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'Oil paint' is a type of slow-drying paint consisting of small pigment particles suspended in a drying oil. Oil paints have been used in England as early as the 13th century for simple decoration{{ref|early_use}}, but were not widely adopted for artistic purposes until the 15th century. The most common modern application of oil paint is domestic, where its hard-wearing properties and luminous colours make it desirable for both interior and exterior use.


The slow-drying properties of organic oils were commonly known to early painters. However, the difficulty in acquiring and working the materials meant that they were rarely used. As public preference for realism increased, however, the quick-drying tempera paints became insufficient. Flemish artists combined tempera and oil painting during the 1400s, but by the 1600s easel painting in pure oils was common, using much the same techniques and materials found today.


When exposed to air, vegetable oils do not undergo the same evaporative process that water does. Instead, they oxidize into a dry solid. Depending upon the source, this process can be very slow, and it is this property which gives oil paints their unique characteristics.
This earliest and still most commonly used vehicle is linseed oil, made from the seed of the flax plant. The seeds are crushed and the oil extracted. Modern processes use heat or steam in order to produce a larger volume of oil, but cold-pressed oils are generally considered superior for artistic use{{ref|cold_oil}}. Other sources of carrier oils exist. Hemp seeds, poppy seeds, walnuts, and soy beans are often used as a substitute for the relatively expensive linseed.
Once the oil is extracted additives are sometimes used to improve its chemical properties. In this manner the paint can be made to dry more quickly if that is desired, or to have varying levels of gloss. Modern oils paints can, therefore, have complex chemical structures; for example, affecting resistance to UV or giving a suede like appearance.

20th and 21st century carriers

Many artists these days consider oil paint to be one of the fundamental parts of art; something that a student should learn to appreciate, because of its properties and use in previous, very popular artwork. Often, such students will not appreciate oil because of the difficulties that make it such a valuable medium; the long open time (where paint will not dry for perhaps many weeks), the propensity for the paint to blend into surrounding paint by accidental brush strokes, and of course, the most obnoxious thinners. Even those thinners that are odourless or made from orange turpentine instead of pine turpentine are somewhat harmful to health. In cases such as these, a medium that is close to oil, but set apart by its binder is commonly substituted, such as acrylic. However, using a completely different medium that displays characteristics that are, for the most part, not oil-like, will reduce the student’s knowledge. Some manufacturers in an attempt to produce a medium that is oil-based, yet easier to use than oil, in terms of the toxicity of the necessary cleaners and thinners, and often also the pigments in the binder themselves, have produced water-based oil paints.
One such company is Winsor & Newton, who produce the Artisan, water-soluble oil paint. Vah Gogh H2Oil is another such brand, and both can be thinned with water, and brushes and equipment cleaned up soapy water. Both of these water-based oil paints have a reasonable selection of colours, although they are nowhere near the amount that some manufacturer’s produce in oil or acrylic, but most students when working in oils will often mix their own colours anyway, thus negating the need for a vast range of colours in-stock at an art store.
Winsor & Newton offer a range of mediums that can extend, fast dry or increase the thickness of their product, Van Gogh seems to offer one medium at present, but because of the interest in low-toxicity, no-smell, oil paints in certain areas, such as schools or enclosed art studios, these ranges are likely going to be extended by their manufacturers in the future.


The colour of oil paint derives from the small particles mixed with the carrier. Common pigment types include mineral salts such as white oxides: lead, zinc and titanium, and the red to yellow cadmium pigments. Another class consists of earth types, e.g sienna or umber. Synthetic pigments are also now available. Natural pigments have the advantage of being well understood through centuries of use but synthetics have a greatly increased the spectrum available, and many are tested well for their lightfastness.


Many of the historical pigments were dangerous. Many toxic pigments, such as emerald green (copper(II)-acetoarsenite) and orpiment (arsenic sulfide), to name only two, have fallen from use. Some pigments still in use are toxic to some degree, however. Many of the reds and yellows are produced using cadmium. Flake white and Cremnitz white are made with basic lead carbonate. The cobalt colors, including cerulean blue, are made with cobalt. Manufacturers advise that care should be taken when using paints with these pigments. They advise never to spray apply toxic paints. Some artists choose to avoid toxic pigments entirely, while others find that the unique properties of the paints more than compensate for the small risks inherent in using them.
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Oil paint".