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    Oil paint recommendations - brands and color palette

    Hi all,

    I am looking into getting some oils to noodle around in. I'm trying to very carefully plan the most minimal palette I can get away with, since my parents have graciously offered to treat me to an art supply run for my birthday and I want to be as frugal as possible. If you guys think the quality of supplies is really critical I may just elect to go with just 2 or 3 paints to get a feel for the medium.

    First off, do you guys have brand recommendations? I'm used to buying my good old $5 tubes of acrylic (Liquitex and Liquitex Basics) and I see that you can get comparable prices on brands like Grumbacher and Van Gogh, which aren't terribly reviewed online, as far as I can see. I will probably end up at Texas Art Supply, which carries the following brands
    • Bob Ross
    • Daler Rowney
    • Gamblin
    • Genesis
    • Grumbacher
    • Holbein
    • Maimeri
    • Old Holland Classic
    • Other
    • Rembrandt
    • Shiva
    • Van Gogh
    • Winsor & Newton

    (More details on their product page)

    I have some experience with acrylics, and the palette I've planned so far is very similar to what I usually use in acrylics:

    alizarin crimson
    ultramarine blue
    pthalo green
    cadmium yellow pale
    titanium white
    (I don't usually paint with black)

    I really enjoy mixing colors so I'm not worried about the 'inconvenience' of not having a more varied palette ready in tubes.

    A few questions:

    Does a blue pigment exist that will mix BOTH greens and purples nicely? As you can see I usually avoid the issue by using ultramarine for my purples and flat out buying a tube of pthalo green instead of even trying to get a reasonably pure green by mixing... And I don't seem to have this problem with the other primaries (I usually use magenta and cadmium yellow light; magenta makes fabulous purples AND oranges, and a pale enough cadmium doesn't muddy up greens too much-- although I'm sure it's not helping with my blue issues.)

    Is it worth going for a better quality brand for the weaker colors like white and yellow?

    Will I be okay "doodling" with this stuff on some gessoed cardboard, or are there particular issues with oils?

    Thank you in advance for your insights!


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  3. #2
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    • Bob Ross: Definitely not!
    • Daler Rowney: NO. Stay away from any paint you can buy at Wal-Mart.
    • Gamblin: OK, maybe a little overpriced for the quality.
    • Genesis: No, not really oil paint.
    • Grumbacher: Not the paint it used to be, but decent for the price.
    • Holbein: Very good, expensive, not beginner's paint.
    • Maimeri: Can't say, no experience.
    • Old Holland Classic: Top of the line, super expensive, would be wasted on a beginner.
    • Other: ?
    • Rembrandt: Good, solid professional paint.
    • Shiva: Used to be crap, but the company's been sold several times since I used them. I still wouldn't touch them.
    • Van Gogh: Student grade paint from the same company that makes Rembrandt. Avoid.
    • Winsor & Newton: The old reliable of artist grade paints. Yes on those, but avoid the student grade Winton line.

    I'd probably go for W&N, Rembrandt, or Gamblin.
    Last edited by Elwell; October 13th, 2011 at 08:10 AM.

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  5. #3
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    I use Gamblin exclusively except when I need a specific color they don't carry, though I've heard good things about Maimeri for student art from the guy downtown at Olyphant Art. Oh and I own two pallettes, both glass. I don't see a way you can get around buying greens. They are difficult to mix in my opinion. The theory on light and color has been incorrect in some regards and it isn't as simple as yellow+blue.

    Even though you enjoy mixing colors, remember each color is born from a necessity for the thing itself - the color is a professional and industrialized level of "mixing colors"

    The reason I use Gamblin is I think it is the best for professional grade aside from Sennelier, when I am forced to go elsewhere for a color because of inventory or because Gamblin doesn't have it, I use W&N, can't really complain but am not really fond of them either - they don't have the silkiness of Gamblin. So I disagree with Elwell a bit here. I have heard almost nothing bad about Gamblin from other artists. IN fact when I mentioned it to another artist who does large-format work (which sells for ALOT) he was like "Oh yeah Gamblin is sooo nice"

    I have owned a tube from all of the companies you mentioned and that was my choice. I went through a lot of horrible paint in the process particularily with Terra verte - I am still not happy with the Gamblin terra verte in the case of foliage.

    Gamblin also throws a lot of science into their product - they are very forward thinking and focused on the safe and permanent solutions we need people trying to solve for us as artists. One of my favorite mediums is their Neo Megilp. It is so much fun and the results are amazing.

    Check out the blog here on color mixing from May 6th:

    http://www.gamblincolors.com/blog/
    Last edited by Izi; October 12th, 2011 at 08:35 PM.
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  7. #4
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    Winsor and Newton artist grade is about your best bet for now. Decent price, good quality, and nice working properties. You could expand on your palette a bit by adding a green leaning blue like Winsor Blue green shade or Manganese Blue hue. I also swap Permanent Rose for Alizarin as it uses a much more lightfast pigment, but that's personal preference.
    Last edited by Blackthorne; October 12th, 2011 at 08:34 PM.

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  9. #5
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    Thanks so much for the quick responses, everybody.
    Quote Originally Posted by Elwell View Post
    <Awesome detailed info>
    Huge thanks, that's really helpful!

    Quote Originally Posted by Elwell View Post
    • Other: ?
    D'oh, I just copy-pasted their product info.

    Quote Originally Posted by Naomi Ningishzidda View Post
    I use Gamblin exclusively except when I need a specific color they don't carry, though I've heard good things about Maimeri for student art from the guy downtown at Olyphant Art. Oh and I own two pallettes, both glass. I don't see a way you can get around buying greens. They are difficult to mix in my opinion. The theory on light and color has been incorrect in some regards and it isn't as simple as yellow+blue.

    Even though you enjoy mixing colors, remember each color is born from a necessity for the thing itself - the color is a professional and industrialized level of "mixing colors"

    The reason I use Gamblin is I think it is the best for professional grade aside from Sennelier, when I am forced to go elsewhere for a color because of inventory or because Gamblin doesn't have it, I use W&N, can't really complain but am not really fond of them either - they don't have the silkiness of Gamblin.
    Thanks for the vote for Gamblin, and the info on mixing greens. Didn't know if I was just doing something wrong.

    Quote Originally Posted by Blackthorne View Post
    Winsor and Newton artist grade is about your best bet for now. Decent price, good quality, and nice working properties. You could expand on your palette a bit by adding a green leaning blue like Winsor Green blue shade or Manganese Blue hue. I also swap Permanent Rose for Alizarin as it uses a much more lightfast pigment, but that's personal preference.
    Cool, thanks. Based on what people have had to say so far, maybe I'll try a combination of W&N and Gamblin to see what I like. I'll try Permanent Rose, I have no attachment to Alizarin; I'm used to various magentas and it sounded like a close match.

    Thanks again guys!

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    I also disagree that good paint would be wasted on a beginner. If the student is at the atelier level for beginning to work in still life then they should buy paint that is not going to give them a hard time. You don't have to buy Sennelier or other fetish paint but it should at least be easy for you to use. Beginners have enough problems without worrying about crappy paint. So don't buy the cheapest stuff.

    Also I forgot to mention, have you considered grisaille? (monochrome?) some of the world's best artists work in grisaille or close to it, (Royo, Giger) and then you only need a handful of tubes. Also it will allow you to exercise your value (light to dark) comprehension without having to tackle too much color.
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  12. #7
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    Gamblin is really nice, I use it a lot, but they just went back to their old pricing {like $7.50 for lowest series tubes} so it's not as big of a steal right now. Compared to W&N, Gamblin paints are a bit looser and more slippery. You can't go wrong with either brand!

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  14. #8
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    W&N artist grade is decent paint that you can buy anywhere, I'd go with that.

    There is almost certainly better paint out there but I prefer the idea that I can always find a tube of "that shade of yellow that I've been mixing with for two years" rather than hunting for some obscure brand.
    Last edited by Flake; October 13th, 2011 at 08:38 AM.

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    @Elwell - I've got a few Winton oils actually, I'm wondering what the difference is between the "good" stuff and the "Winton" stuff? Honestly though I think since the OP is looking for something of a budget palette, maybe the student grade stuff might be a wise choice; even if it is solely due to the economy part of it all.
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  18. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by hitnrun View Post
    @Elwell - I've got a few Winton oils actually, I'm wondering what the difference is between the "good" stuff and the "Winton" stuff? Honestly though I think since the OP is looking for something of a budget palette, maybe the student grade stuff might be a wise choice; even if it is solely due to the economy part of it all.
    No. If money is an issue a limited palette of good quality paint is a better idea than a full spectrum of crap paint.

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  20. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by hitnrun View Post
    @Elwell - I've got a few Winton oils actually, I'm wondering what the difference is between the "good" stuff and the "Winton" stuff? Honestly though I think since the OP is looking for something of a budget palette, maybe the student grade stuff might be a wise choice; even if it is solely due to the economy part of it all.
    Student grade paint is a false economy. The expensive pigments are bulked out with fillers to lower the price. Then the less expensive pigments are also bulked out with fillers to keep the mixing properties consistent. Also, because manufacturers try to keep student grade paint at one or two price points, the cheaper pigments end up overpriced to make up for the more expensive ones. So for low cost pigments like earth colors, artist grade paints are not only a better value in relative terms, but sometimes in absolute terms as well.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Aniviel833 View Post
    Does a blue pigment exist that will mix BOTH greens and purples nicely? As you can see I usually avoid the issue by using ultramarine for my purples and flat out buying a tube of pthalo green instead of even trying to get a reasonably pure green by mixing... And I don't seem to have this problem with the other primaries (I usually use magenta and cadmium yellow light; magenta makes fabulous purples AND oranges, and a pale enough cadmium doesn't muddy up greens too much-- although I'm sure it's not helping with my blue issues.)
    You can certainly mix greens. In fact, you SHOULD mix your greens: most green pigments look awful straight out of the tube. You just need the colors for it. Ultramarine is known to produce grayish greens and violets, use phthalo blue. (Ultramarine is great for neutralizing yellows and reds, though; ultramarine and burnt sienna is the time-tested mix for a whole range of warm and cool neutrals.)

    I suggest you get the "split triad" of cool and warm primaries. Warm: cadmium yellow, burnt sienna, phthalo blue. Cool: cadmium lemon, quinacridon rose, ultramarine. Add white and optionally black (which is good for mixing various warm greens.)

    Is it worth going for a better quality brand for the weaker colors like white and yellow?
    It depends on the pigment content. Titanium white of lower grades is usually safe, since no one really dilutes that with gunk. Cheaper grades of actual colors might use dyed chalk instead of real pigment, or at least lower the pigment concentration, so it's best to avoid that. E.g. I use Rembrandt paints (pro grade) for everything, and I also buy titanium white from the same company but of lower grade. Your mileage may vary; their lower-grade white has noticeably less pigment in it. I don't use it for the finishing layers.

    I am not sure what you mean about "weaker" colors. All pigments are pigments.

    Will I be okay "doodling" with this stuff on some gessoed cardboard, or are there particular issues with oils?
    No, just keep it "fat over lean" - i.e. don't use medium-rich mixes for the underpainting, or the paint won't dry well and will crack, peel or shift color.

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    you can mix a pretty 'black' black from ultramarine and burnt umber. i always found that worked out pretty well for me.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Naomi Ningishzidda View Post
    Also I forgot to mention, have you considered grisaille? (monochrome?) some of the world's best artists work in grisaille or close to it, (Royo, Giger) and then you only need a handful of tubes. Also it will allow you to exercise your value (light to dark) comprehension without having to tackle too much color.
    Definitely; that's the route I'm going if the price tag ends up too high. Although this post has been so interesting I'm kinda getting attached to the palette I'm planning...

    Blackthorne votes W&N or Gamblin, Flake votes W&N -- thanks for the recommendations!

    I know I'm the one asking the questions here, but I am apt to agree with Naomi, Flake, and Elwell on the cheap paints front-- even though I'm on a budget I definitely don't want to handicap myself with tools that are harder to use. Thank you for the discussion, hitnrun!

    Quote Originally Posted by arenhaus View Post
    You can certainly mix greens. In fact, you SHOULD mix your greens: most green pigments look awful straight out of the tube. You just need the colors for it. Ultramarine is known to produce grayish greens and violets, use phthalo blue. (Ultramarine is great for neutralizing yellows and reds, though; ultramarine and burnt sienna is the time-tested mix for a whole range of warm and cool neutrals.)

    I suggest you get the "split triad" of cool and warm primaries. Warm: cadmium yellow, burnt sienna, phthalo blue. Cool: cadmium lemon, quinacridon rose, ultramarine. Add white and optionally black (which is good for mixing various warm greens.)
    Oooh, thank you, that's really helpful. I have never tried a phthalo blue before but that seems like what I've been wanting. I really like the idea of having both a cool and warm set of primaries, but for starting out on a budget I'm trying to just go for one set of primaries and find "middle-of-the-road" hues to maximize my blending possibilities. I know I'm not going to be able to mix everything I want to when I limit the palette like this, but I'm okay with that.

    (Bolded for visual attention in the middle of my rambly post Here's a question for everyone...)
    What if I pare my palette down to
    • Warmish lemon or pale cadmium yellow
    • quinacridone/permanent rose
    • phthalo blue
    • white

    That looks fine to me, except I suspect it will be difficult to get anything dark or muddy out of this. Could I round myself out by adding an umber, ultramarine, or black?

    Quote Originally Posted by arenhaus View Post
    It depends on the pigment content. Titanium white of lower grades is usually safe, since no one really dilutes that with gunk. Cheaper grades of actual colors might use dyed chalk instead of real pigment, or at least lower the pigment concentration, so it's best to avoid that. E.g. I use Rembrandt paints (pro grade) for everything, and I also buy titanium white from the same company but of lower grade. Your mileage may vary; their lower-grade white has noticeably less pigment in it. I don't use it for the finishing layers.

    I am not sure what you mean about "weaker" colors. All pigments are pigments.
    Thanks for the info. What I mean about "weaker" colors is that, for instance, equal parts red and yellow do not generally make orange-- red pigments tend to overpower and can be used much more sparingly. I don't understand why it happens, but I'm just extrapolating from my experience with acrylics... I easily get away with using the runny student-grade magentas, but I have to buy the most viscous yellows and whites because they are otherwise difficult to mix with (other pigments overpower them easily) and insanely transparent when not applied in giant globs and layers.

    Quote Originally Posted by arenhaus View Post
    No, just keep it "fat over lean" - i.e. don't use medium-rich mixes for the underpainting, or the paint won't dry well and will crack, peel or shift color.
    Cool, will do. Thanks again!

    Quote Originally Posted by cro-magnon View Post
    you can mix a pretty 'black' black from ultramarine and burnt umber. i always found that worked out pretty well for me.
    Thanks! I don't have any browns in my acrylic palette but I usually do the same thing by darkening a phthalo green/cadmium red mix with ultramarine.

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    Aniviel, if you're looking at a smallish palette you might want to check out this guys work.

    http://conceptart.org/forums/showthread.php?t=99774

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