Linseed oil, also used in oil paintings

Linseed oil, which is a natural food and has good health and beauty effects. Did you know that flaxseed oil is also used in oil paintings? In fact, flaxseed oil paints were already used in Western paintings in the 15th century. I will explain another aspect of flaxseed oil, its relationship with oil painting.

Oil painting and flaxseed oil

There are many oil painting artists such as Van Gogh, Gauguin, Monet, Renoir, Degas, and Cezanne, just by giving impressionists. The thick touch of the oil painting is unique and very attractive. Impressionist exhibitions in Japan are always thriving, and some people may enjoy seeing oil paintings at museums overseas. First, I will explain about oil paintings and the oils used in oil paintings.

Types of oil used in oil painting

Paintings drawn with watercolors that use water as a solvent are called watercolors, while oil paintings are made using paints made by kneading pigments with oil.

The paints used in oil paintings are natural minerals or artificial pigments kneaded with linseed oil or poppy oil to give them transparency, fluidity and adhesion. It does not contain any water and adds oil when diluting the paint.

Oil paints made in this way can be freely created in concentration and spread. Like Van Gogh's "Starry Night", the ones drawn with thick paint and pointillism techniques can be said to be works that you can enjoy the touch unique to oil painting. Because of its thickness, it can be made to look three-dimensional, and depending on how the paint is used, it can be made to look two-dimensional. Oil paints take advantage of the fact that the added oil component hardens, and the paints are fixed on the campus. In the 19th century, Impressionist painters made pigment powder and mixed it with flaxseed oil to make oil paints, resulting in a number of masterpieces. By the way, I found that oil is used for the paints used for oil painting. There are two types of oil, "drying oil" and "volatile oil". Each is explained below.

Oil used in oil paintings. @: Drying oil

Drying oil, as the name implies, is an oil that has the property of drying. Extracted from plants, typical ones are "linseed oil" and "poppy oil". Of these, linseed oil is the most common oil used in oil painting. The component of the oil is "linseed oil" which has a strong yellow color. Flaxseed oil is an oil extracted from flax seeds and is also popular as an edible product. This linseed oil is what we call "linseed oil" in Japan.

Linseed oil containing linolenic acid is said to be the best oil for oil painting because it dries quickly and has excellent adhesion and durability.

Poppy oil, on the other hand, is made of poppy oil. Compared to linseed oil, it tends to turn yellow, dries a little slower, and the strength of the dry part is a little inferior. Oil paints using these oils take in oxygen from the air and form a film. You may have seen a film on the surface of the paint when you take it out of the tube onto a palette and leave it there for a while. Screens painted with drying oil will be glossy and glossy.

Oil used in oil painting A: Volatile oil

As you can imagine from its name, volatile oil is also an oil that dries while volatilizing. This drying rate is a major feature of volatile oils.

Typical examples are "turpentine" and "petrol". Turpentine is made by distilling resin from larch, and petroleum is made from petroleum. Both turpentine and petrol have a strong odor and must be used in a well-ventilated place. The roles of the two oils can be broadly divided into the difference that drying oil "stretches" pigments and volatile oil "dissolves". From this, it is possible to express the presence and extended touch of oil paintings by using drying oil.

Types of drying oil

It turned out that drying oil is good for the stretch and smooth touch unique to oil paintings. Flaxseed oil is also used in this drying oil. From here, let's talk about the drying oils linseed oil and poppy oil.

Linseed oil

Another name for linseed oil is "linseed oil", which is said to be the most important oil for oil painting techniques. The original linseed oil is clear tan, but refined commercial products range from colorless to golden. Linseed oil has the following four major characteristics.

It dries quickly, enhances the adhesion of oil paints, creates a strong coating film, and turns yellow.

Pictures drawn with linseed oil have the property of turning yellow when placed in a dark place such as indoors, but the brightness returns when exposed to light. Whites and pale colors that you want to avoid yellowing may not be linseed oil, but may be used or mixed with other oils.

Poppy oil

Poppy oil is made by extracting from poppy seeds and is one of the most common oils along with linseed oil.

Compared to linseed oil, it takes longer to dry and the film after drying is softer, so it is more prone to cracking.

However, it has less yellowing than linseed oil, so it is partially used where white or pale colors are used. It may also be mixed with linseed oil.

The point that flaxseed oil is excellent

The painting becomes three-dimensional when the paint placed on the canvas is raised with a brush or knife. These unique touches and luster are unique to oil paintings. Drying oil, which is made by kneading pigments with linseed oil, is the best way to create an expression unique to oil paintings. I will explain the mechanism of drying oil paintings and why flaxseed oil is excellent as a drying oil.

How the oil painting dries

Let's see how the oil painting dries. The paints used in oil paintings are pigments with vegetable oil = drying oil kneaded into them.

Linseed oil and poppy oil are the oils, and when these oils harden, they dry out. In the case of watercolor paints, the solvent water evaporates, leaving pigments and adhesives in a dry state, but in the case of oil, the major difference is that it is "solidified" rather than evaporated.

Drying oil consists of glycerin and fatty acids. Of the fatty acids, unsaturated fatty acids have the characteristic of absorbing oxygen in the air and performing "oxidative polymerization". After this oxidative polymerization, the oil molecules bind to each other. After this process, it grows into a three-dimensional structure and is completely "dried". Although it depends on the thickness of the applied paint and the climate, it generally takes about 24 hours to dry with a thin coat, and 6 to 7 days with a thick coat of raised expression.

Why flaxseed oil is a good drying oil

The drying of oil paintings is due to unsaturated fatty acids. Flaxseed oil is rich in this unsaturated fatty acid (linolenic acid).

Linseed oil is characterized by a faster drying time than poppy oil, which is the same drying oil. The effect of abundant linolenic acid not only dries quickly, but also has high adhesion and a strong coating film, all of which are the reasons why flaxseed oil is excellent as a drying oil.

The degree of yellowing is rather strong, but it is possible to use paints that partially use poppy oil for pale colors.


Flaxseed oil, which is popular as an edible product, is actually said to be the most important oil in the world of painting. Due to its high content of linolenic acid, it dries quickly, has high adhesion, and has an excellent function of forming a durable coating film. And above all, you can bring out the charm as an oil painting. Gloss and transparency are unmatched by any other paint. Those who know that flaxseed oil has a very important role in painting and who draw oil paintings as a hobby may be more familiar with linseed oil than ever before. You may also remember flaxseed oil when you appreciate the masterpiece of your favorite painter at a painting exhibition. Few other oils have been used for a long time in both health and art. Even just thinking about that, I think you will become attached to the natural vegetable oil flaxseed oil.

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