View Full Version : talk to me about alkyds

07-03-2001, 10:20 PM
it seems like every other day some very nice person, a serious painter, will wander into my little paint store and ask if we carry Galkyd. or Liquin. we make everything we sell i wouldn't touch a synthetic resin with a ten foot pole. so of course the answer is a gentle 'no'. if they are desperate i tell them to use our all-natural glazing medium (1 damar : 1 stand oil : 3 pure gum turps). i've converted a few.

but i'd hate to turn into a materials snob and i want to help the lovely people in my neighborhood, so i got curious. what is this magical stuff? even one of the paintmakers (who actually formulated the glazing medium) has confessed to using galkyd on occasion. so i bought a bottle and a few tubes of gamblin to experiment with (they use alkyd as an additive in some colors).

i have to confess i don't see what the big whoop is. it seems to make my paint dry almost at an acrylic rate which i am frankly not comfortable with. plus it smells like a refinery! i had to leave the vent in my studio running overnight. not to mention that synthetic resins have an overwhelming tendency to yellow. and not in years, like damar or linseed, but in months!

so please PLEASE won't someone out there tell me if they've had a good experience with alkyds. what am i missing? what am i doing wrong? is there a brand out there that smells better or is friendlier than gamblin? is there something that alkyds are particularly good at doing that oil paints cannot? or are they supposed to kind of look like enamel? else i'm going to go on record as a confirmed alkyds hater.

07-03-2001, 10:56 PM
I have done some painting with Alkyds - not very impressed. I do however, use Liquin in my underpainting for its drying properties and it works fine. I used to paint with just liquin as the medium - I have paintings that are about five years old that look just as good as the day I painted them. I have a friend who is an illustrator that has paintings going back nearly twenty years with Liquin that show no change. So I think Liquin is ok, but I don't use it in my overpainting anymore. As for Alkyds, I didn't like how they flowed. :(

07-03-2001, 11:01 PM
Originally posted by sarkana
i have to confess i don't see what the big whoop is... what am i doing wrong?
The error is - you, undoubtably, know how to paint in oils!;)

357 Mag
07-04-2001, 03:41 AM
I've used the Griffin Alkyds and I think they are quite good, nothing to complain about. They are exactly like oils in the way they handle, and they don't have any disagreeable smell.

Doug Nykoe
07-04-2001, 11:05 AM
Sarkana said: re Gamblin
but i'd hate "snip" ......(they use alkyd as an additive in some colors).

You wouldn't happen to know which of the oil colors Gamblin is using alkyd as an additive, would you??? Or Is this just hear say?

07-04-2001, 01:00 PM
i don't want to come off sniping my fellow manufacturers so i'd like to say up front that gamblin is a good company full of people who really care about getting quality, reasonably priced materials to working artists. i know a guy who knows a guy who knows the gamblins (that's the way the materials world here in nyc is) and they definitely takes paintmaking very seriously.

but gamblin is also convinced that alkyds are the way. all the product literature i've received from them espouses the beauty and glamour of alkyd resins. their metallic colors are all alkyd (there's a good reason for that: the oil emulsion interferes with the reflectivity of micas and aluminum flake. so something else like wax or resin has to be used in its stead). but they are also clearly labelled as such. i don't think they are trying to put one over on artists, i think they are just really into synthetic resins. so check your labels. but also: a quick sniff will tell you if there is alkyd in a paint. take a whiff of galkyd and the smell is unmistakable.

i'm not a big gamblin fan. i've tested most tube colors and found gamblin to be disturbingly uniform across the color spectrum. this in particular irks me, since each pigment has its own personality and texture and that's part of what i like about painting. but most people probably aren't bothered by this factor. gamblin is pretty inexpensive and it sure beats windsor&newton!

and re: liquin -- i've seen a number of tests (and had countless artists bemoan the fate of their paintings) that shows the yellowing of liquin in a relatively short time. but most of those seem to be using liquin as a top coat. maybe there is something in the way it oxidises by itself that makes it unsuitable for varnishing, but okay as an additive medium? i'm curious. but i still am not ready to trust synthetic resins.

07-05-2001, 04:12 PM

I used both Liquin and Daniel Smith alkyd medium when I painted on small handmade paper. The Liquin-heavy paintings have noticeably yellowed; I didn't like the consistency of the DS alkyd enough to use much of it. So eventually I moved on to more "traditional" mediums ("media"?) on linen: damar + stand oil + turps; canada balsam + stand oil + spike. It comes down to handling for me. Alkyd gets gummy too quickly, and I find the damar-based medium very draggy. Not to sound too much like Goldilocks, but the CB/SO/spike is, at least for now, just right. I like the open time (not too much, not too little) as well, and the smell is lovely.

I too have heard reports of delamination from Liquin. None of the paintings I still have show it, but I know from years of painting houses that if you put a second coat of "oil-based" (alkyd) paint on a surface that's quite dry (cured) and not scuffed, it will peel.

07-06-2001, 11:59 AM

your medium recipe and clear explanation of oil paint layering is very appreciated! thanks.

martha gamblin
07-06-2001, 07:16 PM
Hello. At Gamblin Artists Colors Co., we use alkyd resin in Quick Dry White and our Metals. All other colors are bound in refined linseed oil. For information on alkyd resin, consider contacting Ross Merrill, chief of conservation at the National Gallery or
Dr. Marion Mecklenburg of the Smithsonian CAL. Alkyd resin is the polymerized oil of the 20th century. Conservation scientists demonstrate that alkyd resin increases the flexibility of oil paints over time. Using alkyd resin painting mediums allows painters to use milder solvent (lower PEL and KB value) than turpentine. Alkyd resins do not dry in the time frame of acrylics. Humidity and temperature influence dry time but generally speaking, thin layers of oil paints/alkyd resin painting medium dry within 24 hours. I will be happy to discuss how alkyds are made. Please email me or Robert Gamblin your questions at [email protected]

Art materials manufacturers can choose how to handle the working properties of their oil colors. We believe each pigment family makes interesting paints so we carefully preserve the unique physical porperties of the pigments. If you have questions about texture of specific pigments, again, please contact me. Best regards, Martha

07-07-2001, 11:07 AM
we've been talking about how alkyds are used in the acrylics forum too and i think you are right, dru: the consensus is that alkyds make terrible varnishes but are pretty okay as painting mediums. point taken that noone would ever try to varnish with copal medium. i'm committing to a few more galkyd experiments in my studio. i will have to do something about that smell, though! i can wade through buckets of turpentine when making damar varnish but the smell of the galkyd really gets me.

excellent point dru also about the nefarious gamblin campaign to make artists fear lead. unless you eat or breathe lead (which is unlikely if the lead is already in a paint form) and take reasonable precautions, lead is no more harmful than anything else we paint with. the discussion of lead belongs in another thread, though, which i think i'm going to go start.