process. We've done research and have information to share on the best paint thinners for your next oil painting journey.

Paint thinner is a good combination for oil paints because it makes the paint easier to apply. But paint thinners vary in composition and texture. Below is a list of the best paint thinners to use with oil paint.

  1. Turpentine - Most popularly used
  2. Gamsol - Compared to other paint thinners, it is odorless and safe to use
  3. Lavender Spike Oil - Essential oil used since the Renaissance that is non-carcinogenic and less toxic
  4. Citrus Solvent - Natural and safe alternative to other solvents made from orange peel; can be used in cleaners and paint removers.
  5. Turpenoid - An alternative to Turpentine that is safe for students to use

It's not just the oil paint that make a canvas great—it's a bonus if you mix the paint with the best-performing paint thinner. Read on as we discuss each paint thinner and its strengths, functions, and issues associated with oil painting. 

The can with a thinner from the upside view., X Best Paint Thinners For Oil Paint

Best Thinner for Oil Paint

Paintbrush with oil paint on a classical palette

Paint thinner is a great combination for any oil paint as it leaves a beautifully finished canvas with just one touch of a brush. Its use doesn't stop with being a thinner for oil paints. 

Paint thinner can be used as a cleaner for brushes or paint removers. Additionally, paint thinners prevent paint from drying or hardening when exposed to any environment.

However, thinner or its expensive alternative, mineral spirits, is volatile and flammable. You should use protective equipment when dealing with such solvents.

These solvents may contain less toxic, odorless, or non-carcinogenic ingredients, but these liquids can burn when left unattended.

1. Turpentine

One of the most traditional solvents in oil painting is turpentine, used to thin paint. Its natural ingredients make an excellent blend for oil paints, as it has a fast drying time and enough viscosity to be ideal for thinning oil paints.

It glides easily with the stroke of the brush, and its simple application makes it the most popular solvent used by painters.

Turpentine is not only great at thinning oil paint but also in removing stains and cleaning any surfaces. You can never go wrong with turpentine, as it is less toxic and safer than the petroleum-based solvents used for oil painting.

However, this type of thinner can be harmful. If you're exposed to it for a long period, it can causes dizziness, headaches, or irritation.

Check out this Winsor & Newton Turpentine on Amazon.

2. Gamsol 

This mineral spirit is the safest to use because it is odorless and less volatile than other paint thinners on the market. In addition, this non-hazardous solvent does not compromise the painter's techniques for painting.

A small amount of solvent goes a long way in mixing Gamsol with paint but still gives the mixture a beautiful viscosity. All of these qualities make Gamsol solvent noteworthy.

Gamsol is formulated for products that come in close contact with people, because it's non-toxic and environmentally friendly. However, Gamsol solvents are not for natural resins like dammar or mastic.

3. Lavender Spike Oil

Unlike other petroleum-based paint thinners, this thinner—used by painters since the Renaissance—comes from the steam distillation of the natural spiked lavender.

Commonly used paint thinners such as turpentine have a strong abrasive odor, while spike oil has a distinctive lavender smell and is non-carcinogenic and non-toxic.

In addition, it has the same evaporation time as turpentine or other mineral spirits and is applicable for resins, painting mediums, or varnishes. It is the safest alternative to mineral spirits and has GRAS (Generally Recognized As Safe) status. 

4. Citrus Solvent

As the name implies, this product comes from orange peel extract, which is 98% pure citrus peel and 2% water. This solvent is recommended for use by teachers and students, as this is the safest solvent and will do the same job as other paint thinners.

Additionally, citrus solvent does not discolor any material it touches since it has a water-like coloration and solution.

What makes citrus solvents so appealing is that they do more than soften paint. Not only are they safe to use, but they are also environmentally friendly. Its can be easily disposed of without causing harm to the body or the environment.

Because of its low water content, a citrus solvent evaporates much slower than other thinners. Also, it's not just for thinning paint—it's also a degreaser, brush cleaner, and stain remover.

Check out this Citrus Solvent from Amazon.

5. Turpenoid

Although turpentine is most artists' preferred solvent, turpenoid is a safer and odorless alternative. Its thinning qualities make it compatible with a wide range of painting mediums, including alkyd colors.

Furthermore, because it has the same painting qualities as turpentine, turpenoid is an excellent solvent for thinning, varnishing, and cleaning painting equipment.

How to Thin Paint Oil?

Tubes of oil paint closeup on artist palette with paints

Oil painting can be done with or without using a thinning medium. But using paint thinner will give your canvas a smooth consistency, allowing the paint to penetrate without distorting or ruining the painting.

How you use paint thinner is of great importance. Variations in the amount of solvent used are one component in achieving the desired painting canvas.

The way you use your solvents is a critical aspect of getting started with oil painting. When working with a sprayer, use a considerable amount of paint thinner to create a consistency that may pour from the spray container. 

1. Know your Paint Thinner

What works best for some artists may not work for you, so know what thinner to use before going deep into your painting. Some thinners can cause allergic reactions and are not suitable for use by others.

2. Mix the Right Amount of Thinner

For mixing thinner with oil paint, a 3:1 or 4:1 ratio is commonly recommended. However, it depends on your preferred viscosity, consistency, and the painting equipment you employ.

Always remember to combine thinner and oil paint when the oil paint is at room temperature.

3. Test Application

Before starting to paint, mix the paint thoroughly with a wooden stick while stirring with a small amount of thinner.

Run two sets of brushes on a clean, dry surface. If you're satisfied, then you're ready to paint.

You should pay attention to the time it takes for the paint to dry because some oil paints take a long period to dry, especially when you're using turpentine as a paint thinner.

Safety Measure Tips

Paint cans and color chart

Some hazards may arise due to the chemical nature of paint thinners, which emit toxic fumes and are even volatile and flammable.

Proper precautions and safety measures must always be taken when working with solvents such as thinners and paints. Before beginning, wear protective clothing such as gloves, safety goggles, and a respirator.

Breathing in the fumes can make you dizzy, so wear a respirator. Never discard paint or thinner on the ground or in gutters as it will contaminate them.

Before you start mixing, make sure your area has adequate ventilation. Also, since paint thinners are highly flammable, it is advisable to have a fire extinguisher nearby in case of an accident.

Finally, keep your paint thinners in open places to allow for ventilation.

Do You Need Thinner For Oil Paint?

Unrecognizable woman pouring and mixing the light yellow paint in the can

Yes, and no. Some people can't stand the heavy smell of paint thinners, so they prefer to use oil paint without a thinner. But many artists use thinner because it gives a nice texture to the canvas or surface they are painting on.

There are odorless thinners on the market, but they might induce allergic reactions and require ventilation, which can be difficult in a busy environment.

However, you can use oil paint without ever using a thinner, but make sure to choose the thinner version so you can brush it on without too much effort.

In Closing

Many people in the art business use traditional turpentine as the solvent of choice for thinning oil paints because of its chemical and mixing capabilities, as well as its low cost.

Remember that if you're exposed to it for long periods, you may experience dizziness or headaches. But if the right equipment is worn before you begin your canvas, these potential concerns can be dealt with.

Your preferred choice of paint thinner is significant, because some thinners can cause allergic reactions and possible hazards. Keep a fire extinguisher near your mixing area and store your paint thinners in an open space.

Finally, in addition to thinning paint, these solvents are also capable of cleaning, degreasing, and varnishing surfaces and canvasses. 

Check out more relevant post about paints and thinners here:

How To Keep Paint From Freezing In Your Garage

How Long Does It Take To Mix Paint?

6 Best Degreasers For Kitchen Cabinets Before Painting

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