Turpentine is the most commonly used thinner for oil-based paints. Although there are some benefits to using it, such as its ideal evaporation rate and the fact that it is colorless and odorless, turpentine can be toxic. Its vapor can cause irritation of the eyes, skin, and respiratory tract when used in an enclosed or poorly ventilated area.
The alternatives to thinning oil paint without turpentine include non-toxic oils such as linseed, poppyseed, safflower, or walnut oil. The most popular turpentine replacement is mineral spirits. Still, other chemical substances like ethyl alcohol and acetone can also be used.
It is best to avoid turpentine unless you are wearing protective gloves and goggles at all times. But if you are willing to experiment with better and natural alternatives, let’s dive into the list of the best turpentine replacements with our article 13 Ways To Thin Oil Paints Without Turpentine.
Table of Contents
One – Mineral Spirits
The most common turpentine substitute is mineral spirits, also known as white spirits. It is a slightly-toxic, petroleum-based solvent, which means it was distilled from petroleum oil instead of pine tree sap.
It evaporates at the same rate as turpentine. However, when compared to turpentine, it is cheaper, lasts longer, and stores without deteriorating.
Mineral spirits are less likely to cause an allergic reaction. Although it does not smell as strongly as turpentine and its vapor is less toxic, you should use it cautiously.
Two – Naphtha
Similar to mineral spirits, naphtha is a petroleum-based solvent. One advantage it has over other thinners is that it’s odorless and pale. However, it can be a health hazard if used recklessly in enclosed spaces.
Naphtha is also highly volatile and fast drying. It should be used for applying thin layers. If you wish to revisit your work, you should use another paint thinner that will allow you more time for paint manipulation.
Three – Linseed Oil
Linseed oil is a commonly used oil thinner. It is a non-toxic thinning agent and has the fastest drying time of all oils. Linseed oil is also great for cleaning brushes.
The downside to using linseed oil is its color. It doesn’t work well with pale pigments because of its yellowing effect.
Four – Poppyseed Oil
The advantage of using this semi-drying oil is that it’s great for mixing with light pigments. It does not add a yellowing effect to the painting. It takes a long time to dry, so you can use this thinner if you wish to work wet-on-wet .
The main downside of poppyseed oil is that it can be more expensive than its alternatives.
Five – Safflower Oil
Safflower oil is a slow-drying oil. Compared to linseed oil, it is less likely to turn yellow over time, making it suitable for whites and pale colors. Safflower oil makes the oil paint more glossy and transparent, which can help you make color transitions more fluid.
Six – Walnut Oil
Walnut oil is a standard vehicle for pigments in oil paint, and it’s an excellent option to make oil paint flow more easily. It is non-toxic and pale.
Compared to linseed oil, it is less flowy but doesn’t have a yellowing effect. You should always use fresh walnut oil, which smells rather nice. If it gets stale, it may smell unpleasant.
Seven – Lavender Spike Oil
Lavender spike oil is safer than turpentine or mineral spirits because it is a natural product. It is similar to those thinners in performance but doesn’t have the health side effects.
Lavender spike oil will have a pleasant lavender scent, which some people consider a big plus. However, all the benefits come at a higher price, as it is more expensive than other oils, especially turpentine.
Eight – Citrus Solvent
Citrus solvent or orange oil is a natural and safer alternative to petroleum-based thinners or turpentine. It is made of citrus peel oil and water. It’s an excellent paint thinner and cleaner. Another upside of using a citrus solvent is the pleasant smell. It is on the expensive side of paint thinners, but considering its benefits, it’s well worth it.
Nine – Ethyl Alcohol
Ethyl alcohol is a powerful solvent and can quickly disintegrate dried paint. It should not be confused with rubbing alcohol. The best alcohol to be used as a thinner should contain 94% to 100% alcohol.
The less water it contains, the better thinner it is. You should keep ethyl alcohol tightly closed after use to prevent evaporation or water absorption.
Ten – Acetone
Acetone is among the most flammable thinner options of all. It is mainly used for clearing and removing dry paint.
Although it may be used as an oil paint thinner, you should remember that acetone is a potent paint dissolver. It may accelerate drying time, but you risk dissolving your underpainting and compromising the quality of the oil paint in the process.
Eleven – Liquin
If you are looking for a fast-drying thinner, Liquin is your best bet. It dries the paint in only a few days, depending on the thickness of the film. It is a non-yellowing thinner with a cool tone to it. Expect it to level your brushstrokes and leave a glossy look.
Twelve – Sansodor
This solvent evaporates slowly, which results in a slow drying time. It is an excellent alternative to turpentine because it has minimal odor and is less toxic. Another benefit of choosing Sansodor is the price, which is comparable to that of turpentine.
Thirteen – Choose Student-Grade Oil Paint
Instead of looking for an alternative to turpentine, you can simply not use thinners. It is common to paint straight from the tube, especially if you prefer wet-on-wet painting.
The key to painting without an oil thinner or a medium is to choose the right oil paint brand. Some oil paints are inherently thinner than others. Student-grade paint is excellent for painting from the tube because they have been thinned out already.
Because it has a lower proportion of pigment than professional-grade paint, student-grade oil paint is also much cheaper.