How is Oil Paint made?

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Oil painting is becoming more and more popular. Many artists are divulging with oil painting because of the beauty it creates. Oil painting is a good form of art and many are intrigued about it. Before we will learn how to make a beautiful oil painting, it is a good time to learn what is oil paint and how is it made?

A very simplified explanation on how is oil paint made, is that the paint pigment is ground together with a binder that is usually a linseed oil though some oils can be used depending on pigment type. Bees wax may be added plus some driers and stabilizers.

Oil paint can be done easily by hand or with volume through commercial paint manufacturers. In making an oil paint by hand the process involves mixing the paint pigment with the 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 of Muller. A Muller is a round flat bottomed glass instrument with a hand grip. Next pigment and oil are ground together until smoothen in an ultra fine paste. This is now ready to be put in jars or metal paint tubes. During the times when metal is not yet available our ancestors used special stones to ground the pigment and binder but now to ground the paint pigment and binder a vehicle called the large steel rollers are used. The result paint undergoes many tests before putting it inside the familiar paint tubes. A label is supplied with the full details of the contents of the oil paint.


The important properties of the oil paint can be seen in the label of the paint tubes. The information given on the label will tell you a lot about the paint. Mostly it includes the name of the pigment or pigments used then followed by the pigment number. Example is Burnt Umber PBr 7 so this means that the oil paint has Pigment Brown (PBr). The label also tells what kind of binder is being used linseed oil is the most common but there is Safflower Oil that is regularly used for light colors. A star or number rating is used to rate the light fastness and usually the higher the amount of rating the more lightfast) Symbols or words that is used to state whether the paint is opaque, semi-opaque or transparent. Like any other thing caution is posted in the label. So be sure to read the label in buying an oil paint.

If you are not sure if the paint is transparent, opaque or translucent a simple way to check it is you put a dark line on a piece of white card and used a brush to put a thin layer of paint across the line. If the line is visible then it is transparent, if the line is cannot be seen then it is opaque but if the line is indistinct but visible it is translucent or semi-opaque.


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