4 Keys to Understanding Alkyds in Oil Painting

What are alkyd paints and why would you want to consider using them?

Alkyd paint is a fairly new painting medium that is fully compatible with oil paints

Commonly referred to as the happy compromise between acrylic and oil paints, alkyds are fast drying like acrylic paints, but are well suited for oil painting and glazing techniques.

Alkyds can be blended with any oil paints to speed drying time

Alkyd colors are made with an alkyd resin binder. The binder does not contain oil like linseed oil, and therefore eliminates the yellowing or cracking tendency seen with oil paints. Alkyds are proven to display optimum color retention because of the greater pigment density, and excellent durability with a rapid drying time.

#1. Alkyds and Mixing Mediums
Alkyds can be used in combination with oil paints and their standard mediums, or on their own with the medium Liquin. They cannot be mixed with any other mediums. If used in conjunction with oil paints, alkyds can be blended to dry slower, with more characteristics of oils. If used alone, alkyds will mimic acrylic paints, drying just slightly longer at an even rate and to an even gloss, regardless of color. Liquin will act like oil painting mediums by making the naturally thick/stiff paint thin and buttery, but instead of slowing down the drying time as most oil mediums do, using Liquin will enable the paint to dry at the same rate and consistency of the alkyds.

#2. Blending with Alkyds
As a result of their fast drying time, alkyds should be used in small amounts at a time so as not to waste any paint. It is best not to apply more pigment to the palette than can be used in a day of painting. Alkyds blend easily for the first 40 minutes or so, depending on the heaviness of the applied coat. As the paint begins to dry, the paint will start to lift while working, especially if soft, feathery strokes are used with the brush. Pressure will reactivate sticky paint, but it is best if the blending can be completed at a quicker rate in order to avoid this problem. Since blending needs to be done fairly fast, then it is necessary to take a different approach to glazing than you might with oil paints. For example, avoid blocking in dark, mid and light value colors in order to blend them together in one sitting. Instead, begin by blocking and blending only two value colors, such as dark and mid value, before adding the light colors.

#3. Layer, after Layer, after Layer…
Because alkyds dry quicker than oils, the surface will not take long to dry before the next layer or glaze can be applied. Generally, a surface painted with alkyds will dry within 8 to 10 hours, after which it will be ready for another coat. Consequently, it also will not take as long to dry before a final picture varnish can be applied as the last coat. A traditional oil painting usually requires 6 months to dry before a varnish can be applied in order to avoid cracking, but an alkyd painting can be varnished only 30 days after completion.

#4.  Does it work for you?
It is widely believed that most oil painters adapt well to painting with alkyds because of the strong similarities, but it takes time to get used to the rapid drying. Some recommend first integrating some alkyds into standard oil painting, and then gradually adding more while decreasing the use of oil paints. I believe that this theory is worth a try, if a faster drying time is needed. However, in the end you just may find that the slower drying qualities of oil paints are what your painting techniques require.


About Gary Bolyer Fine Art

I am a New York City-based landscape artist.
This entry was posted in How to Paint in Oils and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to 4 Keys to Understanding Alkyds in Oil Painting

  1. Vasare says:

    great post, I love articles about different paint reviews I did one as well recently about watercolour ink have a look if you like.


    • Thanks for your comments. I have worked with alkyds quite a bit and find them useful in many applications, especially when I need the drying time of acrylics. I wil take a look at your article on watercolors. Thanks again.

  2. Pingback: Gary Bolyer’s Top 7 How-to-Paint Blogs | Gary Bolyer Fine Art

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