how do we choose the best paint for artists? and what colors do we use?

Two things help us find the best paint for artists. Then we can select the colors for our palette.

Artists can't work without paint. It's our number one tool and selecting our paint is an important decision.

  • Look for these two items to choose the best paint.

#1 should we use student or artist paints?

  • Artist paints are a better buy.

Sometimes, they are labeled professional paint. But generally the label says artist paint, versus the student paints.

Artist paints are made with a higher concentration of color pigments. They cost a little more, but they cover better. They are easier to use and they produce brilliant colors in our paintings.

They actually save us some money in the long run because we can use less paint.

Selecting the best paint for artistsUsing good paint gives us bold colors!
  • Student paints cost less because they contain less pigment. So we have to use more paint to get good colors and good coverage.

Student paints are a good choice when we are learning to paint. As we progress, switch to the artist paints and experience the pleasure of using quality paint.

"Cotman" brand student paint made by Winsor and Newton has the highest pigment load of any brand of student paints. Therefore, they are recommended for both oil and watercolor students.

#2 single pigment colors verses mixed colors

  • Single pigment colors are the best paint for artists.

Look on the label to find out how many pigments are used to make the paint color. If the ingredients are not listed on the paint, look on the manufacture's website.

Paints made with only one pigment mix well and produce clean color mixtures.

Paint colors made with two or more pigments don't mix well with other colors. They tend to make muddy color mixtures.

Painting is all about color and we want clean, clear colors.

Recommended oil paint colors

Single pigment watercolors

more about the best paint for artists

We have selected either artist or student paint. We have found single pigment or mixed pigment paints.

What other things could we look for on the paint containers?

many artists use transparent colors

  • Transparent colors allow the white of the canvas or paper to show thru the paint.

The white illuminates the colors, so they appear more brilliant.

The information on the paint tubes will say whether the paints are transparent, semi-transparent or opaque.

are there health precautions?

  • Cadmium colors are associated with a health hazard. The same goes for Cobalt Blue.

These are very beautiful colors. But, when we are looking for the best paint for artists, it's wise to use caution.

what colors should we use on our palette?

There is such a bewildering array of beautiful paint colors. There are so many and they are so pretty! How do we choose?

Learn how to choose the best paint colors for your artist palette.Choose the Rainbow Colors

We ask ourselves -

What are the colors in nature? Oh, the colors of the rainbow!

The rainbow colors are red, orange, yellow, green, blue and purple.

There is also, a dark blue between the blue and purple, called Indigo.

Excluding Indigo, there are six rainbow colors. These are the six colors on the color wheel.

We use this knowledge when we are choosing the colors for our art palette.

An excellent choice for our artist palette is A warm and cool version of the 6 rainbow colors

Choose your oil paints

Here is a warm and cool version of each of the six rainbow colors.

  • Yellow: Lemon Yellow, Indian Yellow
  • Orange: *Cadmium Orange Hue, Burnt Sienna
  • Red: *Cadmium Red Medium Hue, Permanent Rose
  • Violet: Magenta, Dioxazine Violet
  • Blue: Ultramarine Blue, Phthalo Blue
  • Green: Phthalo Green, Phthalo Green Yellow Shade

Years ago I switched from traditional oil paint to Winsor Newton Griffin Alkyd paint.

Alkyds look and handle exactly like oil paint. The difference is they dry overnight. They are a good quality paint with an excellent reputation.

If you are choosing paint colors in traditional oil paints, you will find similar names.

Lemon Yellow is a cool yellow artist paint color.
Indian Yellow is a warm yellow.
Alkyd-cadmium-orange-hue
Burnt Sienna has long been a favorite orange earth color paint for artist.
Alkyd-cadmium-red-medium-hue
Permanent Rose is the true red on the color wheel.
Magenta is a reddish violet.
Dioxazine is a very concentrated purple-violet.
Ultramarine Blue has been a favorite of painting artists for centuries.
Phthalo Blue, (the full name is Phthalocyanine Blue) is the primary blue of the color wheel.
Alkyd-thalo-green
Alkyd-thalo-green-yellow-shade

All of the cadmium colors are very brilliant. However, they are associated with a health hazard. Also, they are opaque and do not always mix well with other colors.

*Cadmium Orange Hue made by Winsor Newton does not contain cadmium. It is a mixture of Arylide yellow and Pyrrole orange. It closely resembles Cadmium Orange without the toxicity.

*Winsor Red Medium Hue is much like the original Cadmium Red Medium. It is a single pigment color without the toxic cadmium.

alternate oil color choices

Yellow - Raw Sienna is a warm yellow made from natural earth minerals.

Red - Permanent Alizarin Crimson is a good dark red. It is handy to use to darken other reds. However Permanent Rose makes cleaner mixtures.

Cadmium Red Light is brilliant red often used on the artist's palette. It contains cadmium, is made with mixed pigments and is opaque.

Green - Viridian Green is a good standby green that is less intense and easier to use than Phthalo Green.

Blue - Prussian Blue is a good cool blue that has been used by artists for centuries.

Phthalo Blue is a modern color. It is an intense color that is sometimes difficult for the beginning artist to handle. A tube of Phthalo Blue lasts for a long time because it is so strong.

More Art Supplies for Oil Painting

selecting watercolors

The watercolors listed here are single pigment paints.

  • Yellow: Winsor Lemon, Winsor Yellow Deep
  • Orange: Winsor Orange, Transparent Orange
  • Red: Winsor Red, Permanent Rose
  • Violet: Winsor Violet, Dioxazine Violet
  • Blue: Ultramarine Blue, Winsor Blue Green Shade
  • Green: Winsor Green Blue Shade, Winsor Green Yellow Shade

Professional watercolor paints by Winsor Newton are my go-to paints.

Winsor Violet is made with a Quinacridone Violet pigment. Ultramarine Blue is a beautiful blue favored by artists since the 1800s.

The Winsor Blue and Greens are actually Phthalocyanine colors under the Winsor & Newton brand name.

Winsor Lemon is a single pigment paint that mixes very well.
WC-winsor-yellow-deep
WC-winsor-orange
WC-transparant-orange
WC-winsor-red
Permanent Rose is the primary red color.
WC-winsor-violet
Dioxazine Violet is a strong, cool violet.
WC-ultramarine-blue
WC-Winsor-blue-green-shade
WC-winsor-green-blue-shade
WC-winsor-green-yellow-shade

alternate watercolor choices

Yellow - Winsor Yellow and Transparent Yellow are both warm, single pigment yellows.

Red - Permanent Alizarin Crimson may be used instead of Permanent Rose.

Green - Hookers Green or Viridian Green are both popular greens.

Get your Watercolor Supplies

white completes the artist's palette

There is no white watercolor paint. So, watercolor artists use the paper in lieu of white paint.

Oil painters need to add white to their palette.

Titanium white is the best white for oil painting. It is a strong, opaque and slightly cool white.

Zinc white has more body and it is good for palette knife work.

However, zinc white may have a tendency to crack or flake, as the painting ages.

now you have a simple way of choosing the best paint for artists.

With the six rainbow colors from the color wheel, plus white we have all the colors we will ever need on our paint palette.

Clean, clear colors will enable us to mix any of the colors we see in nature. We can also, mix the colors we see for sale at the paint store. That will save us some money.

using good paint makes painting fun!



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