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Solvents - A multi-purpose art supply

A solvent is a substance that has the ability to dissolve another substance. The most popular usage of solvents is adding them to oil or acrylic paints to temporarily change the way the paint works without diluting the pigments and they are also designed to evaporate evenly and completely and to manipulate the drying time of oil paints. (In the case of watercolour paint or gouache - which uses corn syrup; or honey as a binder - water can be used as the solvent). In the Arts and Crafts world, solvents serve as a multi-purpose art supply: - as a mixing agent to dissolve oils, resin, varnishes and inks, - to remove oil or acrylic paint, varnish, lacquers and acrylic ink pen. - as a thinning agent for oil paints to create a wash or for a thin underpainting/drawing layer, - as a cleaning agent for brushes etc.

There are 4 main types of solvents:

1. White/mineral spirits are a petroleum distillate with a moderate evaporation rate - (a strong-smelling, fast evaporating option or a low-odour slow evaporating option).

2. Artist quality turpentine based on a tree resin with fast evaporation results - (slightly more viscous than white spirit).

3. Citrus based thinners and other plant-derived solvents.

4. Alkyd-based mediums - As solvents dry and evaporate, they release toxins into the air and some artists are prone to headaches and nausea as a reaction to these toxins. Always make sure your studio or workspace is well ventilated when using solvents and be aware that solvents are flammable.

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