How To Use Linseed Oil For Oil Painting: Tips For Making The Most Of It

Different forms of linseed oil used for oil painting

Linseed oil is a slow-drying oil that prolongs the drying time of oil paints. This oil is beneficial for increasing the oil content, thinning your oil paints, and adding sheen to your oil paintings. However, it may cause hairline cracks on your oil paintings. So, would you use or not use linseed oil for your oil paintings? Read on to learn the pros and cons so you can decide better.

To use linseed oil, remember to add less for the lower layers, except when drying linseed oil. Do not use linseed oil if you want to add thicker layers. Lastly, you can use stand oil to make your DIY medium by mixing it with solvents. 

Types of Linseed Oil

Refined Linseed Oil

A bottle of refined linseed oil

Refined linseed oil is the most common linseed oil that artists use to get consistency on their oil paints. They are slow-drying and improve the gloss and transparency of your oil paints. The downside of this type of linseed oil is that it gives a yellowish tint to your oil paints, especially when using lighter colors. It may also cause discoloration on your fully cured oil paintings.

Since linseed oil is inflexible as its oxidation progresses, it can cause hairline cracks on the oil painting, resulting in paint loss and distortion. To avoid this, always start with runnier oil paint. Let them dry to the touch before adding the next layer with a thicker consistency. Apply the thickest oil paints last to prevent cracking.

Cold-pressed Linseed Oil

A bottle of cold-pressed linseed oil

Cold-pressed linseed oil generally costs more than refined linseed oil because it has better quality and effect on your oil paintings. They are popular among the creative crowd due to their effect on oil paints' transparency, shine, and mixing capabilities.

Adding linseed oil helps economize the expensive oil paints and increases drying time. It does not cause discoloration on your oil paintings, making it an excellent choice for professional painters.

Stand Oil

A bottle of thickened linseed oil

Stand oil is another slow-drying medium, acid-treated to remove the natural acidity of linseed oil, then heated in a vacuum to thicken it. This oil is denser than the other linseed oil types. It leaves an enamel finish on your oil paintings, so they're best for glazing purposes.

The longer drying time is not always a con for beginner artists, making it a poor choice for oil medium for beginners. It does not leave a slight yellow tint on your light-colored oil paints and allows you to apply it smoothly to your paintings. You need to dilute it with turpentine, mineral spirits, or other linseed oil forms. Mix one part linseed oil and 2 parts odorless mineral spirits. 

However, aside from prolonging the drying time, you may observe that your oil painting developed significant wrinkling, making it undesirable as an oil painting medium for beginners. Some artists also find it too thick, almost like honey, for their liking.

Drying Linseed Oil

A bottle of drying linseed oil

Drying linseed oil is the fastest drying linseed oil type. Though it is darker than the refined linseed oil, it doesn't cause as much discoloration on your oil paintings. It cuts drying time by almost half. 

Because of this characteristic, it is best to add this oil to the lower layers of your oil painting. Allowing you to protect your oil paintings from distortion and cracking.

Like other linseed oils, it improves your oil paints' gloss, consistency, and flow. However, it is also the most expensive type of linseed oil. For these reasons, we recommend this type to professionals.

How to Use Linseed Oil for Oil Painting

Add less refined linseed oil to the lower layers.

Since refined linseed oil is slow-drying, we recommend that you add less of it for your mixture for the lower layers. Linseed oils increase paint flow and give the oil painting a glossy sheen, slowing the drying time. Otherwise, you can use drying linseed oil or solvent to the lower layer to dry your oil paintings faster. 

Do not use linseed oil for thick layers.

For upper layers, you can skip using the linseed oil so you can apply a thicker layer of paint. The best tip to remember is to keep the lower layers thin and progress to thicker layers as you work on your oil paints.

Make your DIY medium.

You can make your medium using thickened linseed oil or stand oil, mixed with 2 parts solvent per one part of the stand oil. Also, you can mix regular linseed oil with low-odor solvents to thin it out, especially if you'll use it for the preliminary layers.

Painting with Linseed Oil FAQ

Can you use just linseed oil as a medium?

Yes. Aside from thinning the oil paint, it also improves the consistency, extends the reach of your oil paints, and enhances the gloss of your finished oil painting. It slows down the drying process, making it an excellent choice when you're a beginner or need more time working on your oil paintings.

How much linseed oil can you add to oil paint?

You don't add the linseed oil directly into your oil paint. Instead, pick some oil from the container and mix it with your oil paint using the brush before applying it.

If the particular area applied with oil paint diluted with linseed oil does not dry in 3-4 days, you have applied more linseed oil. Wait for that portion to dry before adding more layers, then dip only the tip of the brush into your linseed oil container.

What can you use instead of linseed oil?

Aside from linseed oil, you can use walnut oil, safflower oil, or poppy oil. However, these oils take longer to dry. That is why artists prefer linseed oil over other oils, making them great for working with the wet-on-wet oil painting technique.

If left without much choice, go for walnut alkyd medium instead, as the alkyd in the mix shortens the drying time. Walnut oil doesn't cause discoloration, so it's an excellent alternative to linseed oil. Another recommended medium is the drying poppy oil, similar to the walnut alkyd medium.

Is linseed oil toxic for painting?

No. It comes from flax seeds, one of the miracle seeds among vegans and vegetarians. However, when diluted with turpentine or odorless mineral spirits, it becomes toxic as it releases toxic fumes and is fatal when accidentally ingested. Therefore, always stow it away from children and pets as a precautionary measure.

How long does linseed oil take to dry a painting?

Linseed oil generally takes 3-4 days for the oil paint to be dry enough on an oil canvas painting if applied with just the right amount. Adjust your linseed oil added to the oil paints if it takes longer than that.


Linseed oil is a slow-drying oil that prolongs the drying time of your oils paints. You can use it to adjust the amount of oil in your paint, especially when dealing with cheaper options. It also improves the gloss and flow of your oil paints. It is not a perfect medium, as it can cause discoloration and cracking of your oil paints.

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