Sunday, September 27, 2015

Oil Painting Mediums: Safflower Oil

Paint can yellow over time.  This is more of a concern lighter colored pigments.  As linseed oil has a tendency to yellow as it dries, artists and paint makers have found alternative oils for oil painters.  One of the most popular is Safflower Oil. 

Safflower oil is considered a reliable, pale drying oil.  Because it has good color retention and is believed to not yellow over time some prefer its use when making whites or light colored paints.  It is said to give oil paints a satin finish and buttery feel.

Oil Paints Made with Safflower Oil

  • Blick oil paints from Dick Blick are primarily made with first-press, non-yellowing safflower oil (there are 4 exceptions). High Quality Artist Grade Paint and a Good Value.
  • Sennelier are made with first-press, non-yellowing safflower oil. High Quality Artist Grade Paint.
  • RGH Paints have Cremnitz white made with your choice of 4 different oils: RGH Cremnitz White.  They also make pure Titanium and will custom mix with the oil of your choice.  High Quality Hand Made Artist Grade Paint and a Good Value.
  • Winsor and Newton (W&N) have some lighter colors made with safflower oil.  For example Titanium white and Zinc white.  But be careful if you want pure titanium white, W&N's is not pure.  (I talk about that here:  Paint Ingredients: Which White is in the Tube?    Read about the paint labeling inconsistencies: Oil Paint Ingredients.  Read more about choosing white paint: White Paint Ingredients: Lead, Zinc, Titanium).
Not all share the opinion that light colors are best mixed with Safflower Oil: Regarding Safflower Oil and Poppyseed Oil, R&F, the maker of pigment sticks, website states: "But those oils are very slow drying and prone to cracking, whereas linseed oil dries to a tougher, more flexible film."

Artist Jonathan Linton in his 5 year study,  has made some interesting observations about yellowing here: White Test.

Why Oil Paint Yellows is addressed in next month's post.

Artist Grade Safflower Oil vs Food Grade Safflower Oil

You may ask, "Can I use safflower oil from the grocery store?"   This is not the best choice due to the way in which it is produced.   First, there is a question of kitchen oils' purity; there may be additives, such as vitamin e which can hinder or prevent drying.  I recently read a journal article that points to contaminants as the the primary culprit in yellowing (2).  In addition, there is apparantly a wide range of drying ability in safflower oil.  Food grade safflower oil may have an an iodine value (correlates with oil's ability to dry) of as low as 87, where 130 or greater is preferred (1).

1. Knowles, P.F., Variability in oleic and linoleic acid contents of safflower oil, Economic Botany, , Volume 19, Issue 1, pp 53-62

2. Mall├ęgol, Jacky; Lemaire, Jacques; Gardette, Jean-Luc, Yellowing of oil-based paints,
Studies in Conservation Vol. 46, No. 2 (2001), pp. 121-131



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