4 Keys to Understanding Alkyds in Oil Painting

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Griffin Alkyd oil colors

What are alkyds in oil painting and why would you want to consider using them?

Have you seen alkyds at your local hobby shop or online art store and have wondered if you should give them a try?

I tried alkyds and with good success, so I thought I would share my experience and tell you what I learned about them.

Alkyd paints are proven to display optimum color retention because of the greater pigment density, and excellent durability with a rapid drying time.

Alkyd paints and their accompanying mediums are a fairly new painting selection that is fully compatible with oil paints.

Commonly referred to as the happy compromise between acrylic and oil paints, alkyds are fast drying like acrylic paints, but are well suited for oil painting and glazing techniques.

Alkyd oil colors are made with an alkyd resin binder. The resin binder creates a chemical reaction that causes the paint to dry very quickly, just like acrylic paints.

The binder does not contain oil like linseed oil, and therefore eliminates the yellowing or cracking tendency seen with oil paints.

Alkyd paints are proven to display optimum color retention because of the greater pigment density, and excellent durability with a rapid drying time.

Just to let you know, all of the product links in this article are affiliate links. That means I get a small commission if you buy anything, but it doesn’t cost you any extra. Don’t worry, I’m always honest, open, impartial with my reviews – I only recommend the good stuff – but this affiliate income helps keep the site running.

When choosing to paint with Alkyds, you have two choices:

  1. Buy an Alkyd tube oil paint
  2. Buy a liquid Alkyd medium and mix with your regular oil paints

Making the shift to Alkyd oil painting mediums

After experimenting for some time with tube alkyd paints, I made the switch over to using Alkyd fast-drying mediums with my regular tube oil colors.

This was the combination that worked best for me when I was a student and that I still use today.

I find that mixing a little alkyd medium into my regular painting medium and using my regular tube oils is the right choice for me. I can control exactly how much drying time I need by adjusting the amount of the alkyd.

It is fast and easy to do it this way and also the least expensive.

Let's look at these choices in detail. I have used two different kinds of tube alkyd oil paints and two different alkyd mediums.

Alkyd Oil Paints & Mediums - Quick Comparison Guide

RatingBrand NameQuality Grade & Price
1Schmincke Mussini OilsBUY NOW ON AMAZONProfessional
Very Expensive ($$$$)
2Galkyd medium by GamblinBUY NOW ON AMAZONStudent/Professional
Affordable ($$)
3Griffin Alkyds by Winsor & Newton oil colorsBUY NOW ON AMAZONStudent
Inexpensive ($)
4Liquin Original by Winsor & NewtonBUY NOW ON AMAZONStudent/Professional
Affordable ($$)

#1. Schmincke Mussini Oils 

Schmincke Mussini Oils

Price: Very Expensive ($$$$)

Quality Grade: Professional

Schmincke Mussini Oils contain superior natural resins for a balanced drying process with reduced aging and long-term cracking. Good for painting in layers and for glazing techniques.

Review: I was given a set of these oil paints one time as a gift. The brightness and intensity of the colors were what most excited me about this brand. These oils use an alkyd resin as a base, and so dry very quickly, in most cases overnight. You get the luster of oils combined with the convenience of fast drying time like acrylic paint. This paint also resists yellowing and cracking, which can be a problem with conventional oil paints. Try this brand if you need exceptional glazing capacity. This brand is superior in every way. Highly recommended for the professional painter.

#2. Galkyd medium by Gamblin 

Galkyd medium by Gamblin
I give Galkyd medium by Gamblin my Best Value award. This medium is the best, most economical way to add fast drying alkyds to your painting regime.

Price: Affordable ($$)

Quality Grade: Student/Professional

Over the years I have used two alkyd liquid mediums: Galkyd by Gamblin and Japan Dryer. Galkyd by Gamblin has become my favorite.

Galkyd medium by Gamblin contains natural resins for a balanced drying process with reduced aging and long-term cracking. Good for painting in layers and for glazing techniques.

Review: I first started using Galkyd when I was a student at the Art Students' League of New York. And I have never looked back. This is my first choice for an alkyd painting medium. I mix a little of this with my regular painting medium to get just the right amount of quick drying time for my painting sessions. If I need a quicker drying time, I just add a little more Galkyd to the mix. If I need a slower drying time, then I just use less. I recommend that you experiment with this medium and see what works best for you.


#3. Griffin Alkyd oil colors 

Griffin Alkyd oil colors

Price: Inexpensive ($)

Quality Grade: Student/Professional

Review:  I used this brand when I was a student at the Art Students' League of New York. At the time I was experimenting with ways to speed up the drying time of my student paintings. We would work on paintings two to three times during the week and I needed the painting to dry between these quickly-occurring sessions. This was the first alkyd paint I tried. I picked this one because of the low price point. It was an excellent paint and performed very well for my needs. The color pigments were excellent. I would certainly recommend this brand for students as well as professionals.

Griffin Alkyd oil colors give you the quality of a professional oil paint at an economical price point.

4 Keys to Using Alkyds in Oil Painting

#1. Alkyds and Mixing Mediums

Alkyds can be used in combination with oil paints and their standard mediums, or on their own with the medium Liquin. They cannot be mixed with any other mediums.

Liquin oil painting medium by Winsor & Newton

If used in conjunction with oil paints, alkyds can be blended to dry slower, with more characteristics of oils.

If used alone, alkyds will mimic acrylic paints, drying just slightly longer at an even rate and to an even gloss, regardless of color.

Liquin will act like oil painting mediums by making the naturally thick/stiff paint thin and buttery, but instead of slowing down the drying time as most oil mediums do, using Liquin will enable the paint to dry at the same rate and consistency of the alkyds.

#2. Blending with Alkyds

As a result of their fast drying time, alkyds should be used in small amounts at a time so as not to waste any paint. It is best not to apply more pigment to the palette than can be used in a day of painting.

Alkyds blend easily for the first 40 minutes or so, depending on the heaviness of the applied coat. As the paint begins to dry, the paint will start to lift while working, especially if soft, feathery strokes are used with the brush.

Pressure will reactivate sticky paint, but it is best if the blending can be completed at a quicker rate in order to avoid this problem. Since blending needs to be done fairly fast, then it is necessary to take a different approach to glazing than you might with oil paints.

For example, avoid blocking in dark, mid and light value colors in order to blend them together in one sitting. Instead, begin by blocking and blending only two value colors, such as dark and mid value, before adding the light colors.

#3. Layer, after Layer, after Layer…

Because alkyds dry quicker than oils, the surface will not take long to dry before the next layer or glaze can be applied.

Generally, a surface painted with alkyds will dry within 8 to 10 hours, after which it will be ready for another coat.

Consequently, it also will not take as long to dry before a final picture varnish can be applied as the last coat.

A traditional oil painting usually requires 6 months to dry before a varnish can be applied in order to avoid cracking, but an alkyd painting can be varnished only 30 days after completion.

#4. Does it work for you?

It is widely believed that most oil painters adapt well to painting with alkyds because of the strong similarities, but it takes time to get used to the rapid drying.

Some recommend first integrating some alkyds into standard oil painting, and then gradually adding more while decreasing the use of oil paints.

I believe that this theory is worth a try, if a faster drying time is needed. However, in the end you just may find that the slower drying qualities of oil paints are what your painting techniques require.

Let us know about your experience with alkyds in the comments below.

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This Post Has 6 Comments

    1. Gary Bolyer Fine Art

      Thanks for your comments. I have worked with alkyds quite a bit and find them useful in many applications, especially when I need the drying time of acrylics. I wil take a look at your article on watercolors. Thanks again.

  1. Cindee smith

    Hi Gary,
    Thanks for great information. I am keen to try the technique that I believe uses Alkyd oil paints.
    I m wondering if you know how to create a mottly/spotty effect that the artist Thornton Walker uses in selected paintings. Website—-thorntonwalker.com.au
    The painting of the man running away with his back to us and from waist down uses the effect on the dark parts of the painting.
    I am hoping you can help me with this unusual effect that looks like some sort of Chemical reaction.
    Thank you

  2. Gary Shollenberger

    Gary, I see this is an old post, but I’m just seeing it for the first time. I trust another brand that you didn’t mention called C.A.S Alkypro. They claim to be the first truly professional line of alkyd oil paints. They are certainly the best I’ve ever used. Pigment loads are very high too. I just recently discovered another professional alkyd line by DaVinci paints. So it seems alkyds are taking hold. As a former acrylic and watercolor painter, I like the drying times of these paints. I can still use regular oils with them when I need more time to blend, but rarely do I need that much time. It seems to me that alkyd oils are the perfect paint and a fine replacement for slow drying and tricky to use oil paints. I’ve switched almost exclusively over to the alkyd paints. If you’re still replying to this old post, let me know what you think. Thanks, Gary Shollenberger

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