What Is Alkyd Paint? The Pros and Cons

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Most people have heard of oil paints, acrylic paints, and watercolor paints. But, have you ever heard of alkyd paints?

These are just like regular oil paints, with one big difference: they contain alkyd resin, a hardening agent that dries quickly. This means a painting created with alkyds will look like an oil painting, but it won’t take nearly as long to dry as an oil painting.

Today I am going to talk about alkyd paints, how to use them, and their pros and cons. 

Keep reading to learn more about alkyd based paints.

What Are Alkyd Paints?

As I mentioned in the introduction, alkyd paints are oil paints that have alkyd resin added to them. This resin comes from plant and vegetable oils, including soya and linseed oils.

When alkyd paints are dry, they are tough yet flexible. They are also solvent-resistant. I like using alkyds because they dry so much faster than traditional oil paints. After about 24 hours they are dry to the touch.

I love that they start to dry almost immediately. Within a few hours they are tacky, so you can add new brushstrokes without messing up previous paint layers.

The great thing is that while they do dry quickly, alkyds dry slowly enough that you can still blend colors easily, just as you would with oil paints. They are also compatible with oils, as well as mediums, turpentine, mineral spirits, and some other mediums.

If you use a paint thinner with alkyds, you can apply them much like you would egg tempera paints. Your paint strokes will be nice and smooth, and also quite precise.

These paints can be used for most painting techniques, including impasto painting.

Can You Mix Alkyds with Other Paints?

Alkyd paints can be mixed with oils. They are often used this way to speed up the drying time of a painting. You can also add a drying medium to make the paints dry even faster.

Many artists also like to switch things up and use alkyd white paints instead of oil white paints. 

Oil paints and acrylic paints should never be mixed. It is the same with alkyd paints. They are oil-based whereas acrylic paints are water-based.

You can use alkyds to paint over acrylic paints once they have dried. But, you can’t use acrylics over alkyds or oils. I like using alkyds for underpainting with oils and acrylics.

Is Alkyd Paint The Same As Oil-based Paint?

As I mentioned above, alkyd paint is a type of oil-based paint. However, there are some differences between traditional oil-based paints and alkyd paints. While both alkyd and traditional oil-based paints share similarities, it’s important to note that alkyd paints are a specific subset within the broader category of oil-based paints. 

Alkyd paints are known for their faster drying time compared to traditional oil paints, making them a popular choice for artists who want the convenience of quicker drying. Alkyd paints also tend to have a slightly different texture and handling characteristics compared to traditional oils.

What Is Alkyd Paint Used for In The Artists Community?

In the artist painting community, alkyd paint is commonly used for various purposes including outdoor painting on versatile surfaces due to its fast drying time, durability, and compatibility with oil paints. It is ideal for impasto techniques, providing texture and depth. With its versatility and ability to create unique effects, alkyd paint offers artists a quick-drying and long-lasting option for their artwork.

The Pros and Cons of Alkyd Paints

Normally I would create a list of both the pros and cons of various types of paint. But, when it comes to working with alkyds what some might consider pros others would consider cons, and vice versa.

So, for the sake of this article, I am going to list things about alkyds, and let you decide for yourself if they are pros and cons (after you begin working with these paints you will know what you like and what you don’t like).

  • Alkyds dry faster than oil paint, but slower than acrylic paint.
  • Alkyds can be mixed with oil paints, but not with acrylic paints.
  • Alkyds can be used to paint over acrylics, but shouldn’t be used under or mixed with acrylics.
  • Alkyds shouldn’t be used over oils because there is a risk of sinking or cracking. They can be used to paint under traditional oils.
  • Alkyds dry harder than oils and acrylics.
  • Alkyd paints can be thinned down a lot.
  • Alkyd paints can be used for priming a surface, on top of gesso.
  • Alkyds are ideal for glazing.
  • Alkyds can be used for underpainting, oil sketching, and practicing oils.
  • Alkyd paints are less expensive than most oil paints, but more expensive than acrylics.
  • You can use oil painting brushes, mediums, etc with alkyd paints.
  • Alkyd paints are very versatile.
  • You can fix alkyd paintings quickly and easily while they are still wet.
  • You should follow the fat over thin rule when using alkyds.
  • There is less sinking because alkyds dry faster than oils, and they collect less dust while drying.
  • You don’t necessarily need to varnish a painting done with alkyds.
  • Because alkyds dry faster than oils, your paintings will be ready to varnish sooner.
  • Cleanup is easier than oils, but more difficult than acrylics.
  • Alkyds can be used to create texture in paintings.
  • When dry, alkyds can be difficult to remove, so don’t make any mistakes in your paintings.
  • You can use alkyds to create matte or glossy finishes.
  • You can slow the drying time of alkyds with white oil paint.

What I Love About Alkyd Paints

I love using alkyd paints for several reasons. First and foremost, I like that they are almost like using oil paints, but they dry a lot faster.

Here are some more of the things I love the most about using alkyd paints.

#1. Blending

Many artists love oil paints because they are wet and easy to blend with. But, believe it or not, it is easier to blend colors once they are a bit tacky.

Since alkyds dry faster than oils, they will become tacky sooner. This means you won’t be waiting nearly as long to finish your painting.

#2. Manipulating the Paint

Alkyds are just as easy to manipulate as oil paints. The faster drying time allows artists to try a variety of techniques at various stages of drying.

For instance, when you scrape oil paint from a canvas, the texture is different than if you were to scrape away alkyd paint from the canvas.

#3. Repair Damaged Painting Surfaces

There are going to be times when you damage or even ruin the surface of a painting. This happens to artists of all skill levels.

Alkyds can be used to fix this problem. Sand back the mistake or cover it with white paint. Then, apply the alkyd paint, recreating the original texture.

What I Don’t Like About Alkyds

As with any art medium, there are going to be some drawbacks to using alkyd paints. Here are a couple of the things that I do not like about alkyds.

#1. Paint Can’t Be Saved

You can save unused oil paint. The same can’t be said for alkyds. So, if you put too much paint on your canvas, you are going to have to throw away the unused paint. What a waste!

#2. Fast Drying Time

Most of the time I love that alkyds dry faster than oils. But, there are times when I wish this wasn’t the case.

Sometimes the paints are dry before you are ready to move on to the next step of your painting. If you want to blend or use certain other techniques, you will have some difficulty.


I don’t tend to teach many alkyd paint and sip classes. There just doesn’t seem to be much of a call for it. Most students want to learn about acrylics and oils.

But, I always talk to students at painting parties about alkyds, especially when I am teaching oil painting techniques. That way the students know they have other options available to them.