In the reviews below I have chosen 5 of the best oil paint brands that are affordable and also focus on quality. Research is required to find the best oil paints whether you are just a beginner or professional. There are many higher priced oils that can be quite expensive and require more expertise to use properly.
Top Picks For Best Oil Paints:
You may already know what oil paint you are looking for so here is a quick reference guide to some of the most popular brands:
- Gamblin Artist Oil Color – Introductory Set
- Bob Ross Landscape Oil Paints – 14 Colors
- Williamsburg Oil Native Italian Earth Set
- Winsor & Newton Artists’ Oil Paint Introductory Set
- Castle Art Supplies Oil Paint
Deciding On The Best Oil Paints
When buying oil paints there are a few things you should be aware of. I have listed a few of them below.
Oil paints are priced according to pigment and fillers. The purer the paint the less fillers there are meaning it is more expensive. This is just the core of the cost is what determines the quality of oil paint. Keep in mind the other costs of equipment needed to start oil painting.
Artist and professional grade oil paints are graded by its permanence which is also known as lightfastness. All this means is basically how well the oil paints hold up to light exposure over time. The more pure in pigment a paint is the longer it will last. These ratings can also be rated by numbers also. The following keys can be found on the tubes of paint:
- AA = The best permanence
- A = Permanent
- B = Durable
- C = Fugitive
Be sure to read all the labels when selecting the best oil paint for your project. This key does not seem to be on some brands of paint. I recommend getting as much information as possible so you know what to expect out of your paint.
When looking at the label you may see some keys that are squares. These keys help you to determine the transparency of the paint.
- T = Transparent
- S/T = Semi-Transparent
- S/O = Semi-Opaque
- O = Opaque
Again, this key is not on all brands making it harder to discern the quality of paint you’re buying. Try to find both keys if you can but the permanence is probably the most important.
Student Grade Or Artist Grade Oil Paints
There is quite a big difference between student grade oil paints versus artist grade. Most of the difference is the amount of fillers and stabilizers used in the paint.
Student grade paints are best for just practicing and are much cheaper to purchase. This type of oil paint does not hold up well to light exposure over time. This type of paint seems to dry faster and should not be used for pieces that are intended to last.
Artist and Professional Grade is the purest form of oil paints and allows the artist more flexibility. Meaning the paint is made of pigments and oil, usually linseed oil, but other oils are also used. No fillers or stabilizers gives the artist the purest form of color and longer drying time. This helps in improving your work when making adjustments before the paint has dried.
You may find that professional oil paints has a thicker consistency and are more expensive. The cost is offset by how long a tube of paint lasts.
Tip: The best thing about artist and professional grade oil paints is the thick buttery paint can be thinned down with odorless thinners which helps make the paint go further and last longer.
Learning how to mix colors is an essential part of oil painting and the more practice the better you will get at it. Learning how to mix colors will also save you money because you will be able to create the color you want from a very minimal variety of colors.
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Responsible Oil Painting
Care must be taken with white titanium and also cadmium colors due to small amounts of heavy metals in the paint. Gloves are recommended when using these paints to lessen the exposure to skin. Most risks come from breathing in the powdered pigments when mixing your own paints with these types of pigments so be sure to wear a mask.
Always be sure the paint you are buying is non – toxic when buying for kids.
There are alternatives to these types of oil paints as well causing the quality of the paint to be reduced.
Professional artists want their best oil paintings to withstand the test of time and refrain from using the lower pigmented paints on a finished piece.
Best Oil Paint Reviews
Gamblin Artist Oil Color – Introductory Set
This set contains 9 artist grade colors and comes with a gel primed birchwood panel for mixing colors. These are 37ml tubes and the panel is 12in.X 6in.
- Affordably Priced
- Pigment Rich
- Fast Drying
- Good Consistency
- Maybe some tube and cap issues
- Some filler and binding agents
I was unable to find any real cons to this paint. Some artists might consider the faster drying time to be a problem but this really depends on the individual. Customer feedback shows that this brand of oil paint is best for beginners and artists alike and has a thick buttery quality.
Bob Ross Landscape Oil Paints – 14 Colors
These oil paints are designed for Bob Ross’s wet on wet technique but are also a good all around oil paint for beginners up to professional.
- Affordably Priced
- Pigment Rich Colors
- Loads on brush nicely
- Thick and Smooth Consistency
- Possible Tube Leakage
It appears that this manufacturer is switching to metal tubes to solve the tube issues. Could not find anything bad about these paints. You can find a lot of training tools online for Bob Ross “Wet-On-Wet” technique if you want to see this paint in action.
Williamsburg Oil Native Italian Earth Set
This oil paint may be the best for the professional artist due to the thicker consistency that creates nice texture and brush strokes. Thinning of this paint will allow you to make it last longer than some cheaper alternatives. This set comes with 10 tubes of hand made oil paints.
- High Pigment Load
- Minimal Fillers and Stabilizers
- Lasts Longer
- Affordably Priced
- May be a little grainy
- Not as beginner friendly
- More Expensive
This oil paint is highly recommended by many artists and seems to be ranked high in quality. Inexperience and lack of knowledge was the driving force behind the negative feedback I found online.
Winsor & Newton Artists’ Oil Paint Set
This set comes with 10 – 21ml tubes of paint. Very popular brand of oil paints. Different series of paints makes this brand a good choice for beginners or professionals.
- Rich in Pigment
- Smooth Texture
- Loads Well
- Possibly hard to get lids off and on
This seems to be a fairly popular paint among intermediate artists and some professional. Could be a great way to transition from acrylic paints to oil paints.
Castle Art Supplies Oil Paint
This set of oil paints comes with 24 – 12ml tubes of paint and is my top pick for best oil paint for beginners.
- Large Variety
- Very Affordable
- Good Gift for Kids
- Decent Pigment
- Mixes Well
- Lower Quality
- More fillers
- Takes a long time to dry
I do not recommend these oil paints for the intermediate or professional artist. Some feedback showed this brand took an unusual amount of time to dry but I believe is still a nice choice for kids and those looking to experiment in oils for the first time.
Oil painting can be fun for anyone looking to paint and allows the artist to take their time making corrections because of the slower drying time.
With oil paint it is possible to start off cheap and slowly graduate yourself up to a more professional quality paint which makes it easier on your pocket while learning.
Though I have personally used the Bob Ross brand of oil paints, my research has shown from the five products reviewed the Williamsburg Native Italian Earth Set to be the best all around oil paint. It is thicker and will last longer due to the ability to thin the paint to the consistency the artist is looking to achieve.