When i was still doing watercolours last year and had wanted to migrate to oil colours, I did a lot of research into the different brands and types . As it turned out, I discovered Water Miscible Oils (WMO).
What are Water Miscible Oils? Also known as Water Mixable Oils or Water Soluble Oils (WSO), they feel and work just like regular oil paints, except through recent scientific breakthrough, their chemical composition has been slightly modified to be able to be solublecand mixable with water. In case you didn’t know, for the past 400 years, oil painters have been mixing oils using alcohol-based thinners.
When i first found out about this new type of oils, I immediately decided start looking for them in Malaysia. So why is Water Miscible Oils such a big deal compared to regular oil paints? Wel, there are two reasons – health and practicality.
Oils, as you know, cannot be cleaned or dissolved with water. If you have ever tried to remove car engine grease or house paint from your hands or clothes, you’ll know what I mean. So oil painters use alcohol-based thinner to mix their paints and turpentine to clean their hands and brushes. But turpentine is not only foul smelling, inhaling too much of it over long periods of time (especially in a poorly ventilated room) is bad for you. Some people claim it can cause cancer, but the smell alone is enough to make most people nauseous.
Secondly, trying to clean oil off brushes is no easy task. But with WMOs, you can wash all your brushes and palette with good ol’ tap water. No greasy hands and disgusting smells.
So what types of WMOs are available in Malaysia? Let me be honest with you – any type of fine arts supply store is difficult to find here in Malaysia. But as far as I know (after visiting all the art stores in Klang Valley) there only 3 brands available locally – and only one is decent. That decent brand is actually one of the better brands in the world – the Cobra series from Royal Talens. It is also the only brand that is sold both in boxsets and loose tubes. Cobra is sold in the new upgraded Cziplee Bangsar (one of the best art stores in Klang Valley) and the two art supply shops in Taman Melawati. One is called the Art Store, the other I forget. Its very nearby each other, anyway. The oher two brands are only available in sets, not in loose tubes. Art Friend in Gardens MidValley sells Marie brand while Popular carries Reeves (their website makes no mention of this product). I wouldn’t recommend these two brands unless you’re really really tight on budget and don’t mind paints that are difficult to work with.
The importance of the availability of loose tubes cannot be understated. Obviously, some colours are used more often than others, like Titanium White and warm colours. What happens if you have a box set and 1 colour finishes? Buy another boxset? No, that’s why you need to buy loose tubes of different sizes.
So having said that, the downside is that WMOs are generally more expensive than regular oils. One small tube of Cobra costs more than RM30, more than twice the price of normal oil paints. So a starter selection of 10 colours (black, white, 4 warms and 4 cools) would already set you back more than RM300. Besides, having only one choice of brand means you’re stuck to that range of colours.
Well, if you’re looking for more brands, you can try your luck ordering online from (good luck getting hazardous chemicals past customs) or getting someone to bring them back from overseas (good luck getting them through immigration). Be that as it may, some of the other brands you can check out are.
So, am I using WMOs? Unfortunately, no. When i first went round shopping for WMOs, I couldn’t find them. So I decided to go with regular oils. Now’s a little too late for me to change, since I’ve invested quite a lot already. Besides, the prices of WMO are still super expensive.
So there. If you’re interested to go for it, check it out.