Top 10 Brands of Oil Paints for Artists

Choose the oil paint that suits your needs.

Oil paints have been used for hundreds of years, and are still popular today. While they're a bit trickier to work with than acrylics, they provide a unique artistic experience. Whether you're a professional oil painter or new to the medium, you'll find a range of products to suit your needs.

Artist​s choose a preferred brand of oil paints based on factors such as the range of available colors, the consistency of the paint, and price. When getting started it's wisest to purchase just a few tubes of artist's colors than a whole range of cheap paints as the colors are more saturated, for starters, and you'll get better results when mixing colors. There is little to differentiate the best artist's oil paints other than price and availability, so it's a good idea to try out a tube of a similar color in various brands to see how you feel about each.

M. Graham is a small paint manufacturer in the USA created by an artist to produce high quality, traditional-style oil paints. Walnut oil is used as a binder instead of linseed oil; it's a slow-drying oil with less tendency to yellow. It also has a lower viscosity (is freer spreading) so works well for glazing and thinner applications of paint without adding turps. 

Gamblin Artists' Colors is a USA paint company founded by colorman Robert Gamblin that aims to produce quality paints that are safe to use. Its turps replacement or solvent, Gamsol, has a lower evaporation rate and higher flashpoint than turps, making it safer to use in the studio. A wide range of colors is available, including various grays, a flake white replacement with working properties like lead white, and a chromatic black. Gamblin also produces an alkyd-based medium, Galkyd, which speeds up the drying time of oils.

W&N is one of the most widely available brands and its oil paints, like its other paints, strikes a good balance between price (not quite faint-on-the-spot range) and quality. If you're on a tight budget, save money by selecting select your colors from the series 1 pigments in the range. 

Sennelier's oil paints have a stiff-butter consistency, spreading and blending easily with a brush but liking to hold its shape and brush marks. The company's history of making oil paints dates back to 1887 when Gustave Sennelier set himself up as a color merchant in Paris. Artists that used Sennelier oils include Monet, Gauguin, Matisse, and Picasso. Today Sennelier has more than 140 colors in its range of artist's oil paints.

Made in Germany, Mussini is Schmincke's artist's quality grade oil paint. The pigment is mixed with linseed oil and dammar resin (and sometimes other oils) to give a paint the manufacturer says dries more evenly from inside and reduces the risk of the paint wrinkling as it dries. About 100 colors are available, including a range of grays.

These oil paints were created by an artist in London and are definitely not cheap. You're paying for the intensity of the colors through the high pigment loading and lack of fillers. If glazing is your preferred oil painting technique, a tube should last a while. Harding offers a good range of colors, including traditional favorites such as lead white. At least once, treat yourself to a tube in a favorite color, compare it to what you usually use, and see if you think it's truly better or just celebrity paint-manufacturer hype.

There are three categories of painters: those who's never heard of Bob Ross and his TV program "The Joy of Painting," those who hate him, and those who love his approach and style. If you're in the latter category, don't fall for the marketing hype that you can't paint in a similar style without using the Bob Ross branded paint, which tends to be a bit pricey.

Wet-on-wet painting isn't about the brand of paint you use; it's a technique. Mixing in a few drops of linseed oil to a tube of another oil paint will make a similar, softer consistency. You can make your own equivalent to Liquid White or Liquid Clear. So as you expand your oil painting skills, be sure to expand the brands of paint you try too.

of 10

Other Brands of Oil Paint

Old Holland oil paints
Photo from Amazon

There's no shortage of other brands of oil paint, including Old Holland, Grumbacher, Holbein, Williamsburg, Blockx, and Daniel Smith. In Australia, there's Langridge, Chroma, and Art Spectrum.

If you find one that appeals, buy a tube in a color you use and compare it to your usual brand. Trying a paint for yourself is truly the only way to know if you're going to enjoy using it.

of 10

Avoid Student Grade Oil Paints

Fine art painter holding a palette and painting-close up
valentinrussanov / Getty Images

It's better to buy artist's quality paint than student quality because you get more pigment in a tube and the results from color mixing are more intense and brighter. If the cost of paint is an issue, consider painting smaller canvases rather than buying cheaper paints. Test how far a tube of top-quality paint goes compared to a cheap one, especially if you're glazing; it may be a false economy. Check the information on the paint tube label and try to buy colors made from single pigments rather than a mixture. And compare the prices of student paints with the less expensive pigments in artist's ranges.

Water-soluble or water-miscible oil paints are designed to thin and clean up with water. It's a good option if working with solvents is a problem, whether because of allergies, having a small painting space, or children visiting your studio. Water-soluble oil paints can be ​mixed with traditional oil paints, though they do then have to be used with traditional mediums.​​​