Dawn Light, Edisto

“Dawn Light, Edisto”, oil, 8 x 10”, © Mary Bentz Gilkerson



So Why Care About Great Paint?


I love to give my students a direct experience of the difference between cheap materials, good materials and excellent ones. Being able to physically mix the paint, see and feel the difference convinces almost every last one of them that with most art materials, you really do get what you pay for.


Paint is made up of pigment plus vehicle or medium.


The pigment is the coloring agent and comes from a variety of sources, more on that another time. The medium is the vehicle or carrier for the pigment. The best paints don’t have very much else in there other than pigment and medium. But lesser grades use something called filler. It takes up space but doesn’t add anything to the pigment load of the paint. Paint companies use filler to extend the paint and reduce the amount of pigment they have to use. The more filler, the closer the paint is to student grade and the cheaper it will be. To see the difference between high quality and student grade first hand will transform the way that you think about paint if you’re an artist.



Great paint is worth the cost.



But what if you’re a collector…why should you care? 


The quality of the pigment, its lightfastness and permanence tends to be higher with better grades of paint, making the painting you just bought last longer. But the pigment itself makes a difference too. Some pigments are described as being “fugitive,” which doesn’t mean that they recently escaped, but that they are not very lightfast, that they will be fade quickly when exposed to light.


So what are the best brands??


Some at the top for oil paint are Williamsburg, Vasari, Blockx, Michael Harding, Blue Ridge, Gamblin and Old Holland. There are others but these are the ones that I’m most familiar with and use.


For acrylics, there’s really only one that I use and that’s Golden.




Golden acrylics




All four cost more up front, but actually cost less in the long run. It just takes less paint to accomplish what you’re setting out to do. If you want to save some money, then buy the best brands and use one of their extenders to create you own version of student grade paint. It will still be better that what you buy for less in a tube. 

There’s a time and a place for all the different qualities of paint

But buying the best grade of art materials that you can afford will pay off in less frustration as well. Good quality paint like a good quality brush is just easier to handle.

Taking the time to learn about paint quality is important when you want the artwork to last. It’s worth the investment.

Here are links to some of these good and great paints. Only the ones that I’m familiar with are listed.

Excellent Grade

Really Good Grade

For an overview of both what I use and what I recommend to my students, I’ve shared that right here at “Selecting Basic Painting Colors & Materials“.
Do you still have questions about paint? Let me know in the comments below.

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