The Secret of Water Mixable Oils

Paint without solvents
Reduce health hazards

Years ago I tried water mixable oils when they first came out. Unusable would be a generous evaluation.
I threw them away and forgot about them. Fast forward twenty years...the new WMOs are very usable.
Not exactly like regular oils, but very close. I recommend using very little or no water in actual painting.
Instead a drop or two of medium.

...and Recommended materials for the beginning oil painter.

I've researched the latest brands of paint and
listed them below with suggestions for the beginning oil
painter...colors, brushes, canvas, etc., plus
a good book on the subject.


Recommended Book

Have regular oil paints you like to use up, but don't want to paint with solvents?

You will find a huge amount of art instruction
on this website. Start with
The Secret to Making Better Paintings.

Water mixable
Video Demos


...another demo...

Peacock Vase, 6x8", Artisan oils on canvas


Recommended Book


...for the beginning painter

Best Buy
I have Artisan and Duo. Both are good paint. The others are worth a try. For now Artisan may be your best bet. Bob

Update: Apr 9, '09
After testing Van Gogh H2OIls yesterday I can report they are just fine. A watery wash dried very fast, in minutes, and could not be scrubbed off. The paint has a high gloss.

Many of the Items below can be found at Dick Blick! 

(Bob likes Dick Blick so much he has become an affiliate!)


Why water mixable oils?  You may also enjoy shopping here...   Huge Discounts on Art and Craft Supplies!

1. Student Grade - Lukas Berlin
NEW!  "LUKAS' signature beeswax additive also imparts the beloved buttery consistency to Berlin Water-Mixable Oil Colors..."

Updated Nov. 20, 2013
From the reviews this is worth a try for sure.

LUKAS Berlin contains only selected pigments of highest possible lightfastness in their class. Only pure, modified linseed and sunflower oils are used as binders. To enable the mixability with water—without influencing the other characteristics of the oil color like drying time, lightfastnesses and brilliance—LUKAS has developed a special procedure of modifying oils that guarantees a nearly water-free and water-resistant (color) film structure. 

LUKAS Berlin dries like a 'real' oil color. That makes LUKAS Berlin a real alternative to traditional oils for the casual or professional painter. Available in 30 colors in 37 ml and 200 ml tubes.
Less expensive than Talens H2Oils...
37 ml........$3.08
200 ml......$9.44
Just the thing if you're on a budget.


1. Ultramarine 37 ml

2. Primary Yellow 37 ml

3. Primary Red 37 ml

4. Titanium White 37 ml or 200 ml even better

5. Ivory Black 37 ml

6. Quick Dry Medium 2.5 oz (74 ml)

Optional Colors...

7. Cadmium Red Lt 37 ml

8. Yellow Ochre 37 ml

9. Primary Blue  37 ml

10. Cadmium Orange 37 ml


  You can find Lukas Berlin at....  Jerry's Artarama




2. Student Grade - Royal Talens Van Gogh H2Oil

Van Gogh's water soluble oil colors require no solvents and can be thinned with water, yet they contain no water. They are easy to use, and environmentally friendly, yet they retain the look and intensity of oil color.

Van Gogh's H2Oil Color dries much faster than ordinary oils. In thin layers, the colors can normally be over painted in 24 hours. Thick layers typically dry about four times faster than standard oil paints.

It retains brush strokes completely, as with regular oil colors. Colors are brilliant, and do not shift color as they dry. The final result is the same as with a traditional oil painting.

Turpentine and mineral spirits are unnecessary. Traditional oil mediums and solvents can be used, but water soluble properties diminish and drying times increase as the proportion of these mediums in the paint increases. As with regular oil paints, a varnish should be applied when the painting is fully dried.

These economically priced, genuine oil colors clean up with soap and water, and with five non-hazardous mediums, you can achieve all the traditional oil painting techniques and styles.

1. Ultramarine Blue 40 ml

2. Azo Yellow Lemon 40 ml

3. Quinacridone Rose 40 ml

4. Titanium White 40 ml or 150 ml even better

5. Ivory Black 40 ml

6. Medium 75 ml

This is all the colors you will need. Some of the best artist of the past painted with a limited palette like this. Some of today's best artist do very well with these...Scott Christenson and Ken Auster, for example.

With these colors you can mix all the colors of the color wheel. You can paint landscapes, still lifes and portraits. After learning what these colors can do you may want to add a few more tubes...

7. Naphthol Red Light 40 ml

8. Yellow Ochre 40 ml

9. Pthalo Blue

10. Azo Orange

Price Comparison

Ultra. Blues

Berlin       37 ml     $2.65
H2Oil        40 ml    $3.79
Artisan     37 ml     $4.59
Max         37 ml     $5.41
wOil         37 ml     $5.99
Duo          40 ml     $6.16   


Berlin       37 ml     $2.65
H2Oil        40 ml    $3.79
Artisan     37 ml     $4.59
wOil         37 ml     $7.19
Max         37 ml     $8.99
Duo          40 ml     $10.95 

Gives you some idea how they compare in cost.



3. Better Grade - Winsor-Newton Artisan

Artists using conventional oil colour will require the use of solvents such as turpentine or white spirit (mineral spirits) for use when painting and for cleaning up their materials. 

Artisan on the other hand can be thinned with water for painting and all brushes and equipment can be cleaned up with soap and water only. 

This means that the use of hazardous solvents is not necessary with Artisan and as a result, artists can enjoy a safer painting environment.  With this in mind, Artisan is ideal for:-

  • Oil painters who are sensitive to, or simply want to avoid exposure to solvents such as white spirit (mineral spirits) or turpentine.
  • Students and teachers in schools and colleges where the use of oil colour is prohibited because of the solvents.
  • Artists working in shared studio space where the build up of solvent levels could lead to a harmful concentration of vapors and a generally unpleasant odor.
  • Artists who work within a small home environment and wish to reduce the odor of oil painting.
  • For travel, all Artisan products (Colour & Mediums) can be transported on airplanes (subject to the agreement of the airline).

    1. French Ultramarine 37 ml

    2. Yellow Lemon 37 ml

    3. Permanent Rose 37 ml

    4. Titanium White 37 ml or 200 ml even better

    5. Ivory Black 37 ml

    6. Fast Drying Medium 75 ml

    Optional Colors...

    7. Cadmium Red Hue 37 ml

    8. Yellow Ochre 37 ml

    9. Pthalo Blue, Red Shade  37

    10. Cadmium Orange Hue 37


    Artisan on Youtube...

    Water Lillies study - Richard Robinson

    See my new  demo...The Red Apple! using Winsor-Newton Artisan water mixable oils.




    4. Better Grade - Grumbacher Max

    Grumbacher's Max Oil Colors are identical to conventional oil colors, with one major difference — Max Oils thin and clean up with water. With Max Oils, there is no need for special brush cleaners, turpentine, or mineral spirits.

    Max Grumbacher's professional-quality, water mixable oil colors are made from the same pigments and linseed oil as Grumbacher Pre-Tested Oils, and they have comparable drying time. Max Grumbacher colors can be intermixed with any other oil colors or oil painting mediums, and they can be varnished after 6 months. Use at least 70% Max color, and no more than 30% of regular oil colors or mediums to retain the water miscible properties of Max Oil Colors.


    1. French Ultramarine Blue 1.25 oz (37 ml)

    2. Cadmium-Barium Yellow Pale 1.25 oz

    3. Quinacridone Red 1.25 oz

    4. Titanium White 1.25 oz or 1.25 oz even better

    5. Ivory Black 1.25 oz

    6. QuickDry Medium 2.5 oz (74 ml)

    Optional Colors...

    7. Grumbacher Red 1.25 oz

    8. Yellow Ochre 1.25 oz

    9. Pthalo Blue  1.25 oz

    10. Cadmium-Barium Orange 1.25 oz


    5. Best Grade - Weber wOil
    Martin/F. Weber Co. has over 150 years of artist material manufacturing excellence. There is no water in the wOil formulation. The linseed oil and safflower oil vehicles have been modified to allow the color to mix with water, creating a stable emulsion, while retaining the working characteristics of traditional oil color.
    wOil Consistency/Viscosity - wOil has a very smooth buttery consistency which allows ease of use for the artist. The viscosity or thickness of the color is medium to heavy body which can be used directly from the tube or thinned with water or with wOil mediums as desired.
    wOil Color and blending - wOil colors can be blended with traditional oil color and mediums. wOil Color is not classified as a water based color but can be blended with acrylic based color (add a few drops of water).
    wOil Color Luster - The reflective quality of the wOil film varies from color to color because each pigment requires differing volumes of oil in formulation. The addition of water mixed to thin the color as well as the use of wOil mediums will also alter surface luster.
    wOil Permanence - Most artists want to be sure that their colors are permanent. Pigment developments have led to continued improvements in the lightfastness of artists' colors. These improvements have been utilized in wOil. All wOil colors are rated Lightfastness I or II and are recommended as permanent for artists' use.
    wOil Drying time - When wOil is thinned with water, the water evaporates from the paint film fairly rapidly, leaving behind a traditional film of oil that dries by means of oxidation. The different drying rates of wOil colors are due to the different reaction of each pigment when mixed with oil. wOil colors should dry between 3 and 5 days which is slightly faster than traditional oil colors.

    1. French Ultramarine Blue 37 ml

    2. Cadmium Yellow Light Hue 37 ml

    3. Red Permanent 37 ml

    4. White Permanent 37 ml

    5. Ivory Black 37 ml

    6. QuickDry Medium 2.5 oz (74 ml)

    Optional Colors...

    7. Rose Permanent 37 ml

    8. Yellow Ochre 37 ml

    9. Pthalo Blue  37 ml

    10. Cadmium Orange Hue 37 ml


    6. Best Grade - Holbein Duo Aqua
    Holbein's Duo Aqua Oils are genuine oil color for the professional artist, with the same qualities and characteristics as the traditional Holbein Artist Oil Color. Unlike most other water-mixable oils, each Duo Aqua color carries a full pigment load and has the mixing and tinting characteristics of a professional paint.

    Duo handles like a professional oil color, yet it can be thinned or cleaned up with water. To make Duo identical in every respect to its traditional professional grade, Holbein developed a unique additive which works as a surface active agent. Any residue of this additive loses its effectiveness once the oil color is dry.

    Mix Duo Aqua Oils with other media, such as watercolor, gouache, or acrylic paints. Experiment with mixing media for a variety of effects. For example, Duo can be mixed with waterbased metallic, pearl, and interference colors that are unavailable in a traditional oil palette.

    Duo can also be mixed with traditional oil colors. It retains its water soluble characteristics with an oil mixture up to 30%. When thinned with water, a blend of Duo and traditional oil color permits delicate and fine hatching detail not easily accomplished with an oil color alone.

    Duo dries much faster than traditional oil colors — in as little as 24 hours — and the colors dry uniformly. This makes it easier to plan for overcoating, texturing, and correcting. It dries without the solvent odor of a conventional oil paint. A cold environment does not affect its drying capabilities.

    Duo can be used with the same brush and knife techniques as a conventional oil paint, and it preserves textures and brush strokes the same way that a traditional oil does. Clean brushes thoroughly after use, because paint left in the brush hardens permanently and cannot be removed with any solvent. Use only rustproof knives, because steel knives will rust. Use a plastic or aluminum palette, because a wood palette will warp.




    1. Ultramarine Deep 40 ml

    2. Lemon Yellow 40 ml

    3. Rose Dore 40 ml

    4. Titanium White 50 ml or 110 ml even better

    5. Ivory Black 40 ml

    6. Artisan Fast Dry Medium 2.5 oz (74 ml)

    Optional Colors...

    7. Naphthol Red 40 ml

    8. Yellow Ochre 40 ml

    9. Pthalo Blue  40 ml

    10. Cadmium Yellow Deep Hue 40 ml



    Waif 3
    Oil (Duo) on paper






    Recommended Book


      The items below can be found at Dick Blick! 
    (Bob likes Dick Blick so much he has become an affiliate!)

    1. The Taklon brush set is a good bet, but the other one could be a bargain. Not sure because I haven't seen below.

    2. An incredible value, this assortment of slightly imperfect brushes is perfect for school crafts.

    The set includes a variety of different brush sizes, hairs, and styles, each with minor cosmetic imperfections that do not affect performance.

    Each set contains a different assortment. There are 42 brushes per set.



    1. Princeton Value Pack White Taklon, Set of 6......$7.35
        Pack M, shown above.

    2. Slightly Imperfect Assorted Brushes, Set of 42.....$13.65
        Might be a bargain?











      MisterArt has these Artisan brushes...   Huge Discounts on Art and Craft Supplies!
    The synthetic bristles of Artisan brushes are developed from a blend of high quality polyester fibers. They offer excellent spring, durability and strength, and maintain their shape even when in contact with water. This makes them particularly useful during prolonged painting sessions with water mixable oil colors.


    WINSOR & NEWTON Artisan Long Handled Round Brushes

    WINSOR & NEWTON Artisan Long Handled Short Flat/Bright Brushes

    WINSOR & NEWTON Artisan Long Handled Filbert Brushes

    WINSOR & NEWTON Artisan Long Handled Fan Brushes

    ...a variety of sizes, moderately priced.


    Recommended Book


      The items below can be found at Dick Blick! 
    (Bob likes Dick Blick so much he has become an affiliate!)

    These panels are inexpensive, easy to handle and are sturdier than stretched canvas.

    1. Blick Canvas Panel, 9 x 12", Cotton....12 ea.

    This is a handy size for class and it fits a standard frame as well. If you already have other size supports that will be fine. Other surfaces work, too...

    2. Hardboard, 1/8" and 1/4" for larger paintings. Sand and two coats of acrylic gesso.

    3. Watercolor paper, 140 or 300#, one coat of gesso both sides.

    4. Canvas Pads, real canvas 'sheets', pre-gessoed

    5. Canvas Paper

    6. Mat Board, 100% rag, one coat shellac primer/sealer



      You may also enjoy shopping here...   Huge Discounts on Art and Craft Supplies!


    Recommended Book

    Other Stuff You Need


    Items below can be found at Dick Blick! 
    (Bob likes Dick Blick so much he has become an affiliate!)


    1. Paper towels.

    2. Jar or bucket to hold water for cleaning brushes.

    3. Old shirt or apron to protect clothing.

    4. A flat box or tray with a lid to carry home wet paintings. Could have three or four at the end of the session.

    5. Jar lid, about 2-3" diameter to hold water.

    6. Small bottle cap to hold medium

    7. A small misting spray bottle usually about four inches high, not the bigger ones that can spit out large drops in the spray.

    8. Mixing palette...Styrofoam plate or platter with a second one for a lid. Allows you to carry safely.

    Or a sheet of wax paper or butcher paper for a throw-away palette.

    Or commercial airtight palette - Masterson Sta-Wet Premier Palette without the sponge, with the disposable palette film.

    9. Painting knife, diamond shaped, blade about 2" long for mixing and painting, like this
    'Blick Blue Comfort Grip Painting Knife, Style 44'


      You may also enjoy shopping here...   Huge Discounts on Art and Craft Supplies!


    Recommended Book

    Optional, but Nice

      Items below can be found at Dick Blick!    
    (Bob likes Dick Blick so much he has become an affiliate!)

    1. Gesso is optional if you are using a surface that is pre-gessoed. The Blick panels come gessoed. To hide the canvas texture add several coats of gesso. If you want to make your own texture, add one thick coat of gesso. If you will be painting much you'll need gesso.

    2. An artist needs an easel. But you can also paint on a table top just fine. A good 'make do' easel is a step ladder.

    3. You should use hand protection. I often forget.

    1. Tri-Art Finest Acrylic White Gesso

    2. A table easel or a floor easel.

    3. disposable plastic or latex gloves, or 'Invisible Glove' hand coating or similar.

    Easel from a Step Ladder: Drill two holes in the front lip of each step of an aluminum step ladder and two more holes (the same distance apart) in an old piece of wooden picture rail. A bolt through each hole of both the rail and the ladder -- bingo, instant easel. Sturdy, cheap, very light, folds up, and hangs in the tool shed.

    Another easy way. video

      You may also enjoy shopping here...   Huge Discounts on Art and Craft Supplies!


    Recommended Book

    Why water mixable oils?

     Recommended Book

    Water mixable oil color has stunned artists and art materials dealers who never imagined such a thing was possible. Water and oil don't mix, right? Also called water-soluble, water thinnable  and water miscible oils.

    Water mixable oils have all the advantages of regular oil paint...

    *Spreads easily
    *Thin film for details
    *Excellent adhesion
    *Adds depth
    *Retains brushstrokes
    *Adds transparency! can forget the turpentine and mineral spirits. This stuff is soluble in WATER. They dissolve easily in water. No more dangerous solvents for thinning and cleaning.

    Five main brands arranged in order of best to good...

    *HK Holbien -        Duo Aqua
    *Grumbacher -      Max
    *Winsor-Newton - Artisan
    *Royal Talens -     Van Gogh H2Oil
    *Lukas -                 Berlin

    Each one is a little different in the oils used and the technical process. Each has it's own consistency and odor.






    Painting with Water-Soluble Oils (Hardcover)

    by Sean Dye

    Dye is an artist, an instructor at the University of Vermont, and a technical consultant for manufacturers of art paints. In his opinion, the advent of water-soluble oil paint is as revolutionary as the emergence of acrylics was in 1950. The jury is still out. In the meantime, Dye has written the most comprehensive exploration of the medium, which retains the traditional characteristics of oil paint but is mixed and thinned (not to mention cleaned up) with water. By the 1980s, most schools and universities had banned the use of solvents in art departments, effectively banning the use of oil paints. With water-soluble oils, the toxic solvents associated with working in oils can be eliminated, making it safe to reintroduce oil painting to the classroom. Water-soluble oils and traditional oils don't behave identically on the canvas, however. (The latter holds a brush stroke more firmly than the former, for example.) Dye clearly lays out differences in pigments, light-fastness, opacity, texture, and application. Eleven artists add demonstrations and personal opinions to this important addition to the field.
    Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.

    An interesting personal note: I traveled with one of the artist featured in this book to Mexico in about 1984. We visited the Tarahumara Indians high in the Sierra Madre during their Easter celebration. It was a ten day trip flying from Seattle to Tucson, taking the bus down to Hermosillo, renting a car, driving to Los Mochis, riding the train from there eight hours to Creel, observing the Indians, camping out and then back again. A great trip. The artist is Ned Mueller and you can see his work with water mixable oils on page 85. This trip resulted in my Tarahumara Series of which this is one:



    Sean Dye demos a studio painting using India ink, acrylic gouache and water-soluble oil with painting knife techniques. I just watched this two hour video. Very informative, he explains clearly every step. About half of it shows the final oil phase.
    from Dick Blick...#69808-1004

    Click and save


      A couple of tips from the Yarnell PBS show where he specifically used the water mixable oils by request...

    1. Do not thin with
    water. Makes it goopy. Use water only to clean brushes. If you need to thin, use the water mixable thinner.

    2. put a drop or two of linseed oil in your paint pile and mix it very well. Be very conservative.

    3. Put a drop or two or three on a cloth or paper towel and cover your painting ground with a very thin coat.



    Have oil paints you like to use up, but don't want to paint with solvents?



    BF Jr. Miss
    Oil Acrylic
    Italy Portfolio 1
    Landscape Portfolio 1
    Landscape Portfolio 2
    Landscape Portfolio 3
    Secret of Painting

    Native American Portfolio 1
    Native American Portfolio 2
    Western Themes 1

     Body of work

    Daily Painting Blog
    Figurative Portfolio 1
    Wild Life Portfolio 1
    Still Life Portfolio 1

    Digital Portfolio 1
    Portrait Portfolio 1
    Portrait Portfolio
    About the Artist
    Murals  Domes