Art Supplies - Learn All About Linseed Oil

While out walking on the South Downs on vacation in England recently, we came upon a field of Linseed plants in flower. As Linseed oil is a component and binder used in the production of artists’ oil paints, and is usually found in our art supplies kit, I am sharing the information on this plant. Knowing how our art materials are created is useful in that it helps us get a better understanding of the range of possibilities offered by these materials.

The flower is a delicate blue on a spindly plant about 2 ft. in height.

Linseed oil is also know as flax seed oil and comes from the plant Linum usitatissimum.

The dried seeds of the flax/linseed plant are usually harvested in September and then cold pressed to extract the linseed or flax oil. The oil is used in many different ways including as a food supplement. Linseed oil is also used in varnishes and wood finishes.

An ingredient in oil paints, linseed oil is used as a pigment binder. Most oil painters have a small bottle of this oil in their art supplies.

** Be aware of the extremely flammable nature of linseed oil. It has a low flash point and has been know to combust in hot weather if left on oil rags. This is due to the process of oxidation that occurs when the oil is drying - this generates heat – combine that with a hot room and you have a recipe for trouble.

A few drops of refined linseed oil can be mixed into oil paint that is getting a bit stiff and old to revive the paint mixture. Use a palette knife to incorporate the linseed oil into the paint. It will restore the paint to a creamy texture and extend the life of your paint supply. If you buy paint in larger quantities (such as white or ultramarine blue or yellow) in cans, it is easy to mix in the linseed oil.

Use linseed oil to thin oil colors and increase their brilliance and transparency.

User note – cold pressed unrefined Linseed oil increases the tendency of white and lighter colors to yellow over time.

Stand Oil (aka Linseed oil) when mixed with 50% solvent will create transparent surfaces with no brush stroke marks – Use of this Stand oil mixture achieves surfaces similar to those achieved by the Old Dutch Masters.

For additional information on Oil Painting Mediums there is no finer resource than the website of Gamblin Artist Colors – visit them at – they really know their stuff when it comes to paint and pigment of all kinds.

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