There are plenty of misconceptions and myths about oil painting and oil paints. For painters and buyers alike, I think it’s important to clear the air! So let’s dispel some oil paint myths.

Oil Painting is Toxic

One of the most common myths about oil painting is that the paint itself is toxic. However, oil paint is generally non-toxic, just as long as you don’t go ingesting it. Oil paint is made up of non-toxic and natural materials. This usually consists of a pigment combined with a natural oil, and most of those materials are non-toxic. There are a few that can be toxic if someone were to breathe in or ingest them in their dry pigment form. Some of these include lead-white, cobalt, and cadmium. Luckily for us in the twenty-first century, there are synthetic alternatives so painters don’t have to use them!

Colorful oil paints on a wooden pallet.

Oil paint has no smell! The strong smell people associate with the process of oil painting comes from the use of secondary mediums.

Oil Paints Smells Bad

Another myth that is commonly tied to oil paint being toxic is that they have an unpleasant odor. This can scare off beginner oil painters and oil painting buyers alike, as no one wants bad smells in their home.

This myth couldn’t be more untrue, as oil paints have no smell at all. The strong smell people associate with the process of oil painting comes from the use of secondary mediums. These mediums help with the fluidity of paint, cleaning, or drying time. One being turpentine, which does have a strong chemical smell. For painters, the problem can be solved by using alternatives to turpentine, like linseed oil. Ivory soap can be used in cleaning brushes instead of turpentine as well. If you’re buying oil paintings, you don’t have to worry about bad smells as the painting will come to you dry and odorless.

Oil Paint is Only Suitable for Canvas

Canvas is a popular surface for oil painting but by no means the only one. Strict rules about how an artist must use a certain medium can stifle creativity. It’s important to remember that these “rules” that seem to be in place aren’t as hard and fast as one might think! Any surface that is primed for oil painting can serve as an option. This can include board, linen panel, paper, wood, and even metal.

You Have to Work in Layers

You don’t have to work in layers to work with oil paints. This may be an old master’s technique, but there are many ways to be creative and not use layers. One way is you can work “alla prima” or “wet in wet,” so you go for it all in a single session. You can also mix straight on the canvas, scrape it off, and start over again. If your paint has dried, you can paint over it and keep going.

Busting Myths

With the misconceptions busted, anyone can take a second look at oil paintings and reassess what they think about them! If you’re looking for some oil painting inspiration for yourself or are in the market for some beautiful art to add to your walls, check out my paintings! And of course, if you have a question about one of my pieces, please feel free to contact me. Thank you for supporting your local Colorado artists!