Updated: Jan 19, 2022
There are so many oil paint brands. Historically American-made oil paints were beyond terrible in comparison to their European counterparts. Happily, thanks to the ingenuity of several determined craftspeople, over the last few decades that is no longer the case. This, however, complicates the brand picking situation for us. There are just so many!
To help make this decision a little bit easier, below I listed out some of the undisputed, best brands from most to least expensive. I am going to explain what paints I use and why, and why we should never use student grade paints.
Below I have a listed out some of the best brands you can purchase. This list is by no means exhaustive. Each brand has been picked because of general affordability and accessibility (with the exception of Blue Ridge. It is a one man show that I have always wanted to try, but you can only purchase from his website and not at shops).
I picked Yellow Ochre to provide us with our price comparison because it is a paint everyone needs and a color that every company makes. Prices come from dickblick.com, you can also see what other artists think of these brands here.
Any of these brands are excellent picks and have similar qualities. What works for you comes down to your wallet. The last four options are all about the same when it comes to price and are what I use. You can read more about each brand here and learn things like how Old Holland has been around for almost 400 years! What!
My Brand Picks
I use M. Graham and Gamblin interchangeably. They are both American brands that are pro-environment and eco-friendly, which is of prime importance to me. I slightly prefer M. Graham's paint but don't love their packaging. The tube opening is so large I always squeeze out way more paint than necessary. I highly recommend either brand as a good starting point for beginners and professionals alike.
Student vs Professional Grade
Straight out of the tube student and professional paints kind of look similar, but they are not.
On the left is my terrible illustration of a student grade paint, and on the right is a professional grade. Student grades are made with less pigment and have fillers added to compensate for the loss of texture. This leaves us with a cheaper paint that doesn't cover the canvas at the same rate as a professional, so you need more of it for the same job, and the fillers make mixing paints together a muddy mess.
Be careful not to confuse a brand's student paint with their professional brand. Avoid Winton by Winsor and Newton, Grumbacher Artisan Paints by Grumbacher, and Utrecht. Both Winton and Grumbacher Artisan are their respective company's student brands, and while Utrecht was THE paint to have decades ago, through the years they have been purchased a couple of times and the quality has suffered.
And that is about it, did I miss anything? In the comments tell me what brand you love and why. Is there a brand you think was wrongfully snubbed? Let me know!