Evaluating the Quality of Your Paints

There are so many different variations and colors to buy when you head to the store but remember as you shop that paint is personal. It should be a style that you prefer and a technique that you enjoy. As you practice with paints you will learn which brands you prefer and which varieties are your favorites. 


The first thing you need to evaluate when buying acrylic paint is the quality. There are two qualities from which to choose: artist and student. Artist quality is also known as professional quality. These have high permanence ratings and a high concentration of pigment. They also come in a variety of colors. The student colors are less expensive but they have lower pigment levels and a higher possibility of fillers included which can weaken the color. The difference between the student and professional quality is in the consistency and the vibrant color. The higher quality the easier it is to layer the colors and blend them. 

Paint Quality

If you are just starting out and you are on a tight budget then there is nothing wrong with using student paint. As you continue working you can upgrade when possible. Another possibility is to use student colors for the base earth tones and professional quality for intense colors. This is a great way to save money. 


There are so many different colors available that it can make you sick. You can also purchase an oil paint set. This will save you some money on the individual tubes and is helpful when you are just beginning and already feeling a bit overwhelmed with materials.

When you are looking into artist quality oils you may find that some colors are more expensive than other colors. The reason is that the pigments inside are more difficult to obtain. These paints are often grouped together in a numeric series that lists then from cheapest to most expensive. Earth tones are often the cheapest because they are easiest to retrieve while the brighter tones are much more difficult to get and often cost up to four times as much as the earth tones. There are some brands that have less expensive options but this is because they substitute synthetic pigments for actual pigment. While this costs less it has a reduce color intensity and permanence. You can locate these synthetic options by looking for the word “hue” after the name of the pigment. This does not mean they are bad it just means they partially synthetic so bear that in mind. 

Today you can buy specialty colors such as iridescent paint that have odd mixtures which create luminous effects when used. Permanence refers to the ability of your paint pigment to resist fading when exposed to a lot of light. Pigments which fade are often referred to as fugitive colors. When you are buying your paint you should consider some permanence standards. These standard ratings are administered by the ATSM International – the American Society for Testing and Materials.

The viscosity refers to the thickness of the paint. Oil paint with a heavy body has a buttery consistency which retains your brushstrokes and better facilitates blending and color mixing. Fluid paints are thinner but are better for dry brush work or detail work such as water color techniques. If you want somewhere in the middle you should pick oil mediums which can be mixed with your paint in order to get the consistency you want. The level of viscosity you buy will be based primarily on your personal preference. Some artists prefer to start out with heavy body paint when they begin so that they can thin it with water as needed.

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