Saturday, May 28, 2011

Are Alkyd paints like real oil paints?

The challenge I've set myself is to learn how to paint in oils while in Provence in June.  The results will be documented on Four Go Painting in Provence (see Learning how to paint with oils in Provence).

I've spent today finding out more about Alkyd Paint.  The reason for this is I'd prefer to be using a medium which dries more quickly. This is a summary of what I've found out - and some links to some useful sites.

Are Alkyds like real oil paints?  The answer is Yes - they just dry faster.

Manufacturers of Alkyd Paint
Read on to find out more about how these paints behave.

Characteristics of Alkyd Paint

Here's a summary of the characteristics and performance of alkyd paint.
  • takes less time to dry - if you compare alkyds to conventional oil paint the principle difference lies in the drying time.  They dry much faster than oils and much slower than acrylics.  Paintings can be completed in one session.  Glazing and impasto techniques take much less time.  Thin layers are dry within 24 hours.
All colours in the range remain workable on the palette for 4 to 8 hours, and are touch dry on the canvas in 18 to 24 hours. The drying time will be affected by the thickness of the paint and the temperature of the environment, however. (Winsor & Newton)
  • dry at a consistent rate across the range - different colours of conventional oil paints dry at different rates - depending on a colour and its constituents.  Alkyds dry at a consistent rate across the whole range of colours.  It's possible to build up glazes during the course of a day
  • less time to work - the corollary of drying faster is naturally that artists have less time to work with the paint than if they were using conventional oil paint.  However they have much more time than they would have if using acrylics
  • alkyds combine well with conventional oil paints - alkyd resin and linseed oil bind well together hence you can combine alkyd paint with conventional oil paints with very acceptable results.  If not used as a main paint, they can make an excellent base for oil paint
    • However although oils can be layered over alkyds
    • it's not recommended that alkyds are layered over oils
Oil painting with Griffin Alkyd Fast Drying Oil Colour requires
attention to three conventional oil painting rules:
• Fat over lean (flexible over less flexible). When oil painting in layers, each successive layer must be more flexible than the one underneath. This rule is maintained by adding more  medium (e.g. Liquin) to each successive layer.
• Thick over thin. Thick layers of oil colour are best applied over thin underlayers.
• Due to differences in flexibility, never use Griffin Alkyd Colour on top of conventional oil colours unless the oil colour is completely dry (6-12 months). Conventional oils may, however, be used over Griffin Alkyd Colour.
  • the consistency in some colours is different - but I guess this depends on which colours you use and compared to what
On a scale of 1 to 10 — where 1 is pure plastic and 10 is oil — I would say that acrylics are about a 3 and alkyds are an 8. Some painters describe some of the alkyd colors as sticky
>Mitchell Albala
  • similar life spans - lightfastness and archival qualities depend on the performance of the pigments and chemical used.  For those most part, these are identical to artist grade oil colours and are good quality paints.
  • more transparent - alkyds are less opaque and more transparent than conventional oil paints
  • less likely to sink -  According to W&N.....
the alkyd molecule is larger than that of linseed oil so it maintains a film on surfaces which may tend to be more absorbent.
  • matte surface - Gamblin states that its alkyd paint dries matte.  Winsor & Newton put it slightly differently - but it might mean the same thing!
Alkyd colours dry to a more even reflective surface than traditional oils.
  • harder paint surface when dry - which makes it very durable
  • squeeze out only as much as you need - the quick drying time means they won't be available to use the next day
  • alkyd paintings should not be varnished for three months - despite being touch dry the next day
The main issue for artists in general appears to be whether you can achieve the same effect with normal oil paints and Liquin.  The answer appears to be Yes.

The issue for me is with two cats at home who like to sit up close and get involved with the artwork plus the need to transport wet paintings in my car when painting plein air, I'd rather focus on using paint which has got the drying agent already mixed in!  I'm also more used to producing lots of sketches and fewer formal pieces and it seems to me alkyds are admirably well suited to those who like to sketch.
The fast drying rate of the colors makes them well suited for plein air painters, especially while traveling and transporting freshly painted work.