A lot of Artists worry about oil paint safety and also dislike their smell. I had the same worries when I first began learning how to use oil paints. Oil paints did use to smell, which begs the question, just what are we breathing in??

Use Oil Paints Safely

There are two mediums in particular that are the most cause for concern. They are Turpentine and Linseed Oil.

So let’s first of all look at Turpentine

Turpentine can be used to thin paints as well as to clean brushes. The main problem is that it really does smell awful! For this reason, many Artists switch to ‘Odourless Mineral Spirits’ instead. They do this for two reasons.

  1. It doesn’t smell – True
  2. They believe it’s safer – False!

In fact, since Odourless Mineral Spirits (OMS) doesn’t smell, this can actually make them MORE harmful! This is because whilst they don’t smell, they DO still evaporate into the air… and because the artist can’t smell it, they are far less likely to open a window and can be totally unaware of just how much of the harmful vapour they are breathing in.

Okay, so now let’s look at Linseed Oil

Refined Linseed Oil is used as a medium to thin paints and give them a glossier, more translucent finish.

The danger of using Linseed oil is that in the right conditions, it can spontaneously combust! If you were to leave an oily rag in your warm studio without disposing of it properly (ie in an airtight fire can) it can literally set fire, which of course is extremely dangerous!

realism oil painting class

So. How can we use oil paints safely?

There are various things you can do to make your studio into a safer environment.

  1. Always work in a well-ventilated area
  2. Invest in an air purifier and/or keep lots of plants in your studio, which help purify the air
  3. Never leave oily rags around
  4. Where a face mask when working directly with turps

BUT –  There is a far simpler way of eliminating the danger of using oil paints without any fuss.

Switch to Gamblin

I have been using Gamblin colours and mediums for a long time now and I wouldn’t even consider using another brand. The quality of their products is just beautiful. And if you were to walk into my studio blindfolded, you wouldn’t be able to tell I was an oil painter. There are no fumes and none of the odours which are normally associated with an oil painters studio.

Gamblin has strived to make all of their products absolutely safe and non-toxic (when used as intended). They care so much about the environment that they even use leftover pigment ‘dust’ to create a colour which they call ‘Torrit Grey’.

They have replaced the old-fashioned Turpentine with a product called Gamsol, which I swear by. It works in exactly the same way as Turps, however, it has no odour… BUT, the most important thing of all is that it doesn’t evaporate into the air… so not only can you not smell it, but you are not breathing it in either!

Gamblin also has an amazing range of oils and other mediums to choose from. I can’t remember the last time I used Linseed oil in my studio!

And above all, they have a fantastic website with answers to just about every question you could possibly have on oil painting. And if you can’t find the answer? Just go ahead and email them. They will come back to you!

So, the next time you run out of paint or medium, I would highly recommend replacing it with a Gamsol product. And by the way, I am not associated with Gamblin in any way!

Sandra x

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