Best Oil Paints For All Levels Of Expertise?

Best Oil PaintsGetting started with your first set of oil paints can seem a little daunting at first. There are quite a lot of sets out there, after all, and finding the perfect one that gives you good quality without piling up the expense can be a tricky thing to accomplish.

In that regard, I’m sharing a list with you today of some of my favorites. I’m including some beginner paints, as well as some professional grade and it’s got some diverse entries that you might not have seen yet and I’ll talk a little about what you should look for in a good oil paint set.

Let’s take a look at some great oil paints to add to your artist’s arsenal!

First off… it doesn’t have to be expensive to be good!

There are all kinds of excellent oil paints out there and they each have their particular perks and qualities. If you are selecting your first set, I’d advise you not to immediately go with the most expensive paint that you find.

You want to start small and build up.

After all, you’ve got to learn to use your colors to their best-effect and starting off with most pricey set is right away simply not a good idea for reasons I’ll go into later in this article.

First, however, I’ve crafted up a quick tutorial to tell you a little more about how you can select great paints. This will give you a basic grounding in the information that you need to know and after that we can review some pre-selected sets of the best oil paints as well!

 

How do you go about selecting a good set of oil paints, anyway?

Oil paints have been around for a very, very long time and so there are a few properties that you’ll want to familiarize yourself with. Don’t worry if it seems a little tricky, at first. There are a few terms that you’ll want to know and after you do, you’ll find that finding the exact traits that you want in your paints is easier than you think.

Binders, pigments, and fillers: Understanding your options

I mentioned that you won’t necessarily want to just grab the most expensive set out there if you are a beginner and here is the main reasoning behind that. The main components of your oil paints consist of binders, pigments, and the occasional fillers.

Depending on the quality or composition of each component, you can get some different results in your paint. Now, your ‘binders’ are there to form a film as the water evaporates from your paints. They basically hold your pigments in place but different types of binders may have added qualities or drawbacks.

Your pigments are the materials which make up your color if you see something listed like a ‘pigment hue’, this is just fancy wording to let you know that the pigment has been mixed with substitute materials.

Pigments do impact 2 qualities that you’ll want to know about, those being ‘opacity’ and ‘permanence’. This is something we won’t get into in-depth at this time, but here is the quick version.

The ‘opacity’ is the paint’s lack of transparency, rated from ‘transparent’ to ‘opaque’ and the permanence is how long your work will last before it will start fading. This is rated ‘fugitive’ at the lowest level and ‘extremely permanent’ is the highest.

Student-grade paints are going to have less pigment in them and the ‘fillers’ and substitutes may vary, but this won’t be a huge problem when you are first getting started. That’s because you can build up your colors and mix just about anything that you like while you are studying painting!

What colors are best to start with?

If you select a good set of basic colors than you will have a lot of options in what you can mix. Here is a good selection to start with:

  • Alizarin Crimson
  • Cadmium Red
  • Cadmium Yellow
  • Ivory Black
  • Phthalo Blue
  • Titanium White
  • Ultramarine Blue
  • Yellow Ochre

With this selection you’ve got warm and cool versions of the 3 primary colors and you’ve also got black and white. This gives you quite a lot of options to play with and later you can try adding new colors that you find into your mix to see what they look like.

Incidentally, you can also mix up your own oil paints!

Finally, once you’ve learned your preferences with oils then it might interest you to know that you can mix up your own oils. Lots of artists do it and it’s actually a lot easier than you think.

“you can mix up your own oils”

There are quite a number of YouTube tutorials on the subject that you can take advantage of. Just be careful, it’s fun and quite addictive!

Gamblin 1980 Oil colorsGamblin 1980 Oil colors

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Our first set is an excellent choice for beginners. This Gamblin 1980 Oil colors set comes with 8 colors, listed as follows:

  • Alizarin Crimson
  • Yellow Ochre
  • Cadmium Red Light
  • Ultramarine Blue
  • Cadmium Yellow Light
  • Titanium White
  • Ivory Black
  • Phthalo Green

The company produces around 40 colors in total and they definitely look nice. Easy to mix, they have a very smooth texture that flows well and is pleasant to work with.

They do have a linseed base, however which means that works can start yellowing after a few years. This may not matter to those who would just like a great basic color palette to get started with but it does bear mention, just in case!

They are still great for practice and learning to mix colors, so if you’d like a good-looking beginner set that won’t break the bank then this Gamblin is definitely worth considering.

Van Gogh Oil Color set

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van gogh oil paintsNext up is another one of the best oil paints out there, the Van Gogh Oil Color Set. This set is modestly priced and starts you off with 10 tubes and the following colors:

  • Titanium White
  • Azo Yellow Light
  • Azo Yellow Deep
  • Azo Red Medium
  • Burnt Umber
  • Cerulean Blue Phthalo
  • Ivory Black
  • Quinacridone Rose
  • Ultramarine

These Dutch-made oils are actually quite resistant, with a high permanence rating that reflects the good ingredients and pigments for this set. The tubes are a little small, but as it turns out they really go a long way and you get a few more colors than your standard starter set. They produce about 66 colors in total, so if you end up liking the Van Gogh set then you can quickly target some new pigments from a wide color range.

Williamsburg Oil Traditional Colors SetWilliamsburg oil paints

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If you are looking for a little something fancier in a starter set, Wiliamsburg has a set that you might like. The ‘traditional colors’ set provides exactly what it promises with the following paints in the set:

  • Alizarin Crimson
  • Cadmium Lemon
  • Cadmium Yellow Med
  • Cadmium Red Med
  • Cerulean Blue
  • French Raw Umber
  • Raw Sienna
  • Ultramarine Blue

These paints are actually quite nice to work with, as they are given kind of a ‘gritty’ feel to their paints. They have a great lightfastness rating, so they are indeed durable, and these paints are made with handmade oils, rather than common synthetics. If you want a good set of oils that indeed has a ‘traditional artist’ feel to it then you should give Williamsburg a try. I think that you’ve gonna like them!

Winsor & Newton Winton Oil Color Paint

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winton oilsWinsor and Newton ‘Winton’ Oils have a rich color to them and a nice 10-oil starter set. First off, here are the colors that you get:

  • Titanium White
  • Azo Yellow Light
  • Azo Yellow Deep
  • Azo Red Medium
  • Burnt Umber
  • Cerulean Blue Phthalo
  • Ivory Black
  • Quinacridone Rose
  • Ultramarine

They’re quite nice, as well. These are easy to mix and you get all of the colors that you need when you are starting off and they are good enough to use at intermediate level, as well. Winton carries a wide range of colors but there is one caveat with this set in that is using linseed oil. If that’s not a problem, it’s attractively priced and you’ll definitely enjoy using this set.

M. Graham Oil paintsm.graham oils

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Made in the USA, M. Graham has a set that starts that doesn’t give you a wide range of colors but which is still quite interesting. This set comes with the following:

  • Azo Yellow
  • Napthol Red
  • Phthalo Green
  • Titanium White
  • Ultramarine Blue

The colors themselves are beautiful, professional-grade and solvent-free but that is not all. They definitely will not be having any yellowing issues. This is because M. Graham uses a walnut oil medium. As far as in using them, I find that they mix quite easily and when it comes to layering, they look really good, without that tendency for cracking that you can set in some sets out there. While it would have been nice to get more colors in the set, these are still good-looking oils that you can get a lot of happy use from.

Michael Harding’s Artist Oil Colours

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michael harding oil paintsSpeaking of professional-grade paints, another entry that made this list is Michael Harding’s Artist Oil Colors. Here are the 6 colors that you get with this particular set:

  • Scarlet Lake
  • Titanium White
  • Ultramarine Blue
  • Yellow Ochre Deep
  • Yellow Lake

These paints are top-notch but they can be a bit on the pricey side. That said, they are excellent in lightfastness but do incorporate a low amount of linseed oil. This brand has gotten a lot of attention, as it’s artist-creator produced these oils in an attempt to recreate colors from Rembrandt paintings. If you’d like to give a high-end oil a try, this set is a great way to get a taste so that you can see what you think!

Schmincke : Mussini Oilschminke oil paints

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Our final entry is Schminke’s Mussini oil set, which is a 10-tube set that also is a little bit unique. This is because they incorporate resin in their oils in the style of Byzantine paints. These sets are quite nice but they do cost a little more than your average oils.

They’re also worth it. These resin-based beauties are definitely a pleasure to work with, as you get a very lightfast, long-lasting paint that retains an amazing amount of color.

Schminke offers more than 100 colors to choose from, though,

“more than 100 colors to choose from “

so if you end up liking these like I do then you’ll have an appreciable selection to explore. Be sure and try a tube sometime and see what you think. You’re going to love this stuff.

The best oil paints are really up to you

As you can see, the types of paints that are going to be the best for you are really going to depend on your needs. Now that you know some of the basics and have some great example sets that you can look at, I hope that you’ll be enjoying your new paints soon! Let’s close with a hearty thanks and a few helpful tips!

Bonus: 5 last-minute tips for beginners

Once you’ve gotten your new paints and you are ready to get started then there are a few tips that can be useful and quite fun. These tips will help you to get to know your oils a little better and experience firsthand exactly what you can do with them. It’s all a matter of forcing yourself to think a little outside of the box!

Paint the same thing different times

Painting the same subject over and over might seem like a waste of time, but it can actually be quite useful. Once you are already familiar with the subject matter, the repetition of it actually loosens you up a bit when it comes to getting creative. You can different brushstrokes, for instance, to see what changes or experiment with different mediums to achieve different effects of the subject!

Limit your palette for practice

You can learn a lot by using LESS colors, rather than more. See what happens when you select just 2 colors to work with which are opposite on your color wheel. Try lightening and darkening the colors to express yourself in your work and even occasionally add a 3rd color. This is fun and can teach you a lot about lights and darks in painting.

Paint with your palette knife

Some people think that being good at drawing is automatically going to translate into being good at painting. By painting with your pallet knife from time to time you get a better feel for the interplay of color and shape, which is very important. It’s not a ‘painted sketch’, after all… it’s a painting, and your palette knife isn’t just there to mix up those colors. Force yourself to see what it can do and you’ll be amazed at the results!

Don’t overmix your paint

Take your time when you mix your paints and have a little fun with them. When you mix them slowly you will often get interesting results as the added colors interact. These interactions are important, as the results are generally more interesting to look at then the ‘overmixed’ versions might have been.

Switch to a larger brush

A great way to really sharpen up your game is to take the largest brush that you have in your set (and actually use) and go to a bigger brush. See how long you can use it and what kinds of effects that it has on your work. You might just be surprised.

A larger brush not only helps you to cover more area quickly AS you work, but it can also make your more efficient with the strokes that you make IN your work. Give this little experiment a try for a week and see what changes. You might find yourself pleasantly surprised!

 

Best Oil Paints

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