The Best Oil Paints for Beginners (and otherwise)

Nov 19, 2021 | 0 comments

Are you looking for the best oil paints for beginners? Looks like you’re in the right corner of the internet! Keep on reading to see our selection.

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Table of Contents

What Are Oil Paints?

Choosing the Best Oil Paints for Beginners

Best Oil Paints for Beginners and Otherwise

Frequently Asked Questions

Final Thoughts


What Are Oil Paints?

Oil paints have been around for a very long time and were first used by Northern European painters. Like all paints, oil paint is made of 3 ingredients: binder, pigment, and solvent. The binder of this paint is usually linseed oil, but can also be poppy seed, walnut, or safflower oil. The pigment is the color that’s usually a powder. And the solvent is often either turpentine or mineral spirits. The paint consistency is similar to butter and it takes a much longer time to dry compared to other paints.

Oil paints are usually quite toxic because of the chemicals used in them like cadmium, zinc oxide, and umber found in natural pigments, so make sure that your artwork is out of reach of children.

oil painting

Choosing the Best Oil Paints for Beginners

In choosing the best oil paints for beginners, you’ll have to consider a few factors.

Reading the Paint Tube Labels

It’s always helpful to read labels to know exactly what you’re getting. The art world loves using jargon and sometimes, there will be terms that will leave you clueless. Learn how to read the labels to find out the paint’s opaqueness and lightfastness. The label will also include how the paint will apply in terms of coverage and durability.

The Cost

Oil paints cost higher than acrylic paints and watercolors because of the purity of their pigments. You’ll notice that the oil paint prices differ in each tube of colors, depending on the pigment used in it. In artist-grade paints, the label will hold a number or letter, the higher the number/letter, the higher the price due to the type of pigment used.

If you prefer to get cheaper ones, look for student-grade oil paints. Just note that in order to make these paints more affordable, manufacturers cut costs and incorporated fillers and stabilizers with the pigment and oil. Hence, this will affect the color pay-off of the oil paints.

Also, note that the higher the quality of the paint means that there’s more pigment in it so you’ll need less paint to get the vibrancy you want.

Color Palettes

To pay mind to the money you spend on new oil paints, you need to know that you don’t need to have every color imaginable. As a beginner, you will only need to start with the basic palette. Having the basic colors will let you achieve every color you need by learning how to mix them.

Our recommended colors to get:

  1. Phthalo blue
  2. Cadmium red
  3. Cadmium yellow
  4. Ivory black
  5. Ultramarine blue
  6. Titanium white

Texture and Consistency

Each oil paint brand has its own unique texture and consistency which will add certain qualities to your art. Some brands are buttery while some have a grainy texture. It’s really a matter of experimenting. As for consistency, you can further manipulate your paints by adding thinners like turpentine to them. Just note that the drying time of your paintings will highly depend on the paint’s consistency.

oil paints for beginners

Paint Quality

Student-Grade

This is the cheaper option and great for beginners. However, you won’t be getting true vibrant colors from student-grade oil paints and they contain fewer pigments and more fillers and other synthetic ingredients.

Artist-Grade

This is a premium quality paint and can have a hefty price tag. I recommend getting artist-grade oil paints once you got the hang of the medium. This is the next step to your oil painting journey. If you are serious about it, you’ll upgrade with higher-quality paints.

Best Oil Paints for Beginners and Otherwise

Student Grade

Winsor & Newton Winton Oil Paints and Set

The first item in our list of best oil paints for beginners is, of course, this one from Winsor & Newton. It’s student-grade oil paint and really well-priced considering the amount of pigment it has. This brand is known for how mixable their paints are and how beginner-friendly they are when you are switching from acrylics.

The starter set with 10 tubes already has a great range of colors to have for art projects. The paints also dry quickly in only a matter of 2 to 7 days.

Pros:

  • Great for beginners
  • The consistency is slightly stiff
  • Its lightfastness rating is easy to find online
  • Nice color selection (48)
  • Has rich pigment
  • Mixes easily
  • Permanent & Lightfast

Cons:

  • Linseed oil base may yellow with time
  • The outer packaging is not of the best quality


Gamblin 1980 Oil Color Set

This brand is known for its high-quality oil paints that put a focus on safety. They have a line of solvent-free mediums that are safer to work with and they don’t use lead in their white paints. This 1980 Oil Color Set is the perfect option for beginners as the paints are creamy, easy to mix, and has a range of 40 colors to choose from.

The Gamblin 1980 Oil Color Set are handmade paints made with alkali-refined linseed oil so the paints are easy-flowing, flexible, and have a brilliant and durable finish.

Because of its quality, this set is often dubbed as a “high-end student grade oil”.

Pros

  • Worth the money
  • Mixes easily
  • Great consistency & texture
  • Non-toxic and solvent-free

Cons

  • Lightfastness ratings missing
  • Not as many vibrant colors


Van Gogh Oil Colors

Another well-known and well-loved brand when it comes to painting supplies is Van Gogh by Royal Talens. With a total of 66 colors, this student-grade oil paint exceeds expectations because of its excellent lightfastness and permanence.

The starter kit comes in 10 colors including Azo Yellow Deep, Azo Red Medium, Ultramarine, Cerulean Blue Phthalo, Burnt Umber, and more. Aside from the primary colors, you also get additional ones that will further be useful for your work.

Although the tubes only are 20 ML each, the pigments are packed and rich so you’ll find it a breeze to work with.

Pros:

  • Great lightfastness ratings
  • High pigment concentration
  • Can be purchased individually

Cons

  • A bit pricey


Grumbacher Academy Oil Paints and Sets

Since 1905, Grumbacher has become a favorite among students because of its quality and affordability. Each tube of color has enough tint and pigment that will create beautiful artwork. This set of 10 is a beginner’s oil paint supply that contains all the essential colors they need to start.

Pros:

  • Smooth and vibrant pigments
  • Retains richness even when mixed with other mediums
  • Excellent lightfastness
  • Affordable than other oil paints

Cons:

  • Some colors are too thick to work through


Daler-Rowney Georgian Oil Colour

Another student-grade oil paint that’s affordable and some artists might enjoy is this one from Daler-Rowney. It comes in 54 colors and is quite oily compared to other oil paints which give them a seamless and natural flow.

These oil paints are great for Plein Aire painting and the colors apply nicely on canvas. The downside is that although it is affordable, the paints have relatively poor tinting strength, so just keep that in mind.

Pros:

  • Affordable
  • The paint is creamy and thick

Cons:

  • Pigments are rather weak


Artist Grade

Bob Ross Artist Oil Color

These novelty oil paints names after The Joy of Painting master aren’t only made for the gimmick. These paints are actually great in quality with a mid-range price tag that will bring joy to any artist. And although its pigment load isn’t as packed as other artist-grade oil paints, they are well-priced and are available in large tubes. The consistency of the paints is really soft making it easy to mix colors. They are one of the best oil paints for beginners and are perfect to use for wet-on-wet techniques.

Pros

  • Affordable
  • Intense colors
  • Beginner-friendly
  • Smooth and creamy viscosity
  • Great for practicing the wet-on-wet oil painting technique

Cons

  • Limited color selection


Williamsburg Oil Traditional Colors Set

Many professional artists swear by Williamsburg because of its thick and gritty consistency and high-loaded pigments. The oil paint set might be a little bit costly, but you get the quality that you pay for. It also has a wide selection of colors (with a total of 185!).

The brightness and vibrancy of each color will make your artwork impressive. And for those who like to know all about a paint’s opacity and lightfastness ratings information, the color chart of this brand is incredibly detailed.

Pros:

  • Great quality
  • Massive color selection
  • Highly pigmented
  • Extremely lightfast

Cons

  • Some paints have a gritty texture (highly subjective)
  • Expensive


Sennelier Artist Oils

The Sennelier Artist Oil Paints are made with safflower oil instead of linseed, which gives it a satin finish and prevents the paint from yellowing. The color range is wide with a total of 144 colors. These oil paints are highly loaded with pigment and have a high rating of lightfastness or I.

Pros

  • Use by the best painters of our time (including Monet, Gauguin, Picasso, Matisse, Hockney, and Ernst)
  • Incredibly high quality
  • Excellent lightfastness ratings

Cons

  • Expensive


Blockx Oil Paint

The Belgium-based brand has been in the market since 1865 and their artist-grade oil paints are as pure as they come. The paints are sold individually rather than a set and you can either get them in a 35 ML or 200 ML tube. Beginners can choose the 35ML tubes to check out the quality of these paints without having to invest too much money in them.

The Blockx Oil Paint has an excellent lightfastness rating as well, just like the Sennelier paints.

Pros

  • Artist-grade quality
  • Excellent lightfastness
  • Rich and Consistent pigment load

Cons

  • Expensive


Old Holland

Old Holland has been around for 350 years and they still serve artists from all over the world with premium quality art supplies. Their oil paints have a buttery consistency that has vibrant pigments and an excellent lightfastness rating.

They have 168 colors in their selection and you can get these paints in either 40 ML, 125 ML, or 225 ML tubes.

These artist-grade paints are moderately priced making them a great pick for both professionals and beginners.

Pros

  • Oldest art supply company in existence
  • Wide color & size selection
  • Easy to use color chart
  • Reasonably priced

Cons

  • Might not be as vibrant as other professional grades


Frequently Asked Questions

What Do I Need for Oil Painting?

First off, your oil paints, of course. Then make sure to wear something you won’t mind getting stains when oil paints spill on it. You’ll also need an easel when working on a canvas. This will keep your painting in a stable place that will keep it safe. You’ll need a surface to paint as well and some primer or gesso. Other necessities include paint brushes, paint palette, palette knife, and turpentine or mineral spirits.

What Surface Can I Use?

A canvas or board can be used for oil painting, but regardless of what surface you’ll use, you’ll have to apply a primer before you paint oils on them.

What Brush Should I Use?

Any old brush can be used for oil paintings. You can have a variety of brushes, just remember that they might get damaged by solvents.

How Can I Clean Up Oil Paint Messes?

Oil paint spills can be a tad messy to clean up. Get some turpentine or mineral spirits from your local art or hardware store before you start painting. These will help you clean up oil paint spills.

Will Acrylic Paint Stick to Oil Paint?

Nope. Acrylic paint won’t stick to a layer of oil paint, but oil paints can adhere over a layer of dried acrylic.

Final Thoughts

We hope these selections of the best oil paints for beginners will be a helpful guide in your purchasing journey.

For more articles like this, make sure to visit our blog!

Renee Alexis

20-something Filipina, an introvert who loves young adult fiction, brush pens, Taylor Swift, and Mobile Legends. Coffee runs in my bloodstream.
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