Oil Shed from Tube Colors

Ask the Expert: Why does oil drip out of my paint tube?"

  • It’s called “oil shed” and it occurs when pigment settles in the container. The oil helps displace air in the tube and is a sign the paint is in good condition and free of fillers. Lean pigments sometimes tend to give up oil more readily than “fat” ones, so you’ll see oil shed with Flake White, a leaner paint, once in a while.

    You might notice that cheaper “student grade” paints seldom develop oil shed. This is because large amounts of alumina stearate filler (used as a stiffener to replace more costly pigment) tend to blot up any free oil. As a result, the paint looks dry and waxy straight from the tube compared to the lustrous, wet appearance of better professional artist grade paint.

  • Some manufacturers hold their paints in bulk containers before tubing to allow oil shed to occur before the product is packaged. This is a costly extra step, however, which affects the consumer price so not many companies do this. Utrecht uses tubes with a cold wax seal added to retain oil. This helps keep paint in perfect condition and reduces visible drips on the packages and display racks.

    Particularly oily paints can be dispensed onto newsprint before use. This helps avoid introducing large amounts of oil to the palette.

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