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GLAZED OVER: How not to waste paint

Updated: Sep 16, 2019

I hope my simple checklists based on practical application will help any newcomers to oil painting. If nothing else, they serve as a useful revision tool for me!

I used to be really mean with my paint until I discovered these paint-saving tips. So if the cost of oil paint makes you wince every time you squeeze too much on to your palette or allow a tube to dry out, read on:

1. Scrape off any unused paint from your palette onto a piece of glass. Submerge the glass in a pan of  cold water - I use a stainless steel instrument tray. The paint will keep happily until your next painting session. Even if the paint leftover on your palette is all mixed up, it’s still worth saving as it makes a useful neutral base. And you can use it to tone down strong colours. Just scrape it up and mix it until you have a solid colour. If you have a large amount, place it in an air-tight jar where it will keep for months. It’s best to leave any really intense modern colours out of the mix (phthalo blue just keeps on giving).

2. If like me you sometimes have trouble screwing the tops back onto your paint tubes, try stopping the tube with a blob of  “blu tack” mastic putty. It’s easy to peel off and replace.

3. Invest in a "tube squeezer" to help you get every last drop of paint from a tube. You’ll find it’s addictive…no tube in my house (from toothpaste to tomato puree) was safe once I got my hands on this strangely satisfying gadget.

4. If you like to paint thickly, try adding a painting butter like Lukas Alkyd Medium 5 to your oil paint. It allows you to paint in a heavy impasto-style without wasting pigment and it reduces drying time. There are downsides:  it will thin the paint’s colour slightly, and, as I found to my cost, it may give you a thumping headache unless you have really good ventilation.

5. Many artists say that to use the cheaper students' paint ranges is a false economy as they don’t have the same intensity of colour as the more expensive artists’ ranges (they have less pure pigment and more fillers). I agree but find the cheaper ranges are fine for underpainting and earth colours where you don’t need the same strength of colour. 

Colour swatches help me to plan my palette...more about that in a future post

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