FAQ

What is Alkyd Resin?

Alkyd resin is a polyester resin modified with a drying oil. The precise formula of our vendor is proprietary. Our product has been tested by an independent laboratory and reviewed by a board-certified toxicologist as solvent free and meets the definition (in the code of Federal regulations) of nontoxic.

How do you use the Walnut/Alkyd Medium?

Our Walnut/Alkyd Medium is fat.  The fat-over-lean rule dictates the first few layers would be applied lean or thin so they would dry faster than any subsequent layers to avoid cracking.  Utilizing the alkyd medium in the first layer will dry and create a stronger foundation for the next layers.  We do not add solvents so you can’t use it as liberally as products that do contain solvent, just a few drops per extruded inch of paint. If you tried to add our Walnut/Alkyd in high volume like solvent, you would get a surface that was so glossy that the next layers of paint wouldn’t adhere to it.

What's the best process to glaze?

For glazing, use transparent colors and either push the paint into thin layers using a stiff brush or paint it on and then wipe some off.

What is oiling out?

Oiling out with vegetable oil or mediums allows the painter to see corrected color in sunken/dull areas.  This is fine as long as the intent is to paint back into the oil.  It is not a good idea to use this method as a way to finish a painting before varnishing.  Any oil or alkyd formulation is going to yellow if left as a final coat and it will become a permanent part of the painting.  The reason one would use varnish instead is to add a removable layer should the painting need to be cleaned or restored.

What are drying times for mediums?

The Walnut/Alkyd medium will speed up drying. Walnut Oil will cause the paint to dry very slowly. Each pigment has its own drying time, plus other factors will determine drying rates, such as the thickness of the paint application, the weather, the support, etc.

Are M. Graham colors compatible with other brands?

Our color is compatible with other brands. The only time we hear of problems is if someone is overusing our Walnut/Alkyd Medium to try to break down an artificially thickened paint.

How do you compare pigments?

Unfortunately, there are no rules about what you name a color or what pigment numbers are assigned in regard to visual color.  We use identical pigments in all of our lines so if the color is called Naphthol Red in oil, you get the same color in acrylic.

Can you use watercolor with gouache?

The watercolor should be diluted rather than applied thickly on the surface of the support, by diluting the paint, it allows it to be dispersed across the hills and valleys of the paper. Watercolor formulas are made with some form of sugar. When common sugars are used, it will leave the paint pan hard and difficult to reconstitute. Common sugars, used in many recipes, leave the paint pan hard and difficult to reconstitute. In our recipe, we use blackberry honey, which acts as a natural humectant. This keeps our paint semi-moist and allows the paint to be easily reconstituted. The results are:

  • Less wear and tear on expensive brushes.
  • Less time spent on your palette and more time painting.
  • Honey contributes to moistness, fluidity of wash and increased pigment concentration.

What is different about M. Graham Gouache?

When we developed our gouache line, there were several “designer” types around…. meaning make a design, photograph it and throw the artwork away. The paint had to lie on the surface in a matte, camera-friendly way.  This was often done using fillers, chalks and whiteners with no need for the colors to be lightfast. We went the other way and made “fine art” gouache, relying on heavy pigment loads. The colors are only as opaque as the pigment allow; colors like Quin Red, where the pigment is so transparent that it is like layering colored glass, we do not obtain true opacity; but we left it to the artist to add white if they choose. The binder in the gouache is made a bit differently which allows layering on paper.

Our watercolor and gouache use the same pigments, so the colors are compatible. We have not tested every color or combination, but more than tinting a gouache with a watercolor could be a problem.

Can you use the dot sampling method?

We cannot do the dot system because we make our watercolor with pure blackberry honey instead of the commercial sugars used in other brands.  This keeps our watercolor moist in the pans.

You can leave your paint out in open air year round and with just a spritz of water they’re fresh again.

No palette lids or soggy sponges or ruining expensive brushes trying to scrub the color back into action.  This also prevents the “dot” sampling, as humidity may make them run.

What does it mean if a paint is staining or granulating?

Staining is when smaller particles flow more easily into the tiny spaces between paper fibers and are embedded too deeply to swab away. Non-staining is when larger pigments sit on top, making them easier to remove. Sedimentation/granulation (gravity) of paint means that when water is added the pigments separate from the binder and settle into the “valleys” of the paper. If it is granulating, it dries in the “valleys” and leaves a grainy texture. Non-granulating pigments tend to cover the paper equally, with little or no variation in color and texture.  Non-staining pigments aren’t always granulating, though granulating pigments are usually non-staining. Staining also depends as much on the surface and sizing of the paper you use as it does on the paint itself. Our paint uses a high pigment load which makes our colors darker and more staining.

How do you use acrylic mediums?

If you are using Gloss Medium for Acrylics, it is crystal clear, water-soluble and will not crack or yellow.  We recommend using it as a barrier coat before varnishing. Varnish can be removed in case of smoke or other damage, while acrylic mediums would be permanent (as would any damage).

Used as a medium, it increases transparency, flow and gloss for traditional glazing techniques. Keep in mind that this is a flexible finish.

Are M. Graham products toxic?

There is nothing inherently toxic about oil paints in particular. Generally, oil paints consist of pigment suspended in a binder, usually linseed, but sometimes safflower, poppy, or walnut oil.  These binders are natural, plant-based and nontoxic. As with acrylic paint, oil paint contains pigment particles. As with acrylic paint, oil paint contains pigment particles. Just as with the acrylics you have used, some pigments can have adverse physical effects if ingested or regularly applied to soft skin. Lead, cadmium and mercurial sulfides are the prime offenders, though the risk they pose in art materials is minimal if used properly. The greatest danger would come from actually eating or ingesting these chemicals. Allergies and sensitivities are harder to answer questions about. We are not physicians and cannot speak to every person’s particular situation.

People who have allergies or sensitivities are more likely to have reactions to the solvents and thinners that are used to dilute the paint or clean brushes, not the paint itself. We grind our color in walnut oil, then suggest you use our solvent free Walnut/Alkyd Medium to add flow, and then clean your brushes with our Walnut Oil.

How does spontaneous combustion occur?

Spontaneous combustion occurs when a drying oil or similar material is combined with cellulose or another material capable of holding onto the oil and the heat generated in the process of drying is not allowed to dissipate. The heat then builds up until it reaches an ignition temperature and combustion occurs. Rags and paper towels are two examples of cellulose material that, when crumpled or folded, can prevent heat from escaping and start to ignite. Ambient temperature can either slow or accelerate the process. In general, the higher the temperature, the more rapidly the oil dries and the greater the possibility of combustion.

A number of strategies have been developed over time to deal with the possibility of spontaneous combustion.  There are two primary ways in current use of which we are aware: allow the heat to dissipate or slow the drying of the oil.

We use some of the following methods in our factory:

  • Lay out rags on a completely flat, non-flammable surface (i.e., concrete flooring, tile) to allow the heat to dissipate.
  • Place rags in a sealed water-filled metal container, taking care to assure to completely wet rags with water.
  • Hang rags on a clothesline to dry out.

Common sense and care must be used with any solution you decide to adopt. Do not, for instance, lay rags down on other cellulose materials or place them on an object in direct sunlight during the summer months. Do not place rags near a source of ignition such as a stove or fireplace, etc.

Disposal of paint rags is generally up to regulations enforced by local municipal authorities and vary greatly.  Please contact them directly for further disposal information.

What do you recommend for varnish?

We suggest that you use the methyl methacrylate aerosol varnish in very light applications.

Can you use zinc white or titanium white with zinc?

Zinc white is well known to be brittle and form a hard film when dry, especially in linseed oil (also known to be brittle and form a hard film when dry). However, it has been used successfully as a ground material when applied correctly.

The use of zinc oxide pigments with titanium white formulations is generally twofold: 1) it reduces the overly “stringy” quality of titanium pigments, and 2) it reinforces the film strength of titanium which is often very soft and “spongy”. In effect, zinc oxide balances the defects of titanium when proper grades in appropriate quantities are used.

When properly used, neither zinc white nor titanium white with zinc oxide will produce unfavorable results.

Why use Walnut Oil?

Short answer: walnut oil has a history of more than 2,000 years of use, with significant use in European decorative fine arts from about 1450  by such notables as Leonardo, Raphael, De Credi, and others. The results of its use in painting are very well documented. In addition, its physical attributes are reasonably uniform for a vegetable oil and its chemistry is well known. Based on the tests we have conducted walnut oil also accepts larger pigment loads.

Why not use Safflower Oil?

Safflower oil has a very short history of use in the decorative arts dating only from the mid-20th century.  Results in artists’ colors have been mixed with examples of yellowing, film embrittlement, drying failures, delamination, and cracking. In addition, there are many grades of Safflower oil produced with wide variations in chemistry and quality.

In general, it is considered a semi-drying oil requiring carefully controlled additions of driers to ensure both top and thorough drying. It does have the advantages of being widely available and inexpensive. Based on the tests we have conducted, walnut oil accepts larger pigment loads.

Based on the tests we have conducted; Walnut oil also accepts larger pigment loads.

How do I thicken oil paint?

Any time you thicken walnut oil-based paint, you will have an unpredictable result in the following (but not limited to) properties: drying rate, film formation, film structure, and color.

Here are some results using different materials to thicken paint:

  • Calcium Carbonate will affect the clarity of the medium as well as the color intensity (it adds a grey/white hue to all colors). It is likely that calcium carbonate will have the least impact on film formation and adhesion but the greatest negative impact on color.
  • Aluminum Stearate will have the greatest thickening effect with the least impact on color, especially if a high gel form is utilized.
  • Aluminum Trihydrate would be a reasonable second choice, even though it does not thicken as well as Stearate. Stearate and Trihydrate have the greatest negative impact on film adhesion, but the least impact on color.
  • Beeswax can also be used.

Overall our choice, even though we do not recommend any of these approaches, would be a very high gel Aluminum Stearate used in very small quantities. This could provide substantial thickening with the least impact on the medium and the color to which it is added.

What is spectrum?

The band of rainbow colors seen when sunlight is passed through a prism. It represents the visible wavelengths of radiant energy, having violet on the left and red on the right end. The visible wavelengths beyond violet, on the low side of the spectrum band, are called ultraviolet. Those beyond the red, on the high side, are called infrared.

What do you recommend for people with chemical sensitivities?

Since all acrylics are, in a way, a soup of many different materials, you might wish to consider painting in oils as an alternative. Our Oil colors are made with walnut oil and represent an avenue for many chemically sensitive artists to avoid the use of solvents.

Is there lead in white paint?

Lead is one of the more abundant elements and is to be found in all soil, rivers, lakes, sea water, vegetables, fruits and meat products as well as drinking water. One may also expect to find minute, trace amounts in virtually all pigments…PW4 would not be an exception. As a percentage of our Titanium White formula, we expect a level of lead about equal to that found in naturally occurring, uncontaminated soil.