After the paint has dried: a review of testing techniques for studying the mechanical properties of artists’ paint

Gwen dePolo, Marc Sebastian Walton, Katrien Keune, Kenneth R. Shull*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


While the chemistry of artists’ paints has previously been studied and reviewed, these studies only capture a portion of the properties affecting the response of paint materials. The mechanical properties of artists’ paints relate to the deformation response of these materials when a stress is applied. This response is dependent on many factors, such as paint composition, pigment to binder ratio, temperature, relative humidity, and solvent exposure. Here, thirty years of tensile testing data have been compiled into a single dataset, along with the testing conditions, to provide future researchers with easy access to these data as well some general discussion of their trends. Alongside the more commonly used techniques of tensile testing and dynamic mechanical analysis, new techniques have been developed to more fully investigate the mechanical properties, and are discussed along with salient results. The techniques have been divided into two categories: those that are restricted to use on model systems and those that are applicable to historic samples. Techniques applied to model systems (tensile testing, dynamic mechanic analysis, quartz crystal microbalance, vibration studies) require too large of a sample to be taken from art objects or focus on the mechanical properties of the liquid state (shear rheometry). Techniques applied to historic samples incorporate the use of small sample sizes (nanoindentation), optical techniques (laser shearography), computational simulations (finite element analysis), and non-invasive comparative mechanical properties (single-sided nuclear magnetic resonance) to investigate and predict the mechanical properties of paints.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number68
JournalHeritage Science
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2021


  • Dynamic mechanical analysis
  • Finite element analysis
  • Laser shearography
  • Mechanical properties
  • Nanoindentation
  • Quartz crystal microbalance
  • Shear rheometry
  • Single-sided nuclear magnetic resonance
  • Tensile testing
  • Vibration studies

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Conservation
  • Chemistry (miscellaneous)
  • Archaeology
  • Materials Science (miscellaneous)
  • Archaeology
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Spectroscopy


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