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What is Oil-Based Paint and When Should it Be Used?

Paint, in or on homes, has been used for thousands of years. There are several occasions throughout the time that paint was used as an expression dating back to our oldest ancestors. More than 30,000 years ago, cavemen and women used paint for various reasons.

Although there is no way to know for sure, it is said that cave dwellers used to paint as a way to express themselves, much as we do today. Paintings were also used to depict the lives of the people living at that time. Much like we do today, cave dwellers wanted to document their lives in the best way they knew how. Many of these paintings are still visible today. 

Red doors specifically have had a large place in history across various cultures. During the Civil War, for example, people painted their doors as a way to symbolize their place in the Underground Railroad. If a slave saw that a door was red, they knew the house was a safe place. The sign of a red door became a sign of safety for many people. Paint as a form of artistic expression in homes is nothing new.

Painting as a way of self-expression is easy, finding paint for your house can be a little more daunting. If you are painting your own home, there are many things you will need to consider.

Painting your space is NEVER easy. There is no doubt that the different choices you have when looking for paint can be overwhelming. When it comes to painting, there are a few (or a ton) of options to choose from. Depending on what you are painting, you will need to choose from oil-based paint, water-based paint, or latex-based paint. For now, take a deep breath, and weigh your options. 

Related: Satin Paint | Flat Paint | Eggshell Paint | Primer Paint | Gloss Paint | Enamel Paint | Latex-Based Paint | Chalkboard Paint | Matte Paint | Types of Primer Paint | Water-Based Paint

What is Oil-Based Paint?

Rust-Oleum 7747730 High Performance 1/2 Pint Protective Enamel Oil Base Paint, Sunburst Yellow

Oil-based paint is made up of several ingredients including natural oils, such as linseed oil or synthetic alkyd.  Linseed oil is specifically put in oil-based paint as a way to help bind and dry the paint when it is used. Oil-based paint should be used for surfaces that don’t need to be painted often but need to stand the test of time. 

When is Oil-Based Paint Used? 

Oil-based paint is used in several instances. The most common use is on surfaces that withstand a large amount of abuse. For example, when painting trim in your home, you should most likely use oil-based paint.

This specific type of paint is known to be long-lasting and extremely durable. It is recommended that homeowners repaint their trim every few years. But who honestly has time for that? If you want to avoid having to repaint furniture or trim often, use oil-based paint. 

Wooden planks painted with oil-based painting.

How Long Does Oil-Based Paint Take To Dry?

Out of all the paints used in people’s homes, oil-based paint takes the longest to dry. Unlike water-based paint, oil-based is thicker and can have a sticky consistency. After applying your first coat of oil-based paint, it is not uncommon to have to wait at least 24 hours before applying your second coat. The good news is that oil-based paints have adherence, which makes it perfect for painting over various types of paint. 

Another thing to note is that because of the natural oils used the paint can sometimes separate. So, although it might be a pain, make sure to stir the paint often when you are using it. Although oil-based paint may seem like work upfront (which it is) it will last much longer than other options. 

Thinning Oil-Based Paint

Do You Need To Thin Oil-Based Paint? 

Unlike water and latex-based paints, oil-based paint can be extremely thick and sticky. This can be a huge issue when you are trying to use various methods to paint your spaces. Paint spray guns can be a super helpful tool when you need to paint large spaces. Why would you go through the tiring process of painting a large space by hand when you can use a sprayer?

If you are using water-based paint this will be easy. However, because of the oils and texture, oil-based paint has, you will need to thin it. You might be thinking— How can I do this? Is it easy? Do I need special equipment? Is it cost-effective? The good news is that thinning oil-based paint is not hard if you do it correctly.

A person carrying a box of various oil-based paints.

How To Thin Oil-Based Paint

Most oil-based paints that you buy will give you instructions on how to thin your paint. It should also tell you what thinning ingredients you can use, but in case it doesn’t, mineral spirits or turpentine are usually good options.

A point to note is that not all oil-based paints can be thinned or used in a spray gun. Make sure to always check the label or ask someone working at the store before purchasing. This can save you from a headache later!

Things You Will Need To Thin Your Paint

  • Paint Strainers
  • Stirring Stick
  • Gloves
  • Funnel
  • Turpentine/Mineral Spirits
  • Oil-Based Paint
  • Spray Gun

Part 1

Pour your paint through a paint strainer to ensure there are no clumps.

Part 2

Check your paints label or suggestion from a paint expert to see what the ratio of paint to thinner is (Usually one part thinner, three parts paint). 

If you add thinner than there is paint, the color and texture of the paint will completely change. A good test is to run your paint and thinner mix through a funnel. If it flows easily, it will most likely be safe to use for your spray gun.

Part 3

Stir the paint and thinner with your paint stick. 

Part 4

If your paint does not flow well through your funnel, make sure to add another part thinner. 


Start spraying! Because you have now thinned your paint, you will need to pray more times in order to cover the space thoroughly. 

Oil-based paint is such a  great option for areas that will have a lot of wear and tear. Although the drying time is longer than other paints, it is worth it due to its durability and longevity. A little more work, in the beginning, will give you years of life in your home. 

Happy painting!