Studio Craft: Oiling Out to Revive Dull Colors

Ask the Expert: "I started a painting last week, and some of the colors look kind of dull and dry. I want to go back into the painting, and I want the colors to match as much as possible. Is there a way to revive my painting?"

In between sessions, sometimes colors can “sink in” and appear dull. Certain colors like Ivory Black are prone to this; heavy use of solvents in the painting process can also lead to a dull surface. One way to remedy this is by “oiling out” before the next application of fresh paint. This involves applying an extremely thin application of medium, just enough to restore the dry paint to its wet appearance and promote fluid brush application.

It's possible to oil out using your normal painting medium, provided the formula includes some drying oil. (Alkyd medium alone is not a good choice for this application.) A mixture of Stand oil, Turpentine or Odorless Thinner and a small amount of varnish works well. You can omit the varnish to reduce tack.

Take care to apply just enough medium to achieve desired effect, not so much that the canvas feels greasy.

Sunken passages will be quickly restored to their original wet appearance, making the task of matching mixtures much easier. In addition, the painting surface will be less "thirsty" and brush movement will be more fluid.

Some artists prefer to work over dry paint with as little oil as possible. Use Retouch Varnish as an alternative to oiling out when reviving dull paint while preserving a dry surface.

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