9 Top Oil Paints Rated for the Serious Oil Painter

Have you ever found yourself in front of the rows and rows of oil paints unable to decide which ones were best suited for you?  Have you found yourself confused by the many manufacturers of oil paints and their claims?

Knowing which oil paint is best suited for your particular needs can not only save you money but valuable time that you could otherwise be using to work in the studio.

I’ve sorted through the many manufacturers and rated them so that it will make it easy for you next time you are making your supply list for your studio.

Professional (Artist Grade) vs. Student Grade
In order to be confident in the type of paint you are seeking, you must evaluate the purpose of your painting and how much expense you want to incur. Specifically, you must consider professional or artist grade versus student grade oil paints.

Student grade oil colors are blended replicas of the real thing.  They use less real pigments and lots of inexpensive fillers which dilutes the intensity of the color.  They tend to come in larger quantities and are quite economical.

You may choose to use these paints if you are a student, a beginner, or hobbyist. Or perhaps your budget allows only for economical paint, but in any case realize that if you haven’t worked with professional oils you most likely won’t notice a difference with student grades.

For discerning connoisseurs that won’t settle for anything less than the best, professional

Old Holland oil colors are the highest quality and most expensive oil paints available

artist grade oil colors can be expensive, and are certainly more costly than student oils.

They are commonly cataloged into six series by rarity and value, Series 1 (or A) being the most plentiful and least expensive, and Series 6 (or F) being the most rare and most expensive.

Professional or Artist grade paint also tends to come in smaller tubes since they are mostly pure pigment with superior oil binders,  and therefore extend a long way in contrast to student paints.

When using them to their fullest potential, you will certainly notice the difference in hue quality and intensity of professional paints.

Here are my 9 top picks:

Just like the rest of the retail world, certain brands provide particular qualities indicative of their reputations.Learn what brand you will mostly likely prefer, based on cost, purpose, and specifications, before you head out the store. To help you, below are the most popular and commonly stocked brands, including a pricing guide.

#1.  Old Holland Classic Oil Colors $$$$$$$$$$ (professional)
Old Holland prides itself on intensity of the colors and great covering power.  Highest quality and highest price.  They contain no fillers or waxes and only lightfast pigments are used.  This is the ultimate oil paint for the true connoisseur.

#2.  Holbein Artist’s Oils $$$$$$$ (professional)
Pure pigments at a lower price, Holbein boasts consistent viscosity, color, tone, application, and adhesion.

#3.  Schmincke Mussini Oils $$$$$$(professional)
Schmincke Mussini Oils contain natural resins for a balanced drying process with reduced aging and long-term cracking. Good for painting in layers and for glazing techniques.

#4.  Sennelier Oils $$$$$$(professional)
One of the oldest paint manufacturers in Europe, Sennelier was once the choice for Pablo Picasso.  Combines highest quality pigments with highest quality manufacturing processes.

#5.  Gamblin $$$ (student-professional)
Gamlin Artists Colors Company is dedicated to making artist’s colors at reasonable prices. They contain lightfast pigments blended with linseed oil and create colors with luscious working properties.  Many professionals use Gamblin oil colors as they combine the best of quality with the best of economy.  I have used Gamblin for many years and it remains one of my favorites.

#6.  Winsor & Newton Artist’s Oil Colors $$$ (student-professional)
World renowned, Winsor & Newton is one my favorite brands of professional oil paint. They contain the highest level of pigmentation consistent with good handling properties, unsurpassed covering power and permanence.

#7.  Rembrandt Extra Fine Oils $$ (student)
Rembrandt oils are well known for their economical color strength and excellent lightfastness.

#8.  Grumbacher Oil Colors $$ (student)
Comparable to Winsor & Newton’s Winton Artist’s Oil Colors in price and quality.  Grumbacher at one time was a leader in manufacturing quality oil colors.  But this giant was bought out by Tupperware, and let’s face it, what does Tupperware know about making oil paints?  The quality of this oil paint has declined significantly over the years.

#9.  Winsor & Newton Winton Oils $ (student)
Winton Oils combine fine raw materials and modern techniques to suit any painting style at an economical price.

So the world of oil paint manufacturers doesn’t have to be so confusing after all.

If you have a favorite oil paint that isn’t listed above, or if you think any of these are out of place or don’t belong here, I would certainly like to hear your suggestion in the comments.

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About Gary Bolyer Fine Art

I am a New York City-based landscape artist.
This entry was posted in How to Paint in Oils and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

17 Responses to 9 Top Oil Paints Rated for the Serious Oil Painter

  1. Pingback: Gary Bolyer’s Top 5 Kick-Ass Art Blogs of All Time | Gary Bolyer Fine Art

  2. Richard says:

    I originally found this article through LinkedIn although given this site appears to be the source then might be better to put my concerns here.

    I have been using Winsor & Newton Artist’s Oils yet they are marked as student-professional?!

    You said “They contain the highest level of pigmentation consistent with good handling properties, unsurpassed covering power and permanence.”

    Which is good because I need all that. So why is this stuff ranked only #6?

    • Hi Richard. Thanks for your excellent question. Windsor Newton is an excellent oil paint and I highly recommend it as I have used it myself. I rank it 6th in my ratings because there are other manufacturers that have higher quality standards than Windsor Newton. I have to rank Old Holland and some of the others higher because of the fact that they use absolutely no fillers, only pure pigments and the highest level mixing oils in their manufacturing process. Also, I gave Windsor Newton a professional/student rating because their prices are lower and more affordable for student and beginners. Old Holland oil paints and some of the others are extremely expensive and most students can’t afford them. Thanks again.

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  4. I have used Lucas Studio Oil paints which are economical and have a juicy consistency which is great for plein air painting and impressionistic painting. Also, Classico oil paint which is Italian made and comparable to the Lucas Studio and also economical.

    • Hi Richard. Thanks for your comments. I have never used either Lucas Studio paints or Classico oil paints. Thanks for the recommendations. I know many readers might want to check into these and try them out. Thanks again.

  5. I have used just about all of the paints listed at one time or another. Where I live, we do not have a fine art supply, so we are limited to Michael’s and Hobby Lobby, but I do order a lot of my supplies. It just never fails that you can be in a spot where you have to have something. I love the Holbein paints. I have bought Old Holland, but it is so dry–it loses it’s oil or something. It is so stiff, I can hardly squeeze it out of the tube. I’ve thought about cutting it open and working in some oil and putting it back in the bottom of the tube. I am partial to Grumbacher Red. It’s such a true red. I hope it doesn’t get so bad that I don’t want to use it anymore.

    I do know that you get what you pay for. I taught a couple of ladies that bought sets of paint, on sale, very inexpensive, student grade. You could hardly mix it, the pigments were really weak. Now one of the paintings she did is fading, and she asked me why–I think it was the cheap paint. I know there are some problems with Alizarin Crimson. What brand do you recommend for it? I buy different colors in different brands, because I like them. I am one of those art supply junkies!

    Thanks for the information. I will pass it on to my artist friends. Very interesting.

    • When I was still a student, I had the exact same experience as your friend. I did some nice paintings with very inexpensive paints. Within a year or so the paintings had completely faded away. There was no color left. It’s like it just evaporated off the surface. Nothing was left. Can you believe that?

      For alizarin crimson, I recommend Gamblin Oil Paints. It’s on my list. And there is a link there to the website. They are not expensive but good quality. But you won’t find them at Michael’s or Hobby Lobby. Winsor Newton oil paints are always good for any color and you can find them at Michael’s and Hobby Lobby.

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  7. admin says:

    schmincke and winsor&newton

  8. I have been painting since the early 70’ies and have tried just about all oil paints over time. I have found no brand or maker that surpasses Utrecht brand oil paint. I use all painting techniques in my work and none come close to their versatility. My early paintings still have that brilliance of color and coverage that I demand.

  9. hassan says:

    plz tell me,which brand ,except old holland,others,i can afford will be best for traditional realist oil paint for painting in layers,glazing,etc

  10. hassan says:

    old holland is out of my budget

  11. Mark SIbley says:

    Michael Harding should be in this list.

  12. Don Rankin says:

    Old Holland can seem expensive but if you want vibrant color in oranges, yellows and reds then pony up. In the long run they are more than worth it. In my studio I also use Talens Rembrandt series, Maimeri for certain translucent effects and Jack Richeson. The Jack Richeson line is actually the old Shiva line that some of us old timers relied upon back in the 60’s. It is quite inexpensive compared to the other brands and is quite good. I’ve been using it for about 50 years with no loss of color. The best advice I can give is to experiment. Most likely you will find yourself gravitating to certain brands for specific colors. I also make use of Sennelier, Holbein, Daniel Smith, Weber and Gamblin. So explore and see what works best for you.

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