Water-Based Oil Painting

Water-based oil paints are relatively new and are user-friendly.

Water-based oil paints are relatively new and are user-friendly. Best of all, they wash up with water.

Resort Hideaway Water-borne oil on canvas, 20×24″

The Feel of Waterborne Oil (WBO)

Now, this is just my first try with the waterborne oils, so I was basically experimenting with the medium. They feel like a drier version of normal oil paint. The waterborne oil (WBO) is more resistant and not nearly as buttery. Compared to acrylic, WBO is like a plaster mix.

It’s very important to know that you can wash off about 75% of the paint from your brushes with water. To finish you need to use baby oil. That’s right, baby oil, instead of thinners. That way it’s much better than breathing in Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs), that’s the smelly odors we usually get sick of.


Since WBO is water-based, you can break it down with water. Thin it so to speak. However, watering it down makes it into a slow-drying stain that will flake off in the future. A tiny amount of water is ok, but be careful.

At the same time, you can use a small amount of linseed oil or Galkin to thin the WBO. But the more you add, the more like traditional oil it becomes. More than 10% makes it pointless using WBO. Again, use baby oil to clean the linseed oil or Galkin off.

Let’s Start Sketch

Resort Step 1 Sketch in from your photo or imagination

Block In

Sketch in your basic idea using a rough brush and black paint. Black lines will be used as shadow lines and accents. The canvas I reused here had a thick diagonal line from a previous painting. There was no hiding it, so it became the edge of a tree, and some rough patches of thick paint became rocks in the waterfall.

Resort Step 2 Block in Colors

In keeping with my goal of rich colors, I started with a deep richened blue to avoid pale light colors. Since there will be a lot of green in the painting, I added some green oxide in the blue for harmony.

Color Choices

Resort Step 3 Color background

The Group of Seven was my inspiration and as you can see, I didn’t do it very well. But the thick paint and richness of the colors were what I was after. Choosing your picture’s composition is the main consideration. Close behind is your color selection. Starting with a limited palette of viridian green, umber, cyan blue, ochre, and light cadmium red.

The top half is cool blues and greens transitioning to warm reds and yellows. A simple green forest with a blue sky is boring, which is why a lot of painters love fall colors. Anyway, it’s an easy way to play with colors.

Resort Step 4 place colors strategically

I had to get rid of the horrible fence lines on the red ruined by the texture underneath. I didn’t want too much detail. Most important to me here are color and rough brushstrokes.

Fine Tuning

Resort Step 5 Fine tune

Adding fine lines in the grass was a counterpoint to the heavy brushstrokes. A black shadow line on the opposite shore lightened the water more white highlighted the birch trees.

Every experiment is just another step in the journey toward our artistic dream. There really is no final destination in art; only successes and studies (no failures). The failed painting I showed earlier was an experiment gone wrong. It’s not the end, but a way to practice.

I recently heard that the difficulty in putting paint on the canvas is like going from zero to one. With this painting, I was overcoming painters block by experimenting and I like what I did. It’s not a success, and it’s not a failure. Just a step.

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