Made in the UK, Jackson’s Oil Painting Mediums allow you to truly customise and alter the way your oil paint behaves and looks. From improving flow and transparency for glazes to speeding up drying time – which is ideal for use when working on a wet-on-wet painting. In this blog post, Frances Featherstone experimented with Jackson’s Oil Painting Mediums to find out how she can get the most out of oil painting.
I am a fine artist and have been asked by Jackson’s to test their different Oil Painting Mediums. I have found this task particularly interesting as I had previously reduced the use of mediums in my oil paintings and this has reminded me how useful they can be in changing the drying times and the finish of my paintings.
Mediums I will be trying are:
– Bleached Beeswax Granules
– Fast Drying Oil Painting Medium Gloss
– Alkyd Oil Medium Satin
– ‘Wet in Wet’ Fast Dry Oil Painting Medium
– Gloss Gel Medium
– Refined Linseed Oil
– Glaze Medium
I tested the mediums by painting a daffodil using one of the above mediums (on a Jacksons Gesso 8 inch square gesso panel). These paintings were sold with all the proceeds going to the Ukraine Crisis Relief Fund.
I also created a comparison chart where I tested each medium (using approximately 50% oil/medium ratio) alongside each other using a transparent colour: Ultramarine, an opaque colour; cadmium yellow and titanium white.
Below is the Control Painting, where only oil paint was used, no medium. The paint was much thicker, almost butter-like and was in danger of getting muddy. This took over 2 weeks to dry.
Jackson’s Bleached Beeswax Granules can be used for making beeswax oil mediums, cold wax, and impasto mediums. I made the medium by mixing 100g of bleached beeswax pellets, 100ml damar varnish and 200ml turpentine. It took 5 days until the wax pellets were fully dissolved.
Consistency – Thick and creamy. 50/50 split oil/wax medium.
Smell – Smells really strong. Mixed with damar varnish and turpentine so needs a well ventilated space.
Fluidity – Moves nicely with a brush but a much thicker feel. Feels like its drying when I put it on! The opposite of the ink quality of ‘Fast Drying Medium Gloss’.
Translucency/Transparency – A consistent matt cloudy feel which can be enhanced with the more wax you mix it with. Doesn’t get muddy.
Intensity of Colour – Intensity varies with the ratio of wax to oil paint. A 50/50 mix is less intense than all the other mediums. However, I could build it up quickly because of its fast curing to be comparable or I could change the ratio mix by adding more pigment.
Finish – Can create texture and ridges or apply it smooth. Dries matt but you can apply a varnish after it is dry if you would like a gloss look.
White Test – Mixing with titanium white. Doesn’t look like any visible discolouration, just less intense.
Daffodil Test – I had to build the painting up because the intensity wasn’t there in the initial layers. However, I could do that really quickly because it dried so quickly. Had a three-dimensional look to it because of the impasto. Similar to the ‘Control’ painting but matt.
Test Comparison Chart – The thickest impasto medium. Less intense colour compared to the others with a 50/50 split of medium and oil paint.
Drying time – Really quick. Felt the quickest when painting my daffodil. Thin layer touch dry in less than half an hour. However thicker applications will apparently skin-over but might still be soft underneath and could take around 6 months to be hard.
Jackson’s Fast Drying Oil Painting Medium Gloss is an oil modified alkyd resin, which speeds drying, improves flow and transparency.
Consistency – smooth flowing liquid, a bit like ink.
Smell – it does have an aromatic smell, but not noticeable in the studio.
Fluidity – has a lovely flow and extends fluidity of the oil paint if you want to paint fine detail or long brushstrokes. Doesn’t seem to get muddy.
Translucency /Transparency – Definitely increases translucency and fluidity but I found that I could still get intensity.
Intensity of Colour – No noticeable loss of intensity of oil colour, in fact I think this medium gave the most intense colour out of all the mediums I tried.
Finish – A consistent gloss, no dull patches. Hard to build up impasto.
White Test – No noticeable discolouration with Titanium White.
Daffodil Test – The painting was much more fluid and therefore had less texture in the painting. Intensity of colour was the same as default and the overall finish had a nice gloss. Similar look to how a painting looks after a gloss varnish. Was totally dry after 24 hours compared to almost two weeks with the “control painting”. This was also because in the control painting there were parts which were more built up because no oil medium was used. The only noticeable difference between the two paintings was the thickness of the paint. The one painted with the medium had very little texture. Of course, one then could add those thick textural stokes on top without the medium or with very little medium.
Test Comparison Chart – the glossiest medium on a par with linseed oil and actually a similar flow to linseed oil too. Smooth consistent finish, brush hair lines of stroke marks indistinguishable. The fastest drier (with the Glaze Medium) and the glossiest with linseed oil.
Drying time – Within an of hour already filmed over and sticky to touch. 5hrs totally dry. Fastest drier.
Jackson’s Alkyd Oil Medium Satin is a free flowing slightly thixotropic medium with an alkyd based. This medium will not increase gloss when added to oil colours. Fast drying and non-yellowing. Use this medium to thin oil paint.
Consistency – Feels thicker than most of the other mediums but flows well. Gel like.
Smell – There is a slight smell but not unpleasant or intense. May cause irritation but I had no problems and didn’t notice the smell in my studio. Always worth keeping studio well ventilated though.
Fluidity – Slightly thicker than ‘Refined Linseed Oil’ and ‘Fast Drying Gloss Medium Gloss’ and with a lovely flow. Doesn’t seem to get muddy.
Translucency/ Transparency – Less transparent than ‘Refined Linseed Oil’ and ‘Fast Drying Gloss Medium Gloss’. Has a definite satin feel.
Intensity of Colour – The colour is slightly more matt and slightly less intense but hardly noticeable, especially in my daffodil painting.
Finish – A matter cloudier finish on my chart but in comparison with my daffodil paintings I couldn’t notice any difference between this and the ‘Fast Drying Gloss Medium Gloss’ and my ‘Control’ painting. The main difference was texture. Using a medium really thins down the paint. Obviously, you can get thicker paint by adding less medium but it is hard to get that thick impasto feel.
White Test – No noticeable discolouration.
Daffodil Test – Not as quick as ‘Fast Drying Medium Gloss’. After 3 days thicker areas with less medium were still wet. A slight satin look to it compared to the others.
Test Comparison Chart – Looks similar to the ‘Fast Drying Medium Gloss’ but with a satin gloss and slightly slower drying time.
Drying time – Quick drying. On my chart was totally dry in 7 hours. The ‘Fast Drying Oil Medium Gloss’ and ‘Glaze medium’ though were quicker by a couple of hours.
Jackson’s ‘Wet in Wet’ Fast Dry Oil Painting Medium dramatically speeds up the drying time for oil paint and is ideal for use when working on a wet-on-wet painting. This product helps to ‘wet’ or thin the oil paint for a smoother ink like consistency. It creates an even paint film without dry spots. It thins paint without making it brittle and allows paint to be moved without the colour becoming muddy. Wet-in-Wet medium gives a slightly glossy finish to a dry painting.
Consistency – Similar to linseed oil.
Smell – Strong smelling so recommend a well-ventilated studio.
Fluidity – Felt very fluid to work with and felt quite moveable without getting muddy colours.
Translucency/Transparency – Very transparent, had to have almost pure cadmium yellow pigment to go over the darker areas.
Intensity of Colour – Good intensity of colour.
Finish – Consistent sheen and no dull patches.
White Test – No noticeable discolouration.
Daffodil Test – To be honest looks very similar to the others. Just a less impasto feel to the ‘control’ painting and a bit more of a satin feel.
Test Comparison Chart – Looks very similar to the ‘Alkyd Oil Medium Satin’. They both leave a slight trail of brush marks and more of a satin feel compared to ‘Fast Drying Oil Medium Gloss’ and ‘Linseed Oil’.
Drying time – Was slower to dry on the test comparison chart. Was sticky after the first day. So probably could have safely added another layer on top without interfering with the layer below too much. However, felt totally touch dry with no stickiness after 3 days.
Jackson’s Gloss Gel Medium is a clear medium based on a synthetic resin accelerates drying of oil colour and improves their weather resistance. Ideal for glazing and extending colours while retaining gloss, viscosity and structure of paint. Fast drying.
Consistency – transparent brown gel, thick in jar. However, becomes fluid quickly when applied to the palette and oil paint.
Smell – Strong smelling, recommend working in a well-ventilated studio.
Fluidity – Fluid but holds brush marks.
Translucency/Transparency – Bit more translucent than some of the others but seeing the brush marks means it is more translucent in parts.
Intensity of Colour – Due to its translucency it is a little bit less intense.
Finish – Can build up a texture with it. Not as much as the ‘Beeswax Medium’ but not bad. Glossy but not as glossy as ‘Fast Drying Painting Medium Gloss’.
White Test – Doesn’t look like any discolouration, just less intense.
Test Comparison Chart – Stands out from the others with a more gel look about it.
Drying time – Dries quickly but remains sticky to touch for a couple days.
Jackson’s Refined Linseed Oil increases gloss, thins paint and slows drying time. Add to painting mediums to increase ‘fat’. Pale in colour.
Consistency – Free flowing slightly yellow liquid.
Smell – Smells fine not strong.
Fluidity – Really fluid. Bit like the ‘fast Drying Oil Medium Gloss’.
Translucency/Transparency – Very translucent and transparent. Obviously depends on your ratio. Danger of getting your paint muddy because it stays wet for so long. I guess if it gets too muddy you can scrape it off.
Intensity of Colour – Rich similar to ‘fast Drying Oil Medium Gloss’.
Finish – Smooth and glossy.
White Test – No noticeable discolouration of white.
Test Comparison Chart – Probably the closest to ‘fast Drying Oil Medium Gloss’. But instead of fast drying it is the opposite!
Drying time – Starting to be touch dry after 6 days.
Jackson’s Oil Glaze Medium is ideal for thin glazes, fine detail and smooth brush work. Mix with oil colour to increase translucency and flow.
Consistency – Brown translucent thin liquid.
Smell – Strong smelling, need a well-ventilated space.
Fluidity – Very fluid.
Translucency/Transparency – Very translucent and transparent.
Intensity of Colour – Pretty similar to the others probably not as much as ‘Fast Drying Oil Medium Gloss’. However, because it’s so translucent you can make it more intense by building up the layers.
Finish – Very consistent with very little evidence of brushmarks.
White Test – No noticeable discolouration using it with titanium white.
Daffodil Test – I didn’t paint a daffodil with this but normally you would do an underpainting and then glaze on top.
Test Comparison Chart – Not as shiny as “fast Drying Oil Painting Gloss’. It is probably the smoothest medium, with little evidence of brushmarks.
Drying time – Really quick. On a par with ‘fast Drying Oil Medium Gloss’. Feels tacky quite quickly. Touch dry in 5hrs.
I was very impressed by ‘Fast Drying Oil Medium Gloss’. It dried the quickest and seemed to have the most intense colour. It was very similar to linseed oil. So, if I wanted to paint something which dried quickly I would definitely use this. A medium very useful for plein-air painting. I also liked that it had an aromatic smell and is not harmful.
I would use ‘Alkyd Oil Medium’ if I wanted something similar to ‘Fast Drying Oil Medium Gloss’ but wanted more of a Satin Feel. If I wanted something to stay wet and moveable for a very long time I would use Linseed Oil. Really good for blending. Lovely gloss and colour strength is still very good. Danger of getting muddy colours though! This is a ‘fat’ medium so it is worth remembering the rule of ‘fat over lean’ and use this in the middle and final layers of your painting. Remember oil paints are usually just made up of pigment bound in oil and that usually is linseed oil.
The ‘Glaze Medium’ was perfect, quick drying and had a very smooth consistency so if I want to glaze a painting (change hue/tone/temperature) I would use this.
I’m very excited to experiment with the ‘Wax Medium’. It is the first time I have made it and used it. I love the texture you can create with it, smooth like butter or rough ridges. I also like how matt it is. Great to use with a palette knife!
The ‘Wet in Wet’ fast dry oil medium I found kept the paint wetter than the ‘Fast Drying Oil Medium Gloss’ so I guess I could use this if I didn’t want it to dry so quickly.
The Gloss Gel Medium would be good to use if I wanted a bit more body in my paint and wanted it to dry quicker. One thing I also noticed about using mediums apart from linseed oil was that it’s harder to get the paint muddy. They seemed to stick very well to the panel. Apart from the Beeswax I think you could use them all for glazing although you would be waiting a very long time with linseed oil! And they all would really help/control with fine detail or line work (again apart from Beeswax). They all extend/thin the paint and to varying degrees reduce the intensity making the colour lighter.
I’m so pleased that my Daffodil paintings have raised over £1000 to support the Ukraine Crisis Relief Fund . Using these mediums has meant I have been able to post them out to their buyers much more quickly than if I had used pure oil. They also have that finished varnished look about them (apart from the wax medium one). Now before I start a painting I will be thinking about whether I want to use a medium and if so which one!
About Frances Featherstone
Frances Featherstone is an award-winning artist based in East Sussex. She won the ING Discerning Eye Chair’s Prize 2021, She won Sky Arts Portrait Artist of the Week Twice. She has exhibited with the Royal Society of Oil Painters, The Society of Women Artists, regularly exhibits at The Affordable Art Fair, and in various galleries in London and elsewhere. In May she is running a 5 week online workshop with Washington Studio School called ‘Finding Confidence, Freedom and Expression in Oils‘.
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