"Drawing is of the spirit; color is of the senses." Henri Matisse

Comparing Brands of Paint
© 2000 Nita Leland

Which is the best brand of paint to use? When I compare paints (for me, watercolors), here are some of the things I look for:

  • Does the pigment compare favorably with that of other brands that have the same pigment name? For example, if it is named Burnt Sienna does it look like I expect or want that color to look? Is it manufactured with the appropriate pigment. Read my article on paint labels.
  • Is the paint adequately pigmented with high tinting strength? Or weak and pasty?
  • Is the pigment lightfast?
  • Is the pigment transparent (like phthalocyanine) or opaque (like cadmium); is it consistent with what I expect of this pigment? If it's named Cerulean Blue and is transparent, then it isn't true Cerulean Blue.
  • Are there any unusual handling characteristics, for example is it grainy or clear? Settling or spreading? Staining or non-staining? What is the paint consistency, fluid or heavy?
  • Which brand has more of the colors I like?
  • Is the brand easily available in area stores or by mail order?

My conclusion, after many years of studying paints and testing more than thirty brands of both student and artist grades of paint, shows that you get what you pay for. Quality in pigment and paint processing is usually compromised to achieve affordability for student painters, but it is a false economy to use these paints. The results are often less intense and it takes more paint to achieve the saturation that is easily acquired with good paint.

See my other paint articles and chapter three of Exploring Color pp. 32-45. Also, look at my paint FAQ for more on student-grade paints.

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