Can You Thin Paint with Turps? A Comprehensive Guide

Turpentine, a distilled pine tree resin solvent, has been used for hundreds of years in the world of painting to thin oil-based paints. This process can come in handy when you need to stretch your paint to cover a larger area or alter its consistency. But can you thin paint with turps? The answer is simple – yes! And in this article, we’ll dive deeper into the process and explain how to do it the right way.

When it comes to painting, the texture and consistency of your paint plays a crucial role in the final product. Thinning your paint with turpentine can give you more control over the texture and even help with blending, allowing you to create a painting with more depth and dimensionality. But, it’s essential to note that there are some do’s and don’ts when it comes to painting with turps. For example, adding too much turpentine can cause your paint to become too thin and runny, leaving you with a diluted finish.

In this article, we’ll provide you with a comprehensive guide on how to thin your paint with turpentine while ensuring the best possible outcome. We’ll explore the benefits of this process, including improving the longevity of your paint and reducing cracking. Our goal is to help you understand the ins and outs of painting with turps, so you can create a masterpiece with confidence. So, let’s dive in!

What is Turpentine?

Turpentine is a versatile and widely-used solvent commonly used in paint thinning, cleaning, and varnishing processes. It is produced from the sap of conifer trees like pine, spruce, and fir through a process called steam distillation. This process involves heating the sap to create vapor, which is then condensed to produce a colorless liquid commonly known as turpentine oil.

Turpentine is classified as a hydrocarbon and has a distinctive odor and volatile nature. It evaporates easily, making it a popular choice as a solvent in a wide range of industrial and household applications. It is often used in painting supplies because of its ability to dissolve and thin paint, making it easier to spread on a surface.

Turpentine is also used as a cleaning agent, especially in the removal of tar and grease from machinery and equipment. It is also used as a solvent in the manufacture of varnishes, lacquers, and resins. The use of turpentine in these applications has been continuous since ancient times, making it an essential part of the world of solvents and chemicals.

Diluting Paint with Turpentine

If you’re out of thinners or solvents and wondering if turpentine is a good alternative, the answer is yes, you can thin paint with turps. Turpentine has been a trusted paint thinner for centuries. It’s a natural substance derived from pine trees and is commonly used to thin oil-based paints. Here are some factors to consider when diluting paint with turps.

Factors to Consider

  • Type of Paint – Turpentine is compatible with oil-based and enamel paints, but not with latex or acrylic paints. If you’re working with a latex or acrylic paint, you’ll need to use water as a thinner instead.
  • Amount of Paint – The amount of turpentine to use will depend on the amount of paint you’re diluting. As a general rule, use between 30% to 50% turps for paint thinning. However, follow the manufacturer’s instructions for specific proportions.
  • Application Method – The application method will determine how much turpentine you’ll need to thin the paint. A roller or brush may require less turps than a spray gun. Start with a small amount of turpentine and gradually add more as needed.

Tips for Thinning Paint with Turps

Thinning paint with turpentine can be tricky. Here are some tips to help you get the best results.

  • Stir the Paint – Before adding turpentine, stir the paint thoroughly. This will help you see the consistency of the paint and make it easier to determine how much turpentine is needed.
  • Add Gradually – Add the turpentine a little at a time and stir thoroughly after each addition. This will prevent you from adding too much turps and thinning the paint beyond usability.
  • Test on a Small Area – Before applying the thinned paint to your project, test it on a small, inconspicuous area. This will help you see if the consistency is right and if the thinned paint is suitable for your project.

Turps as a Cleaner

Turpentine isn’t just a paint thinner; it’s also an effective cleaner for paintbrushes and other painting tools. After using turps to thin your paint, use it to clean your brushes by soaking them in turps. Then rinse the brushes with warm soapy water and let them air dry.

Turpentine as a Cleaner Steps to Follow
Paintbrushes Soak the brushes in turpentine, rinse with warm soapy water, and air dry.
Rollers Place the rollers in a bucket of turpentine, squeeze out the excess paint, rinse with warm soapy water, and air dry.
Spray Guns Disassemble the spray gun and soak the parts in turpentine, then rinse with warm soapy water and air dry.

Advantages of Thinning Paint with Turpentine

There are several advantages to thinning paint with turpentine, a traditional solvent that artists and painters have used for centuries. Here are some of the key benefits:

  • Improves Flow and Consistency: Turpentine thins paint and improves its flow, making it easier to apply and resulting in a smoother and more consistent finish.
  • Enhances Drying Time: Turpentine can speed up drying time, allowing painters to finish their work more quickly and reduce the chances of smudging or blending colors unintentionally.
  • Reduces Brush Marks: By thinning paint with turpentine, painters can achieve a more even and polished appearance since turpentine can help reduce brush marks and create a more consistent surface.

When experimenting with turpentine, it is important to use it in moderation and to be careful with the amount you add to your paint. Adding too much turpentine can cause paint to become too thin and weaken its adhesion to the surface it is applied to, resulting in cracking, peeling, and other issues.

While there are many paint thinning options available on the market, turpentine remains a popular and effective choice for artists and painters. Its long history of use and proven results make it a reliable and trusted choice for thinning paint and achieving the desired effects.

Advantages Disadvantages
Improves flow and consistency Strong odor
Speeds up drying time Can be hazardous to health if not used properly
Reduces brush marks May weaken paint’s adhesion if overused

Overall, the advantages of thinning paint with turpentine are clear. It can help improve the flow and consistency of paint, enhance drying time, and create a more polished finish. However, it is important to use turpentine safely and in moderation, as overuse can have negative effects on paint and one’s health.

Disadvantages of Thinning Paint with Turpentine

While turpentine may seem like a convenient option to thin out your paint, there are several disadvantages to consider:

  • Strong odor: Turpentine has a strong and unpleasant odor, which can be harmful if inhaled for long periods.
  • Volatile organic compounds (VOCs): Turpentine is a type of solvent that contains VOCs, which can have negative effects on the environment and human health.
  • Possibility of over-thinning: Using too much turpentine to thin out your paint can result in a runny consistency and a lack of coverage.

It’s important to note that the disadvantages of using turpentine as a paint thinner can vary depending on the type and quality of the paint being used. Certain paints may be more sensitive to the use of solvents, while others may have different solvent requirements altogether.

For a better understanding of how different types of paints interact with turpentine, refer to the table below:

Paint Type Compatibility with Turpentine
Oil-based paint Compatible
Acrylic paint May be compatible, but water is a better option
Latex paint Not recommended

Overall, before deciding to thin your paint with turpentine, it’s important to weigh the advantages and disadvantages, consider the type of paint being used, and assess any potential risks to your health and the environment.

How to Thin Oil Paint with Turpentine

If you’re an artist or just someone who likes to dabble in painting, you may find yourself with a tube or two of oil paint that’s a little too thick for your liking. Not to worry, turpentine can come to the rescue. Here’s how to thin oil paint with turpentine:

  • First, make sure your workspace is well-ventilated. Turpentine has a strong odor and can be harmful if inhaled.
  • Next, mix a little bit of turpentine into your oil paint using a palette knife. Start with a small amount and add more if needed.
  • Mix the turpentine and oil paint together thoroughly until you achieve the desired consistency. Keep in mind that a little bit of turpentine can go a long way, so add it in small increments.

Thinning oil paint with turpentine can help create a smoother, more even finish on your canvas. However, keep in mind that the more turpentine you add, the more the paint’s drying time will be affected. Too much turpentine can also cause the paint to lose its color intensity and become transparent.

Here are some additional tips to keep in mind:

  • Use high-quality turpentine to ensure the best results.
  • Don’t thin oil paint with turpentine if you’re adding it to a layer of paint that’s already dried. It won’t blend in properly and can cause your painting to crack or peel over time.
  • If you’re not happy with your results, you can always add more paint to thicken it up again.


Thinning oil paint with turpentine is a simple process that can help you achieve the desired consistency for your painting. Just remember to work in a well-ventilated area, start with a small amount of turpentine, and mix thoroughly. Don’t be afraid to experiment and find the right balance for your needs.

Pros Cons
Can help create a smoother finish Turpentine has a strong odor and can be harmful
A little goes a long way Too much turpentine can cause the paint to lose color intensity and become transparent
Easy to adjust the consistency Turpentine can affect drying time

Overall, thinning oil paint with turpentine can be a useful technique for artists looking to achieve a specific consistency or finish in their paintings. With a little practice and experimentation, you can find the right balance and take your painting to the next level.

How to Thin Acrylic Paint with Turpentine

Acrylics are beloved by artists worldwide for their vividness and versatility. However, sometimes they can have a thick or gloopy consistency that makes them difficult to work with. One way to address this issue is by thinning your acrylic paint with turpentine. With this guide, you’ll learn the best ways to do it.

  • Choose the Right Turpentine: Not all turpentines are created equal. For thinning acrylic paint, use odorless turpentine, also known as rectified turpentine. Not only is this safer for your health, but it also has a milder odor than other types.
  • Gradually Add Small Amounts: Pouring in too much turpentine at once can change the consistency of your paint too drastically. Start by adding a little bit at a time (about 10% of the volume) and mix it well before adding more. Repeat until your paint reaches the desired consistency.
  • Test Your Paint: Before using your thinned paint on your canvas, take the time to test it on a piece of scrap paper or canvas. This will help you see if your paint is still thick or unworkable—the latter of which can happen if there’s too much turpentine added to the paint.

When using turpentine to thin acrylic paint, it’s important to note that it can change the color of your paint slightly. While this may not be a big deal for artists who plan to layer or mix their colors, it’s something to keep in mind if color accuracy is important to your project.

If you’re working on a project that requires very thin layers of paint, consider mixing in a medium such as glazing medium or gloss medium instead. These products are specifically designed to thin your paint and have a smoother finish than turpentine. Additionally, they don’t alter the hue of your paint.

Pros of Thinning Acrylic Paint with Turpentine: Cons of Thinning Acrylic Paint with Turpentine:
Less viscous, thus more versatile for different painting techniques May alter the hue of a paint color
Less time-consuming to mix than other mediums Can have a harsh smell and potentially harmful if used in excess
Less expensive when compared to mediums like matte or gloss finish mediums May dilute the color’s opacity

Overall, using turpentine to thin acrylic paint is a good option for artists who want a consistent and smooth texture without spending too much money. Just be careful to follow the guidelines above and keep an eye on how much turpentine you’re adding to your paint.

Safety Tips when Using Turpentine

Turpentine is a common solvent that is often used to thin out paints. However, it is important to use caution when handling turpentine as it can be hazardous if not used properly. Here are some safety tips to keep in mind when using turpentine:

  • Always use turpentine in a well-ventilated area to avoid inhaling the fumes. Use a respirator or face mask if necessary.
  • Store turpentine in a tightly sealed container and away from sources of heat and flames, as it is highly flammable.
  • Wear protective gloves to prevent skin contact with the turpentine, which can cause skin irritation or even chemical burns.

Another important thing to keep in mind is to never pour turpentine down the drain or dispose of it in the trash. Turpentine is considered a hazardous waste and must be disposed of properly.

If you’re unsure about how to dispose of turpentine, check with your local waste disposal facility for guidance. They may have specific procedures in place for handling hazardous waste.

It’s also a good idea to keep a fire extinguisher nearby when using turpentine, just in case of accidental spills or fires.

What to do if you are exposed to turpentine:
Immediately wash the affected area with soap and water.
If you have ingested turpentine, do not induce vomiting. Call your local poison control center or seek medical attention immediately.
If you have breathed in excessive amounts of turpentine, seek fresh air immediately and contact a medical professional.

By following these safety tips, you can use turpentine to thin out paint without risking your health or safety.

FAQs About Can You Thin Paint with Turps

1. What is turps?

Turps is a type of solvent commonly used in painting. It is derived from the resin of pine trees and is also known as turpentine.

2. Can you thin oil paint with turps?

Yes, turps can be used to thin oil paint. It is often used to create a more fluid consistency, especially when painting in layers or glazes.

3. How much turps should be used to thin paint?

There is no exact measurement for how much turps to use when thinning paint. It is recommended to add a small amount at a time and mix thoroughly until the desired consistency is achieved.

4. Can turps be used to clean brushes?

Yes, turps can be used to clean oil paint brushes. Simply dip the brush in turps and work it into the bristles until the paint has been removed. Be sure to dispose of the turps properly afterwards.

5. Is turps safe to use?

Turps can be toxic if ingested or inhaled in large amounts. It is important to use turps in a well-ventilated area and to avoid prolonged exposure.

6. Can turps be used to thin water-based paint?

No, turps should not be used to thin water-based paint. Instead, use a paint thinner specifically designed for water-based paints.

7. Can turps be used as a varnish?

No, turps should not be used as a varnish. It is important to use a varnish specifically designed for the type of paint and surface you are working with.

Closing Title: Thanks for Reading!

We hope this article has helped answer your questions about using turps to thin paint. Remember to always use caution and proper safety measures when working with any painting materials. Thanks for reading and be sure to visit again for more helpful tips and advice!