Whether you’re a beginner or an expert, oil painting with solvents and mediums may not be for you. Don’t worry though, because you don’t need to use those chemicals when you oil paint! Here are a few ways you can still oil paint without using them.

Alla Prima Painting

I’ve talked about alla prima painting before, but in case you need a refresher, alla prima is a method of direct painting. Typically, artists will paint in a single sitting and not retouch or paint over their work when everything has dried.

Since you don’t need to worry as much about altering the drying time of your paint, solvents and mediums aren’t as necessary. For alla prima painting, it’s more effective to use paint straight from the tube. As soon as you add solvents and mediums, the integrity of the oil paint is compromised.

Palette knifes with oil paint left on them resting on a white table.

Palette knife painting is a great option for beginners. 

Palette Knife Painting

This is a great option for beginners. Palette knife painting is exactly as it sounds – painting using a palette knife! There are many benefits of palette knife painting. These include creating bold strokes of clean color in your work, unique strokes that can’t be replicated by a brush, covering the canvas quickly with paint, and palette knives are very easy to clean. And, not to mention, you don’t need to use solvents and mediums with this method!

It’s also important to be aware of the few disadvantages of this technique. Palette knife painting will use a lot of paint, so be aware of that. The other downside is using a palette knife means sacrificing smaller details and the overall accuracy of your piece.

Water Soluble Oils

If you’d rather use brushes and not finish your painting in one sitting, water soluble oils are an option. The idea of water soluble oils is that they handle like traditional oils, but can be mixed and removed with water. You can clean your brushes, thin your paints, and clean your hands all with just water. Depending on how thick you paint, the water soluble oils retain their elasticity and workability for up to 48 hours. They’re easy, non-toxic, and feel just like normal oils.

Use Acrylics for your Underpainting

Oftentimes, oil painters will use mediums to thin out their oil paint for the first layers of their painting. They do this because they want to work with fluid, thin paint (and in oil painting, you work from thin to thick). Instead of having to use solvents and mediums for the first layers of your work, use acrylics instead. Acrylics can layer well underneath oil paintings as long as the layers stay thin. To ensure you have a thin layer, water down your acrylic before painting to achieve a light base layer.

Oil paint tubes with squeezed out paint and dirty paint brushes sitting on a wooden table.

Thank you for supporting your local artists!

Enjoy the Process

You don’t need solvents and mediums to enjoy the process of oil painting! Hopefully, these tips help you with your own oil paint process. 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 artists!