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.

Ask the Experts is intended for entertainment and/or informational purposes only. Dick Blick Holdings/Utrecht Art Supplies makes no warranties of any kind with respect to the information or any use of the information provided herein, and is not responsible for any losses or damages of any kind incurred as a result of the use, misuse, or reliance upon the information and content herein. Any action taken in connection with or reliance upon the information provided is strictly at your own risk. Observe all product package instructions and warnings. © Copyright 2022 Dick Blick Holdings Inc. All rights reserved.