Dear Marten: Cold Weather Plein Air with Cobra

Dear Marten,

Can you please advise a way or mixture I might use to keep my Cobra Solvent-Free Oil Colors from freezing when painting in plein air at cold temperatures (between 0'F to -15 or colder)?

Thank you for your consideration and assistance,


Dear Jim,

Thank you for your question and for your interest in Cobra Oils.

The precautions to prevent Cobra oils from freezing would be the same as with any traditional oil paint. The paint is a true oil paint, containing pigment and linseed oil, with the addition of a vegetable oil emulsifier, to allow for water mixing. The paint itself contains no water.

The freezing point for oils is around -4 degrees F. Painting in these conditions will be more challenging. I like to compare it to what happens to butter in room temp vs being refrigerated. Butter is easily spread from the table, but you need a knife to cut it when refrigerated. The same if true with oils. You can still spread the paint on in extreme cold temperatures, but it's more like painting with a solid stick of butter.

Unlike traditional oils where a mineral spirit solvent can be introduced to slow/prevent the effects of the cold weather on the paint, water doesn't help, and in fact, will have the opposite effect. In cold weather, I recommend using a medium and leaving the water at home.

Cobra has several great mediums to choose from. For more traditional techniques, I would recommend the Cobra Painting Medium 091. Since it makes the paints fatter it will give you more resistance to the cold. You can use it to clean brushes as well. Premixing the paint with more medium in advance of heading outside can be an option.

Another tip is to set up your palette in the studio (or in your vehicle) in advance so you can start painting more quickly, reducing your exposure. I've included a clip form one of our Cobra Ambassadors Lori McNee on how she approaches painting in the cold.

I hope this information helps, and keep warm :)

Met vriendelijke groet, With kind regards,

Marten Talens

Marten Talens founded Royal Talens, the Dutch Factory for Paints, Lacquers and Inks, in Apeldoorn (the Netherlands) in 1899.

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