View Full Version : Safflower or Linseed oil

11-27-2009, 04:30 AM
Hello everyone.
What is the difference between using safflower oil instead of linseed oil. I understand about the extended drying times but are there any other reasons I should consider.


11-27-2009, 10:58 AM
autoslip -- Safflower provides less yellowing and slightly brighter colors of all types, especially whites and blues, where linseed's yellowing acts as a darkening effect. Safflower also flows more easily, producing a slightly more slippery feel to the paint.

11-27-2009, 11:07 AM
Is this WRT using as a medium or as the binder?

If you're asking re. binder linseed will linseed will give a stronger paint film (the strongest in fact). Don't forget there's also walnut oil to consider, the major secondary oil historically.


11-27-2009, 02:54 PM
Thank you for the information. I was thinking of using it as a preparation for the ground as a basis for the 'wet-in-wet' technique.


11-27-2009, 04:16 PM
dont forget the difference in price between these two. expect to pay around ten times as much for linseed.
also safflower is good for washing your hands and brushes in.

11-27-2009, 08:28 PM
I've found that safflower makes a more brittle paint film than linseed. I've had issues with yellowing, though, so I do prefer the safflower. My paint isn't so thick as for me to worry about it, though.

11-27-2009, 09:12 PM
Hello autolisp. Safflower oil is a semi-drying oil, and makes for a weaker film after it is "dry". Poppy oil and Sunflower oil are similar to Safflower oil in their weaknesses. The popularity in these oils come from artists who want the whitest whites and clearest light colors -- and the paint manufacturers are glad to supply them. Bidness is bidness. Personally I have no problem with using the toughest p;aint film possible, and linseed and walnut oils (and their derivatives) do this admirably. These two have withstood the test of time. If any artist believes that his whites have become "yellowe" (more like an old-ivory tone), then he or she can expose the painting to sunlight for a short time. I urge you to consider the many benefits of linseed and walnut oil; it will be worth your time to research this important topic.
I apologize for the long reply.

11-28-2009, 12:18 PM
KennD. It's not a long reply it's an interesting one. Thanks everyone who has contributed an answer.

I was given a litre of organic safflower oil and was wondering if it was worth my while swapping from linseed.


11-28-2009, 01:35 PM
Safflower oil comes in mono-unsaturated and poly-unsaturated forms. (I have discussed this in more detail in the past on the forum).

Mono-unsaturated is good for your arteries, but not suitable for painting. The form higher in poly-unsaturates has a profile of different fatty-acids comparable with poppy, and may be used for painting, though it has a weaker paint-film than linseed.

So, one question is, what sort of safflower oil is it?


11-29-2009, 11:57 AM
Hi dcorc. I looked on the label. It's the poly-unsaturate variety.


11-29-2009, 12:08 PM
OK. It is also possible to mix oils, of course, and to a good first approximation the properties will be intermediate between those of the individual oils. A blend of safflower and linseed may be reasonably expected to resemble walnut, in terms of drying speed, yellowing, and paint-film strength, as these are all mainly determined by the proportions of linolenic, linoleic, and oleic acids.


Chestnut Tree Cafe
11-29-2009, 04:41 PM
I would consider using walnut, but have never seen it for sale in an art shop. I have seen it in the supermarket - I assume this would be no good?


Mark Sheeky
11-29-2009, 06:03 PM
I would consider using walnut, but have never seen it for sale in an art shop. I have seen it in the supermarket - I assume this would be no good?


If it's cold pressed without additives (and smells of walnuts) it will be okay. Get a small bottle. Some say it goes rancid and needs to be stored in the fridge. Others here say it doesn't.


12-01-2009, 02:24 PM
Thanks for all the replies. Regarding walnut oil. I do use this and I have 'washed' it and sun-thickened it. I have never had any go 'rancid' in all the time I have used it. I don't give it any special storage conditions. It's kept in a bottle in my loft (roof space) and the temperatures vary from 'I can't stand it up here to where are my thermals'.


03-08-2011, 04:22 AM
Better late than never:
linseed oil makes the best paint film. (about yellowing - I've tried it out: a dry painting really does turn clear again, when exposed to light).

I've heard that safflower oil never becomes really dry (just like glass always stays fluid, if only for 0,1 percent)
Someone told me, he saw an old oil painting that was done with only safflower oil. It had been put in the full hot sun, and the paint got liquid again and started dripping.

Of course, full hot sun is an extreme condition. But I bet this person was at least surprised (if not terrified, don't know what the painting was worth)

03-08-2011, 12:00 PM
I have to wonder if adding a couple drops of Cobalt drier to the safflower oil would be a suitable to prevent that running effect? Has anyone had experience with Safflower oil and cobalt drier?

I'm interested in trying some safflower oil too. What's the difference between the water-mixable safflower oil and the other artists safflower oil? Can they both be used with regular artist's oil paints.?

Don Dattler

03-08-2011, 05:27 PM
I have mixed feelings regarding this Linseed/Safflower/Walnut/Poppyseed Oil choice for oil painters.

Linseed seems to make the strongest paint film of all of them. But, then it yellows a bit more than the others. So, of what good is a paint film that lasts a jillion years while it turns yellow? I still like Linseed for most of my work.

Another viable alternative to regular Linseed Oil that creates a tough paint film, but doesn't yellow as much is Stand Oil.

Safflower creates much brighter, light colors, but also a weaker paint film than Linseed. However, I enjoy working with Permalba White, whose binder is Safflower Oil, and some Winsor & Newton paints, which have either Safflower Oil as a binder, or a mixture of both Linseed and Safflower Oil.

Walnut Oil may create a bit weaker paint film than Linseed, but it also is said to yellow less than Linseed. One thing for sure is that Walnut creates very nice handling characteristics, and is wonderful when used as an ingredient in a painting medium. It contributes a nice, slippery feel for applying the paint, which I find very useful in my glazing.

Linseed Oil is the fastest drying of them all, and Poppyseed Oil (which I try to avoid) is probably the slowest drying, with Safflower and Walnut being somewhere between.

Personally, with all characteristics included, my 3 favorite drying oils are Linseed, Stand Oil, and Walnut Oil, in that order. I use a painting medium which I make with equal parts of Linseed Oil and Walnut Oil, which I believe gives me some of the advantages of each, and that also includes very nice paint handling.

Many people try to guess just what the medium is that Bob Ross uses in his wet-in-wet process,and judging by the length of time his thinly-applied medium needs to remain wet and workable, I would guess that Walnut Oil must be used as at least part of the recipe. The solvent, if there is any, would probably be some form of Odorless Mineral Spirits, because that is much slower drying than Gum Spirits of Turpentine.

03-09-2011, 12:30 AM
I'm always a bit disappointed when a paint I otherwise like turns out to have safflower oil as the binder, for instance Sennelier. Though "non-yellowing" is generally the excuse given, I'm cynically rather certain the real reason is low cost. Otherwise, why use safflower oil for yellow oil paints?...

03-09-2011, 01:00 AM
I'm always a bit disappointed when a paint I otherwise like turns out to have safflower oil as the binder, for instance Sennelier. Though "non-yellowing" is generally the excuse given, I'm cynically rather certain the real reason is low cost. Otherwise, why use safflower oil for yellow oil paints?...

I feel the same way. Also, when a paint has Poppyseed Oil. In fact, I do avoid those paints which contain Poppyseed Oil, although I use some paints whose binder is Safflower, but I am also disappointed for the same reason as you.

It must be cost, as you say, or simple availability. Sometimes those two are related, as well.

Ron Francis
03-09-2011, 08:21 AM
Two companies here in Australia, Art Spectrum and Landgridge, only use safflower in their whites, so I don't believe that it is a cost saving device in those cases.

PS, I do use the safflower whites, but I mix some of my medium into them which contain stand oil and linseed. Hopefully this will strengthen the film a little.
Most of the time the whites are used as a tinter anyway, so it is mixed with linseed from the other colours. I almost never use straight white.

01-02-2013, 12:43 PM
Historically I think Van Dyck, Carravagio, DaVinci, Raphael, Rubens, Giorgioni, and Titian have been found to use walnut oil and sometimes linseed oil generally somewhat heat bodied and with some lead cooked in. I am excited about safflower oil but go with walnut simply because of the historical results. Just something to consider as you make your choices. Also, I feel that LINSEED oil has been chosen by manufacturers because of it's convenience being a by-product of linen manufacture and NOT for it's inherent superiority as an art material.:wave: