Oil Painting Without A Medium – Artist Advice

Ever wondered if you could make an oil painting without medium? The short answer ‘yes’, but there is more you should know about this answer because there is medium already added to most commercially purchased oil paints.

This is so that the powder pigment used to make oil paint is ready to use from the tube. 

If you are using absolutely zero medium, then you would be trying to paint with powder. 

And this is impossible to do from an oil painting perspective. What you may be really asking is, can you make an oil painting without adding additional medium?

Can you make an oil painting without adding additional medium

Then the answer is a flat out yes, you can make an oil painting without adding additional medium.

The results will vary depending on the quality of oil paints that you are using as some may come with more or less medium out of the tube.  

Some paints that contain less medium in the tube will give you matte results while cheaper oil paint brands which are usually loaded up with linseed oil will give you a glossier finish. 

It took me a while to work out how much medium I needed and what I prefer in my oil paintings.

When I was much younger, I started using oil paints without any medium (because I purchased cheap paints that were heavily loaded with medium in the tube) and now I tend to buy high quality paints that do not require additional medium. 

What is a medium in oil painting? 

In painting, a medium is a liquid or gel that is added to the paint to change its consistency and drying time. In oil painting this is usually an oil such as linseed oil (hence the use of oil in oil painting). 

The most commonly used mediums in oil painting are linseed, poppy, safflower and sunflower oil, turpentine, and alkyd mediums.

I’ll summarize below what each other but I have some other articles that cover each in more detail.  

Oils such as Linseed oil are an all-natural and cost-effective medium that can be easily sourced, making it the go-to choice for many artists. Derived from flax seeds, this oil has a range of uses in artistry due to its versatility. The great thing about using oils is that they are slow drying and give the oil paint artist time complete their work over hours and days depending on how much oil and medium they mix with their paints. 

Turpentine is also a popular medium, but it is a petroleum-based product and has a strong odor. Adding turpentine also tends to speed up the drying time of oil paint as it helps with the oxidization of the existing oils by thinning them out. 

Alkyd mediums, a relatively modern invention made from synthetic resins, are now widely used in painting materials. They are more expensive than linseed oil and turpentine, but they dry faster and have a glossier finish. They also give the paint a more permanent plastic coating that can make it harder to restore or repaint works. 

5 Advantages of oil painting without medium 

So why make an oil painting without mediums? There are several advantages to painting without mediums.  

• The first advantage is that you have more control over the paint assuming that you have purchased a good quality paint to start with. 

• When you paint without adding additional mediums the paint is thicker and buttery. This means that you can achieve a more precise application of the paint and you have more control over the brushstrokes, it also works best with a painting or palette knife

• Another advantage of oil painting without mediums is that the paint dries faster. This is a huge advantage for artists who work quickly and want to finish a painting in one sitting. If you are this type or artist, have you considered working with acrylic paint instead as this is more suited to your style? 

• Additionally, paintings that are done without mediums tend to have a more matte finish. This can be a great advantage for artists who are looking for a more natural look in their paintings. 

• Another advantage of painting without mediums is that it is more cost-effective.  

Preparing to paint without medium 

Before you start oil painting without mediums, there are a few things that you need to know:  

  • Use oil paint that has a high percentage of pigment to oil ratio. This paint is thicker and more buttery than traditional oil paint, and it is specially formulated to be used without mediums. You can find oil paint that is made for painting without mediums at most art supply stores. 
  • Once you have your paint, you will need to mix it properly to ensure whatever amount of medium that came with the paint is evenly mixed in.  
  • To mix the paint, you will need a palette, brushes, and a palette knife. The process of mixing the paint is simple. First, squeeze a small amount of paint onto your palette then using your palette knife, mix the paint until it is smooth. Once the paint is thoroughly mixed, you can start painting. 

Techniques for painting without medium 

When you are painting without mediums, there are several techniques that you can use to achieve different effects in your painting.  


The first technique is layering. Layering is a technique where you apply multiple layers of paint to achieve a certain effect.  

When you are layering, it is important to let each layer dry completely before applying the next one. 


Another technique that you can use when painting without mediums is glazing. Glazing is a technique where you apply a thin layer of paint over a dried layer of paint.  

This technique can be used to achieve a translucent effect and can also be used to add depth and dimension to your painting. When glazing, it is important to use a very thin layer of paint and to work in small sections. 


Impasto is another technique that can be used when painting without mediums. Impasto is a technique where you apply thick, buttery paint to the canvas.  

This technique can be used to create texture and depth in your painting. When using impasto, it is important to use a palette knife instead of a brush, as this will help you to achieve the thick, buttery paint that is needed for this technique. 

Common challenges and solutions when painting without a medium 

When making an oil painting without medium, there are a few common challenges that you might face.  

Paint dries too quickly 

One of the most common challenges is that the paint can dry too quickly. This can make it difficult to work with and can also make it difficult to achieve a smooth finish.  

To overcome this challenge, you can add a small amount of linseed oil to your paint. This will help to slow down the drying time and make the paint more manageable. 

This leads to also using more oil paint than usual. 

If this is a problem you come across then you may need to add some additional medium to slow the process down a bit as I found that when paint dries too quick, that it will start to prematurely crack. 

Using more oil paints 

Oil painting without mediums also means that you will need to use more oil paints than usual.

This is because oil paint has a thicker consistency than other types of paint and therefore requires more oil to achieve the level of coverage needed, especially over canvas. 

Inconsistency in paint 

Another common challenge when painting without mediums is that it can be difficult to achieve the right consistency.  

The solution to this problem is to mix the paint properly and to work in small sections. Also, it is important to use a palette knife instead of a brush, as this will help you to achieve a smoother finish as you get to work and spread the paint more. 

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