Artist brush mix color oil painting on palette. Abstract art.
Last updated: 06/22/2020

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Whether you’re new to oil painting or you’re already a somewhat experienced painter, you’ve come to the right place! Our shopping guide will teach you all there is to know about the best products of the year. That way, you’ll be able to pick the right oil paint supplies for your personal uses, and with great value for money.

Using the experience of fine arts professionals and contemporary artists, we introduce you to the incredible opportunities that the world of oil painting has to offer today. We’ll give you the tips and tricks you need to get started in this technique, as well as the best products available on the market right now.

Key Facts

  • Oil painting is a painting technique that requires a slow drying process. For this reason, it is not recommended for small sketches or quick painting, where you’ll want to use other products such as watercolors or acrylic paints.
  • Oil paint offers several important advantages over other types of paints. You can modify it over time, you can apply an almost infinite number of layers, using simple or complex mixtures of color. You can also use specially designed fillers to create texture and volume.
  • You should consider the chromatic range you want to use in your painting when choosing a specific oil paint. You may, for instance, prefer natural or synthetic pigments. Your ability to control colors and lighting, as well as how easily paints blend together, are also key considerations. This is particularly true if you intend to use transparent techniques such as glazes.

Our selection: The Best Oil Paint Products on the U.S. Market

Our professionals have analyzed the products available on the market, and we’ve created the following ranking of the very best oil paintsavailable right now. These brands are used by contemporary artists and offer fantastic value for money. We’ve also briefly explained each product so you can decide for yourself which is most suited to your next project.

Winsor & Newton Winton Oil Colour Paint Basic Set, Ten 21ml Tubes

The Winton line is a traditional range of oil colors. They’re made from moderately priced pigments and formulated for student and amateur artists or more accomplished artists requiring large volumes of color within moderate cost limits. This package contains ten 21-milliliter tubes of paint (cadmium yellow pale hue, cadmium red deep hue, french ultramarine, phthalo blue, verdian hue, burnt umber, yellow ochre, burnt sienna, ivory black, titanium white).

The application of traditional skills and modern color chemistry techniques has resulted in a range of carefully selected Winton Oil Colours which are of excellent quality. At under $25 for this entire set, there is no reason to wait to start painting with oil.

Gamblin Artist Oil Colors Introductory Set, Multi, 37 ml

Designed to give painters a thoughtfully constructed palette of luscious oil colors to suit any style painting. American made.  Set contains nine 37ml artist grade colors-Solvent Free gel-primed wood panel. Wood panel handcrafted in North America from sustainable forested birch. This set is around $70, but note the size of the tubes and the eco-friendliness of the product.

Gamblin Artist’s Oil Colors Introductory Set includes nine 37ml Artist Oil tubes of paint – Cadmium Yellow Light, Cadmium Red Light, Alizarin Crimson, Ultramarine Blue, Viridian, Yellow Ochre, Burnt Umber, Ivory Black, and Titanium White – encased inside a primed, ready to use cradled wood panel. The panel measures 12.25 inches x 6.5 inches x 1.75 inches.

Oil Paints for Artists – 8 x Large 45ml Tubes – Infinity Series by ZenART

These are professional grade oil-paints, with high load of the finest non-toxic pigments and linseed oil; experience richly soft, buttery consistency right out of the tube, for effortless color mixing, and working impasto.  Using single pigments where possible to ensure vibrancy and excellent coverage; carefully formulated by artists to be lightfast with high pigment load, they blend beautifully, and thin out nicely, so a little goes a long way.

This set of quality, eco-friendly paints is a great value at around $31 for 8 very large tubes. These oil paints are safe to use, containing only non-toxic pigments, free from harmful driers and solvent fumes, and with no animal products they are suitable for vegans. Additionally, each tube details the color name, opacity level, lightfastness, and pigments used to create it.

Gamblin 1980 Oil Color Exclusive Set

At about $36 for eight 37ml tubes, Gamblin 1980 Oil Colors includes Alizarin Crimson, Cadmium Red Light, Cadmium Yellow Light, Yellow Ochre, Ultramarine Blue, Phthalo Green, Titanium White and Ivory Black. A tube of Solvent-free Gel and a cradled, primed wood panel are included as bonus items.

Made in USA, Gamblin 1980 Oil Colors offer artists true color real value and a better student grade paint all handcrafted here in America. These paints allow artists to use color and texture without hesitation or reservation.

Reeves Water Mixable Oil Color Paint, Set of 24, 10ml Tubes

Who says oil and water don’t mix? Squeeze the best from both worlds with this water mixable oil color set of twenty-four 10ml tubes by blending all that oil color loveliness – slow drying, thick application, gorgeous color depth – with the convenience of water-based mixing and cleaning. Use on primed canvas or canvas board and really mix things up. All 24 tubes will cost you only around $13!

Each tube contains 10 millilitres of oil paint. The set contains a comprehensive range of colors, Can be used on primed canvas or canvas board, is slow drying, allows thick application and gorgeous color depth. Best of all, this set can be diluted with water for solvent-free easy cleaning, providing you with the opportunity to blend and re-work areas of the painting.

Shopping Guide: Everything You Need to Know About Oil Paint

You need to know the key characterisitics of oil paint in general, before you can purchase the most suitable product for you. This will allow you to understand which features you hsould focus on when choosing a specific brand. In the next section, we’ve answered the most commonlyasked questions by artists who use oil paints. We’ve also outlines the key criteria of this technique.

Artist

You should choose a product that offers you the widest possible range of pigments. 
(Source: Vadim Guzhva: 36151596/ 123rf.com)

What is oil painting and what are its advantages?

The technique of oil painting consists of a mixture of pigments and uses oil as a binding agent, generally oil extracted from linseed. It can be used on a wide range of surfaces, such as canvas (usually linen or cotton), wood, metal or even stone and cement.

The greatest advantage of oil painting is that you have plently time to modify your work. This is due to the paint drying slowly. You can go back to the painting a day or two after painting a section and make improvements after you have had time to think about it and visualize such changes. This is not possible with watercolors, which dry within a minute or acrylics which dry within several minutes. The longevity and deep color value of oil paints are also benefits of this type of paint. Due to its incredible resistance to deterioration, thousands of oil color works from antiquity have been preserved to this day.

On the negative side, several artists have told us that they found its drying time excessively slow. Painting knowledge is very important, and paiting with oils is quite difficult to master. It can also lose luminosity and become yellowed with age, but in some ways this patina adds to an oil painting’s charm.

Advantages
  • You can paint without rushing.
  • You have time to modify your work.
  • Wet or dry, the color doesn”t change. You can truly control the end result.
  • It offers a unique color value.
  • This technique can be used on a wide range of surfaces.
  • It is quite resistant to deterioration.
Disadvantages
  • It dries slowly.
  • Its use can be difficult at first.
  • Its infinite number of layers can reduce its brightness.

How do I paint with oil?

You need to begin by setting up your composition using a sketch. Overlapping layers will then help you apply the colors, starting with the areas of shade and light. Large areas of color follow, gradually increasing the brightness. The work is finished off with the last remaining details.

You should know that each new layer needs to be slightly richer in oil than the previous one. Most importantly, it is essential that you wait for a layer of paint to dry completely before adding another layer or you will move the first layer around when painting over it, which is not what you probably intend.

What should I use to thin my oil paint?

Linseed oil extracted from flax seed is dominant in oil painting, as it serves as both the binder and thinner. Generations of artists have used essence of turpentine as a thinner as well. Nowadays, turpentine is an efficient and affordable thinner, and is still frequently used.

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Did you know that the contemporary evolution of the painting world has led to oil for paints being taken from other sources? Nowadays, plant-based oils such as poppy seed, walnut, hemp and sunflower are used as alternatives to linseed oil.

What is oil paint used for?

Oil painting is most commonly used to created layered works of art. It gives volume or thickness to the painting, and is particularly helpful for slow and precise painting. This is because the density and oil base of the material makes the paint dry very slowly. Artists wishing to experiment with volume and matter also use oil painting in their surrealist works.

What tool should I use oil paint with?

You can use a paintbrush for a more precise result, or a palette knife for large color layers and delightful texture. You could even paint with your hands for complete expressionism. Oil paint works on just about any surface you can think of, from canvas to paper or fabric, giving a unique feel to your work. You can also combine it with fillers, such as sand or plaster, to create shapes and textures. The possibilities are truly endless.

How do I paint with a palette knife?

Using this tool offers many advantages:

  • Reducing paintbrush wear
  • Much easier cleaning
  • Possibility of applying thick layers
  • Removing paint in case of mistakes

You must avoid using solvents to dilute your oil paint at all costs if painting with a palette knife. Ideally, the consistency of paint when using a palette knife should allow it not to fall off when you use the palette. Adding too much oil thins paint from the texture of cake frosting to the texture of soft butter, which is too thin for the palette knife’s thick application–the paint can fall right off the canvas!

What can I paint with oil paints?

If you’re beginning with this type of paint, we recommend that you have a ready-made sketch with a simple theme like still life or the copy of a photo. This is particularly helpful if drawing isn’t really your thing. When you gain experience, you can paint more complex compositions, such as portraits or landscapes.

Tip: It is very useful to have a photograph of the result you’re going for.

Boat

Linseed oil extracted from flax is an essential supply in oil painting.
(Source: Boyan Dimitrov : 37926607/ 123rf.com)

What are the differences between oil and acrylic painting?

Unlike oil painting, which has the slowest drying process of all materials, acrylic paint dries almost instantly. As we mentioned earlier, this can either be an advantage or a disadvantage. It will depend on the type of work you want to create, as well as your level of painting knowledge and style.

Can I use oil and acrylic paints together?

Oil and acrylic paints can indeed be combined. You simply have to remember that they should be used on the surface in a very specific order, and one must dry before adding the other. First of all, start by applying acrylic paint. This will create a plastic layer on the base, allowing the oil paint to stick effortlessly.

Shopping Criteria

Our experts have extensively researched oil paints and how they function within their own works of art. This has allowed us to find which were the most important criteria when it comes to purchasing oil paints. We present these factors to you in the following section. That way, you’ll be able to choose the right brand of paint based on your needs. These will include your style, level of skill and the results you’re going for.

Number of Hues

If you’re an advanced oil painter or are thinking of becoming one, you should know that you are advised to stick to one brand. This will allow you to gain experience and therefore greater control over the oil paint of your choosing. Different brands, and even lines of paint within a bran can have different consistencies.  Mixing too many can create unexpected results and cause frustration. This is why we recommend you to pick a brand with the greatest possible range of pigments. As we outlined earlier, there are many sets with several different colors of oil paint included. These are a great place to start, and that way, you’ll never feel limited in your art.

Having a wide number of colors is always useful, as it will give you the opportunity to create many different hues. That way, you won’t have any trouble creating exactly what you want. Otherwise, if the product you’ve bought doesn’t give the tone or texture you want, you may have to change brands. As we mentioned above, getting accustomed to oil paint can be difficult, and it’ll be like starting all over again. You won’t have the same level of control as with the product you usually work with.

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Did you know that the resistance of oil paint has allowed us to preserve incredible works of art that are hundreds of years old? These include Leonardo Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa, Michelangelo’s fresco in the Sistine Chapel, The Garden of Earthly Delights by Hieronymus Bosch or Munch’s masterpiece The Scream.

Density and Transparencies

The level of opacity offered by various brands may be important to you depending on the type of art you want to paint. If you want to work with glazes, go for a product that has this characteristic in its range of products. If this isn’t your case, you can look at other features that fit your needs, such as thickness or opacity.

Several oil painting techniques exist, such as indirect painting – painting in layers from thinner to denser. The technique, called “wet on wet” – or “alla prima” – means that you’re painting continuously, without waiting for previous layers to dry. This technique can have beautiful results, but requires a specific intention by the artist.  “Glazing” is very popular, and which involves applying semi-transparent “glazes” over dried, opaque layers of paint. Blending, “oiling out” and “scumbling” are other common painting techniques.

Cute art student loves to paint

Ideally, the consistency of oil paint when using a palette knife should ensure it will not fall off the canvas when you use the palette.
(Source: Antonio Diaz: 45584179/ 123rf.com)

Natural vs. Synthetic Pigments

A pigment is a material that changes the light it reflects depending on the absorption of the color it features. Synthetic pigments have evolved a lot over the years, and offer great, inexpensive alternatives, but natural pigments will always offer a special look and feel. Many factors will influence your choice between the two, such as their price or the result you’re looking for.

As you can imagine, natural pigments are extracted from natural elements. They can be of organic origin (carbonic, plant or animal compounds), or of inorganic or mineral origin. Their main advantages are their unique feel and natural chromatic result. On the other hand, they tend to be more expensive, and their chromatic ranges can be limited.

Synthetic or artificial pigments derive from mass production through chemical reactions. They are more affordable, their chromatic ranges are virtually infinite, and they offer a precise coloring result. On the downside, your work will look more synthetic and less natural. Synthetic pigments are also harder to mix with the oils extracted from natural pigments.

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When you start oil painting, it is recommended you work with the base of a previous study of the work, the areas of chiaroscuro (light-dark) and depth of the colors. Make sure you being painting with a sketch or photo. This will help you keep a reference of the final result you want to achieve.

Level of Pictorial Knowledge

Depending on your skills, you are advised to opt for a less oily, mor ehighly pigments brand of oil paint. The more oil a mixture has, the more difficult it becomes to control the result. Therefore, we encourage beginners to go with a brand like Winsor & Newton or Mont Marte. More experienced artists can go with Derwent, M. Graham or Grumbacher depending on the results they’re looking for.

A person starting off with oil paint should have previously experience with the subjects of their painting and instruction in the basic rules before creating their first oil painting. These include fat over lean and thick over thin. You should also have a strong surface, since this painting technique is quite heavy.

man draws abstract tree with colorful smoke flare,illustration painting

Artists wanting to experiment with volume and matter often use oil painting in their surrealist works.
(Source: Tithi Luadthong: 46375090/ 123rf.com)

Ease in Mixing

This is an essential criterion if you want to get very precise color hues, but also if you end up wanting to mix different brands. In order to combine different styles, different oil paints can be effected by the changing amounts of pigment or oil composition that constitute them.

Oil paint can take several days or even weeks to dry depending on the ambient temperature and humidity. This is why artists consider the mixture of oile to paint to be one of the most important aspects of this painting technique. This is easy, and you can do it throughout your creation progress, mixing your paints over several sessions, since they do not dry out over days between sessions, as acrylic paints would.

Summary

Oil painting is one of the oldest painting techniques in the world. To create an oil painting, all that is needed are oil paints, a brush or knife and a surface, materials that have been around throughout our evolution as a species. This technique remains in constant evolution, and many consider it to be one of the most powerful media in terms of color intensity and durability.

Oil painting is a somewhat difficult technique to master due to the slow drying time. But, on the upside, this allows you to change the result at each stage of the oxidation process. This painting technique also gives you an incredible creative freedom, and you’ll be able to play with textures, density and color combinations as you progress in your work. Give it a go, and tell us about your experience in the space below!

We hope that this guide to oil paints has been useful to you in your search for the type of material or brand that best suits your artistic needs. We strongly invite you to enter this exciting world, or to deepen your knowledge of this painting technique.

Feel free to leave us a comment in the section below, and we’ll be happy to get back to you. You can also share this article on social media. That way, you’ll encourage other art lovers to get started with their own oil painting creations!

(Source of featured image: Dean Drobot: 49773700/ 123rf.com)

Why you can trust me?

Paige Dygbert Professional Writer
With a background in such diverse areas as law, business, translation, art, teaching and even childcare, I bring broad general knowledge and direct, yet friendly style to my articles. I love helping people to choose the best possible option there is on the market and THEGOODESTATE.com is a great platform to do so.