5 Most Common Myths About Oil Paintings

Oil painting is among one of the most well-studied and commonly seen mediums in visual art practices. Everyone can find examples almost everywhere whether they’re visiting your favorite art museum to see the masterpieces created by the great artists of generations past or if they’re about to take a look at this site to find the perfect piece for their home or office.

That being said, even though everyone has seen an oil painting, there are some common misconceptions about the medium as a whole. These are five common misconceptions that often skew people’s perceptions of oil paintings.

Myth: Oil Paint is Toxic

One of the most common myths about oil painting is that the paint itself is toxic. Generally, though, oil paint is non-toxic so long as you don’t ingest it. This is fine since, after all, oil paint isn’t designed to be ingested anyways.

For the most part, oil paints are made up of non-toxic and natural materials. This usually consists of a pigment combined with natural oil to ensure that it binds well. Most of these materials are non-toxic. Yet, there are a few that can be toxic if someone were to breathe in or ingest them in their unmixed form. This includes options like cadmium, cobalt, and lead-white.

Luckily, if this still worries a painter, they don’t have to use them! Each of these colors has non-toxic, synthetic alternatives to them.

This myth may also come from the fact that some painters use solvents like turpentine to help increase the fluidity of the paint. Left open in an unventilated room, a material like turpentine can create a toxic, fume-filled environment. Once again, there are less toxic options as well.

Oil paints are not hazardous to humans or the environment. Most of the time, they are not. Some color pigments, such as cadmium and cobalt, are harmful (check the label!). If you don’t want to utilize toxic paint colors, there are lots of non-toxic alternatives available. Check Botto oil paint artwork.

Myth: Oil Painting is Odorous

Another common myth, often tied into the myth that oil paints are toxic, is that oil paints have an unpleasant odor. Once again, this isn’t actually true. Oil paints actually have no smell at all.

Also tied into the myth of toxicity, the strong smell that people associate with the process of oil painting may come from the use of a secondary medium like turpentine which does have a strong chemical scent.

This is a problem that is often solved by employing an alternative to turpentine. Common options that don’t have a strong smell but achieve a similar effect include linseed oil which is completely unscented. You can also rely on an alternative like ivory soap to help with other processes turpentine is often involved in like cleaning brushes after the painter uses them.

Myth: A Medium is Absolutely Necessary

From the last two myths discussed, it’s easy to come to the conclusion that a medium is absolutely necessary when creating an oil painting. However, this isn’t actually the case. Mediums like turpentine or linseed oil might be completely optional if a painter wants to forego their use altogether.

Mediums serve a variety of purposes. This can include processes such as enhancing the fluidity of the paint or speeding up the drying process which is notoriously slow for oil paints.

That being said, these mediums are necessary when it comes to oil painting. This is especially true when investing in high-quality paints. This is particularly useful for beginner oil painters to know since adding any medium will increase the complexity of a project by changing how the paint behaves and performs.

Myth: It Takes a Lot of Gear to Create an Oil Painting

Many new painters might get discouraged from starting is the thought that oil painting takes a lot of additional materials. As has already been covered, the inclusion of additional tools such as a medium to achieve the best results.

In reality, to start oil painting an artist only strictly needs a set of brushes, some oil paint, and a support such as a canvas. An artist doesn’t even need brushes that are specifically designed for oil painting. While these may work best because they’re specially designed to hold oil paint, that doesn’t mean that another brush won’t work at all.

Myth: Oil Paint is Only Suitable for Canvas

If there’s one thing that tends to stifle creativity, it’s strict rules about how an artistic method can be used. That’s why it’s so crucial to understanding that some of these rules aren’t as hard and fast as one might think. While canvas is a common choice for oil painting, it isn’t the only option. Any surface that is primed for oil painting can serve as an option.


There are misconceptions that many people have about oil paintings may change how people perceive them or how willing they are to try oil paintings out themselves, first hand. With these misconceptions corrected, anyone can take a second look at oil paints and oil paintings and reassess what they think about them.

3 thoughts on “5 Most Common Myths About Oil Paintings

  • Thanks for sharing these facts about oil paintings.

  • Thanks for sharing. I really never considered oil paintings before.

  • This is a really interesting post. I really didn’t know much about them.


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