Six Qualities That Make an Oil Paint a Good Oil Paint – All Brands Are Not the Same
Over the years I’ve had the chance to use a lot of oil paint brands. As my painting style changes, I often look for new properties from the paints I use. When I first started using pallet knives, I needed to find affordable, good quality oils to work with. Now that I’m a fully professional artist, it’s even more important that the quality of the paint I use is reliable, consistent, vibrant and good value.
What I look for in an oil paint brand.
I paint thick, textured and big paintings where the colour intensity and variety is as, or more, important to the final impression as the subject of the painting itself. So, with this in mind, my selection criteria are;
- Texture: It’s important that the paints viscosity is firm enough to stay exactly where I put it, since I use a pallet knife a lot, but fluid enough to mix in streaks and spread easily without clumping or ripping up any work underneath that I may be painting over. This is a fine balance and although I could add medium to thicker brands, I don’t want to be slowed down when I’m in mid flow.
- Transparency: This varies a lot depending on the colour and the brand. It’s true that on occasion you’d like a paint to be slightly transparent although generally I don’t expect to put on three coats. My paintings are either thick or layered but nevertheless, those brands that require fewer layers to achieve the effect I want, I think are better. They save me time and I use less paint. They might be more expensive to buy, but the result is a saving.
- Colour Intensity: This is so important to me. When I use an orange, yellow or red, in particular, I often want the colour to scream out. Colours are easy to soften but not so easy to embolden.
- Colour Variety: Having access to a wide choice of primary colours provides great freedom to create just the atmosphere you are aiming at. Even variety in the none primary range is very helpful if certain greens, oranges or purples are difficult or impossible to recreate; or you’re not that good at mixing your own colours.
- Price: This is almost always an important factor for artists and I am no exception. With some of my larger paintings I can easily get through over a kilo of paint and in my early days when I didn’t know if I could sell these pieces of art, it was stressful applying hundreds of GBP’s to one picture. Fortunately this is less of an issue now but nevertheless, I do take it seriously.
- Place of Manufacture: As an artist and consumer, it’s important to take some responsibility for our choice in paint. Paints manufactured in the far east may contain products no longer allowed here, often employ non environmentally sensitive manufacturing techniques (which is important with oil paints), frequently allowing them to make a cheaper product and there are usually questions over worker safety and working conditions. The problem these days is that since price is such an influence, even if the tube says Made in The UK, elements of the product often are not. I’m not an investigative journalist, so I’m making a best guess.
My Preferred Brand
On balance I find Winsor & Newton provide me with everything I am looking for in my oil paints. Although the texture is different for different colours, they are mostly in the range that suits my style. The intensity of colour is fantastic, especially in the cadmium Artist range and the choice of colours is like being a kid in a sweet shop. The artist colours vary in price depending on series and they are not cheap. This is where the Winton Oil range (their student oils) comes in. The Winton Oils are a reduced range of colour but much more affordable in 200ml tubes mainly because the colour pigments are synthetic. I’m not a traditionalist so this doesn’t bother me. The transparency, vibrancy and texture all provide great value for money. Finally, you can visit their factory in West London and decide for yourself, re their working practices.