Oil paints

Oil paints are a professional medium, but are used in the art and design curriculum particularly from the age of 14 upwards. Most artist's oil paints are made from a pigment and linseed oil. Unless marked as containing a hazardous material, oil paints do not pose a hazard and do not give off harmful fumes, but their use by pupils does require good standards of hygiene and hands should we washed thoroughly with soap and warm water before leaving the studio. 

The use of thinners, oils and spirits for cleaning brushes and thinning the paint, does require good ventilation and the storage of thinners in a locked metal flame resistant cabinet. Likewise, teachers should oversee the use of all such thinners or brush-cleaning solvents to prevent theft and the deliberate inhalation by pupils. The disposal of cleaning rags impregnated with oil paint or cleaning spirit should comply with regulations for safe disposal. Paper based cleaning roll is safer and cheaper. The cleaning of brushes with a cleaning spirit may require the wearing of protective goggles to prevent particles of oil and spirit getting into the eyes.

CLEAPSS guidance MRAT - 183 - Cleaning paint brushes


The use of dry pigments to make up paint can lead to inhaling dust. Personal protective equipment may be necessary. Some pigments may contain carcinogenic substances, such as arsenic and chrome.

Paint Spraying

The spraying of paint by airbrush, aerosol or on a larger scale with compressed air may produce a fine mist of pigment dust in the air, with solvent vapours which can then be inhaled. If large or regular amounts of spraying are done, a spray booth with local exhaust ventilation (LEV) or water-backed ventilation should be used. In any case, good ventilation is essential for all paint, ink or dye spraying.

CLEAPSS guidance MRAT - 065 - Air brushes and paint sprays

Ingestion of Paints

The practice of licking or pointing a paintbrush by mouth may result in the ingestion of toxic pigments.

CLEAPSS guidance MRAT - 155 - Painting and drawing