Updated: Jul 10, 2021

Three popular artist oil paints that have no, or low odor, include: M. Graham (almost all paints contain a walnut oil binder), Sennelier (most of their paints contain safflower oil binder), and Cobra (a water mixable oil paint). Avoid using the inferior student grade of Cobra and Sennelier. Herein I discuss primarily the Cobra brand. If this brand is equal to the other brands researched, it would be the best brand to purchase because cleanup is with water only.

Prior Experience

I have worked with water mixable oil paints before and have been pleased with the results. I painted a 4 x 5-foot painting on stretched canvas 15 years ago that is still in great condition. My issue with the brands of water mixable paint that I have previously used is that they had a linseed oil smell that makes me nauseous, although I understand it is not harmful.


Do not use toxic solvents even if they are odor free! Try Turpenoid Natural…no odor, not toxic, but expensive! I use this occasionally to paint but primarily to deep clean my brushes. There are also some nontoxic expensive, smelly skin irritants like citrus and lavender spike oils…wear goggles and gloves! Remember all oiled rags can start a fire so dispose of them at the end of the day outside in an airtight metal container.

Introduction to Royal Talens Oil Paint

Royal Talens promises practically no odor in their water mixable Cobra oil paints. Also, these paints are highly recommended by many professional artists, and they claim great results. I purchased the professional artists set of paints because it is less expensive to purchase them this way. It is the opinion of many professional artists that student grade paints present too many obstacles.

Royal Talens sells two different water mixable oil paint line of products. One is named “Artists” for professional artists; and the other is named “Study” for students. Cobra paints have the look and feel of oils but mix with water, they contain no harmful solvents, and clean up with just soap and water. To allow oil and water to mix, adds an emulsion to their oil paints. The binder is the emulsion and appears to not be public information.

About the Set

The 10 colors in this set of 40 ml tubes are:

1. Titanium White, Perm. Yellow L.,

2. PERM. Orange,

3. Pyrrole Red,

4. PERM. Red Violet L.,

5. Ultramarine,

6. PERM. Orange,

7. PERM. Green D.,

8. Yellow Ochre,

9. Burnt Sienna, &

10. Black.

The set lacked a couple of paint colors I consider essential:

1. For instance, I wanted a primary blue. Cobra’s cobalt blue is toxic, and their cyan blue is a mix of phthalo blue and zinc white. Wanting a purer color, I purchased phthalo blue because it is a close primary blue and is semi-transparent. It is a flexible paint: It can be very dark like black, add some white for opaqueness, or add a medium for glazing.

2. Cobra’s primary red is primary magenta and is transparent (great for glazing).

3. I will not be purchasing their primary yellow nor cadmium yellow because they are toxic. The yellow that came with the set, permanent yellow light, will likely meet my needs. It is also transparent.

4. The tube of titanium white will need early replacement. I purchased another 40 ml tube and if I like using this paint, I will start purchasing all paints in large tubes.

Check Paint Specifications

Most manufacturers of oil paints sell a few pigments that are toxic. You will need to read the tubes or online specifications for each color to check toxicity and to determine what pigments each color is made of because that can impact its properties. Many of today’s professional oil paints are made with synthetic pigments…which have pros and cons. Also, checking the pigments allows you to learn which colors you can mix from colors you may have already purchased.

The 1988 Labeling of Hazardous Art Materials Act requires manufacturers to list all potentially harmful substances in their paints and paint products. Trade secret confidentiality, however, permits some manufacturers to withhold potentially important information from the customer. As such, I have been unable to learn exactly what the binder and emulsifier is for these paints.

Before You Get Started

With water mixable oil paints, you must use acrylic primed surfaces for proper adhesion. Also, it is best to use acrylic paint brushes because using water with natural hair brushes may make them a little wimpy. Also, the proportion of water to paint should be small. It is recommended that the medium made for these paints be used to ensure proper adhesion. Like the paints, it has practically no odor.

Future Testing and YouTube Video

Cobra water mixable paints will be tested against other oil paints that although are not water mixable, have almost no odor. This will include a walnut oil-based paint and a safflower oil-based paint. The chart for this article shows the four colors to be tested which are the same color across brands. The chart also indicates similarities and differences for fair comparison.

All paints will be used directly from the tube and mixed with their brand's medium. Drying times will be noted. And after these paints are dry to the touch, I will check whether a mist of water removes any degree of paint. Additionally, I will compare odor (both initial and gassing off), luminosity, transparency, and whether the paint holds texture.

This comparison with my analysis will be videotaped and uploaded to my YouTube Channel: Simona’s Fine Arts.

55 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All