Homemade Painting Mediums & Recipes

  • Sun Thickened Linseed Oil

    Knowing how to make and use this oil medium is probably the greatest secret a painter can learn. It is truly remarkable stuff, and yet it can be made easily by artists with minimal cost and effort. Before I tell you how to make it, I have to extol its virtues, because if you understand and learn to appreciate its potential it will have a profound effect on your paintings. I cannot emphasise this enough. It will allow you to form a glaze to stretch out colour without it ever breaking or failing. It can mix with your paint to form such a delicate and fine layer that the colour reduces to a point where your eye can no longer be sure it’s actually there. Or to put it another way, imagine creating a shadow on the side of a face with burnt umber, which you want it to fade very softly at the edge where it meets normal light. Linseed oil mixed with colour will allow you to fade it in a wonderfully controlled way, without the colour smudging to nothing on the canvas or, as may be the case, onto the dried paint of the cheek below your shadow. It also speeds up the drying of all paint and mediums with which it is used.

    What you will need:

    • 1 cooking pan, measuring 10 x 7 and about 4 inches deep (25.4cm x 17.8cm and 10.2cm deep)
    • 1 glass sheet, slightly bigger than the pan
    • 4 pieces of wood – matchsticks are ideal
    • _ Litre or _ pint Linseed oil


    Take a litre or so of refined linseed oil and pour it in a metal tray. Enamel cooking ones are ideal. Pour enough oil in to create a depth of half an inch (12mm). You will need a glass sheet slightly bigger than the pan to cover it over. Place 4 small pieces of wood (discarded matches are ideal) to act as spacers so the glass sheet is slightly lifted off the cooking pan. This allows the passage of air and keeps most airborne rubbish out, although any errant flies will have to be removed by the butler! Leave it in a window in direct sun light and stir or whisk it every other day for a minute or so, just as you would eggs. This will aerate it, and you will find after 10-15 days it is becoming thicker and more gloopy in texture. The longer you continue the process the thicker the texture will become. The density of the texture is a matter of personal preference. The thicker the viscosity the greater the handling power and it is something you will have to explore until you decide what is best for you.

  • The Best General All Purpose Glaze


    • Damar Varnish – 1 part (15%)
    • Stand Oil – 1 part (15%) (sun-thickened oil will do even better)
    • Pure Gum Turpentine – 5 parts (70%)
      • B

        • Damar Varnish – 1 part (33%)
        • Stand Oil – 1 part (33%) (sun-thickened oil will do even better)
        • Pure Gum Turpentine – 5 parts (33%)
        • Cobalt Drier – 12 drops (optional, not recommended)

        Gum Damar:

        is very simple and much more economical to make yourself than to buy. Damar resin is tapped from the damar fir tree mainly in Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia. It comes in lump form and dissolves in gum turpentine. You simply wrap the resin lumps in a white cotton cloth (tied with string) and soak in turpentine for about 24 hours. The resin dissolves leaving the dirt and foreign bodies within the cloth. The medium then must be stored in containers that do not allow the passage of light as this will result in yellowing and cloudiness because of the water that is naturally present.

        Pure Gum (Portugese) Turpentine (Pinus Maritima):

        This is the purest form of turpentine. It is extracted from Portuguese marine pine trees and is the least prone of all turpentines to oxidise. It is also the closest equivalent to the old turpentine traditionally used.

        Ordinary Turpentine:

        Hardware shop grade for decorating use is not really good enough for artistic works.

        Cold Pressed Linseed Oil

        A yellow/brown oil which is extracted without the use of heat. In its unrefined form it will exaggerate yellowing in paintings. It is used to reduce the consistency of oil colours, increase gloss, flow and transparency, whilst reducing brush marks. The further refinement of this oil creates refined linseed oil – which is what we use in the making of Michael Harding artist oil paint.

  • Recipes for Fast-Drying Painting Mediums


    • 3 egg yolks
    • 1 part stand oil
    • 1 part damar


    • 1 egg yolk
    • 1 part stand oil
    • N.B. Egg yolk is one of the most ancient and permanent materials


    Wash your hands before you start the process. Separate the yoke from the white by gently passing the yoke from one hand to the other – discard the white. Place the yoke in a clean small jar. Puncture the yoke; mix stand oil in drop by drop stirring into emulsion vigorously.

  • Recipes for Slow-Drying Painting Mediums

    Poppy Oil

    will keep pale colours from yellowing, but does not have the physical strength of linseed oil and should only be used in moderation for finishing off layers of paint. It will keep pale colours bright and clear.