Saturday, October 29, 2011

Oil Paint : Student Grade or Professional Grade?

Oil Paint Quality
Student Grade oil paints are usually less expensive and of a poorer quality than Professional Grade oil paints.  They are appropriate to use if:
  • You do not consider yourself to be a professional artist (now or in the future).
  • You really, really want your paintings to deteriorate more rapidly over time.
  • You have to choose between eating and buying high quality paint.
Comparison of Oil Painting Changes Over Time
Student Grade Oil Paints over Professional Grade Acrylic Gesso on Canvas:  

Observations of a Painting Stored in the Dark for Over 10 Years; Why I don't use student grade paints:
  • Background pigment faded and patchy
  • Cast shadows have taken on violet hue versus original neutral
  • Highlights have dulled
  • Edges of objects in shadow have taken on a hard, sharp line 
  • Forms have lost 3-dimensionality and appear flattened and without structure
Due to my experience with various types of paint, I can only recommend the highest quality at any stage of your career.  Professional Artists Oil colors are even appropriate for doing studies, in my opinion.  Studies sometimes become an important point of reference in later years.  Furthermore, a study can take on a life of its own and become a painting in its own right.

Please Post Your Comment or Suggestion by Clicking 'Comments," Below.


  1. I realize this is an old post, but a few observations are worth noting.

    I'd never (or almost never) recommend student grade paint, but as a photographer, I can tell you that while you might really see - or even think you see - differences, some are explainable for reasons other than paint.

    Regarding color (hue, chroma, value), without extensive experience and work, there is virtually no way that you'll be able to match colors from 11 year old slide film, shot with natural daylight (even natural light varies in temperature from day to day depending on weather), and a jpeg from an old HP camera taken under different, and mixed, lighting conditions.

    There are just too many variables to control, including any software or hardware bias in the original scan, the jpeg processing HP used (manufacturers can use different algorithms), the post-processing software you used (if any), etc. Even the lens used on the respective cameras can, and often will, impart its own subtle color bias in saturation, clarity, transitions, etc.

    Additionally, it's pretty well known and documented that paintings kept in a dark closet will lose their brilliance, yet some of it will return (the whites especially) if left in the light for a while.

    Again, at least some of the changes you see, or think you see, are not due to the paint.

  2. Anonymous-

    I appreciate these observations. You are thorough in covering some of the many variables that may account for differences in photographs of the same object.

    Due to these and other variables, one can not rely on photographs alone as definitive documentation. This is now compounded by easily accessible photo manipulation software.

    I do agree with you that "some of the changes you see...are not due to the paint." The above photos are representations to help illustrate a phenomenon I personally experienced: This painting, rendered with lesser quality paints, has changed significantly over time.

    ~~julie susanne


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