Although oil paint has remained the premiere painting medium and the basic color formulations remain constant, the technology is vastly improved and quality controlled. The artist no longer concerns himself with grinding pigment, blending oils and minerals. Today an artist is concerned with applying paint to a canvas, not running a small laboratory and refining plant.
There are paint manufacturers that have been producing art supplies for several hundred years. The technology has improved but the commitment to quality paint is unchanged. Paints vary by manufacturer in color and other characteristics. Payne’s Grey, for example can be very blue from one manufacturer or very charcoal from a different producer. It is a subjective choice with no one being superior to the other.
Permanent And Fugitive Colors
Paints are derived from mineral and organic materials, as well as from synthetic processes. Some pigments are colorfast, while others will fade or change over time. The American Society for Testing Materials rates longevity and permanence of oil paint. This is indicated on the packaging so the artist can make an informed purchase. Modern technology has expanded and improved the permanence of many paints with synthetic formulations. An artist should make sure that the paint he selects is permanent and long lasting. As beautiful as Terre Verte is, it is not colorfast. The same is true for Rose Madder. There are chemical formulations that closely resemble most of the fugitive colors, so a full color range should not be a problem for the artist.
Pigment and Binders
Pigments can be organic, inorganic or synthetic. Modern technology has replaced many of the fugitive colors of the past with synthetic chemical formulas that closely replicate those hues. Minerals, salts and oxides are ground to fine particulate, which will hang in suspension with appropriate oil. Other ingredients to enhance or deter drying are incorporated, as well as additional elements particular to the chemist’s recipe.
The manufacturers of oil paints each have their own ideas of how best to formulate their products. Some use linseed oil while others may use poppy or safflower seed oil. Just as there are various recipes for a chocolate chip cookie, there are also diverse formulations to produce paints.
Several oil paint manufacturers vie for the title “Best Oil Paint.” These companies have the experience of literally hundreds of year’s experimentation and development. They use what is tested and true and add today’s technology to develop the finest products on the market. An inquisitive artist will audition several different brands before finding the one best suited for his needs. Most artists find that there are always exceptions, and a color or two from another producer will inevitably tiptoe its way into the artist’s tabouret. A good recipe always has a little spice to liven up the taste.
Quality And Grade
There is a wide diversity between student grade paints and artist’s grade oil paint. The student will be far better off using a smaller number of higher quality paints than settling for a full set of student grade paints. Student products tend to be less opaque and often separate in the tube. The pigment is less saturated, so the color is not as rich and vibrant. Using inferior tools makes learning a new craft more difficult.
There are some great Oil Brand Manufacturers, let’s take a look at some of the best of the best.
Winsor & Newton
Winsor & Newton has been in production for over 170 years. They are readily obtainable locally, and have 120 colors in their collection. They boast that 80 of their colors are single pigment hues with the strength and vibrancy that only single pigment formulation can obtain.
Old Holland is the world’s oldest manufacturer of oil paints, established in 1664. They have an amazing 186 colors in their line, which is still produced by hand from stone ground pigment and cold-pressed linseed oil. These recipes are the same that were used for the 17th century masters who painted with Old Holland paints.
Holbein formulates each of their colors to compensate for the differences in characteristics of each pigment. This produces a consistency in the entire line of their colors. Working with a set of Holbein colors ensures uniformity in drying time and malleability.
Other fine oil paint manufacturers produce quality products. Paints can be expensive, and an artist’s pocket is notoriously empty. It takes time to discover the paint line that best embodies an artist’s vision. The painter’s box will change and evolve as time and resources allow.
Oil paint is the grand daddy of artists’ mediums. Artists have been creating works in oil paint for hundreds of years. There is an aesthetic, unnamable quality to working with oil that any artist feels, but may not be able to describe. It is the feel of the paint moving with the brush and the feel of the oil on your hands. It is the aroma of turpentine and paint thinner and linseed oil. It is the taste when you chew on the end of the brush. It says, “I am an artist.”