If you walk into an art supply store, you will probably find two, three or four brands of Oil Paints on the shelves. This is confusing enough, but it is only the tip of the iceberg.
Shopping on the Internet, you are likely to be swept away with the variety of brands and lines of oil paints that are available. As a beginner, there is good reason to be a little overwhelmed. You can’t imagine how many experienced painters have fallen prey to the lure of shiny tubes and pretty colors.
Some people collect shoes, while others are drawn to buy carnival glass, Hummel figurines or Ty Beanie Babies. Artists tend to develop the compulsion to buy paints.
Your First Paint Purchase
As a beginner, you need to buy some specific colors that will help you create a wide variety of shades and hues. You shouldn’t fill your paint box with every color you find on the shelves. Use the list your instructor has provided, or use the recommendations of the book or video you are using to learn how to paint.
If the list calls for Ultramarine Blue, don’t buy Phthalo Blue. They are not interchangeable. Your instructor may recommend a particular brand of paint. For your initial plunge into the oil painting pool, listen to more experienced voices. However, as you become more sophisticated in the medium, feel free to experiment.
Don’t buy the jumbo economy size tubes of any color except white. The standard size paint tube is fine, and some colors you will use very sparingly. When you run low on a particular color, it’s a good opportunity to replace the color with a brand that intrigues you or that someone may have recommended.
There’s no rule that says you have to use only one brand of paint. You may find colors in one line that aren’t available in the line you’re currently using. One brand may have a superior texture or have more translucency or vibrant colors. Feel free to mix and match.
Don’t be afraid to try a tube or two of house brand paints. While they may not be of the highest quality, the price may be a very attractive feature. If the colors are true, the texture is satisfactory and the pigment and oil don’t separate in the tube, a house brand may be suitable. However, don’t buy strictly on price. You will see a big difference in quality between the cheapest craft-quality paint and the finest import.
Most recognized paint manufacturers have a long history. You can still buy paint from the same company that supplied art supplies to artists of the court in the 17th century. A fairly new manufacturer may only have a track record that goes back to the early part of the 20th century. Modern suppliers have developed house brand paint lines that are the real new kids on the block. They provide a consistent product at a reasonable price. The following list of manufacturers is a sampling of the companies producing oil paints and represents only a fraction of the products available.
Oil Paint Manufacturers
Now let’s get into the biggest and best Oil Paint Manufacturers…
Blick Artists’ Oil Paints
Dick Blick is a well-known and established art supply retailer. Their house brand of oil paints is available in 60 colors available in 40 ml tubes. The reasonably priced paints come in a good variety of colors. As with any paint, try a couple of tubes before committing to a full array of colors. Reviews, as with most products range from kiddy craft quality to comparable with an expensive import.
Blockx Oil Paints
Established in 1865, Blockx stone grinds their pigments in the Belgium workshop that has been used for five generations. In their paint production, linseed oil is used for iron oxides, earth pigments and blacks, while all other pigments are made using poppyseed oil. No additives or fillers are used, and all the paints can be considered colorfast. They have nearly 100 colors available in 35 ml and 200 ml tubes. Blockx includes some unusual hues in the line to expand a palette from ho-hum to exotic.
Da Vinci Artists’ Oil Paints
One of the newer names in quality oil paint, the Da Vinci oil paint line is available in 60 colors and is packaged in 40 ml tubes. All Da Vinci oil paints are rated at Lightfastness I or Lightfastness II, so they have a good permanence rating. The pricing structure is reasonable, although the reviews vary widely as to the quality and consistency of the product.
Grumbacher Finest Artists’ Oil Paints
Pre-tested Artist’s Oil Colors is Grumbacher’s professional grade oil paints. The line includes 88 colors packaged in 37 ml tubes, and a number of the most popular colors are available in 150 ml tubes. They also produce Academy Oil Colors, which provide reliable products and a good range of 29 colors. They also offer 150 ml tubes for much of this line of paints. Both grades of paints offer consistent quality at a low price.
Holbein Artist’s Oil Paints
Holbein Artist’s oil paints are produced in Japan, where artists have been revered for thousands of years. Their formulation of each color varies to compensate for the different characteristics found in each pigment. Most of their colors are available in both 20 ml and 40 ml tubes and they produce both opaque and translucent series of colors. Their wide variety of paint includes colors like Misty Blue and Peony Red, which are colors you won’t find anywhere else.
Maimeri Blu Artist Oil Paints
Located in Italy, Maimeri Blu began formulating artist’s paints in 1932. Their oil paints encompass a wide variety of color families and Maimeri makes five distinct lines. These lines include Artisti Oil Colors, Mediterranean Oil Colors, Olio HD Oil Colors, Puro Oil Colors and Renaissance Oil Colors.
Pricing varies significantly among the lines and colors. The specialty lines are very reasonably priced, while their top-rated lines are much pricier. This company provides a wide diversity of colors that include hard-to-find specialty hues.
Old Holland Classic Artist Oil Paints
Old Holland began producing paint supplies for artists in 1664. As one of the oldest art suppliers in the world, their paints have literally survived the test of time. The 168 colors are available in 40 ml and 125 ml tubes. This paint is not for the faint of heart or a Cheap Charlie. It is an expensive paint. When your skills have developed and your work is professional quality, treat yourself and try a tube or two. Better yet, put it on your holiday wish list for generous friends and family.
Rembrandt Artist Oil Paints
Rembrandt is a family owned Dutch company that started operations in 1899. Many customer reviews speak of the soft texture of this paint and the fact that it needs no medium to create the smooth consistency so many artists desire. The 40 ml tubes are priced according to color, so the costs vary significantly. They have a nice selection of standard colors and the more popular shades are also available in 150 ml tubes.
Sennelier French Artist’s Oil Paints
Since 1877, Sennelier has sold artist’s paints, and the operation and property looks much as it did when it began. Sennelier is one of the leading manufacturers of artist’s paints and supplies. The extensive array of colors is available in 40 ml and 200 ml tubes, which include many unique hues that are exclusive to Sennelier. This paint features hand-ground pigment and safflower oils to produce a high quality, professional grade product. The price may be steep, but the color selection and quality are worth the cost.
Winsor & Newton Artist’s Oil Paints
With 120 colors available in the line, Winsor & Newton Artist’s oil paints have become a painter’s favorite in their 170 year history of manufacturing art supplies. With the exception of Alizarin Crimson, the line’s 120 colors are rated as permanent for artist’s use. They use the latest technology and materials to produce stable and non-toxic paints. The paint is available in 37 ml and 200 ml tubes that vary in price according to pigment content. Winsor & Newton has been a staple in the studios of painters for generations, and many student artists take their first professional steps with the Winsor & Newton line.
Additional Paint Manufacturers
Numerous Oil Paint manufacturers produce a broad range of paints with vastly different quality and product lines. There’s a lifetime of experimentation awaiting the novice art student as they study and discover new brands. As technology advances, there will always be changes in the products and producers. The following list is only a partial roll call of some of the most widely known manufacturers.
Bob Ross Oil Colors
Chroma Archival Oil Colors
Gamlin Pre-Tested Artist’s Oil Colors
Lefranc & Bourgeois Artist’s Oils
M. Graham Artist’s Oil Colors
Mir Artist Mediterranean Oil Colors
Pebeo Frangonard Artist’s Oil Colors
Schmincke Oil Colors
Shiva Signature Artist Oil Colors
Weber Permalba Artist’s Oil Colors
Williamburg Handmade Oil Paints
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