Turpentine, also widely known as the spirit of turpentine, is a solvent derived from pine tree resin via distillation. It is commonly used in oil painting as a thinner and paint medium.
- Turpentine accelerates the drying time required in oil painting as it is a powerful solvent that can dissolve oil in the paint. One of the most important concepts in oil painting: “fat over lean”, requires more turpentine to be added in the initial layers of paint to produce paint that has less oil content and dries faster. This is to ensure that the painting does not crack after drying and that the upper layers dry slower than the initial layers of the painting.
- Artist-grade turpentine used in oil painting is usually of a higher purity than turpentine used for industrial purposes. It has a cleaner and pleasant scent unlike regular turpentine found in hardware stores. Artist grade turpentine usually requires additional treatment and refining to remove unwanted impurities.
- Turpentine is a toxic substance as it evaporates quickly, creating a high concentration of volatile organic compounds in the atmosphere. Turpentine produced from certain species of pine trees can also cause allergic reactions and skin irritation in some people, while inhalation of the evaporated vapors might cause headaches. It is thus important to ensure proper ventilation when using turpentine!
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