A bit about alkyds… (overview/tutorial)

Posted by on August 19, 2014 in Tutorials | 4 comments

I’m going to add a brief entry to my “tutorials” section. It’s not much, but I feel badly that I haven’t been updating the blog as frequently. (It’s summer, what can I say? I went on another road trip last week.)

I’ve dabbled in alkyds (fast-drying oils) for a long time now. I first tried it in art school, many moons ago. I think that at the time we only had Winsor & Newton brand. The first impression I had of alkyds (back then) was that they weren’t as opaque as regular oils, and they had a kind of “waxy” texture. But they were quite workable, and I loved the fast drying time!

"Jason in Shadow," 5x7" alkyd on Gessobord. Thanks to Jason Aaron Baca (model) and Portia Shao (photographer) for the use of the stock reference photo.

“Jason in Shadow,” 5×7″ alkyd on Gessobord. Thanks to Jason Aaron Baca (model) and Portia Shao (photographer) for the use of the stock reference photo.

Here’s an alkyd study I did recently. Now we have several brands of alkyds to choose from, and they don’t seem as “waxy” as they used to, way back. But they are still quick-drying!

I typically use Liquin (an alkyd medium) when I paint in alkyds. This should help speed drying time more. I find that usually in less than a day (depending on the paint thickness) the painting is dry enough, and ready to be worked on again.

Here’s another recent alkyd painting (WORK IN PROGRESS!).

“Blue Hair,” 12×12″ oil (alkyds) on canvas panel. WORK IN PROGRESS!!!! Thanks to Cathleen Tarawhiti on DeviantArt for the stock photo I used as reference.

With “Blue Hair,” the painting was dry to the touch later the same day, so I was able to do some work in the morning/noonish, and do a little more later on in the day. Amazing! I love my alkyds.

Even though we have several brands of alkyds to choose from (as opposed to just W&N’s alkyds, back in the day), I wish there were even more brands and colors available. Winsor & Newton’s “Griffin” brand has recently discontinued all cadmium colors. I understand that they have probably made this decision because cadmiums have some toxicity, but cadmium “hues” aren’t the same—cadmiums have an opacity and denseness that cannot be replicated in “hues.” Fortunately, the other alkyd brands (C.A.S., DaVinci, and Gamblin) do still carry cadmiums.

Each brand of alkyd has their own properties. I think DaVincis tend to be very thick and stiff. (Kind of like Old Holland in that respect.) I will still use them, am very grateful for DaVinci’s line of alkyds, but given a choice, I prefer something a little more buttery. Gamblin’s “FastMatte” alkyds are pretty good, soft and buttery, though I wish they carried more colors. CAS is a good quality brand, but sometimes their customer service sucks if you order from their site. (Long, long story there. For another time!) Griffins have a good consistency and I think a decent pigment load, but I miss the cadmium colors.

Alkyds have, in some form or another, been around for many decades. I’ve heard that studies indicate that they are “stable” and I am comfortable using them. My old paintings done in art school still seem rich and vibrant as ever. As long as we use pigments that are strong and light-fast, I think they’re an awesome alternative to regular oils. In fact, it’s perfectly acceptable to mix alkyds with regular oils. (Many artists use an alkyd white with their regular oils, which tends to speed up drying time on all the paints.) Some manufacturers of regular oils sell a “fast drying” white, which is often made with alkyds, for artists who enjoy the fast-drying properties of alkyds but don’t want to use a whole set of alkyd colors.

This page has a good overview of alkyds.

4 Comments

  1. These look great! Love the blue hair, hope you’ll post it finished.

    • Thanks, Theresa! Yes, Blue Hair is almost done. Maybe actually done. I worked on her a little more last night. I’m sure she’s dry by now! LOL!

  2. Hello! Thanks for this blog post. Your portraits look very nice!
    I’m just starting out with alkyds and was wondering if you use different brands of alkyds together when working on a painting? If so, do different brands mix well together?

    • Hi Mark, thanks for the kind words! Yes, I have always worked with various brands of alkyds with no issues. Just like you can mix alkyds with regular oils (all different brands), I’m pretty sure you can mix different brands of alkyds together in a painting. I’ve never noticed any issues. Just today I put a little bit of a regular oil color in my alkyd mixture, as a “tint.” No problems!

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