Alkyd or Oil?

Q. Is it all right to refer to a painting made with synthetic alkyd oil as an “oil” painting, or should an artist label her work as “alkyd” or “alkyd oil”?

A. It’s true that alkyds are made mostly of oil (usually a type of synthetic soybean oil), but the industry and ASTM standards distinguish them from pure, natural oil paints by calling them alkyds. So an oil painting should be called an oil painting and alkyd should be called an alkyd painting. Such is the nature of the language.

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