This article is designed to give you the pros and cons of using Gamsol vs. linseed oil with your painting job. To gain some insight into this topic, I consulted an artist friend. As the information I received was that Gamsol is not generally used for fine art, the references I make to paint and painters refer to commercial or DIY paint jobs.
Whether you aim to thin the paint, make less become more, or change the characteristics of the paint, you have come to the right place to learn more about these two mediums. If using an environmentally friendly product is important, or you want to get the job done as professionally as possible, the choice of paint thinner is crucial to the outcome.
So, without further ado, let’s examine these two blends.
What Is Gamsol?
Gamsol is a non-toxic petroleum distillate or mineral spirit, that has had all the aromatic solvents removed, with less than 0.005% remaining. These solvents are the most toxic of petroleum byproducts. It is suitable for conventional oil painting projects. It is safe and reusable when adhering to the instructions.
It has a slow evaporation rate and a high flash point and therefore has much less likelihood of spontaneously combusting than other minerals. Because it is made for products such as cosmetics, hand cleaners, and cleaning food preparation equipment, it is gentle and cannot be absorbed through healthy skin.
In addition, it can be shipped by air freight, being considered a non-hazardous material.
Uses of Gamsol
This product’s primary use is for thinning oil paints. Gamsol can be used to modify still oil paint mediums, except those made with natural resins such as dammar, copal, or mastic. Do not use an excess of any medium including Gamsol, as this can prevent the paint’s ability to form a film or make the finish a bit dull.
It is also useful when cleaning up after painting jobs. Your tools, brushes, and rollers will benefit from soaking in this mineral spirit. Wipe, shake, or squeeze them once the paint has been broken down and removed. Wash them in soapy water if you wish and store them flat while they dry.
What Is Linseed Oil?
Linseed oil also known as Flaxseed oil is a light-yellow oil produced by pressing the ripe and dried seed of the flax plant (Linum usitatissimum). It is eatable, as both seed and oil. As a dietary supplement, it is rich in omega-3 fatty acids. Linseed oil should be stored in an airtight container due to its tendency to spontaneously combust.
Uses of Linseed Oil
Since the 1400s, Linseed Oil has been popular for its drying qualities. It also makes blending and glazing easier. Other than as an editable, linseed oil is often blended with other products such as oils, resins, and solvents, and as a wood finisher or varnish.
With paint, it acts as a pigment binder and a hardener in putty. Its use has declined due to its tendency to yellow with age. More favorable, are the synthetic alkyd resins that resist yellowing and function similarly. It contains a large amount of a-linolenic acid which causes it to oxidise in the air. This drying effect causes rigidity to whatever product it is mixed with.
Linseed oil also produces a waterproof result, so is useful for exterior surfaces or in areas of high humidity. As it provides a waterproof coating, it is sometimes used to finish off wooden structures.
The jury is out, however, on how effective it is, and many prefer a clear lacquer or vanish. When mixed with paint, it has the added advantage of strengthening very porous wood because of its slower drying time.
To use it effectively it can be boiled, for a faster drying time. When cleaning brushes and painting equipment, you may need to use linseed oil soap, which removes the oil from brushes, equipment, and clothing. If you wish to use your brushes for future oil painting, you can store them in cold-pressed linseed oil or water.
Gamsol or Linseed Oil: Which Is Better?
For large painting jobs such as walls or outdoor furniture, Gamsol may be your best bet. It is less than half the price of linseed oil, is non-combustible, and is safe to use. Gamsol leaves no residue when it dries and evaporates evenly, leaving fewer vapors.
Another reason that many painters prefer Gamsol is due to its versatility. Its main use is that of a solvent, but it can also be used as a modifying medium.
Linseed oil can be less stable when exposed to oxygen and can yellow light-colored paint.
Cold-pressed and mature raw linseed oil, however, should be used when you are using linseed oil paint. The use of linseed oil is a traditional paint thinner, used by artists in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance period.
If you are still undecided on which one to use, you can mix them in equal parts to your paint to thin it. Be sure to use refined linseed oil, the palest you can get, which will minimize the yellowing of your paint with age.
Linseed Oil and Turpentine
Another option is to mix linseed oil with turpentine. This makes it smoother and easier to mix with other color pigments.
The process does take time as the ingredients do not mix immediately:
- Step 1: Mix 2 parts turpentine with 1 part linseed oil.
- Step 2: Cover the mixture in an airtight container and let it sit.
- Step 3: Turn the container onto its sides and top every few hours to help the oil and turpentine mix together more rapidly.
Gamsol and Linseed oil can both be used for thinning paint. Gamsol is non-toxic, safe to use, and versatile. Linseed oil has been used by painters since medieval times, although it tends to spontaneously combust when exposed to oxidation and yellow with time.
The price difference, with linseed oil being much more expensive may be a deciding factor for big painting jobs. The choice of these two mediums, in combination with other products such as turpentine, or on their own, is largely up to you. Each medium has its own merits. If you are still in doubt, it will be worth your while to consult with an expert.
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