What Are the Shiny Spots on an Oil Painting?

Oil is a fantastic medium to work with, and it is easy to blend, layer, texturize, and experiment with to make something unique. However, oil does have some qualities that might make it challenging to work with since the oil base isn’t fast-drying or plastic-y to the touch. 

It can be frustrating when you spend a lot of time on a painting, only to realize some parts look shinier than others. Shiny patches are typical when using oil paints, and preventing these blotchy, shiny spots isn’t intuitive. 

The shiny spots on an oil painting are pools of oil that accumulate when some of the oil isn’t absorbed. While some patches get absorbed, others remain, which creates shiny spots. These spots can make your painting look patchy and uneven, and it’s a common issue with oil paintings. 

The rest of this article will discuss these shiny spots in greater detail. I will also teach you the best ways to fix them without having to start your painting all over again. 

What Causes Shiny Spots on an Oil Painting?

One of the leading causes of shiny spots on an oil painting is the drying process. As the oil paint dries, some of it may sink into the canvas or lower layers of paint, while others might be too oily or thick to sink in. As a result, shiny patches may remain. 

Sometimes, it’s your support’s fault that your painting looks patchy. In some cases, painting supports can absorb parts of the paint and become so saturated that they cannot absorb others, which creates a patchy appearance. 

Generally, oil paintings are supposed to be shiny, so the issue may be that you have lots of big dull spots rather than shiny spots. No matter what the case may be, there are ways to fix it. 

Don’t Ignore the Fat Over Lean Rule

You may have heard of the fat over lean rule, but I will explain it if you haven’t. 

The fat over lean rule states that you should apply paint with the least oil on the bottom and apply the paint with more oil on top, which is where the name comes from. 

So basically, more oily paint should go on top of less oily paint. If you don’t follow this rule, your painting is more likely to look shiny in some spots and dull in others because the different paints won’t blend as well together. 

Following this method will also reduce cracking and increase the paint’s flexibility. So it’s worth it to follow this rule with your next project to see if it makes a difference. 

Even if you didn’t follow the fat over lean rule, there are ways to fix your painting and make it look like a freshened-up, less blotchy version of the original! 

Fixing Shiny Spots on an Oil Painting

Luckily, there are ways to fix shiny and dull spots on an oil painting. It’s important to understand that oil paintings look different when wet than dry. So it would help if you only decided on a solution once your artwork has completely dried. 

Let’s look at the main ways to fix patchiness on your oil painting. 

Retouch Your Oil Painting With Varnish

It’s essential to varnish your oil painting to keep it protected and looking its best. Your oil painting is likely patchy if you haven’t varnished it yet, so you may not need to worry too much. 

You should only varnish your painting when it’s dry. Doing it while wet won’t work, and it may ruin your artwork. Once your paint is dry to the touch, it’s ready for some retouching varnish! 

Make sure you use a varnish that is made explicitly for retouching. There are other types of varnish out there, so be careful not to choose the wrong one. Retouching varnish works by protecting your newly finished painting and sealing everything in. 

However, there are different types of retouching varnishes to choose from. The most common are matt, glossy, and satin. The one you choose will depend on what you want the finished painting to look like and how shiny you want it to be.

If you want to remove the shiny spots, you should use a matt varnish. However, if you want to keep it looking fresh and glossy, glossy varnish is better. 

WATCH – How I varnish an oil painting. The varnish won’t stick? dry spots? patchy? NO PROBLEM! easy fix!

Julian HG

Retouch With Linseed Oil

It may look like your painting has many oily spots, but the problem might be dryness. Since oil paintings are supposed to be shiny, it’s normal for some parts to look duller and more sunken-in than others. 

If you want to fix this by making the painting more uniformly shiny, you can use linseed oil to retouch it. This process is often called ‘oiling out,’ and it’s a popular method amongst oil painters. 

Oiling out with linseed oil will help make the painting look more uniform by spreading the shine across the canvas. 

You’ll need to wait until the painting is dry to do this. Then, you can place some linseed oil on a cloth and rub it in the spots that aren’t as shiny. You don’t need to do it all over the painting; just do it in the parts that look dull. 

You only need to use a thin layer of oil. Using too much will make your painting look too oily and ruin the finished image. 

Once you apply the linseed oil, the painting should look more even, and the shiny patches shouldn’t be as apparent anymore! 

It’s important to note that it can take a few days for the linseed oil to dry thoroughly, so avoid touching the painting for a few days. You certainly don’t want to ruin your work after all the effort you’ve put into it! 

You can also mix linseed oil with your oil paint, although doing so will increase the drying time. It also helps to give the painting a smoother finish, so it might be worth trying for your next project if you want a smoother, more uniform finish. 

WATCH – Oil Painting Medium for Beginners: How to keep it SIMPLE using LINSEED OIL

Paint Coach

Final Words

The leading cause of shiny spots on an oil painting is uneven absorption on the painting support. Failure to follow the fat over lean rule can also cause issues with your oil painting, including cracking and blotchiness. 

Luckily, you can usually fix patchy oil paintings by varnishing them or using linseed oil to fine-tune them. If you want a more matt finish, you should use a matt varnish. If you want a glossier finish, use a glossy varnish. 

Once you follow these steps, you should be able to fix the shiny spots on your oil painting! 


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Ines is a self-taught artist based in the UK. Originally from Caracas, she has dabbled in the world of arts and crafts in a diversity of ways participating in city intervention projects, sustainable practices’ open exhibitions, and her illustrations being featured in anniversary editions of literary magazines.

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