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How do they make Oil paint?


ultramarine pigment powder This is a simplified explanation of how oil paint is made by hand.

The process involves mixing the paint pigment with cold pressed linseed oil to a crumbly mass on a glass or marble slab. A small amount at a time is ground between the slab and a glass Muller. 

Pigment and oil are ground together 'with patience' until a smooth, ultra fine paste is achieved, this is then placed into jars or metal paint tubes and labelled.



The Glass Muller is used to 'grind' the pigment and oil together when hand making oil paint.

Years ago in commercial paint manufacture, pigment and binder were ground together between special stones, like those used in an old flour mill.

Today the paint pigment and binder are milled together on large steel rollers. The resultant paint then goes through many tests before tubing and arriving on the shelves in an art shop.

glass muller



paint propertiespaint thickness The pigment properties of the oil paint will be found on the label.

Burnt Umber is PBr 7 - PBr stands for Pigment Brown, PY Pigment Yellow and so on. It also states which vehicle or binder the paint has been made with, the lightfast rating, if it is opaque, semi-opaque or transparent.
The required caution notice.




 Another property of oil paint is its drying rate. Earth colours tend to dry the fastest, usually made from iron oxide:- Burnt Umber, Burnt Sienna, Raw Umber, Raw Sienna and Light Red. These are often applied at the beginning of a painting, their fast drying makes then good for under-painting.

The slow dryers tend to be Titanium and Zinc White, Alizarin Crimson, some Yellows, Green Earth and Ivory Black. Often applied towards the end of a painting, this helps maintain the 'fat over lean' principal - techniques page.

blue paint with knife



zest-it clear painting medium Oil paint can be used 'as is' straight from the tube, but most of the time its 'handling' qualities need to be changed.

Oil paint can be thinned with Zest-it Solvent or Brush Cleaner for under-painting and Lean Painting Medium where lean paint is required at the beginning of a painting. Both of these thin the consistence of the paint.

Clear Painting Medium can be used for the main body of the work, the amount adjusted as the work progresses to maintain the fat over lean principle.

Copyright© Jacqui Blackman 1999





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