Paint Conditioners – A Full Guide

Updated May 18, 2024 | Posted Dec 31, 2023 | Professional insight, Product Advice | 0 comments

Paint conditioners are designed to enhance the performance of paint, but you need to use them correctly. If you get it wrong, then you run the risk of your paint failing. For that reason, I thought I’d sit down and write a very quick guide.

Each paint product has been developed to work in a certain way, so most of the time, in normal conditions, paint conditioners are not needed. However, providing you know what you’re doing, you can use them to speed up the drying process of paint, make it flow more smoothly, and even aid adhesion.

I’ll work my way through each of the problems you might use a paint conditioner to fix. Never use more than one paint conditioner in a single paint or you WILL have issues, and never use more than the recommended amount.


A Paint Conditioner to Speed up the Drying Time of Oil-Based Paint


Terebine driers is a paint conditioner used to speed the drying process of oil-based paint such as gloss, eggshell and satinwood. It works by speeding up the polymerisation of the oil film by oxidising the paint layer from the inside out.

Oil-based paint does already contain driers, and adding more when it isn’t needed can cut the ‘open time’ of the paint, meaning it is more difficult to apply.

However, you might use it when painting outside in less-than-perfect weather conditions, or in cold rooms, where the normal drying time would be extended.

This is one of the paint conditioners that you need to go easy with. Do not add more than a few drops to a kettle of paint, particularly with paint in strong colours (there’s something about the amount of tint in paint that seems to stop driers from working). If you add too much then it will have the opposite effect.

Terebine Driers paint conditioner to speed up the drying process of oil-based paint

A Paint Conditioner to Help with the Flow of Oil-Based Paint


Owatrol Oil has the opposite effect to Terebine Driers in that it extends the drying time of oil-based paint. This leads to better ‘open time’, better flow, easier application, less brush marks and less roller marks. It also helps paint adhesion, and even acts as a rust inhibitor.

It does all this without effecting the opacity of the paint. There are probably instructions on the tin about how much to use, but I tend to add around 3 tablespoons of conditioner to half a litre of paint, then give it a good mix.

It really does make a huge difference to the performance of the paint, particularly when used in oil-based gloss on hot days. Just be aware of the extended drying time. You wouldn’t use it on cold days. You also need to be conscious when using it on doors and windows as they will need to be left open.

Owatrol Oil paint conditioner to help the performance of oil-based paint

A Paint Conditioner That Helps the Flow and Adhesion of Water-Based Paint


The paint conditioner I’m going to recommend to help the flow of water-based paint is called Smith and Rodger Flow and Bond. For years we used a product called Flowtrol, but I think Flow and Bond is better.

Smith and Rodger Flow and Bond is a godsend when using some of the modern water-based gloss and satinwood paint products, as it helps ‘open time’, making it easier to apply. It also helps to avoid brush and roller marks.

Plus, it improves adhesion (which is always a bonus when using water-based) and doesn’t alter the opacity of the paint.

This conditioner should be mixed with paint on a 10:1 ratio.

Smith and Rodger Flow and Bond conditioner for water-based paint



Is paint conditioner necessary?

Paint conditioner helps adapt the paint you’re using to the conditions you’re using it in. For example, if it’s hot, you can use paint conditioner to extend the drying time and help with flow. If it’s cold, you might use a paint conditioner to speed up the drying time of the paint.


How much paint conditioner to use?

It depends on the paint conditioner you’re using, and you should always read the instructions on the bottle. However, I know from personal experience that using too much can cause problems, so go easy.


What happens if you don’t use paint conditioner?

Most of the time you don’t need a paint conditioner, so nothing really happens if you don’t use one. However, paint conditioners can help improve the performance of your paint.


What can I use instead of conditioner?

You could dilute the paint to help with flow and reduce brush marks, but you may then need to apply additional coats to achieve a solid finish.

What do Other Decorators Think?

Wouldn’t work without paint conditioners now. They’re great for preventing flashing. They also keep the wet edge going for longer in warm conditions and improves the flow.

Brown Martyn

Professional Decorator

Flow & Bond is brilliant. I use it all the time. It just gives you that wet edge for a longer period and the bonding element really helps to prevent runs. Owatrol is great too but for me personally, the Flow & Bond just beats it.

Andrew Hamilton

Professional Decorator

We use this flow and bond all time. It’s an amazing paint conditioner!

Richard Willey

Professional Decorator

Flow and bond is great stuff. Always put it in my undercoat and a tiny splash in the topcoat to keep it open for longer and help minimise any possibility of brush marks. I use it in emulsion paints like silk 🙄, and soft sheen instead of water.

Jimmy Pringle

Professional Decorator

I use vegetable glycerin in water-based paint and linseed oil in oil-based. I’ve been using them for years. Little tip my grandad gave me 30 years ago and never had any problems and a hell of a lot cheaper than paint conditioner.

Darren Webb

Professional Decorator

Updated May 18, 2024 | Posted Dec 31, 2023 | 0 comments

About the Author

About the Author

Mike Cupit has been in the decorating industry since 2002 and has mostly worked as a Trade Decorator in the domestic sector (peoples’ homes). Self-proclaimed “product geek”, Mike has a passion for paint and decorating tools. Mike now spends most of his time testing paint products and tools, comparing them to similar products on the market, and blogging about the industry in general.


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *