Everything you need to know before oil out a painting- (Explained & Solved)

Oiling out is the same as you dip a muddy stone in water to see its original colors. Oiling out is one of the best techniques to restore a dull and faded surface into an original painting.

Oiling out means applying a small coating of linseed oil or any other oil over a dry layer to boost the visual performance of the paint layer. It can also be done before the final varnish to get more evenness on the surface.

But how many times can you oil out a painting? Well, you can oil out as many times as you want but make sure you don’t apply so much oil on a single surface. Also, make sure to let the previous layer of oil dry completely before adding another layer of oil.

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Before oiling out, you must have a good knowledge of the fat over lean principle because your paint layer needs to be thinner and must have less oil content in early layers. As you increase the layers, you should use more oil to prevent them from cracking.

When to oil out a painting

When you recently finish some parts of oil painting, you may notice that some parts are more opaque but some are not. Put your oil painting at a perfect angle and try to figure out those areas which are matte. These matte areas are those which have less amount of oil.

In other words, your painting is not even or same because some parts are glossy but some are dull. So, here are some of the common points you must follow to know whether you need to do oil out or not:

  • Some areas will tend to be more absorbent than others
  • You will see unevenness in the surface
  • Some areas will look wet but some will look dull and dry

Which mediums can you use for oiling out a painting?

You can use a variety of mediums to oil out. It just depends on the process which you want to use. Some of the most recommended mediums are:

However, you can use multiple mediums for oiling out but you should test it out on a scrap piece of your canvas first to make sure it won’t damage your painting.

Using linseed oil for oiling out a painting

Winsor & Newton Artisan Linseed Oil, 250ml (8.4-oz) bottle*
Winsor & Newton Artisan Linseed Oil, 250ml (8.4-oz) bottle
 Price: $ 21.69 ($ 2.57 / Fl Oz)
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Linseed oil is a really nice and simple medium for oiling out. It is what the old masters used as well because other products have not existed at that time.

A most common mistake which most artists do with linseed oil is to apply it directly out of the bottle. As it is oil, you have to make sure that you are binding it by fat over lean.

The most important thing you need to keep in mind while working with it is to apply it as thin as possible. You may need to thin it with Gamsol or any other odorless mineral spirit. Just apply a very bare minimum quantity of it onto the painting, You may need the following things to get started:

  • Paintbrush
  • Gamsol
  • Linseed oil


  • First Step: Take out some linseed oil in a small container and mix it well with a paintbrush
  • Second Step: Pour 25% Gamsol in order to thin it
  • Third Step: Now, dip the paintbrush in the mixture and start rubbing the bristle over the matte areas and try to make the surface even and balanced.
  • Fourth Step: Wait for a day to let the oil dry completely

Using Liquin Original to oil out a painting

Winsor & Newton Liquin Original Medium, 500ml (16.9-oz) Bottle*
Winsor & Newton Liquin Original Medium, 500ml (16.9-oz) Bottle
 Price: $ 34.25 ($ 2.03 / Fl Oz)
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Liquin original is a fast-drying medium that not just dries fast itself but also boosts the drying time of oil paints. Using Liquin could be risky which could cause cracks in your oil painting if not used properly.

The best way to use Liquin original is to mix it with Gamsol first because we have to thin it down as little as possible in order to prevent any cracking on the surface.

Pour out some Liquin onto your palette and use a soft brush to mix it well. Now, just dip your brush in Gamsol and mix it with Liquin on your palette. Make sure, you don’t pour out Gamsol but just dip the brush in it.

It is also super important that your painting is dry enough to bare these mediums. You can also test it on any corner of the painting to see if the paint is picked up or not.

Now, gradually oil out the pointed area with just a little quantity of Liquin. Believe me, it would be perfect for the painting.

Using Oleogel to oil out a painting


Oleogel is the same as Liquin in nature but is ideal for oiling out an oil painting. The main advantage of Oleogel is that it does not drip like linseed oil which gives a more better and natural result than linseed oil.

Another reason for using Oleogel is that it has a really good sticky power which allows it to easily stick to the canvas. It is also a slow-drying medium and you should have to work from thin to thick in order to avoid any harmful results. It means, if your paint contains more oil, the slower it will go to dry.

You also gonna need Gamsol to thin it down as we do with Liquin. The whole procedure is the same as we do with Liquin. You need a soft brush through which you can mix Gamsol with this gel to make it thinner and then slowly rub the bristle of the brush onto the canvas where you want to oil it out.

Should I oil out a painting before varnishing?

It is not compulsory to oil out before varnishing. If your painting seems to be balanced with oil layers then you don’t need to oil out. But if you have recently finished your oil painting and you feel that some parts are looking dull then you should oil out before varnishing. Remember to wait for a few months after oiling out to apply varnish.

Oiling out can be only done with those paintings which are made with fat over lean principle. It can be helpful to create evenness and also a glossy finish like a varnish. In other words, you can say that the results of oiling out and varnish are the same but varnish provides protection as a final coating while oiling out does not.

Retouch varnish vs Oiling out

Well, retouch varnish is a temporary protection layer that can last for several months. In other words, it is like a protector of a mobile that temporarily provides protection.

On the other hand, oiling out is done with oils such as linseed oil. The main purpose of oiling out is to provide a natural glow to the painting but some artists also use a retouch varnish for oiling out.

Retouch varnish gets yellow over time which also makes the painting yellowish but oiling out is just a very thin layer of oil which don’t get that much yellowish.

Remember that oil layers don’t provide any protection from dust and dirt. If you are planning to oil out instead of retouching varnish then it will not gonna work. Instead, you can use retouch varnish as the oiling-out medium.

Final Words

Oiling out is beneficial for those paintings which lose their original glossy look due to environmental conditions. You can oil out a single painting many times but remember not to do it so much as a layer of oil increase the drying time for oil paints.

Avoid using a thicker oil such as stand oil. In order to thin down the oil, you can use Gamsol. Remember that thinning down oil is necessary to get the best results with oiling out.


What to use for oiling out a painting?

You can use a variety of mediums such as linseed oil, safflower oil, walnut oil, alkyd, liquid, Oleogel, etc.

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