Photos of artist Sonia Reeder-Jones

Fix adhesion problems when painting in oil.

Author: Sonia Reeder-Jones



Oil Paint Adhesion Problem

Here's How To Fix This Oil Painting Adhesion Problem:

When coming back to work on an oil painting which has already dried, you may occasionally have this problem. You begin to paint or glaze and you notice the new paint layer seems to be separating. It beads up on the surface. The new paint isn't adhering. I've used a lighter paint color in the image below so you can see what this looks like. The paint is crawling or drawing up into drops as a result of high surface tension. This seems to happen when the dried paint layers below contain a lot of oil. This may also be referred to as a closed surface.

photo of new paint beading up on glossy surface of dry oil painting

This adhesion loss or surface tension usually happens in the upper or final layers of the painting. If you're following the lean to fat rule, the top layers likely contain the most oil or painting medium. The oil or painting medium dries to a glossy surface. The new layer of oil paint or glaze can't stick to this glossy surface. The new paint crawls, beads up and won't properly adhere.

Fix this paint adhesion problem with one easy step:

Use a clean dry brush. Double check to be sure your painting is fully dry to avoid lifting or smearing previous paint layers. Cover the surface with a very thin coat of turpentine.

photo of new paint beading up on glossy surface of dry oil painting

You can choose to coat only the section you're working or the entire painting. Once the turpentine evaporates or dries, you can resume painting. The turpentine or solvent relieves the survace tension, opening up the painting surface. The adhesion problem should be solved.