Painting on Location
Don Jusko American Artist

Gamblin Gamsol

Turpentine & Petroleum Substitutes - 8-25-8

I'm afraid I have to start with out pulling any punches. Gamblin's main objective is to sell their product. To do this they have to create reasonable doubt that you are better off with out turpentine and damar in your paint. Fear is the tool of choice. With out getting political you know how persuasive this tool is. I'm going to quote from their Solvent Comparison Chart  handout. The first topic is "A Low Solvent Level Studio". (They started with this first punch) "Remove turpentine, and painting mediums that contain mixtures or damar resin varnish and turpentine to make your studio safer."

So to start with they say turpentine is toxic and mineral spirits are not. That's their claim... No - that's not true.. drinking mineral spirits will kill you faster than drinking turpentine. It was the lead from his paint in his turpentine that sent Van Gogh to the mental hospital and killed him, not the turpentine that he thought was his wine. Pure turpentine was used as an external medicine in days of old, - - Petroleum products dry in oil paint differently than tree turpentine does and should be used only as a cheap brush cleaning solvent. (but not on my fine brushes, thank you)

Doerner explained in his 1934 book, the one Mayer copied, The Materials of the Artist, and explained how "they are unnatural with paints that absorb oxygen while drying, being refined from a nondrying petroleum oil, they only evaporate, without absorbing oxygen. Petroleum thinners are good only for cleaning brushes of the house painting trade, not the expensive brushes we use as artists. They should be cleaned in brush oil. Petroleum thinner will not dissolve the valuable damar varnish either, as turpentine does so well."

At 12:30 PM on Aug 20th, 2008 I put 16 measured drops into two similar small jars to test Gamblin's claim stated in their yellow handout called "Solvent Comparison Chart."

It states that Gamsol is a highly refined odorless mineral spirit (OMS) that evaporates 100% and leaves no sticky residue in the paint film. That Gamsol is 100% aliphatic, which means it contains no harmful aromatic components at all. Excellent solvent for thinning Galkyd and oil paints.

On Aug. 25th, 10PM. I took this photo of the two jars. The turpentine jar on the right is empty, at the bottom of the jar is a dry layer of clear film, I could tell even though it was not wet a film was covering the glass. It had been dry since Aug. 21st, 15 hours after the test started. The Gamsol on the other hand still was not dry 130 hours later. This was very troubling, mold is growing and it looks like wet cotton. I don't know how much longer there will still be liquid in the bottom of the jar but right now my finger smears oil. Aug. 27th, still not evaporated.

Now I can call it a propaganda chart, the truth is Gamsol does not dry in a "Moderate" time as Gamblin Solvent Comparison Chart claims, "siting turpentine dries 5 times faster then Gamsol." The fact is turpentine was dry nine times faster.. so far. All oil paints normally are dry by 3 days if no drier is added to them. I don't like the unmentioned fact that Gamsol dries slower then oil paint. This gamsol has been wet for five days already and mold is growing in the wet. Don't use it. Artists have know this since da Vinci tried painting with "rock oil" as he called it. Just say no.
Aug. 28th 2008, evaporated but there is still an oily film on the bottom growing mold and it's getting fuzzier.

Gamsol vs Turpentine

Any artist that has made their own oil media knows damar and wax make the paint paint better and yellow less, You as an artist need turpentine. By the way, their handout didn't mention that Gamsol and wax dissolve milky at best , and it stays milky when dry while turpentine disolves clear. Most tubed paint has a little wax in them. Mussini has wax and damar.

Six months later the mold was still there and I needed the jar for another project. Don't let big petro push you around.

Gamsol mold

Disputing Winsor Newton's turpentine claims.  

1. When should turpentine be used rather than white spirit?
anti-turp says. Both Artists' turpentine and white spirit can be used for diluting oil colour and cleaning brushes. White spirit does not affect the colour of any pigments.
FACT: Turpentine does not affect pigment colors, white spirit should not be used.

There are however several issues concerning these two solvents.
 i) Handling properties - Turpentine is more viscous than white spirit and is slower to evaporate. 
FACT: Turpentine evaporates cleaner and faster than paint thinner.

White spirit gives more watery mixes, making the colour slightly less controllable and does not stay open as long as turps.
anti-turp says. ii) Stability -  a residue of gum in turpentine will prevent an oil film from drying, leaving it tacky indefinitely.
FACT: Just three drops of Artist' White Spirit will leave an oily film at the bottom of a glass that will last for 130 hours compared to turpentine's 15 hours.
FACT: Comparing unrefined turpentine's gum to de Vinci's unrefined "rock oil" is rather sad, turpentine's gum hardens into permanent rosin while rock oil never gets hard.

The gum will also cause yellowing. It is therefore imperative that Artists turpentine and not that sold as Genuine Turpentine for home decorating, the gum has been removed from the former by repeated distillation. 
FACT: The rock oil (natural above ground gum found by di Vinci) will do a lot more then just yellow, it will destroy your painting by never hardening.

In addition, turpentine will oxidise if left exposed to daylight or air, also resulting in tackiness and yellowing in the painting. Turps should therefore be stored in well filled and sealed bottles away from daylight. White spirit has neither a gum residue nor will it deteriorate on storage. 
FACT: Doerner explained in his 1934 book, the one Mayer copied except for this part, The Materials of the Artist, and explained how "they are unnatural with paints that absorb oxygen while drying, being refined from a nondrying petroleum oil, they only evaporate, without absorbing oxygen. Petroleum thinners are good only for cleaning brushes of the house painting trade, not the expensive brushes we use as artists. They should be cleaned in brush oil. Petroleum thinner will not dissolve the valuable painting resins either, as turpentine does so well."

iii) Price - Turpentine is considerably more expensive than white spirit. 
FACT: You get what you pay for.

anti-turp says. iv) Toxicity; Turpentine is slightly more harmful than white spirit.
FACT: This is an outright lie, see the proof below.
In addition to these two solvents, Sansodor from Winsor & Newton is increasingly popular as a low odour solvent, ideal for those who object to the smell of either turpentine or white spirit. It is petroleum based like white spirit, has none of the disadvantages of turpentine yet keeps the paint open, if anything, for slightly longer than turpentine.  It is also the least toxic of the three solvents.
FACT: I haven't tested this product yet, but I'll bet it leaves behind even more residue and mold.

3. What are the effects of using Turpentine Substitute? Turpentine Substitute should never be used with oil colour. It is a cheap DIY solvent, which when used, runs the risk of discolouration and non-drying of the oil colour.  Its only acceptable use for artists is for cleaning brushes (not my brushes thank you). The number of tacky paint films resulting from old turps or cheap DIY solvents are second only to the number of problems with sinking.

4. What is the nearest equivalent to Turpenoid?
The nearest equivalent to turpenoid in the Winsor & Newton range is White Spirit.
FACT: Winsor & Newton's White Spirit is a turpentine substitute inferior to turpentine.

All solvents vary in strength and their capacity to 'loosen up' the body of the colour. The artists' grade solvent with the greatest power is Distilled Turpentine, the only artists' grade solvent capable of easily dissolving Dammar resin.

anti-turp says. Turpentine makes a viscous mixture, evaporates slowly, is the most hazadous and strongest smelling solvent commonly used by artists.
FACT: Turpentine reduces the viscosity of oil paint at the same rate that mineral sprits do and completely evaporates faster than mineral sprits.

5. What factors need to be considered when selecting a solvent?
Solvents can be assessed in three ways; performance, price and their hazardous nature. i) Performance - it is important that any solvent used for painting purposes evaporates totally, leaving no residue. A residue is likely to discolour the paint and can leave an indefinitely tacky paint film. Solvents for painting must be artists quality to avoid these problems.

anti-turp says. Artists turpentine evaporates slowly and produces viscous mixtures. White spirit evaporates more quickly and produces more watery mixtures. Sansodor [low odour solvent] evaporates slowly and produces viscous mixtures. Although many artists may argue that turpentine makes a more controllable colour, a low quality turpentine will be inferior to white spirit.

ii) Price - English Distilled Turpentine and Sansodor are equally priced.
White spirit is priced in the region of 1/4 of that price.
iii) Hazardous nature - all solvents are potentially harmful by inhalation, ingestion or skin contact. It is good practice to keep the level of exposed solvent as low as possible, ie. no large open containers, maintain good ventilation and avoid repeated skin contact.

anti-turp says. Relative to each other, turpentine is more hazardous than white spirit, which in turn, is more hazardous than Sansodor.
FACT: Other product = more hazardous (not so, ingesting it will not kill you). Their product, white spirit = less hazardous (not so). Their most expensive product, Sansodor = least hazardous (not so, it will kill you)

anti-turp says. Mediums All mediums should be used in moderation, they are intended only as an additive to the colour. In addition, you should avoid adding multiple mediums to the colour. The most stable film is likely to contain a single medium.
FACT: All great artists of the past worked to improve oils handling, drying and finished effects by adding mediums. Oil by itself will deteriorate to dust in one month' (Painted on a windshield in the hot Lahaina sun.)

Note: "White Spirit" was the name of alcohol made from grapes used to dissolve sandracca paints before oil based paints.
The Paint Wars continue.

anti-turp says. Artists' White Spirit (W&N) Is a volatile, flammable diluent (thinner) for oil colours and the cleaning of brushes. Whilst it has a characteristic odour, this is less pronounced than Turpentine. This makes a watery mixture, evaporates quickly, is less hazardous than Distilled Turpentine, less costly and does not deteriorate on storage.

anti-turp says. "A volatile, flammable diluent (thinner) for oil colours and the cleaning of brushes."
FACT: While petroleum paint thinner will dissolve oil, it will not dissolve most other media.
FACT: Petroleum thinners dry out brushes reducing there longevity. Kerosene will keep the brushes supple but must be washed out before each use.

anti-turp says. Whilst it has a characteristic odour, this is less pronounced than turpentine.
FACT: The best distilled turpentine smells like flowers and is not an accumulative poison like gas and paint thinner.

anti-turp says. This makes a watery mixture, evaporates quickly.
FACT: As these photos prove, turpentine evaporates faster and leaves no residue. Petroleum paint thinners no matter how expensive leave a residue and produce mold.
and is less hazardous than Distilled Turpentine.
FACT: Turpentine was used as internal medicine 50 years ago and is still used in Vicks Vapor Rub. Petroleum paint thinners will kill you.

anti-turp says. and is less costly and does not deteriorate on storage.
FACT: Good turpentine sealed and stored in glass does not evaporate or deteriorate.
FACT: Turpentine will dissolve all media, petroleum will not dissolve the artists favorite additives to oil, resins and balsams, and turns bees wax cloudy.

I can't help but to put this new product of theirs here, 7-3-9.
Drying Poppy Oil, A drying oil used to increase the drying rate.
FACT: Poppy oil has the advantage of being slow drying and less yellowing than linseed oil.
Now you can buy from WN a poppy oil with yellowing driers added to compete with linseed oil.

And while I'm at it, look what Da Vinci Paints are using as the picture for their Indian Yellow product. Buyers beware. The image is Indian yellow but their product is Transparent PY 42 Lightfastness I.

Indian yellow image

PY:42 is an oxide and oxides are not transparent, yellow oxide that looks like all translucent non-dual-toned oxide pigments. If you buy this color you lose.
They are not the first company to misrepresent their colors.


I have to say I like the drying speed of alkyds, I like being able to crawl all over my painting in three hours. Another nice thing about alkyd, you don't need much of it. 25-30% added to thinner (turpentine) and you're in there. I had to use a lot higher percent of oil in oil paintings which yellows more than alkyds. Not that alkyds don't yellow. I had a bottle that let in some air, but the top wasn't off, and it dried solid and brown.

Galkyd brown

If you ever wanted to extend the drying time of Alkyd a drop of linseed oil will do it fine. Me? I use a hair drier, I like it fast! Nahiku Path to the Sun with Alkyd

Permissible Exposure Levels are measured in parts per million, this OSHA standard rates solvents by how strong and how much solvent is safe to work around before the air is considered hazardous. (Gamsol says) The higher Permissible Exposure Level indicates a slower evaporation rate. Gamsol has a 300 rating (They say).. Turpentine has a 100 rating, meaning it evaporates faster then a solvant.

I say Gamblin should go back to these tables and re-read it. Here are substances I pulled from the OSHA Regulations I found on Google.

This OSHA excerpt shows Acetone as one example: You can see the PEL #1000 has nothing to do with evaporation as Gamblin states.

Regulations (Standards - 29 CFR)
TABLE Z-1 Limits for Air Contaminants. - 1910.1000 TABLE Z-1
First the substance............... |Case Number| OSHA PEL: TWA ppm | mg/m3)
Ammonia...................................| 7664-41-7 | 50 | 35 |
Turpentine.................................| 8006-64-2 | 100 | 560 |
Isopropyl alcohol......................| 67-63-0 | 400 | 980 |
Ethyl acetate............................| 141-78-6 | 400 | 1400 |
Petroleum distillates Solvent..| No Case # | 500 | 2000 |
Isopropyl ether.........................| 108-20-3 | 500 | 2100 |
Ethyl alcohol (Ethanol)............ |64-17-5 | 1000 | 1900 |
Acetone.....................................| 67-64-1 | 1000 | 2400 |
Propane.....................................| 74-98-6 | 1000 | 1800 |
Liquified petroleum gas...........| 68476-85-7 | 1000 | 1800 |

By spending a few hours on Google searching turpentine and petroleum distillates I noted the earlier references and encyclopedias don't mention turpentine as being dangerous, while the newer edited pages use the same terms and phrases over and over, either grouping it with mineral spirits as an artist solvent or calming it to be toxic. Never are mineral sprits show as being very poisonous and deadly. Something is foul here. This all happened in the last 10 years. The promoters of mineral sprits are writing Wikipedia, e.i.
Turpentine, or wood turpentine, the organic solvent derived from tree resin; it is a traditional solvent used by painters.
Mineral turpentine, the cheaper, mineral oil based replacement for turpentine.

~~ I am going to try and set these records straight. ~~

Mineral turpentine is a hydrotreated light distillate of petroleum, and consists of a complex mixture of highly refined hydrocarbon distillates mainly in the C9-C16 range.

Gamsol is a STODDARD SOLVENT or petroleum based.
1. Product Identification
Synonyms: White spirits; Mineral spirits type I; Petroleum distillate
CAS No.: 8052-41-3
Molecular Weight: Not applicable to mixtures.
Chemical Formula: 65% C10 or higher hydrocarbons
Product Codes: V110

Hazards Identification
Emergency Overview


SAF-T-DATA(tm) Ratings (Provided here for your convenience)

Health Rating: 2 - Moderate (Life)
Flammability Rating: 2 - Moderate
Reactivity Rating: 1 - Slight
Contact Rating: 3 - Severe
Storage Color Code: Red (Flammable)

Potential Health Effects

Effects are typically those of most hydrocarbons, dizziness and euphoria leading to unconsciousness in severe cases. Vapors also irritate the respiratory tract. Symptoms may include coughing, difficult breathing and chest pain. A central nervous system depressant.

Fatal dose for humans estimated at 3-4 oz, but ingestion of much smaller amounts may cause lung edema and possible death because of aspiration into lungs.

Skin Contact:
The defatting action of this solvent may lead to soreness, inflammation and, possibly, dermatitis.

Eye Contact:
Vapors may be irritating at concentrations of 450 ppm and above (15 minutes exposure) and contact with the liquid solvent can be painful and possibly damaging to eye tissues.

Chronic Exposure:
Chronic exposure may lead to central nervous system complications, blood changes (aplastic anemia, a rare occurrence that is potentially fatal), and dermatitis. Animal studies have indicated the potential for liver and kidney damage.

Aggravation of Pre-existing Conditions:
Persons with pre-existing skin disorders or eye problems or impaired kidney function may be more susceptible to the effects of the substance.

How can total petroleum hydrocarbons (TPH) affect my health?

Some of the TPH compounds can affect your central nervous system. One compound can cause headaches and dizziness at high levels in the air. Another compound can cause a nerve disorder called "peripheral neuropathy," consisting of numbness in the feet and legs. Other TPH compounds can cause effects on the blood, immune system, lungs, skin, and eyes.

Animal studies have shown effects on the lungs, central nervous system, liver, and kidney from exposure to TPH compounds. Some TPH compounds have also been shown to affect reproduction and the developing fetus in animals.


Turpentine (also called spirit of turpentine, oil of turpentine, wood turpentine, gum turpentine) is a fluid obtained by the distillation of resin obtained from trees, mainly pine trees. It is composed of terpenes, mainly the monoterpenes alpha-pinene and beta-pinene.

The two primary uses of turpentine in industry are as a solvent and as a source of materials for organic synthesis.

As a solvent, turpentine is used for thinning oil-based paints, for producing varnishes, and as a raw material for the chemical industry.
CANADA BALSAM, also called Canada turpentine or balsam of fir, is a thick turpentine which is made from the resin of the balsam fir. Very good.
VENICE TURPENTINE is produced from the Western Larch Larix occidentalis.

Turpentine is also used as a source of raw materials in the synthesis of fragrant chemical compounds. Commercially used camphor, linalool, alpha-terpineol, and geraniol are all usually produced from alpha-pinene and beta-pinene, which are two of the chief chemical components of turpentine. These pinenes are separated and purified by distillation. The mixture of diterpenes and triterpenes that is left as residue after turpentine distillation is sold as rosin.

Turpentine is also added to many cleaning and sanitary products due to its antiseptic properties and its "clean scent".

In early 19th Century America, turpentine was sometimes burned in lamps as a cheap alternative to whale and nut oils.

Medical Uses

Turpentine has been used medicinally since ancient times, as topical and sometimes internal home remedies. Topically it has been used for abrasions and wounds, as a treatment for lice, and when mixed with animal fat it has been used as a chest rub, or inhaler for nasal and throat ailments. Many modern chest rubs, such as the Vicks variety, still contain turpentine in their formulations.

Though internal administration is no longer common today, it was once administered by masking the taste by dosing sugar cubes, molasses, or honey, or when unavailable, straight. It was a treatment for intestinal parasites due to its antiseptic and diuretic properties, and a general cure-all.

I'd say Gamsol is for the birds, but it would kill them. I'm glad their brochure at least says to dispose of it at the same place you dispose of used oil.

1-18-16, I agree with most of what sells but not Rubesol, a petroleum product like other artificial thinners. "Safety Information: WARNING! Contains Petroleum Distillates. Flammable liquid and vapor. Harmful if swallowed, inhaled or absorbed through skin. Affects central nervous system." Rubesol is not odorless either, the vapor is poisonous and accumulative. I can smell it and won't even clean my brushes in it., I think you have been swindled by Big Oil.

Subject: Response to your take on oms/gamsol versus gum turps
Date: August 16, 2010 5:00:23 AM HST

Hi Don:
Thank you for the Distilled Turpentine truth! I switched back to a traditional medium lately.
Althought your intention was to point out evaporation rates, etc,
I have found fumes to be the problem for me.

BTW, I had used gamsol alkyd-linseed for about ten years.
I tend to thin the paints quite a bit.
Major allergic reaction to alkyd from the fumes.
Allergies now in sinuses, though much better.
Thank, you,


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