General Characteristics of Oil Paints

Oil paints have clear pigments, which when mixed with oil make the color layer transparent. They have variable characteristics that make them unique for their various uses, and have been in use since 1400’s in their simplest forms.

The pigments are finely grounded and can come from a variety of sources, which are natural like vegetables, as well as some synthetic formulations that are available today.

See through or transparent property

The word transparent in oil painting means that when pigments mix with oil, they generate a color layer that is transparent in nature.

Opaque colors are useful in producing oil paints and creating harmony while making the color layer reflect in the non-transparent state. Pigments exist in different strengths of the desired dying capacity and come out differently when different materials are used.

It is notable that oil paints have more pigments than other kinds of oils for example acrylic oils. Hence, this makes it easier to create non-transparent applications that are fully covered. Moreover, the opacity nature of the paint enables it to produce colors that are more brilliant and jewel like than other kinds of paints. They are also versatile enough making them easier to thin and wash which is why they are useful for glazing.

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They dry slowly

Apparently, one unique characteristic of oil paints is that they dry slowly than water based paints do. This can be either good or bad depending on the application and desired results. When a painter is working on getting a smooth shade, the extra working time is helpful in making the colors smooth. You can get more details on the importance of oil paint drying times here...

However, when a painter wants to lay down the initial layer with the intention of adding more details, they will have to wait overnight or longer to dry before they can work on it, or else attempting to work on it before it is dry will cause smears.

Viscous texture

Another notable feature of oil paints is that as soon as one squeezes them from the tube they are viscous and thick in nature. The unguent nature causes them to mix well and one can easily combine them with other colors to produce a large number of shades and hues. This is what ancient artists loved about oil paints.


Oil paints are the most durable of the paints used by artists, especially when used correctly. When an artist follows recommended painting rules, which are thick paint over thin or heavy over light paint, as well as using high quality paints on a well-prepared panel or canvas, an oil painting will last for centuries. Ancient painters appreciated this feature about oil paints, and this is the reason why they are still in use widely today.

Higher pigmentation

Oil paints are able to hold more pigments than other kinds of paints, for example, acrylic paints, and this is the reason they are able to cover non-transparent applications and cover them fully.

Additionally, they produce colors that are more brilliant which look like jewels compared to other types of paints. They are actually so versatile that a painter can thin them to a wash like consistency and use for glazing, just as one would use a watercolor paint.

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