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Balsam is very thick, deep amber colored liquid that is added to oil paint and oil paint mediums for a tough, jewel like quality. The most famous balsam is Venice turpentine from European larch tree. Although this type of balsam is called turpentine, it is nothing like turpentine.

The most famous balsam or Venice turpentine

Venice turpentine (the most famous balsam) has the consistency of thick honey and sets and dries rapidly. This means that this type of balsam should not be used in great quantity or in alla prima techniques where the oil paint artist works on the oil paitings for a long period of time. This balsam should be used moderately and in small areas. It adds tough and flexible quality to oil paint.

Another example of balsam oleoresin is Strasbourg turpentine

Again, although the name of this balsam is 'turpentine', Strasbourg turpentine is nothing like turpentine. Strasbourg turpentine is like Venice turpentine but comes from a different fir tree in Central Europe.

Now Strasbourg turpentine is a rare balsam. However, before the 19th century, Strasbourg turpentine was the balsam oleoresin preferred by most oil painters.