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Alkyd Painting Tips

Use a natural bristle brush with alkyd paint.
paint brush image by Vladislav Gajic from Fotolia.com

Alkyd paint, also called oil-based paint, is not used as much as water-based paint nowadays. It dries much more slowly, has a strong odor and can be harder to apply, compared to water-based paint. However, alkyd paint is unparalleled for a smooth, hard finish and adheres better to shiny surfaces such as metal or tile. Painting with alkyd can be tricky, but the results are spectacular if you use the right tools and techniques.

Tools for Alkyd Paint

Although you can use a synthetic brush and roller for alkyd paint, you will have better, smoother results with a natural bristle brush (often referred to as China bristle) and a lambswool or mohair roller cover. Both of these applicators hold more paint than their synthetic counterparts, which will help apply a thick, smooth coat of alkyd paint. For cabinets, doors and interior trim, a high-volume, low-pressure (HVLP) sprayer yields a flawless finish with very little over-spray.

Alkyd Paint Additives

Alkyd paint is harder to apply with a brush and roller because it is thicker. To make it easier to work with, buy some alkyd paint conditioner, sold in many good paint stores. When added as directed, it makes the paint flow more smoothly without compromising its coverage or durability.

Alkyd paint takes between 8 and 24 hours to dry--even longer in cool or humid conditions. Japan drier, a paint additive available in many stores, speeds the drying time.


Have enough paint thinner or mineral spirits on hand to clean up tools and equipment--a gallon will be enough. Before cleaning brushes and rollers, brush or roll off excess paint onto old newspapers or cardboard. Use a rag dampened with mineral spirits to wipe up drips or spills while they are still wet. To remove dried alkyd paint spatters, use acetone. In a pinch, use nail polish remover, as long as the active ingredient is acetone.

Odor and Paint Poisoning

Alkyd paint has a very strong odor, and contains hydrocarbons and heavy metals, which can lead to oil-based paint poisoning. The National Institutes of Health website lists symptoms including nausea, blurred vision, skin and eye irritation and even coma. If you are spraying alkyd paint without a respirator or adequate ventilation, you can ingest enough to become poisoned. When working inside, wear a respirator, open windows and doors and use a fan directed outside to dissipate the odor and over-spray. If you or anyone else develops symptoms of paint poisoning, do not induce vomiting, warns the NIH. Seek immediate medical attention.

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