If you paint with oils you will want to read this!

Hi friends! After watercolor oil paint is probably my favorite medium. I love the smooth buttery consistency, the rich glossy colors and the creamy blending that I can achieve with this medium. I even like the smell of the oil paint! It’s not all sunshine and roses tho. If you are using traditional oils you will need to clean your brushes with some type of solvent. I rinse my brushes in solvent, wipe off the excess and wash with brush soap. Today I’ll share how I conserve my solvent so I get the most for my money, keep it in my brush tank and out of the environment!

I use a silicoil brush cleaning tank (affiliate link) but you can make a similar contraption if you like. I use Lavender brush cleaner because I like the lavender smell. If you prefer and odorless option I recommend Gamsol. You can also use hardware store paint thinners. The artist grade solvents can be pricey so it’s really worthwhile making them last! You will need your brush cleaning jar plus two empty glass jars with lids. I use washed spaghetti sauce jars for this.

FYI: solvent refers to your paint thinner of choice: Turpentine, Gamsol, Odorless mineral spirits etc

  • Step 1. Let your brush cleaning tank sit for a couple of days if you can. you will notice that you have a clear liquid on top (the solvent) and a opaque gunk on the bottom (paint and oils that have settled out of the solvent.)
  • Step 2. Pour off the clear liquid into one jar.
  • Step 3. Gently shake the brush cleaner and dump the solids into another jar. You might want to pour a bit of the solvent back in the cleaning tank and shake again to clean out the rest of the solids and pour that in with the solids.
  • Step 4. Pour the reclaimed solvent from jar 1 back into the brush tank and top off with fresh brush cleaner if needed. Next time you do this you will be able to pour a bit of clear solvent from the solids jar into the solvent jar. You will keep adding the solvent to the solvent jar and the solids to the solids jar until the solids jar is full. At that time you can take the jar of solids to hazardous waste disposal. Never pour paint of solvents down the drain. *Your town office should be able to tell you where to take your paint, if not contact a paint store.

Saving money and saving the environment go hand in hand when it comes to oil painting! You might be wondering why I don’t just use water-mixable oils and not bother with the solvents. Honestly, if I was just starting out that’s what I’d do but I have a lot of traditional oil paint to use up. I used to teach 2 adult oil classes a week and I had a lot of supplies and mediums already. When watermixables first came out they weren’t as nice as they are now, they were still and kinda weak and just not as pleasant to work with. They have gotten A LOT better over the years but honestly, I still prefer my traditional oils and it’s not much more bother if you have a brush tank set up as I do. I also find that traditional oils keep longer. During my recent oil painting month I used some oil tubes that were nearly 20 years old but I find watermixable oils dry out in the tube after a couple of years. That would not be a problem for someone using up their paint in a reasonable time but I had my old teaching supplies to get through. I hope you found this helpful and happy painting!

5 Responses

  1. Thanks for the tips! I, too have old oil paints and after reading your blog, it seems less daunting to pull them out and give them a go.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi Lindsay,
    I just took out my oil paints after years of letting them sit in cold/hot barn. I found they are very thick. Is there way to make them “creamy” again, or should I just chuck them ? Thanks


    • you can try adding a few drops of linseed oil and working it is with a palette knife. UYou can add a few drops of solvent too. If you get it back to a nice consistancy you can store it in small jard or purchase empty paint tubes.


      • Thank you Linsay. I appreciate you taking the time to answer. šŸ™‚ I will try those suggestions.


      • Thank you Lindsay for your suggestions.
        I just watched your presentation of your stamp collections. How awesome ! Not only by the quantity but by your organization!! I love the map idea on your binders! I wish there was an organization pill I could take ! Lol !

        Liked by 1 person

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