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painting the figure


module 1: supplies

c: solvents/Clean up Tools

a. OMS vs. Turpentine

Solvent is different than medium. Medium is what binds oil paint together. Solvent is what cuts it down.

It's what you use to clean your brushes especially in the act of painting. Solvent is much different than medium and should be treated as such. Solvent comes from "dissolve," so what the solvent is used for is much different than the binding which is the medium you use.

My preferred go to is Gamblin's Gamsol. It is a form of odorless mineral spirits. "Gamsol evaporates 100% and leaves no sticky residue. Use for thinning oil paints, alkyd resin painting mediums, and other painting mediums that do not contain Damar resin. Use for brush and studio clean up.

You may have heard solvents referred to as 'turps,' which is short for turpentine but they're usually not referring to turpentine. A lot of people don't use it very often anymore. It has a very strong odor and is typically thought of as more harmful then then odorless mineral spirits. People tend to have more adverse reactions to turpentine then to OMS, as it is also referred to. Gamsol is known as pretty much the cleanest solvent. With enough ventilation and if you have a HEPA filter in my studio you barely even smell it. Because I'm putting it in such a small cup, there's not too much of it to evaporate. This is literally the only part of oil paint that is more dangerous than other mediums so as long as you're smart about it, you should be alright unless you have some sort of allergic reaction to any part of oil painting or you have a really negative reaction to even the slightest bit of OMS. You should be okay and it shouldn't be that much more harmful to you or the environment than any other medium.

I only use actual turpentine when I'm creating my own medium. There are recipes online on how to create your own mediums. When the recipe calls for turpentine is pretty much the only time I ever use it. I don't even like to use it outdoors. It just makes everything smell like chemicals.

You can usually find Klean strip OMS in most hardware stores, which is okay to use in a pinch. Say you're at a plein air event and nowhere near an art supply store that actually has Gamsol. It will work fine. I don't recommend it too much for studio usage. you're better off in closed quarters to use Gamsol.


Remember: solvent breaks down the paint. It is not a medium. It doesn't bind the paint together. Solvent is to oil paint as water is to watercolor.