Testing out Water Mixable Oil Paints

There are numerous water-mixable oil paints in the market and one of the local art supplies here in Singapore carries "Cobra" from Royal Talens and fortunately they have the full range of hues to choose from. The main reason why I chose to paint with water mixable oil paints now is, I want to paint without having to use solvents. When I use solvents like turpentine (whether it is with odour or without), I would develop a headache within 10-15 minutes of using it. Once this problem is solved, I would be able to enjoy the entire painting process. So for water mixable oil paints, instead of using solvents like turpentine or alkyd to thin the paints, water is used; no odour and no toxic fumes, therefore no side effects, and the bulk of the problems of painting with solvent gone.


These are the basic hues I bought, 40ml tubes: Zinc white, Titanium white, Cadmium Yellow Lemon, Permanent Yellow Medium, Yellow Ochre, Cadmium Orange, Cad Red Medium, Primary Magenta, Greyish Blue, Ultramarine, Cobalt Blue, Phthalo Blue, Sap Green, Ivory Black, Burnt Umber and Burnt Sienna.

The hues tested on oil colour paper from a pad.

I also find that the paint itself allows for smooth and yet buttery application, even when thinned with water. However if thinned too much with water, the paints might have a quicker drying time and the paint may become too tacky and difficult to work on later. This would be good if I am painting the first block-in that requires a second layer of paint. However the paints even after thinning with water, remain moist and workable for at least 8 hours. According to some reviews found online, Cobra's water-mixable oil paints is the softest and closest to acrylic paint compared to other brands of water-mixable oil paints.

To make the paints richer and fatter, I use Van Gogh H2Oil painting medium.

You can mix this medium with water half and half in a container to be brought out for plein air painting without much fuss too.

Otherwise you may use this medium straight from the bottle and mix it as you paint. This would also prolong drying time on canvas to enhance blending and workability with subsequent layers of paint.

It is also perfectly alright not to use this medium as well. You can use varying amount of water to thin the paints as you progress with the painting. You can thin more for the first layer and gradually reduce the amount of water for the second layer. Eventually you may paint direct from the tube as though you are painting alla prima.

Here are the steps I took to paint with the water mixable oil.

I am using a standing easel. Using G-clamps I placed a horizontal piece of wood to support my oil paper pad so that it is at about eye level. I placed my reference picture just below my painting support.

1. The block-in was done with black acrylic paint so the quick drying time would allow me to paint over almost immediately.

2. Next I block in with oil paints (thinned with water alone) and thus adding colors over the first monochromatic sketch.

The amount of water I added for thinning was estimated, just as long as I could get a good consistency and fluidity on my oil paper.

This layer dried pretty quickly so I was ready to paint over the second layer within 10 minutes.

3. Next I block in the lights with slightly thicker paints (thinned with lesser water).





For this layer, I began to use the oil painting medium instead of water to thin the paints.


Finally I added more details and worked the lights in to increase the contrast.


Just like the regular oil, the water mixable oil can be laid down in many smooth thin layers (glazing) or can be applied in thick wet layer by direct painting. Even with water mixable oil, the paint should be applied fat over lean to improve on the integrity of the paint on canvas, or to prevent cracking over time.

There are tons of information about water mixable oils in the internet. I got a lot of useful tips and instructions from many websites, and I am still getting the hang of using the new oils. So far I am loving the results.



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