Oil paints can be the most costly medium for an artist to choose.
However, with a little careful shopping and good judgment, an art student can find Oil Paints that will fit his budget and be of reasonably good quality.
When you decide to take the plunge, don’t go scampering off to the artist’s supply store and fill a basket with all the pretty colors. Not only are all those paints going to blow the budget in one fell swoop, but you don’t need most of them.
Use the recommendations of your teacher, the video series you’re watching or the book that has convinced you to try out oil paints. A beginner’s painting course will direct you to the basic hues that you need. You can always add to your palette as your skill develops and you refine your palette.
Paint manufacturers produce their products in a wide variety of sizes. You have to get out your calculator and do some math to see which size is a better value.
Paints like Titanium White are used for almost every painting you do. Buying this paint in the jumbo, economy size makes sense. Colors like Alizarin Crimson are used very frequently, but unless you do huge canvases, you don’t really use a great deal of this paint. The standard size is quite suitable.
Some paints are just more costly to produce than others are, and the price may vary between different colors within the same line. One manufacturer’s Cerulean Blue paint is 3-1/2 times as costly as their lowest price paints in that line. Shop around. If you really love Cerulean Blue and want to use it often, find a manufacturer whose formulation is more reasonably priced. Until you become a household name in the art world, the minor color difference in the most expensive tube and the average priced tube won’t really be a factor in your work.
If you really insist on getting some specialty colors, select the smallest size available. These are the paints that you will be using very sparingly or infrequently. They’re fun to have in your palette, but buying a large tube of something you will seldom use leaves less in the budget for things you may use more often.
Quality And Grade
There can be a tremendous difference between the quality of Oil Paints that are labeled as student or professional grade. The most costly student grade may be as good as the a lesser quality professional grade, and you may find some student brands that are quite nice. It’s a very subjective topic, and artists of all levels will argue who makes the best paint and which line is the best value for the money. You can look forward to big debates about the worst paint and all the reasons it should be promptly tossed in the trash.
Student grade paints are less costly because they use ingredients of lower quality, and the concentration of the pigments may be less than that of professional grade paints. These paints tend to be less opaque and they may separate in the tube. Since the pigment is less saturated, the paint lacks the vibrancy and depth of color that superior brands provide.
As you need to replace paint or feel the urge to splurge with a new tube of color, experiment with other brands and lines of paint. There are many quality manufacturers and fine paint lines to keep you experimenting for years.
Pigments are organic, inorganic or synthetic in nature. Before technology introduced synthetic compounds to replicate colors, some hues would fade over time. These are called fugitive colors and, for the most part, they have been replaced with colorfast alternatives.
Today, most paints are permanent. However, some colors can deteriorate over time. Avoid these colors, or use them for work that you don’t expect to last for the next hundred years.
The American Society for Testing Materials rates paints for their longevity and permanence. There is all sorts of information on the paint tube, so take a moment and get familiar with what’s written there. The label may include the manufacturer’s name, the pigment names, identifying pigment numbers and the lightfast rating.
Oxides, salts and minerals are ground into fine particulate and mixed with oil. There are a number of oils and other ingredients that can be added to the suspension. These ingredients vary between manufacturers, and every company has its own formulations. Some of these recipes date back hundreds of years. Various ingredients enhance or deter the drying time, and this varies in both individual colors and brands.
Artist’s Additives – Solvents and Mediums
You don’t necessarily need a medium to change the consistency of your paint. Lots of artists just use their paints as they come out of the tube and never use any additional additives. This down and dirty painting method is quick and spontaneous.
Wet-on-wet is perfect for en plein air painting sessions and impressionistic work. If you’re painting alla prima, which is also known as wet-in-wet, you don’t need fancy thinners or dryers.
However, if you want to paint with numerous glazes, chiaroscuro, alter the speed of drying or the consistency of your paint, you will need to use solvents and mediums in your painting.
If you are doing an underpainting, you need to dilute the concentration of your paint. Using turpentine or mineral spirits to thin your paint allows you to get some color down quickly, and it will dry very rapidly.
Conversely, many artists glaze their paintings with numerous thin layers of paint to tweak the color or make slight alterations. This stage of painting requires a dilution that dries slowly to avoid problems with the paint curing properly.
In today’s mass marketing world, a student will be enticed with glowing reviews and testimonials of the wonders of each manufacturer’s superior products. Sure, there’s lots of neat additives that were never dreamed of in Da Vinci’s day. However, the fledgling artist can complete his paintings with only a solvent and a medium.
Oil Paint Solvents
Turpentine is an organic product derived from tree resin. Despite its organic derivation, it absorbs easily into the skin. It also releases noxious vapors as it dries. Absorption and inhalation are unhealthy, and turpentine should be used in a well ventilated space with minimal physical contact.
For goodness sakes, do not use hardware store turpentine. It is less refined and the impurities it may have can adversely affect your painting. If you value your work and the time you are investing in it, purchase your turpentine from an art supply source.
An artist who is allergic to turpentine can substitute petroleum-based mineral spirits. It is less costly than turpentine, but it can also be harmful if inhaled excessively. White spirits or odorless mineral spirits are less noxious, but they are more costly and not as effective.
Oil Paint Mediums
Painting medium is used to thin the consistency of oil paint. It also speeds the drying time. These products are non-yellowing, and they will not alter or damage your painting. There are also mediums that slow down drying time and products to add body to your paint for impasto painting.
Some of these additives are translucent, while a few are opaque. Most of these products are available in high gloss, satin and matte finishes. As your skill increases, do a little research about individual products to see if any are suitable for the work you are doing or want to try.
Oils For Oil Painting
It’s an oil painting, so you may want to use additional oil. As a beginner, you don’t really need to bother with the intricacies and characteristics of various oils. However, a knowledgeable student should have a passing acquaintance with the topic.
No, there is no linseed plant. Linseed oil is a produced from flax plant seeds. Cold-pressed linseed oil is the preferred formulation, as it is of a higher quality and dries quicker than refined linseed oil. It’s a popular choice for oil painters and it dries in three to five days.
Additional processing of linseed oil results in a thicker oil that is slow to dry. Perhaps because the artist has to stand his painting aside for months before it is properly cured, this product is called stand oil. Typically, stand oil dries to the touch in a week or two, and it makes a useful glaze when mixed with a solvent. Since it does not darken or yellow easily, stand oil is a useful choice for blending with pale and white paints. Be aware that it can take from three to six months for it to cure completely.
Poppyseed oil ages well and does not darken over time. It is a pale oil that works well with the lighter passages of a painting. Since it is a slow drying oil, it is best suited for glazing and wet-in-wet techniques.
Walnut oil can become rancid if not stored properly, so purchase it in small quantities and store in a refrigerator. It is a thin-bodied oil and dries in four or five days. It’s pale color makes it a good choice for light colored paints.
Boiled oils are modified to dry rapidly, and they are used primarily in the beginning stages of a painting. Since this type of oil yellows and darkens over time, the product is not suitable for glazing or final layers.
Oil Drying Times and Color Changes
If you’ve read this far, you’re aware that not all oils are the same. If you decide to add oil to your tabouret, research the products and their particular characteristics. Many an artist has had the misfortune of painting an impossibly blue sky and over the months watches it transform into a ghastly green.
A slow drying oil used early in the painting process can lead to the completed painting cracking as it dries. This may not be evident for months, as some paintings can take six months to cure.
Painting is an art. However, chemistry is involved in the successful creation of a winning masterpiece. Don’t waste your time and talent by ignoring the chemistry of art.
Unlike a watercolorist, you just can’t go flinging paint without understanding the consequences of the materials you are using. For an oil painter, the theory of painting is a necessary part of art education.
This kind of discussion is not nearly as satisfying as loading up a brush with a big glob of paint and covering the canvas with juicy colors. However, the more you learn and understand the products you use, the more successful you will be as an artist.
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