5 Benefits of Oil Painting with Essential Oils

Oil painting used to be toxic for me because of the solvents I used.

Turpentine was my first go to; made from tree sap that is secreted by conifer trees (like pine, cypress, fir). The tree sap is distilled to separate the oil from the resin, creating the solvent known as Turpentine.

So far, it sounds pretty harmless, right?

The industrial distillation process often uses naptha and chemicals to extract the most solvent possible, making the Turpentine toxic to breathe. Because of headaches and health issues related to the use of Turpentine, the principal substitute has been Odorless Mineral Spirits.

When Odorless Mineral Spirits became available, I began using it because I thought the low odor meant it was less toxic.

Here’s what I didn’t know . . .

Odorless Mineral Spirits is made from distilled petroleum, with chemicals added to the petroleum distillate to eliminate the strong odor. This addition does not remove the toxic fumes; it only makes them less detectable to the senses. It is advertised as less toxic than Turpentine because it evaporates more slowly, but essentially it is deodorized distilled industrial gasoline that is toxic to breathe.

In 1996, I discovered the benefits of using Essential Oils for my health and had the idea to try adding them to my oil paint. Doing so upgraded every aspect of my painting experience, which continues to evolve as I play with new oils.

Here are 5 Benefits of oil painting with Essential Oils:

1. Safety

Essential Oils are safe to smell, harmless to touch and add a pleasant aroma to your studio.

2. Superior Paint Control

There are no unwanted side effects of streakiness when essential oils mix with paint. In fact, they provide a far superior degree of control for handling the paint that is noticeably different and better than Turpentine or Odorless Mineral Spirits.

3. Drying Time Perfection

Essential Oils have roughly the same drying time as Turpentine or Odorless Mineral Spirits.

4. Promote Health and Wellness

High quality Essential Oils* are beneficial to one's health. Breathing their aromas while painting can help you feel more in tune, focused and relaxed.

5. High Frequency Influence

Essential Oils are the life blood of plants. When extracted properly, the intelligence of the plant remains intact with a measurable frequency that affects the artist, the paint and the painting. I like to think of them as "smart oils" because their influence is felt uniquely by each artist and the results are infused into each painting.

Adding Essential Oils to the mix is tons of fun and it makes painting smell amazing. Share this with the Oil Painters you care about.

dōTERRA* Essential Oils possess none of these hazards. They are 100% nontoxic.


*I use dōTERRA Essential Oils because they are Certified Pure Therapeutic Grade. Purity, potency and effectiveness matter to me. I know I can safely use them topically, aromatically and internally while painting.