"I do not seek. I find." Pablo Picasso

Ten Questions to Ask About Paint
© 1999 Nita Leland

It doesn't matter what medium you're working in, paint just keeps getting more and more expensive. The more you can learn before you buy, the less you spend. Read the manufacturers' charts and labels on the tubes to answer some of the questions below. The rest you can't answer until you've tried the paint. You should test each color you buy so you know for sure whether you want to buy that color again.

  1. Is the color rich and saturated? Or does it look thin when you brush it out?
  2. Is the paint smooth or noticeably gritty? Gritty is different from granulating.
  3. Is the binder well-mixed into the paint, or does it ooze sticky or oily goop? It may have been sitting on the shelf too long or may be a poorly made paint.
  4. Does the paint have good tinting strength, meaning does it hold its own when mixed with other colors of similar strength?
  5. If the color is a traditional pigment, such as Burnt Sienna, Cobalt Blue, or Ultramarine, for example, does it look and act like the normal pigment?
  6. Is the color staining or non-staining?
  7. Is it transparent or opaque?
  8. Is it granulating or spreading?
  9. Is the pigment light fast?
  10. Do you like the color?

Every manufacturer has colors that won't pass every test, so you must decide what your own preferences are. For example, one brand of colors has beautifully saturated color that is light fast, but many of the pigments have a tendency toward opacity. There is no correct brand of paint, but to learn about the characteristics of your paints, you can test them following the directions in my book, Exploring Color Revised. See also my paint FAQ.

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