If you’re using oil paint as your medium, you’ve joined an artistic tradition that dates back hundreds of years. Oils are famous for their thick coverage, rich pigments, and glossy finish. Both beginners and professionals are drawn to the classic appeal of these paints. But, which brand is best for you?
We consulted artist professionals and researched the best oil paint brands, looking for consistency, texture, and pigmentation. The Michael Harding Oil Paints impressed us the most, due to its high quality paints, buttery texture, and smooth consistency among all paint colors.
Here are the best oil paint brands.
Michael Harding Oil Paints
Consistent among colors
If you are in the market for rich, beautiful pigmentation, you’ll adore this brand developed by a London-based artist. Rich pigmentation puts Michael Harding on the pricier side. The paint is of high quality, and its deep pigmentation means you don't need to use as much paint to get beautiful results.
The paints are made by hand, resulting in vibrant colors. You’ll find that this paint has a buttery consistency—it spreads and mixes well and won’t crack with time.
Sennelier Oil Paints
Safflower oil can cause paint separation
There’s a special thrill in painting with the same type of paint used by the masters. Sennelier is not the oldest brand on the list (the Old Holland paints have been used since the Renaissance), but Sennelier is a storied, remarkable brand. Artists Pablo Picasso, Paul Cézanne, and Camille Pissarro used Sennelier paints.
The safflower oil used in the preparation of these paints prevents yellowing and provides a silky smooth finish. However, it can have a negative side effect of causing paint separation and drying out the paints faster than linseed oil. Offering a good value and a buttery texture, Sennelier paints are an ideal option for contemporary artists inspired by using the same brand as historical greats.
This brand was formed in 1887, and while you can purchase its paints online, Sennelier also maintains its original store across the street from the Louvre in Paris.
Blick Studio Acrylic Paints and Sets
Easy to work with
Not as high quality as more expensive picks
Art store Dick Blick's house brand of oil paints is well-made and affordable. This likely isn’t the right choice for professional-level artists, but if you’re a student or looking to get started, these paints are a great option. They are ideal if you’re looking to experiment with a new technique and don’t want to use costly paint for your test runs.
Even at a reasonable, accessible price, you’ll find that Blick Studio Oils have bright pigmentation. Like Sennelier, Blick oils are formulated with safflower oil (in place of linseed). The brand's paint is available in 50 colors and has a creamy texture.
Blockx Artist Oil Colors
Can be separated when first opened
Started in 1865, Blockx oil paints are made in Belgium using stone mills. These paints come the closest to replicating the deeply time-consuming process of producing paints by hand. The family-run business offers paints that are intense and creamy.
By using poppyseed oil, the paints avoid yellowing and wrinkling when the paint dries. A few of the pigments contain linseed oil instead.
These paints are highly pigmented, leading to delightful and vivid colors. Another pro of these paints: They’re consistent. If you buy a tube, you’ll find the same color and texture as a tube purchased years prior. Quality is a priority for this manufacturer. Blockx keeps a sample from each batch made.
Gamblin Artists 1980 Oil Color
Colors mix well
Consistent drying time among colors
Pigmented and bright colors
Colors can lose intensity upon layering
If you're a newbie looking to get started with oil paints, you’ll want an affordable line with good pigmentation that's well made. Gamblin’s student-grade oil paints come in 40 colors—a limited range, but certainly enough for a beginner to embark on their painting journey. The smooth, creamy paint texture is ideal for beginners and mixes well.
Fashion illustrator and oil painter Sofia Struk swears by this brand. "They are affordable, have great consistency and vibrant colors, and are made in the USA," she shares.
Winsor & Newton Introduction to Fine Art Oil Pastels
Great for students or beginners
May be less pigmented than expensive brands
Another affordable option that’s ideal for students is the British brand, Winsor & Newton. Its Winton variant is priced well for those not looking to spend a fortune on supplies. This set comes with 10 colors, each containing 21 milliliters, and they're mixable with other brands. While they demonstrate a good consistency, these paints are less pigmented than Winsor & Newton’s artist-grade line. Still, they offer a reasonable pigment load.
Old Holland Classic Oil Colors
Rich color pigmentation
A little goes a long way
This brand is steeped in history: It began in 1664—the era of the Dutch masters. Think of this as the Jaguar of oil paint options, as it is pricey and offers a luxurious experience. Old Holland has an amazing color saturation thanks to rich pigments, thick but creamy texture, and overall high quality. It also offers a lot of color options. Like Blockx, these paints are made using the old-fashioned technique of grinding with a stone rather than a metal roller.
M. Graham Acrylic Paint
Less yellowing with age
Paints dry slowly
These solvent-free paints from M. Graham & Co. are created with walnut oil. This means that unlike most brands made with linseed oil, these paints won't hit you with a noxious smell.
Using walnut oil also reduces the yellowing that can develop as paintings age. Per the manufacturer, paintings made with walnut oil maintain their luster for centuries.
The company prides itself on being environmentally friendly, and the paints are all created without solvents, extenders, fillers, or adulterants. The downside to using walnut oil in place of linseed is the paint will dry slowly, which might frustrate some artists.
Michael Harding oil paints (view at Dick Blick) are the top pick for their rich pigmentation, creamy texture, and high-quality experience. Another popular choice is Sennelier oil paints (view at Jackson Art). They are a good value, offer a buttery texture, and are steeped in artistic history.
What to Look for in Oil Paint Brands
As with all art supplies, oil paints come in a variety of prices. High-quality, expensive paints will be more vibrant, longer lasting, and less likely to dry quickly than their cheaper counterparts. But you can still find affordable options that perform well.
The price you pay should be based on your experience level and how often you plan to use your paints. "Typically the super cheap options means less pigment and more filler," says Chicago-based painter Yola Pilch. However, these may be suitable for artists just starting out.
On the other hand, professionals may be comfortable spending more money because they plan to use the products more often. No matter your budget or skill level, you can find an oil paint option that's perfect for you.
The difference between low-quality and high-quality paints is their vibrancy, or brightness. More vibrant oil paints will likely cost more because they are often made from a pure single pigment source. These will lead to brighter colors overall. Oftentimes, the brighter the paints, the less you will need to use at one time. Vibrant colors go a long way for a little dot, often justifying the high price tag.
"I always look for a professional-grade oil paints," says Struk, "as they have higher pigment concentration." She shares that you don't have to be a professional to start oil painting and you only need a few colors to begin. "It doesn’t matter if you are a beginner or a professional; you only need several tubes of paint—seven exactly. This is a starting point for those who are learning how to mix colors," she says.
Different brands use different materials to create their oil paints that can affect how the paints perform. Safflower oil prevents yellowing over time, but can often lead to separation. Walnut oil can be a more environmentally friendly option without a strong scent, but can cause the paints to dry out more quickly. Poppyseed oil prevents yellowing and wrinkling. Most oil paints use linseed oil, which slows down the drying rate of paints so the artist has more time to work with it.
All of these ingredients have advantages and disadvantages. Just consider the factors that are most important to you when painting and look for a composition that correlates.
"As far as composition, it's good to look at the opacity or transparency of the paint," says Pilch. She explains that if you are painting over something, you will do it more quickly using an opaque color versus a semitransparent one.
Ultimately, the materials will determine the consistency and texture of the paints, and every artist may have a different preference. "Some paints are thicker than others, and it’s up to us to decide what consistency we like," Struk shares.
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Madeleine Burry is a dedicated crafter. She’s written for the Spruce brands since 2019, covering crafts, pets, kitchenware, and home furnishings. You’ll find her writing on a wide array of sites, including Apartment Therapy, the Kitchn, Women’s Health, Livestrong, and others.
Additional reporting was done by Julia Fields, a lifestyle writer for The Spruce brands covering all things surrounding toys, gifts, and the holidays. She's also covered similar topics in other roles, including toy reviews, product roundups, expert-focused articles, and more.
Expert advice was provided by Chicago-based painted Yola Pilch and Los Angeles-based fashion illustrator and oil painter Sofia Struk.