How to Paint With Holbein Duo Aqua Oil

Updated April 17, 2017

Water-soluble oil paints are a recent innovation in painting technology. Called water- miscible oil paints, they will dissolve when mixed with water. The Holbein paint manufacturer offers a line of the paints called Duo Aqua Oils. They come in the same colours and are made with the same archival qualities as Holbein's regular Artist Oil colours. Use of the new type of oil paint allows thinning and clean up with water. The harsh, strong-smelling solvents associated with oil painting are eliminated. Traditional turpentine, white spirit and linseed oil are replaced by water.

Prepare a canvas suitable for oil painting. Gesso it with at least three coats, thinning each one by adding more water. Sand the surface smooth between coats. Draw your composition directly onto the primed canvas with pencil or charcoal. Brush in an imprimatura coat of water-thinned paint to evenly tone the ground of the painting.

Mix your colours with water using a palette with recessed mixing cups. Add more water to the paint to lay in your first washes of thin paint. Define the forms and relationships between dark and light areas with broad, flat patches of colour. Set up the tonal structure of the picture. Use graded washes to add depth and texture to the background. Use the Aqua Oils as you would ordinary oil paint; just substitute water for turpentine and linseed oil.

Try mixing the Duo Aqua Oil Colors with acrylics, watercolours, gouache and traditional oils. The Duo Aqua oils are still water soluble when used with up to 30 per cent regular oil paint. Pick the mixture that produces the best effects and looks best to you. Work up a visually interesting surface in paint strokes and juxtapositions of colour on the canvas as you progress. Use the distinctive textural qualities of oil paint to your advantage.

Work quickly, keeping in mind that the Aqua Oils will dry in half the time of regular oils. Try out different water-soluble painting media made for use with water-miscible paints. Thin the media out with water to get the right textures while painting. Use the media to impart a glossy finish to your painting. Thin out the colours with a medium to enhance their transparency characteristics. Mix some water-soluble paste medium with the paint to work up a highly textured impasto surface.

Work from lean to fat in your painting, building up thicker layers of paint as you go. Use more opaque and brighter colours as you finish up the picture. Define the negative and positive areas of the painting by modulating the hue and tone of the paint. Apply the finishing touches of accented highlights. Clean your brushes immediately after use in soap and water.


Clean your brushes frequently to avoid muddy colours. The five "Luminous" colours will fade if exposed to ultraviolet light.

Things You'll Need

  • Drawing materials
  • Paint brushes
  • Painting medium
  • Thinning medium
  • Palette
  • Canvas
  • Gesso
  • Sandpaper
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