View Full Version : Loving Holbein Duos but have questions HolbeinUSA couldn't answer

07-09-2010, 02:00 PM
Duos are FANTASTIC! I'm so happy I found them! The pigment load is great and the consistency, while a bit to stiff at first becomes creamy with just a teeny drop of water. Otherwise they are just like oils except no smell!

BUT... I have questions and I talked to Holbein USA and unlike companies like Golden and Gamblin, they don't have anyone to answer technical questions and couldn't help me. I think I've read everything on this forum but didn't see answers to these questions so I'm hoping some of you may have already learned the answers and can share them:

1) Is it OK to store my palette with left over paint in the freezer between use like I do with regular oils?

2) Is there a limit to the proportion of water it is ok to use when thinning the paint to the needed consistency. For example, in my first layer, is it ok to thin the paint to a thin wash or stain with just water?

3) Is it necessary to add oil to the paint? For example, if my first layer just had water as a thinning medium, should the next layer be water and oil and if there is a third layer, just oil? Or can it just be water?

4) I tried to mix up a small jar of "medium" as I used to do with oils, combining the Duo Linseed oil with half water/half oil and there was a weird reaction: the mixture foamed up, turned white and got sort of thick and clumpy. Did I do something wrong? Is there a way to mix the oil and water into medium or do you need to mix it directly with the paint as you go? I thought it would make sense to pre-mix so I was using a consistent amount in a layer.

5) How do you glaze with the Duos? Do you use just oil or just water or what would you recommend as the appropriate mixture of water/oil for glazing and given #4, how would you mix it?

6) Do you have any special recommendations for using the Duos for painting plein air?

7) While waiting for the paint to cure 6 months before varnishing, can you use spray on "working" varnish that has Damar in it and is used to bring back the gloss, etc.?


07-09-2010, 10:31 PM
I don't have definite answers to your questions, but I'll give it a shot!

1) The Duos are essentially traditional oils with an emulsifier that makes them water mixable. I would think that you can put them in the freezer, if you do that with regular oils. Not sure if the emulsifier would make any difference.

2) If you are used to traditional oils, then think of water as your solvent, as turps or OMS would be. Most recommendations are to use very little water (or solvent) in oil painting.

3) It is not necessary to add additional oil. But you still must follow the fat over lean rules (or more flexible over less flexible). So each layer needs to be as fat or fatter than the proceeding layer. Remember, you do not need to add water or oil - you can paint straight from the tube.

Keep in mind that adding water alone will make your paint layer more matte. Adding oil will make your paint layer more glossy. To keep thing fairly consistent, use the same medium (or formula) throughout the painting. Just add a drop or two more medium in the later layers if you want to make sure they are fatter. That's my take on it although many do it differently.

4) I'm not sure about the Holbein mediums, but some company's mediums say that you can not add water to them - others say it is OK. In any case, I would try adding water just a few drops at a time and mix well before adding more water. Since Holbein sells mediums that are a combination of oil and solvent, you might want to look into those, rather than the mediums that are 100% oil, if you are looking for a combined medium.

5) A glaze should be a very thin layer of transparent paint - not a thinned down layer of paint. Layers of paint should not have more than 20% to 30% medium added to the paint. The thinning can be done by applying thinly and working the paint with your brush to thin it out even more if necessary. I would recommend an oil or a oil/solvent mix for the medium rather than water.

6) Have fun!

7) Varnishing can be done the same way as traditional oils, so if you like using a retouch varnish, it should be fine.

Again, I'm not sure these answers are definitive - they are based on theoretic knowledge rather than hands on experience with the Aqua Duos. Hopefully some Holbein users will jump in, too!


07-11-2010, 03:27 PM
Many including me recommend only using water for cleaning up. Use the custom made thinner for thinning.

07-11-2010, 04:58 PM
I love the Holbein as well. :)

1) I've put my palette in the fridge for 4 to 5 days with not problems.

2) You can use water to create a wash in the first layer. I've done it several times with no problems.

3) and 4) With the Holbein their is no problems with thinning with water. I use a 1/2 water and 1/2 linseed oil with my Holbein and I've been doing it for around 2 years now with no problems. I just mix this in a container and dip my brush in it. It looks a little cloudy but doesn't affect the results.

5) For glazing is use the 1/2 water and 1/2 linseed oil

I find that you can paint with the Holbein straight out of the tube and it works very well especially if you like a look that retains your brushstrokes.

07-13-2010, 02:06 PM
Thanks so much for the good information. Janet, have you tried putting your palette in the freezer? I used to do that with regular oils and it worked fine. I was just reading Sean Dye's book and an artist in there reported doing so, so I will try it too. Glad to hear you've successfully made thin washes with paint and water. When I mixed the linseed/water it got really weird--cloudy and kind of thick and goopy. Maybe it's because I sprayed the water in instead of dropping it in.

I haven't tried paint straight out of the tube color as it seemed too thick for my brushes (Princeton 6300 series which are synthetic bristle with extra thick bristles). These brushes work so much better than anything else I've tried, but with just a dab of water added to make it a bit more buttery.

07-13-2010, 05:07 PM
Jana, I haven't tried putting my palette in the freezer but I don't see why it wouldn't work. My freezer is narrow so not very good for testing that out. I've never had the thick and goopy thing going on except if I go back to it a month later. I use the cap to my linseed oil and fill it with water and add it to my container and then I fill that same cap with linseed oil and add it to the same container. I stir with a paintbrush until it appears to be mixed well. Before starting every session I re-stir the water linseed oil mix.

I've found the synthetic brushes my favorite as well. My favorite brushes are the Robert Simmons Titanium brushes.

Doug Hoppes
07-14-2010, 07:12 AM
Hi Janet,

I've been using the Duo's for about a year. I love them.

1) Putting your oils in the freezer works fine (on or out of palette). However, you should cover them up to prevent a skin from producing. The longest that I keep them in the freezer is 2 weeks. I've heard that you can use a drop of clove of olive (or something like that) to make it last longer, but it'll take more time for your paintings to dry. After two weeks, the paint gets a little too stiff.

2) You can add as much water as you like. It depends on what you are doing (alla prima or glazing). I don't use water, myself. I prefer to use liquin. When I used water, I found that the paint was a bit too thin for my liking and was hard to work with. Nowadays, since I work strictly alla prima, I don't even use liquin. The paint comes out of the tube pretty creamy.

3) DAK723 answered this question pretty well.

6) I love working with my duo's for plein air. I find it best to mix up the paint and tube the various colors that I generally use (different levels of greys, different values of green, etc). On very hot days, the paint (like oils) gets very very soft. However, there is really no difference between traditional oils and duos when working outside.


07-14-2010, 10:30 AM
The general principles of working with mediums or diluent for these paints are the same as with conventional oils, basically adding small amounts of anything at all is the best way to go. If they were meant to have additives they wouldn't be sold separately. Water use is the same, keep the amount low.

Although the use of water is similar to using turpentine, the behavior isn't. These paints work by emulsifying with water so you have to mix them up for that to occur, and the side effect of emulsification is foaming or turning more opaque which goes away.

50% dilution with water is too much, in my opinion. I wouldn't recommend anything more than maybe 10%. I don't know exactly what sort of emulsifier they use or if might break down eventually when left in water, but if you don't keep your pre-mixed medium too long it should be okay. As simple as it is in process, I'd would just say do it when needed.

09-26-2010, 08:56 PM
Hi. I have been trying these wonderful paints out for a few months and I love them. I want o know if it matters how long an unfinished painting is left to dry between work days. I have some I started a long time back, one actually 6 months ago even, and I keep thinking I would like to change it. Obviously the surfacce is dry, even on those that are only 4 days out, but is is okay to add more on top? And also, I want o know if working varnish is okay and when? Someone asked that before but there was no real answer given. Thanks

09-28-2010, 08:20 PM
I've never used Duos, only Artisan. But I find water seems to break down the paint so I use it mostly just for clean up. The Artisan Thinner works much better for me. I also find a similar color shift as acrylics when thinning with water.

10-04-2010, 04:27 PM
It's okay to paint on top of your dry WMO painting, the same way it's okay to paint on any regular oil painting. If the top layer of paint is so dry that the paint just beads up on top, then it is recommended to put a very light coat of linseed oil over the area where you will be painting, then wait a few minutes and paint on top of that. Good Luck.