Discover the best oil paint brands for beginners and professionals alike.
Each paint manufacturer has their own special formula which makes their paint unique. The very basic recipe for paint is oil (the binder) + pigment.
Paint varies from brand to brand. There will be differences in the type of oil that’s used as a binder, the pigments used, the amount of pigment added and the combination of additives, stabilisers, fillers and dryers.
Different oil paint brands have their own recognisable properties, in the handling of the paint, in the colours selected by the paint maker, and even in the finish of your painting (whether it’s glossy or matte).
Getting the best quality paint certainly won’t make you a better painter, but it can make the whole painting experience much more joyful, and your process feel easier.
I’ve loosely ordered this post from the boutique craftsman-made high end ranges, to the mid-level ranges, to the ‘student grade’ quality paint.
The best oil paint brands for your painting practice, will depend upon your painting style, budget and colour preferences. Check out these 20 different oil paint brands for their different qualities and characteristics.
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Buy Schmincke Mussini Oil Colours here.
Pros: Sophisticated formulation prevents warping, high quality, amazing for creating glazes
Cons: Gives a glossy finish
This is a German brand that produces wonderful professional grade paint, with excellent lightfastness and the consistency of a paste.
It’s unusual in the sense that the colour is resin based. The binders used in their colours are specially created blends—they use damar resin, linseed, safflower oil and poppy seed oil to achieve beautifully rich colours and durable layers.
The process used to achieve the quality of the paint is incredibly sophisticated, and the use of resin in the paint especially lends itself to creating thin layers of glaze.
The use of resin in the paint means that the colours dry evenly and consistently, and it gives the finish of the painting luminosity and lustre. The even drying property is a unique one, that cannot be found in any other brand of paint.
As binders and mediums such as linseed, safflower and poppy seed oil cure, they increase in volume. The solvents in the resin mixture in the binder balances this out by decreasing in volume as it dries, this creates tension-free drying of the layers which are less likely to therefore warp and crack as they age.
The finish of the paint is glossier than other oil paint brands. This isn’t necessarily a drawback, it just comes down to your own personal tastes.
If you’re looking to get a primary palette, their colours Lemon Yellow, Translucent Cyan and Transparent Magenta will give a great chromatic range. You may need to add another red, such as Cadmium, and yellow that leans towards red such as their Cadmium Yellow Hue to the mix to be able to mix deeper reds, yellows and oranges.
Their metallics range includes some that are completely exclusive to Schmincke—they make seven gold shades, five of which contain bronze pigments. These are definitely worth checking out to experiment with.
You can buy Michael Harding paints here.
Pros: High pigment content, buttery consistency, no fillers or driers, resistant to fading
Cons: Some pigments can be expensive (check the link for offers)
Michael Harding is an artist from the UK who was inspired by the Old Masters to recreate the rich colours and effects of their paintings.
He definitely has the approach of a craftsman when it comes to making his paints—the paint making operation is run by him.
You can achieve incredible luminosity and vibrance by using Michael Harding’s paints.
All paints are handmade. Additionally, Michael Harding makes the paint without adding fillers or dryers to the mix. This means that the pigment content is incredibly high. By using any Michael Harding paint, you’ll notice just how far it spreads on the canvas and how little the colour fades over time. For this reason, they are worth the investment, as you can be much more frugal with the amount of paint you use.
Due to the quality of the paint, and the fact that no fillers whatsoever are added to the paint to bulk them out and increase profits, some pigments come at a high price. But my advice would be to buy your paint tubes individually rather than buying a selection pack, so you can pick out only the ones that are suited to your painting style, or budget. Having said that, Michael Harding does provide an incredibly affordable introductory set of series 1 paints, that include some of the essential colours, get it here.
There are currently 95 colours available, but Michael Harding keeps adding new colours to his collection, so it’s certainly a range that is growing.
Buy Blockx paint here.
Pros: Stays wet for longer than other brands, perfect for painting alla prima, soft consistency
Cons: Expensive, some artists don’t like the slower drying times
A handmade, European professional grade paint, comparable in quality to Old Holland or Michael Harding.
Blockx manufactures the paint traditionally, by hand turning three stone cylinders. This works to mill the paint without heating or polluting it.
Only pure pigment is used by Blockx, which is shown by the ease of which they can be mixed with other pigments on the canvas to create vibrant colours.
The paint is ‘perfectly lightfast’. Blockx grinds the earth colours, black and iron oxides in linseed oil. Then they grind all the other colours in poppy seed oil, as this is less prone to yellowing, and the paint film will not wrinkle over time.
Blockx are unique in the sense that they bind their colours mainly in poppy seed oil. Poppy seed oil is a more expensive, non-yellowing oil that dries slower than linseed.
You’ll notice a difference in your colours, the blues and whites will stay crisp. If you were to selectively choose colours from this brand, go for the violets, blues and whites—you can achieve a cooler colour palette working with Blockx than other brands of paint.
Poppy seed oil dries at a slower rate than linseed oil, but you can use mediums to speed up the drying process.
Added to this, the poppy oil gives the paint a consistency comparable to soft butter. These two factors make the paint very suitable for painting alla prima (wet-on-wet).
Poppy seed oil is probably the most expensive drying oil to use as a binder, and regardless of the lack of linolenic acid in poppy seed oil (which is the component that creates a strong paint film), Blockx stand by their choice of using it as a binder.
Buy Old Holland oil paint here.
Pros: High pigment content
Cons: Some colours can be very pricy, stiff consistency
First established in 1664 by Old Dutch master painters, Old Holland have been running for over 3 centuries, which makes them the world’s oldest paint manufacturer.
The colours are made using production techniques used by the Old Dutch Masters to this day, and Old Holland is a household name for artists, used by professionals and restorers.
Pigments used by the Old Masters that are not considered to be lightfast have since been replaced, so their colours are almost completely lightfast. They do not add any cheap fillers or artificial dryers to the paint, and the pigment content is consistently high.
The paint comes out of the tube quite stiff, so it’s necessary to add additional medium such as linseed oil to thin the paint.
Old Holland prices are high for some pigments, such as cerulean blue, as this is a more expensive pigment to source. Their earth colours—the umbers, ochres and siennas are much more affordable. Despite the high price point, the colours are so loaded with pigment that they could be considered good value for money when you take into account how far they will spread on the canvas.
Buy M. Graham Oils here.
Pros: Low toxicity, uses walnut oil, high pigment content
Cons: Slow drying times
M. Graham grind their pigments in walnut oil rather than the usual linseed or safflower that other paint manufacturers use. This is with the exception of one of their titanium white pigments which they grind in sunflower oil. Walnut oil was widely used by the artists of the European Renaissance.
The walnut oil dries to a clear film, which is less prone to yellowing than linseed oil, resulting in rich pigments that are true to colour.
The paint remains wet for longer, which is an advantage for some artists who use the wet on wet technique, or like working on a single layer for days at a time. You can always mix them with a fast drying medium to speed up the drying process if you are trying to complete a painting quicker.
M. Graham don’t use solvents in their mediums and instead use a combination of walnut oil and alkyd, which is beneficial for more health conscious artists. Their medium can be used to thin paint, and dries much faster than non-alkyd alternatives because the oil has partially polymerised.
The flow of the paint is incredibly smooth, and the colour spreads a long way on the canvas due to the high pigment content.
Langridge Oil Paint
Buy Langridge Oil Paint here.
Pros: Large chromatic range, intense colours
Cons: The consistency of the paint differs between colours, not as much choice of colour compared to other brands
Langridge paint is made in Melbourne, Australia, but you can buy it worldwide from a store like Jackson’s.
These paints have a very high pigment content and use absolutely no fillers or additives. This means that the nature of the pigment hasn’t been in any way masked, so there is quite a bit of variation in the handling properties between colours in this range. For example, some colours will come out the tube buttery, some will come out stiff.
There are only 64 colours available, but the range has the fullest chromatic strength, all colours with maximum tinting power. The colour mixing is extremely clean—when it comes to colour saturation, these are pretty much unmatchable.
Something to note about these paints is the amount of information they provide about the contents of the paint and the pigments they use—it’s all on the back of the tube
Buy Williamsburg paint here.
Pros: Large range of colours (over 170!), good selection of earth colours
Cons: Pricey (but less expensive than Old Holland)
Like Michael Harding, Williamsburg paints were originally formulated by a professional oil painter. The founder was the artist Carl Plansky, but since his death the company has been taken over by Golden Artist Colours.
The paints are milled in small batches so that the best qualities of the pigment are brought out.
When buying oil paints, it’s good to look for handmade paints that have been crafted by artists for artists—as a lot more passion and care will have gone into getting the paint just right.
Williamsburg paints are expensive, but not as expensive as Old Holland. They have a large range of colours, and since being acquired by Golden Artist Colours, they have increased their range of earth colours to include French Earth Colours, as well as the traditional Italian earth colours.
They are regarded as professional grade oil paints, they are concerned with lightfastness ratings which are almost all rated as being 1 excellent—this means that they are, in turn, concerned with the permanency of the paintings produced by the artists who use their oil paints.
In terms of unique properties, Williamsburg paints have a tendency to be more grainy than other paints.
They have a range of paints ground in safflower oil, as well as a range ground in linseed. Safflower oil is less prone to yellowing than linseed (the more widely used paint binder), but the resulting paint film will be softer.
You can buy Vasari’s Classic Oil Colours here.
This really is the fine wine of the oil painting world—and it’s reflected in the price.
These American makers of professional grade ‘long’ oil paint are dedicated to only making oil paint, as they don’t manufacture any other medium such as watercolour or gouache.
They craft their colours in very small amounts, and even fill their tubes by hand.
They have a showroom in Chelsea, New York where you can see live demonstrations of colour mixing and personally select your own colours.
Their paint has a very light feel, not at all sticky on the brush, with a high chroma and tinting strength. This is due to the fact they don’t use cheap fillers in their paint.
They use alkali-refined linseed oil as a binder, meaning that the paint film will not yellow over time, but it maintains a durable paint film that linseed oil provides.
The paint is very expensive, but they run monthly sales on different colour categories. So if you opt to buy paint from this super high end paint maker, you could be shrewd and keep checking their website for their monthly offers.
Vasari paints handle well straight out of the tube and they are slightly more fluid than other brands, which almost makes the use of mediums feel redundant. These paints are excellent for working in fine detail, due to their consistency, but they may not suit an artist who likes to paint thickly with impasto strokes.
You can buy Daniel Smith classic oil paints here.
Pros: They make some unique colours, reasonable pricing
Cons: Stiffer in consistency than other brands, not super high end
Daniel Smith paints have a high pigment load, and they use alkali-refined linseed oil as a vehicle for the paint, and their white colours are ground in safflower oil.
The alkali-refined linseed oil they use is consistently light in colour, isn’t as prone to yellowing and provides good adhesion. Their brushability is very good too, as they use very few additives in their paint.
Daniel Smith developed a range of oils using semi-precious minerals as the pigments to achieve some pretty fascinating results. He uses some historical pigments such as Genuine Lapis Lazuli. He also uses some more novel ones like genuine turquoise from the Sleeping Beauty mountain range in Arizona. This is a beautiful pigment when mixed with lighter colours to achieve pastel blues and greens.
Daniel Smith is also pretty famous for the gesso grounds they produce. The acrylic gold being a particularly interesting one to use—it uses iron oxides and mica to produce an iridescent ground.
The quality of the paint isn’t as high as Vasari or Harding, but it’s reflected in the very reasonable price. The most expensive colours in their price series 6 range, such as cadmium yellow light (hue PY53, PY138, PY151) and their Pyrrol Scarlet (PR255) will set you back around £35, while their series 1 colours which include the earths, whites and blacks only cost £8.90 each.
Buy Rublev Oils here.
Pros: High end makers of traditional colours
Cons: They don’t make modern colours such as phthalos and quinacridones
Rublev has a limited colour palette, focussing on the more natural and historical pigments. Like many of the higher end oil paint manufacturers, the company that makes the paint, Natural Pigments, claim that they are made just as they would have been before the introduction of modern paint tubes—without additives.
Rublev have a huge range of earth colours, many colours that were produced traditionally and not widely available elsewhere.
They are another manufacturer to supply lead-based white, favoured by many artists for unique handling properties and luminescence.
Natural Pigments provide a lot of information about what goes into their Rublev Oil colours on their website. This is a real plus for artists who love to understand the materials they are working with. It can help determine how the properties of their materials affect the outcomes in their painting.
Buy Grumbacher Oils here.
Pros: Tested by artists, lots of information about properties of paint
Cons: Low viscosity
All of Grumbacher’s paints are tested by professional artists before they are put on the shelves. Properties such as lightfastness, drying time, pigment dispersion and viscosity are tested by their staff and iterated accordingly until the paint is perfected to their standards.
The majority of their 99 colours are single pigment and have a light-fast rating of 1, meaning colours will resist fading under sunlight.
Some artists complain that the caps are prone to breaking and oil can separate and leak from the tubes. Paint separation is normal in professional grade paint. Student grade paints add additives called stabilisers to prevent this from happening. Make sure the caps are on tight, and clean around the edges of the paint tube to prevent this from happening.
The consistency of the paint tends to be more liquid than a lot of other paint brands.
Make sure to always check the colour chart provided by the paint maker as some colours can differ slightly from brand to brand. In the case of the Grumbacher Pre-Tested Oil Colours, cadmiums tend to be slightly darker than some other brands of paint.
Buy Gamblin Artists Oil Paint here.
Pros: Low toxicity
Cons: Not super high end quality, has a thicker consistency
Gamblin are a brand that have made studio safety a priority. They have formulated paints, mediums and solvents that have low toxicity. Being so mindful of the artist’s working environment and creating products that aren’t as detrimental to the health as some others on the market, is what sets Gamblin apart.
No solvents are needed to paint with Gamblin’s oil colours, they can be thinned with linseed oil, and also cleaned with linseed oil, wiped then washed with soap and water or a brush cleaner. A good brush cleaner is the Master’s Brush Cleaner —it removes wet or dry oil paint from your brushes, and keeps them conditioned nicely.
Gamblin has quite a range of both traditional colours and colours made using modern pigments and techniques.
Most of the paint from Gamblin uses alkali refined linseed oil as a binder as opposed to cold-pressed linseed oil. The process of alkali refining the oil prevents the paint film from yellowing over time.
Another thing to note about Gamblin is that they produce 10 different versions of white in cool and warm tones, all of which are non-toxic. Their Flake White Replacement uses titanium dioxide, which has a warm colour with a little translucency. This white has an opalescent quality which won’t destroy colour mixes. Regular titanium white can make your colours appear chalky. If you do a direct comparison to a true Flake White (which uses lead), the handling properties are not the same. Leaded paint is much more dense, and has long ropey strokes. So this colour could be beneficial to painters who want to keep their studio free of toxic materials, but also want a warmer white which lends itself better to creating clearer colour mixes.
Buy Holbein Oils here.
Pros: Reasonable cost, nice to work with
Cons: not as high quality as top brands like Vasari or Harding
This is a good mid-range, Japanese made brand. The pigment content is certainly much less than Michael Harding, Vasari, or BLOCKX, but a slightly higher grade paint when compared to Winsor and Newton.
The consistency of the paint is uniform across their palette of 167 colours. Holbein has found a good balance in the viscosity of the paint it produces.
Holbein stock a range of foundation colours, specifically formulated for underpainting. These are really useful for creating a barrier between the canvas and your oil paint. It prevents colours from soaking in to your surface, which is quite common if you use acrylic gesso as a primer, and creates a unified surface. This results in richer colours on the top layers of your painting.
Buy Winsor and Newton’s Artists’ Oil Colours here.
Pros: good mid-range paint, vibrant, mixes well, reliable, good range of colours
Cons: There are better paint brands on the market
Artist’s Oil colours are Winsor and Newton’s professional grade line of paints.
In case you’re wondering what professional grade actually means: professional grade or artist grade (as opposed to student grade) is a description you’ll see used to describe the quality of different ranges of paint. Professional grade paint will often have higher pigment content and use less filler to bulk the paint out. It’s more expensive to make paint this way. This means the price is always higher for professional grade paint. Professional artists will likely pay more for the luxury of using paint with the richness of colour that comes from having a high pigment load and buttery consistency that comes from the manufacturers using little to no fillers.
Winsor and Newton have been making oil colours for over 180 years. There are 110 different colours in this range, ranging from £8 per tube. The colours mix well, and are very consistent and reliable. By this I mean that different colours will have a fairly similar consistency when squeezed from the tube. This isn’t always the case with all paint brands.
When compared to other ranges, in terms of quality these range of paints don’t come out top of the pile. However, the colours are vibrant and the consistency is workable.
W&N is especially useful for stocking up on colours you get through fast. I use it to buy large tubes of titanium white.
You can buy Sennelier Oils here.
Pros: High pigment load, less tendency to yellow, reasonable price
Cons: Some artists don’t like the almost ‘runny’ consistency, dries quickly
These professional-grade paints provide a lustrous satin finish. The natural and inorganic pigments are ground slowly to an extra fine consistency in archival safflower oil.
Safflower oil is similar to poppy seed oil in that it contains very little of the fatty acid (linolenic acid). This component causes yellowing in paint, and creates a more durable film. So you can be sure that lighter colours such as white a blue will develop less of a yellow tinge over time when you use Sennelier compared to other paint ranges.
The paint should dry faster than BLOCKX that uses poppy seed oil as a binder, but slower than brands of paint that use linseed oil as a binder. Although when tested, the paint seems to dry quicker on the canvas than other brands, suggesting the use of additive driers.
Sennelier was widely used by 19th century impressionist painters who liked the buttery consistency the paint provides. The paint feels much easier to spread on your surface than paints that use linseed oil as a binder. It is probably one of the runniest paints available to buy.
Sennelier worked in collaboration with Cezanne to perfect the range of colours. Professional artists that used the paints include Monet, Gauguin, Matisse, Picasso, Bonnard, Modigliani, Chagall, Ernst, Hockney. They have helped to shape the range produced today.
Sennelier colours are slightly more muted than other professional grade brands. This can of course be used to your advantage if you prefer to use a more understated palette.
Buy Van Gogh oil paints here.
Pros: Economically priced, good pigment load, good to excellent lightfastness ratings
Cons: Soft consistency (which some artists may not like), student quality
Royal Talens have multiple lines of oil paint, Rembrandt is their professional quality line and Van Gogh is a more economical, mid-range student quality paint. However, the pigment load is good and the paints have a soft consistency that is runnier than other oil paints on this list.
The line offers lots of single pigment colours, with good to excellent lightfastness, so the colours will be great for colour mixing and will be resistant to fading. The paints are great value for money, much cheaper than some of the professional paints, especially for more expensive pigments. For a serious student or aspiring artist, these paints would be a great choice.
Pros: Really high quality paint at a low price, makes traditional lead whites
Cons: You can only buy it online and directly from the site, international shipping costs are high
Buy it directly from the website here.
Blue Ridge is a fairly young brand of oil paint, milled by independent paint maker Eric Silver in North Carolina. It’s been causing quite the stir amongst artists recently, who have been wanting to spread the word about the excellent quality and value paint.
Originally an apprentice of Robert Doak’s, Eric would make his own paint, sell it to Doak and gain valuable feedback. Of course, much of what he learnt about paint milling was self taught too. He then set up Blue Ridge in 2007.
Blue Ridge grind their pigments in a blend of alkali-refined linseed oil and walnut oil to create the artist quality paint.
Linseed oil acts to create tough, durable layers. The walnut oil provides a clear film for the colour, where the use of a refined or cold pressed linseed oil alone would be more prone to yellowing. This enhances the pigments, creating colours that are more pure.
Blue Ridge is a very affordable brand—their Cadmium colours start at $23 for a 40ml tube, their Cerulean and Cobalt pigments start at the same price, and of course their earth colours are much cheaper at only $7.50 for a tube.
The paint isn’t available to buy from large suppliers such as Jackson’s or Blick, and they sell exclusively online through their own site.
This is premium paint, sold at an almost inconceivable price, made possible by them cutting out the middleman and supplying directly to artists.
Buy them here.
Pros: Good value, similar to Sennelier, good mid-range paint
Cons: Some colours can be on the oily side
This is Dick Blick’s ‘house brand’.
There have been a lot of comparisons drawn between Blick and Sennelier.
It’s said to be similar in consistency and shares similar colour compositions to Sennelier, at a fraction of the cost. Blick uses archival quality safflower oil as a binder in their paints, although they use poppy oil for cerulean blue.
It’s generally thought that their paint is milled at the same place in France that Sennelier mill their paints. So it’s natural that they should share some qualities. Although this hasn’t been disclosed by any representatives from Blick’s.
Blick’s paints are slightly stiffer than Sennelier. So it’s clear that Blick work to their own specifications in paint production.
This brand is a bargain for artists looking for a good deal. It’s a US brand, but they offer international shipping.
You can buy Winton Oil Paints here.
Pros: Very cheap
Cons: Lower pigment content than top end brands
If you are on a budget, this is the ‘student grade’ alternative to W&N’s professional paints.
There are 47 colour options, but most of the colours are made from ‘hues’ rather than single or traditional pigments.
Seeing the word ‘hue’ on a paint label isn’t always a bad thing. It can mean that the colour of a ‘traditional pigment’ has been closely matched. This can occur if the pigment that was readily available hundreds of years ago is now difficult to attain. Also, certain traditional pigments such as lead aren’t widely used anymore due to the adverse health effects they can have. So paint made to reduce the toxic elements (i.e. Cadmium Red or Yellow Hue) is advantageous to people who want to work with materials that have low toxicity.
When it comes to the lower grade, more economical paint, ‘hue’ often means that multiple pigments have been used to closely resemble the colour of the original pigment. There is a lesser concentration of pigment, therefore the paint won’t mix as well, and it’s likely to contain more fillers to bulk it out. You’ll notice differences in the handling properties and richness of colour in a student grade quality.
It’s important to discern between professional and student grade. It’s not to say that professional artists won’t use student grade paint—I sometimes use it for doing quick practice studies.
With all that in mind, Winton certainly isn’t bad to use. They use moderately priced pigments in their paint rather than lessening the amount of pigment in the paint to an unacceptable level. For students, professionals with a low budget or artists who need large volumes of paint that aren’t going to mix the colours too much (for example textured palette knife paintings), Winton could be suitable.
If you, however, pick up a hue from their Winton range (such as Cerulean Blue Hue) and the corresponding true colour from their Artist’s Oil Colour range, you’ll see that the difference is huge, with the hue taking on a much duller appearance.
For a student grade range it’s one of the better ones. If you’ve never used oil before, you’ll likely get through your first paints really quickly. For this reason, this could be a good go-to for your first ever paint. Use them to learn the process of oil painting. Such as how to layer properly, mix with mediums, mix colours and practice applying the paint to different surfaces.
Compared to other student ranges such as Daler Rowney Georgian Oils, Winton certainly comes out top.
Buy Pebeo oil paint here.
Pros: Very cheap, fast drying time
Cons: Low pigment content, mostly hues and imitation colours, not lightfast enough for professional work
Probably the most affordable oil paints on the market, and certainly on this list. These paints are good for anyone who is more price conscious, or doesn’t want to invest in expensive paint.
Pebeo is a student grade paint. They do not use single pigments in their colours, but rather a mix of hues and imitation colours. This means that you are more limited when it comes to creating vibrant colour mixes. The colours will become muddy much quicker.
Pebeo’s palette includes modern and traditional colours. However, the colour range is relatively small compared to other brands, with only 64 colours.
Some colours do look vibrant when you put them on the canvas, but some colours barely look like the colour they are intended to be. If you were to paint a Pebeo colour next to a Michael Harding you’ll see how dramatic the difference is.
The lightfast ratings of Pebeo aren’t great. On the rating scale they use, a lightfast rating of 2, or any number above that means your colours will fade over time. It’s something to consider if you’re planning to sell your work.
If you value the permanency of your work, I wouldn’t recommend using this brand for anything outside practice. Use it for painting in very thin layers as underpaintings or sketches.
What is the most budget friendly way to start oil painting?
When finding the best oil paint brands for your painting practice, you’ll have to first consider budget. If you are looking for an economical way to start oil painting, I would advise getting only a few colours from a reasonably priced higher quality brand, like Winsor & Newton.
You don’t need lots of different colours to start oil painting. In fact, you only need the primaries, white and burnt umber. This palette will give you the ability to mix the widest spectrum of colours and values from the fewest tubes of paint.
Some good primary colours to start with, that will give you the potential to mix a wide range of tones from just six colours are: Ultramarine blue, Phthalo blue, Hansa Yellow, Lemon Yellow, Magenta and Pyrrole Red. Hansa has a similar colour profile to Cadmium Yellow and Pyrrole has a similar colour profile to Cadmium Red. Interchange the reds and yellows to use as primaries for mixing. However, Hansa and Pyrrole are generally cheaper.
Starting with a more limited palette will encourage you to learn how to mix more quickly. It will take a bit of time to experiment with mixing, but it’s arguably the most essential skill in oil painting. For more advice, read my tutorial on the colours you need for oil painting.
Best oil paints to start with
Gamblin oil paints are a brilliant choice for beginners. They are a brand that balances exceptional quality with affordability. Many professional artists favour this brand too, for this reason.
Gamblin’s colours are highly pigmented and permanent. The paint has a wonderful consistency, it’s smooth but it’s not too runny. The consistency is more viscous than brands such as Sennelier, but less viscous than Old Holland, for example. Due to the archival properties and the strength of the paint film that the linseed binder provides, artists come back to buy this oil paint brand again and again.
On a budget: the best oil paint brands
Winsor & Newton Artists’ Oil Colours are . They are the cheapest of all the artist grade oil paints. From a store like Blick, they are often on offer. If you buy a set, or only choose a few colours you can cut costs.
The Artists’ Oil Colours offer oil painters all the characteristics they would look for in a professional grade brand. With a high pigment load, archival properties, smooth consistency and mixing ability, expect clean colours and a strong paint film.
Best oil paint brands for realism painting
Oil paint brands like Blockx, Sennelier and Schmincke Mussini have a smooth, less viscous consistency. These brands mill pigments to an extra fine consistency, so they don’t drag on the brush. As pigment particles are smaller, they make brighter colour mixes.
Check out our realism painting guide for some tips on how to paint realistically with oils.
The best oil paint brands for the impasto technique
Old Holland paint has a stiff consistency, brilliant for creating thick textured impasto work. If you like to create more painterly, textured effects, consider adding an impasto medium, like cold wax to thicken the paints even further. Cold wax will also add body to the paint, meaning that you will have to use less tube colour. This will save you money in the long run.
To improve your impasto painting skills, read our impasto guide.
Best oil paints for wet on wet technique
Blockx oil paints are perfect for the wet on wet technique because they are slow drying. Wet on wet, otherwise known as alla prima, requires the artist to finish the painting (or section) before the first application of paint dries. Read more about this technique and how to try it for yourself in our alla prima tutorial.
Another great oil paint brand for wet on wet paint applications is M. Graham, due to their slow drying times.
The best oil paint brands for the glazing technique
Schmincke Mussini oil paints work brilliantly when used with the glazing technique in oil painting. The paints are soft and they use finely milled pigments. Another important attribute is that many of their colours provide transparent properties, which is essential to the glazing technique. The finish of the dry paint film is luminous and satin-like with this brand, due to the fact they contain resin. Resin also acts to create structurally sound layers that are less likely to warp, or need oiling out.
To increase the transparency and fluidity of paint, use a medium like linseed oil. Chelsea Classical Studio makes a ‘Fat Medium’ from Damar resin and cold pressed linseed oil—it’s perfect to use as a glazing medium.
Best archival oil paint brands
Blockx, Michael Harding, Schmincke Mussini, Old Holland, and M. Graham are all exceptional quality oil paint brands that create perfectly lightfast paint. Expect the colours to stand the test of time.
What are the best oil paint brands overall?
Brands like Michael Harding offer excellent quality, with high pigment load and buttery consistency. The great thing about this brand is that the colours with low series numbers come at a reasonable price. Michael Harding manufactures paint in the UK, so prices are slightly cheaper from UK stores. The tubes last for a long time, due to how rich and intense the colours are. The colours produced by Michael Harding are inspired by the old masters, they have a well thought through pigment range.
Gamblin, Blockx, M. Graham and Schmincke Mussini are wonderful choices too. You’ll get a lot of joy out of painting with these brands. They all feel easy to handle, mix cleanly and the colours look bright on the canvas.
As you can see, the best oil paint brand for you will depend upon your preferences, painting style, techniques and budget.
What is oil paint made from?
Manufacturers make oil paint with pigment and a drying oil. The drying oil (binder) could be such as linseed, poppy or safflower. Recipes of oil paint will vary between brands. For example, some brands may add various additives, fillers and dryers to their paint. One brand may use slightly different pigments or types of oil from another. For this reason, brands of oil paint will have their own unique properties and behave slightly differently from one another.
Which oil paint is best for professionals?
Professional painters often choose paints that have a high pigment content and use a quality binder. Professional grade paints won’t have any additives and fillers in their paint mixture. Pigments in professional paints will have a high permanence rating. Professional paints contain mostly single pigments, as this results in cleaner paint mixes.
Which oil paint is best for beginners?
Beginner painters should look for paint that is affordable but doesn’t compromise on quality. Student grade paints will have less pigment content and use fillers and additives in their paint to bulk it out. The colours of student paint aren’t as pure or rich as the higher end professional ranges. Start by buying a limited palette of primaries from a quality brand and learn how to mix the paint. By getting fewer colours you will save money.
Which oil paint colours do you need?
With a split primary palette you can mix a wide range of hues and tones from just a few colours. The palette includes the primaries and a warm or cool version of each primary colour.
A suggested colour palette to start is: Cyan (PB15), Magenta (PV19), Yellow (PY128), Ultramarine (PB29), Cadmium Red Light (PR108), Cadmium Yellow (PY35). Then you will need paint to create shadows and highlights: Titanium White and Burnt Umber.
How much does oil paint cost?
Oil paint colours have different series numbers. The series number tells you how expensive the paint’s pigment is to obtain or make. It reflects the cost of the paint.
Paint with low series numbers from budget value brands could start at under $5 per tube. A more expensive pigment from a professional grade brand could cost upwards of $40. You can save money by painting with a limited palette and buying fewer paint tubes that have low series number pigments.
The price of paint isn’t necessarily an indicator of the quality, but the best brands tend to be more expensive. If you are looking for quality, you can’t go wrong with Michael Harding, Schmincke, Gamblin, Old Holland, Vasari and Blockx. For higher range quality and low prices, Winsor and Newton is a good contender.
To get the best results from the paint you use, learn about the unique properties. This includes the pigments used, the lightfast rating and the oil used. Also whether the manufacturer has added any additives to the paint. All of this will tell you how the paint will handle and whether it will suit your personal painting style.
There’s no right or wrong when it comes to choosing oil paint brands. It’s mostly just down to your own personal preference as an artist.
If you’re just beginning on your oil painting journey and you’re not quite sure what supplies to get, start with this beginner’s guide. It’ll teach you about all the tools and materials you need to start oil painting and give you valuable advice on how to use the materials to get the best results.
If you want to stock up on some quality art materials, check out our art supply store.
What are the best oil paint brands that you’ve found so far? Let me know in the comments.
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