The Importance of Oil Paint Quality: Student Grade vs Artist Grade – What You Need to Know

Whether you're new to oils or just curious to learn more about them, one question you're sure to have about the paints you use is regarding their quality. In this article we'll discuss why paint quality is an important thing to consider for any artist, beginner to advanced.

Why oil paint quality matters - student grade vs artist grade

Does Oil Paint Quality Matter?

To answer this question in short, yes, the quality of your paint does have an impact on your final work. However, it's important to remember that all of this depends on your intentions with your art. A good rule to follow is if you plan to paint as a hobby then student grade paint is adequate, but if you plan to sell your paintings then artist grade paints should be used.

Lets break down what paint quality means

High-quality oil paint is made with pure, high-grade pigments and a balanced blend of oil binders. These ingredients are carefully chosen and blended to ensure that the paint is consistent, easy to work with, and produces vibrant, long-lasting colors. High-quality paint handles differently and often times has superior coverage capabilities.

Low-quality oil paint, on the other hand, may contain fillers, extenders, and lower-grade pigments that can affect the paint's consistency, texture, and color. These paints may be more difficult to work with and may produce dull, less vibrant colors that fade or even yellow over time. 

Here are a few specific reasons why quality of oil paint matters:

  1. Pigment quality: High-quality artist grade oil paint is made with pure, high-grade pigments that produce vibrant, long-lasting colors. Lower-quality paint may contain fillers or lower-quality student grade pigments that can affect the paint's color and longevity.

  2. Consistency: Artist grade oil paint is formulated to have a consistent texture and viscosity, making it easy to work with and allowing for precise application. Student grade paint may be more difficult to work with, resulting in a less precise application.

  3. Drying time: Artist grade oil paint dries more slowly, allowing more time for blending and layering, and also increasing the chances of the painting to be corrected. Student grade paint may dry too quickly because of the additives, making it more difficult to work with and potentially resulting in a less polished final product.

  4. Lightfastness: Artist grade oil paint is formulated to be lightfast, meaning that it will not fade or change color over time when exposed to light. Student grade paint may not be as lightfast, resulting in colors that fade or yellow over time.

  5. Health and safety: Student grade oil paint may contain more harmful or toxic ingredients that can be dangerous to work with. So if you're planning on painting many hours everyday, then artist grade oil paint is made with safe, non-toxic ingredients.

Using high-quality oil paint can make a big difference in the final outcome of your painting, providing you with better color, texture and consistency, as well as a healthier and safer working environment. But remember for those who enjoy painting as a hobby or who might be just starting out, the quality of your experience should take priority over what paint you use.

Student grade vs Artist grade oil paints

Another thing to consider is how these paints are made. Artist grade paints are often made using traditional methods that involve grinding the pigments by hand, which results in a more consistent and high-quality paint.

Student grade oil paints are less expensive and suitable for beginners, while artist grade oil paints are more expensive and intended for professional and experienced artists. The quality of the pigments and binders, as well as the manufacturing process, are the main differences between the two.

Why Oil paint quality matters

"Nothing Like It" - Canvas Prints

So, what oil paints should I buy?

When it comes to buying oil paints, there are several reputable brands that offer both student and artist grade options.

Student grade oil paints:

Artist grade oil paints:

Some brands may have a wider range of colors and options available in their artist grade line, while others may have a more limited range. It's always a good idea to check the options, read reviews and also test some of the colors before making a big purchase. My experience with the artist grade oils is that each brand has a different feel to the paint, and also that you tend to get what you pay for.

Why oil paint quality matters

Remember that the brand you choose can depend on a variety of factors, such as your budget, the type of painting you're doing, and the results you're looking to achieve. Some artists may prefer to use a specific brand of oil paint because of its quality, consistency, and ease of use.

Read online reviews for each paint you're considering, ask other artists for their experience, and test different brands to find what works best for you. Experimenting with different types of paints and brands will ultimately be the most important thing you can do in growing your understanding of what you should be using in your artwork. So enjoy the journey and have fun with it.

I hope this has cleared up any confusion you might have had around paint quality and has helped you in figuring out what's right for you.

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 I'm Chuck Black, landscape and wildlife artist based in Southwest Montana.

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