Alright guys, I see this question come up from time to time among young artists and even in my painting group. So I wanted to share a brief answer!
The Short Answer:
Oil paint is crafted by mixing pigment with a drying oil—like linseed or walnut—that serves as the vehicle to bind the color and allow it to adhere to surfaces.
More Background on Oil Paint:
White that first answer is pretty cool and to the point. Here’s a little more info for you to expand your knowledge (and make you sound good at parties!).
So, the creation of oil paint is a little like alchemy!
Back in the day, artists ground pigments by hand with a muller on a slab, painstakingly mixing these fine powders with a drying oil. As I mentioned above, this was usually linseed oil.
This oil acts as the vehicle, enveloping the pigment particles and giving the paint its luscious, buttery consistency.
The process starts with choosing pigments, which come from a variety of sources. Natural pigments were originally minerals or organic compounds, like indigo and madder from plants, or sepia and carmine from living creatures.
Today, synthetic pigments offer a wider range of vivid colors and are less toxic.
Once the pigment is finely ground, it’s blended with the oil until it reaches the perfect consistency.
Historically, artists would have to do this themselves, but now, machines take on that mulling process, ensuring a smooth, even texture.
The choice of oil affects drying time and paint film characteristics; linseed oil is the most common, but walnut, poppy seed, and safflower oils are also used as vehicles for their varying properties.
The beauty of oil paint lies in its versatility and depth of color, something that’s captivated artists for centuries.
Today, how we make oil paints is totally industrialized, but the essence remains the same.
It’s a beautiful blend of tradition and technology, allowing us to express our creativity with every stroke.
As an artist for over three decades, I can attest to the transformative power of a simple tube of oil paint—it’s not just color, it’s potential as they say!