Art supplies Bay Area Parks Landscape Marin County Oil Painting Outdoors/Landscape Painting Places

Marin Headlands: Water-Soluble Oil Painting Experiment

Marin Headlands oil painting, 5x7" on Gessobord
Marin Headlands oil painting, 5x7" on Gessobord

I got inspired to try water-soluble (aka water-miscible) so researched which brand had artist quality paints made with real, archival pigments that performed most like regular oils. From my reading, Holbein Duo Aqua Oils was the answer.

I bought 3 colors (Cad Yellow, Napthol Red, and Ultramarine Blue) and white and gave them a go with this happy little painting above from a photo and watercolor sketch. I really, REALLY enjoyed working with them.

Indeed they worked exactly like oils, but with no solvents, no odor, and brushes clean up with water! To thin the paint you can use a little water or Duo Linseed Oil. The consistency was nearly perfect but I used a tiny bit of water because I like my paint smooth. Next time I’ll try the oil.

After working with the Golden Open Acrylics for several months I became frustrated with the way they dry darker and how sometimes the paint gets tacky or dry in minutes (outdoors) and other times stays sticky for days.

When I paint, I like trying to match the colors and values I see, so I’m disappointed when I paint with Open Acrylics and the painting dries to look completely different. Supposedly they only shift 10% but I just don’t seem to be able to guess right when mixing (and don’t want to have to guess!)

With the Duo oils I loved being able to mix colors and have them not change, and to not worry about the paint getting sticky during a painting session. I spent about 2 hours on the painting above last night and  it’s still wet today. And, because I could clean the brushes with a swish of water while I worked, I only used a few. Clean up was quick and easy, with a little Masters Brush Cleaner for the brushes and a spritz of water and a paper towel across the palette.

Holbein Duo paints are more expensive than the other water-soluble brands because of their higher pigment load and use of more expensive pigments. Their prices are about the same as regular artist-quality oil paint. From my research and my first experiment with them, they’re worth it. I’ve ordered a few more colors and look forward to trying them out for plein air painting too, where I think they should be ideal.

P.S. I know you can use regular oils without any solvents, and that you can clean up regular oils using walnut oil followed by soap and water. But it means painting with thick paint and spending even more time in the clean up process.