Gamblin Artists Colors
Studio Safety | Create without compromise.™

Since our founding, Gamblin Artists Colors has handcrafted materials with the well-being of artists, their work and the environment in mind.

Though we have a tradition of innovation, we are unwavering on some things. We will not compromise on color or artistic possibilities.

This Studio Safety Guide is intended to help artists create without compromise in a safe studio.


Gamblin Artist’s Oil colors are completely non-toxic when used as recommended.

Linseed oil is pressed from the seeds of the flax plant. The flax plant has been the heart and soul of oil painting, giving us both the oil our colors are bound with and - from the stalks of the plant - the linen we paint on. Linseed oil naturally dries faster than other oils and retains greater strength and flexibility as it ages. We use safflower oil in some colors. Not only are both of these vegetable oils completely non-toxic, but they are also both used in moisturizers, cooking oils and nutritional supplements.

Linseed and safflower oils do not give off "fumes." In fact, these oils take in air as part of their drying process. Gamblin Artist’s Oil Colors do not contain solvent, nor do they require any solvent for their use.

The pigments used in oil colors are the same pigments found in watercolors, acrylics and pastels. Since we do not use any pigments based on lead, mercury, or arsenic, with very few exceptions our colors are completely non-toxic and do not require any heath labeling of any kind.

Health Labeling on Art Materials

Health Labeling on Art MaterialsIf there is a health concern associated with any of our materials, a health warning will be clearly printed on the label.

By looking for Federal health warning labels on the packaging, you can easily know which materials may be hazardous if misused.

ASTM (American Society for Testing and Materials) wrote the health labeling standard adopted into Federal Law based on toxicology reports so consumers can easily recognize materials that pose potential health risks.

Look for this language on the label:
"Health Label conforms to ASTM D-4236."

If there are any hazards associated with the material they will be stated on the label.

Lead-based Pigments

Lead-based PigmentsAll Gamblin materials are completely free of lead.

Some artists continue to use lead white. Lead whites, in general, are characterized by a heavy texture, slightly warm color and a slightly transparent quality in thin applications.

Gamblin was the first to formulate Flake White Replacement. Unlike lead whites, Gamblin Flake White Replacement has the working properties of lead white, yet is completely free of lead and may be disposed of without violating either local or national laws for the disposal of hazardous waste.

Similarly, we developed Naples Yellow Hue - a pale, opaque and earthy yellow that is true to historic working properties of the color. This color shares the working properties of traditional Naples Yellow, but is completely lead-free.

Cadmium and Cobalt colors

Cadmiums present a health concern if they are inhaled or eaten. We recommend you use NIOSH dust respirator if you sand surfaces made with a high percentage of Cadmium colors or work with cadmiums in dry pigment form. There is no cadmium dust or “fumes” that come off paints in the tube, on your palette or in your painting.

The cadmium pigment sources we work with have developed cadmium pigments that are relatively insoluble in the human digestive system. They have been so successful that Gamblin cadmium colors DO NOT REQUIRE a Federal ASTM health-warning label for ingestion. Other brands often carry health warning labels because the cadmium pigments they use cannot meet these standards.

Over thirty years ago when we first started making oil colors, cadmium pigments were much more soluble in the human system than they are now. Since then, the bio-absorbable portion of cadmium in the pigments we use has been reduced 99.5%. Years ago, cadmium pigments contained about 1000 parts per million (PPM) bio-available cadmium. Now the cadmium pigments we work with contain only about 5 PPM cadmium that can be absorbed through ingestion. Having said that, we still recommend that artists not eat their paints.

The only color in our line that carries a federal health-warning label is Cobalt Violet. The pigment is a compound of cobalt and phosphate. If you eat Cobalt Violet, you can expect cobalt to enter your body. It is safe to touch and to paint with, but not to eat.

Cobalt Blue is a compound of cobalt and aluminum. Cobalt Green is a compound of cobalt and zinc. Oil colors made from these compounds do not carry health-warning labels because the cobalt cannot be readily absorbed into the body. Just like when using Cadmiums, artists should not inhale the dust from cobalt pigments and artists should not eat their paints.


Painters use painting mediums to change the viscosity, texture, dry time, gloss level, and increase the transparency of oil colors. Our approach is to offer artists contemporary oil painting mediums that are true to historic working properties, yet safer and more permanent.

Traditional versus Contemporary Painting Mediums
Traditional versus Contemporary Painting MediumsGone are the days in which oil painters have to rely on painting mediums made from resin requiring strong solvents, such as turpentine, and lead driers. Traditional painting mediums were based on resin, notably damar. Because of damar's poor aging properties and that artists must use turpentine to dissolve damar crystals, we decided to base Gamblin painting mediums on a soy-based alkyd, rather than damar.

Alkyd resin has a great compatibility with the linseed oil binder of oil colors and can be formulated into painting mediums with the mildest form of odorless mineral spirits, Gamblin Gamsol.

Our newest painting medium, Solvent-Free Gel, gives painters more possibilities with less compromise. Gamblin Solvent-Free Gel is non-toxic and contains no Gamsol or petroleum distillates. In comparison to other solvent-free mediums, Gamblin Solvent-Free Gel supports the broadest range of painting techniques with the least compromise across color, dry time, texture and mark-making.

Please visit our Interactive Painting Medium Guide online, which will help you choose or customize the right painting for your needs:


Artists SolventsGamsol versus other solvents

Not all solvents used in oil painting are created equal. Gamsol allows painters to work in traditional and contemporary techniques without compromising artistic possibilities, permanence or your well-being. Gamsol is also reusable and non-toxic when used as recommended.

Most solvents available to artists are produced for the industrial paint industry where solvent strength and low cost take priority over safety. Gamsol is different. It comes from a family of materials used in products that come into more intimate contact with the body: such as cosmetics, hand cleaners, and cleaning food service equipment.

For an artist, there are a number of factors to consider when judging a solvent's safety. Aromatic solvents are the most harmful type of mineral spirits. Gamsol is an odorless mineral spirit which has all of the aromatic component refined out of it – less than .005% remains. In addition, Gamsol has a slow evaporation rate, high flash point, and is not absorbed through healthy skin.

These factors have led to Gamsol being the Standard for Studio Safety, and the solvent of choice among artists and instructors in classrooms and home studios.

Definition of an Artist's Solvent

The Artist's Handbook of Materials and Techniques by Ralph Mayer and The Painter's Handbook by Mark Gottsegen are the two definitive books on painting materials published in America. They both define the working properties of an ideal artist's solvent the same way.

An artist's solvent should:

  • Evaporate completely
  • Evaporate at a uniform rate
  • Have no effect on dried paint layers
  • Be chemically inert to the materials with which it is used (i.e. have no chemical reaction)
  • Mix completely with the materials with which it is used
  • Have no toxic vapors
  • Evaporate entirely from the dried paint film within a reasonable amount of time

Many solvents on the market satisfy many of these requirements. Gamsol meets all of these requirements when used as recommended.

Gamblin Gamsol odorless mineral spirits balances both performance and safety like no other artist's solvent on the market.

Recommended uses for Gamsol

Thinning oil colors: Gamsol beautifully thins oil colors. A little goes a long way; oil colors relax immediately when a little Gamsol is added. Since Gamsol evaporates completely, no sticky residue is left behind that could compromise the drying or strength of paint layers.

Modifying painting mediums: Gamblin Galkyd painting mediums are formulated with Gamsol, so they readily accept Gamsol as a solvent. Gamsol should not be added to traditional painting mediums containing dammar, copal, mastic resins. They require strong solvents such as turpentine. Adding Gamsol to oil painting mediums is an effective means of modifying the oil (“fat”) content of these materials to allow artists to explore indirect/glazing techniques.

Studio Clean up: Gamsol is great for general studio clean-up of brushes, palettes, palette knives and other tools. As a brush cleaner, it effectively removes oil colors from brushes to allow for clean mixing and application of color. Using Gamsol for brush-cleaning during and after the painting session eliminates the risk of slow or non-drying oil from interfering with paint layers.

Painting in Oils without Solvents

For painters who wish to paint in oils without the use of any solvents, we recommend thinning oil colors with Gamblin Solvent-Free Gel or with a small amount of Gamblin Refined Linseed Oil. Using large amounts of linseed oil or a solvent-free medium can cause wrinkling (too fat), increase yellowing and excessively slow drying.

For brush clean up during your painting session, first wipe excess paint from brushes with a rag. Then dip your brush in a container of Gamblin Refined Linseed Oil. Next, wipe the linseed oil and any remaining pigment from your brush with a rag and continue painting.

For brush clean up after your painting session, follow the steps above and then wash your brushes with Ivory™ soap or brush cleaner until water runs through brushes free of color.

Please note that oil-soaked rags should be - at a minimum - properly stored in an Oily Rag Safety Can (such as those offered by JustRite) until they can be thrown-out. Even better, soak rags in water, and place them in an old jar or similar container and dispose of them outside in your household trashcan or apartment building dumpster.

Many painters we hear from have had significant problems with solvent-free painting in certain techniques. Solvent-free painting comes with some compromise to artistic possibilities. For glazing techniques, creating washes of color, and other indirect painting techniques, we recommend our Galkyd painting mediums. Consider Galkyd Lite for a great all-around painting and glazing medium.

With such a mild artist's solvent like Gamblin Gamsol, painters don't have to deal with the trouble, risks and artistic compromises of painting without solvents. Gamsol is an effective brush cleaner that can be reused in the studio. Gamsol reduces both the fat content and viscosity of paint and mediums to allow artists to work freely without compromising artistic possibilities, their own well-being or the environment.

Walnut Oil

Some painters have the impression that painting solvent-free painting can only be done with colors bound in walnut oil. This is completely false. Painters can paint solvent-free with all of our traditional oil colors and by using Gamblin Refined Linseed Oil, or another Gamblin Drying Oil, as a medium. We recommend Gamblin Refined Linseed Oil for solvent free painting techniques.

Use of “Green” Solvents and Cleaners in Oil Painting

Use of “Green” Solvents and Cleaners in Oil Painting

With extra care and effort, artists can make almost any type of soap or cleaner work for studio clean-up. Some products consume a lot of water, some are much harder on brushes than others and some leave sticky residues behind. But most all do a decent job with extra effort.

For modifying oil colors and mediums, however, alternatives to true artist's solvents, even in very small amounts, can create major and unpredictable problems in artists' paintings.

In sticking with the criteria for an artist's solvent outlined above, a thinner should not dissolve dry paint layers, should evaporate 100% without leaving a residue in paint layers, and should evaporate in a time frame that does not interfere with the performance of the paint layer.

For thinning oil colors, we have always recommended Gamsol for its balance of performance and safety. Other true artist's solvents can also do the job of thinning one's oil colors, albeit with some to a great deal of compromise in Studio Safety.

Gamblin Galkyd painting mediums, Cold Wax, Gamvar Picture Varnish and Ground are all formulated with Gamsol. For this reason, we recommend only Gamsol for thinning these materials.

Managing Materials - Best PracticesMANAGING MATERIALS - Best Practices

After choosing safer materials creating a Safe Studio and working safely is easy.
Artists' materials should be used in the matter for which they are intended.


According to the recommendation of environmental hygienists, studio air should be changed ten times per hour. Natural convection in most buildings will allow for adequate air exchange using Gamblin oil painting materials. Increased air exchange can be attained by opening the windows and by inserting a fan in one window to blow air out.

Disposal of Rags

Best practices in disposing of linseed-oil soaked rags is to place them in a sealed, water-filled, metal container and storing them outside of your studio, home or garage.

Used rags that contain colors made from lead, or colors labeled with federal health warnings, should not be disposed of with household waste. Contact your local recycling facility for hazardous materials requirements.

Working with Gamsol

Working with GamsolUse only as much thinner as you need for cleaning brushes throughout the painting session and for thinning and formulating painting mediums. The best type of container to store thinner for brush cleaning is a metal jar with a sealed top.

Artists can reuse Gamsol over and over for future brush-cleaning. Gamsol will clear as pigments settle to the bottom of your container. Recycle Gamsol for future brush-cleaning by pouring the clean portion into a separate container. For safety's sake, mark all jars and cans containing solvents with appropriate labels. We recommend using fresh Gamsol when thinning painting mediums.

Gamsol is readily biodegradable and contains no Hazardous Air Pollutants, and no Ozone Depleting Compounds.

Disposal of oil colors

Packaging (tubes, cans, and bottles) should be completely emptied of their contents before disposing. For tubes, consider investing in a Tube Wringer ( to aid in getting the most oil color out of each tube.

Colors made from lead, or colors labeled with federal health warnings, should not be disposed of with house hold waste. Contact your local recycling facility for hazardous materials requirements.

Reducing Waste

Reducing studio waste is an important consideration for many artists. Reducing studio waste also has its economic benefits to artists as well. Here are a few tips:

Reducing WasteSaving, reusing oil colors:

Instead of letting oil colors dry on your palette in between painting sessions, simply sealing your palette with a layer of plastic wrap will prevent the oil colors from drying out and make them suitable for future use.

Another option is to mix all of the colors that remain on your palette, to make your own, personal Torrit Grey. This often yields an interesting neutral/grey color that can be stored in an empty tubes or air-tight jars for future use.

Sediment from brush-cleaning jars:

Once clear Gamsol has been poured out of brush cleaning jars, the sediment can be mixed with linseed oil or painting medium to the desired consistency. This process is demonstrated by artist Jonathan Simon at:
If you have any additional questions, please feel free to contact us.