• 10 Best Oil Paints in 2021 (Artist-Reviewed) 1
  • 10 Best Oil Paints in 2021 (Artist-Reviewed) 2
  • 10 Best Oil Paints in 2021 (Artist-Reviewed) 3
  • 10 Best Oil Paints in 2021 (Artist-Reviewed) 4
  • 10 Best Oil Paints in 2021 (Artist-Reviewed) 5

10 Best Oil Paints in 2021 (Artist-Reviewed)

Starting out with oil painting can be frustrating. You can watch tutorials and take classes, but the best way to learn is to get painting! So, how do you choose oil paints that will be a joy to work with? Are expensive paints really that much better? Are there any less-toxic options that still offer the same feel as traditional oils?


We tried our best to answer these important questions. We've searched online for the best oil paints for students, hobbyists, and professional artists, and also compiled a buying guide to help you get the most out of this enjoyable tradition. Check out all of our choices from our favorite Martin & F. Weber Permalba to other full sets!

Experts featured in this article

Susan Lucier-Ogawa
  • Last updated: 10-13-2021
  • 1,406 views
Table of Contents

In Collaboration With Artist Susan Lucier-Ogawa

In Collaboration With Artist Susan Lucier-Ogawa

Susan has a Master of Fine Arts in Oil Painting, has been a glassblower since 1998, and is a former drawing professor. So naturally, we thought to ask her to help us write and review this article about oil paints.


Her "painted drawings" are oil on paper and employ cartoon imagery to explore issues, ironies, and paradoxes in modern societies, often inspired by urban life in Tokyo. She has participated in juried exhibitions in the US and Japan. You can check out her work on Behance!

How We Chose Our Products

How We Chose Our Products

When picking our best oil paints, we chose by evaluating the following points:


  • How densely-pigmented the oil paint is
  • Determining the level of quality of the paint
  • Whether or not it can create special effects in paintings
  • Whether or not it's considered toxic


Keep these features in mind when you look for oil paints and don't forget to check out our buying guide for more tips!

Compare the 10 Best Oil Paints

Image
M. Graham & Co. Titanium White 180 1

M. Graham & Co.

Gamblin Artist's Oil Colors Introductory Set 1

Gamblin

Williamsburg Oil Landscape Colors Set 1

Williamsburg Oil

Royal Talens Cobra Artists' Water Mixable Oil Color 1

Royal Talens

Winsor & Newton Winton Oil Colour Basic Set 1

Winsor & Newton

Winsor & Newton Griffin Alkyd Fast-Drying Oil Colors 1

Winsor & Newton

Bob Ross 3-Piece Liquid Basecoat Set 1

Bob Ross

Daniel Smith Original Oil Color Pearlescent Shimmer 1

Daniel Smith

Natural Earth Paint The Earth Oil Paint Kit 1

Natural Earth Paint

Jack Richeson Shiva Artist's Paintstik 1

Jack Richeson

Name

Titanium White 180

Artist's Oil Colors Introductory Set

Landscape Colors Set

Cobra Artists' Water Mixable Oil Color

Winton Oil Colour Basic Set

Griffin Alkyd Fast-Drying Oil Colors

3-Piece Liquid Basecoat Set

Original Oil Color Pearlescent Shimmer

The Earth Oil Paint Kit

Shiva Artist's Paintstik

Features

Best Versatile White All Painters Should Have

Best for Those Starting From Scratch

Best Set to Take Painting Outdoors

Best to Get the Feel of Oils With the Ease and Safety of Acrylics

Best Student Set That Will Get You Through Painting 101

Best for Fast-Drying Results With the Properties of Traditional Oils

Best for Bob Ross's Wet-on-Wet Technique

Best to Add Some Shimmer and Sparkle to Any Color

Best Kit to Experience Making Your Own Paints

Best Oil Sticks to Expand Your Range of Techniques

Price$18.09$70.99$37.44$11.98$34.76$7.78$34.92$16.93$51.95$70.64
Amount150ml37ml tubes of 9 colors11ml tubes of 8 colors, 37ml tube of titanium white40ml21ml tubes of 10 colors37ml8 oz. jars of 3 paints37ml2 oz. packets of 10 colors, 4 oz. bottles of refined walnut oil and eco-friendly solvent12 full-size sticks
Suitable forAny painterAny painterPlein-air/landscape paintersPainters looking for easier, less toxic clean-upStudents on a tight budgetPainters who like to work quickly, or have tight deadlinesUsing as a ground for wet-on-wetAll paintersHands-on or environmentally-conscious artistsArtists and crafters who like experimentation
Colors/pigmentsTitanium, zincCadmium yellow light, cadmium red light, alizarin crimson, ultramarine blue, viridian, and moreTitanium white, permanent yellow light, cadmium red light, alizarin crimson, ultramarine blue, and moreSold individuallyCadmium yellow pale hue, cadmium red deep hue, French ultramarine, phthalo blue, and moreSold individuallyLiquid white, liquid black, liquid clearMica and reflective metal oxidesVenetian red, orange ochre, yellow ochre, terre verte, ultramarine blue, and moreSilver, gold, and other iridescent colors
Paint gradeArtistArtistArtistArtistStudentArtistN/AArtistArtistArtist
Link

10 Best Oil Paints

From sets to single tubes, professional to student-grade, traditional to modern technology - we've thought about it all and chosen the best products for a variety of needs based on customer reviews. Here are our favorite oil paints for beginners!

Amount150ml
Suitable forAny painter
Colors/pigmentsTitanium, zinc
Paint gradeArtist

GamblinArtist's Oil Colors Introductory Set

$70.99

Amount37ml tubes of 9 colors
Suitable forAny painter
Colors/pigmentsCadmium yellow light, cadmium red light, alizarin crimson, ultramarine blue, viridian, and more
Paint gradeArtist
Amount11ml tubes of 8 colors, 37ml tube of titanium white
Suitable forPlein-air/landscape painters
Colors/pigmentsTitanium white, permanent yellow light, cadmium red light, alizarin crimson, ultramarine blue, and more
Paint gradeArtist

Royal TalensCobra Artists' Water Mixable Oil Color

$11.98

Amount40ml
Suitable forPainters looking for easier, less toxic clean-up
Colors/pigmentsSold individually
Paint gradeArtist

Winsor & NewtonWinton Oil Colour Basic Set

$34.76

Amount21ml tubes of 10 colors
Suitable forStudents on a tight budget
Colors/pigmentsCadmium yellow pale hue, cadmium red deep hue, French ultramarine, phthalo blue, and more
Paint gradeStudent

Winsor & NewtonGriffin Alkyd Fast-Drying Oil Colors

$7.78

Amount37ml
Suitable forPainters who like to work quickly, or have tight deadlines
Colors/pigmentsSold individually
Paint gradeArtist

Bob Ross3-Piece Liquid Basecoat Set

$34.92

Amount8 oz. jars of 3 paints
Suitable forUsing as a ground for wet-on-wet
Colors/pigmentsLiquid white, liquid black, liquid clear
Paint gradeN/A

Daniel SmithOriginal Oil Color Pearlescent Shimmer

284340033

$16.93

Amount37ml
Suitable forAll painters
Colors/pigmentsMica and reflective metal oxides
Paint gradeArtist
Amount2 oz. packets of 10 colors, 4 oz. bottles of refined walnut oil and eco-friendly solvent
Suitable forHands-on or environmentally-conscious artists
Colors/pigmentsVenetian red, orange ochre, yellow ochre, terre verte, ultramarine blue, and more
Paint gradeArtist

Jack RichesonShiva Artist's Paintstik

Iridescent Set

$70.64

Amount12 full-size sticks
Suitable forArtists and crafters who like experimentation
Colors/pigmentsSilver, gold, and other iridescent colors
Paint gradeArtist

How to Choose Oil Paints - Buying Guide

Choosing oil paints can be daunting, especially when you're first starting out. And artists' materials all tend to be expensive, so it's tempting to just go with the special sale products online. But we want to help you make a more informed choice so you don't waste your money.

Choose Single-Pigment Paints, With No Binders or Fillers

Choose Single-Pigment Paints, With No Binders or Fillers

Even professional artists throw the word color around, but it's actually too general a term. What oils paint really is is a pigment, binder, and in cheap paints, fillers.


Pigment is what provides the color of the paint. There are countless sources - some natural and some manmade. Some are toxic and some not. And most importantly, some are more fugitive than others, meaning they lose or change their color more quickly.

Choose Single-Pigment Paints, With No Binders or Fillers

Traditional pigments have stood the test of time and are archival. There's a huge difference in the way pigments are prepared and mixed. In general, good oils will have only one pigment per color; having more leads to unpredictable blending.


Binders are the oils that suspend the pigment. The most common are walnut, linseed, and safflower. Cheaper ones may yellow over time, but other than that, it's really personal preference. Fillers are used in cheap paints to extend the paint or intensify the color, so we recommend avoiding them if you're a serious artist.

Susan Lucier-Ogawa
Oil Painter and Glassblower
Susan Lucier-Ogawa

Colors can change when exposed to light and air, and over time some colors can fade badly. Those colors are called fugitive, and colors that change less are lightfast. 


You can look for an ASTM rating on the paint, with I being the most lightfast and III being fugitive. Some manufacturers use a different ranking system, but it's important to look into lightfastness if you want your work to look the same in a decade as it does when it leaves your studio.

Start With a Few Main Colors, Not a Full Set

Start With a Few Main Colors, Not a Full Set

A full set of oil paints can seem like a great deal, but it's really only good if you're starting from zero. Once you have some experience, you'll quickly learn which colors you use a lot and which you never need to buy again. Don't be tempted to buy a lower-priced set with dozens of colors.


Why not? Well, they're not good quality, for starters. Chances are many will dry and harden before you use them up. And mixing your own hues, tints and shades is better for two reasons: you'll get more luminous results, and your painting will look more unified.


All you really need to start out is red, yellow, and blue (one cool and one warm of each) and a tube of white.

Susan Lucier-Ogawa
Oil Painter and Glassblower
Susan Lucier-Ogawa

Remember, if you have the right primary colors and white, you can pretty much make any secondary and tertiary color you need, so don't go nuts on a set. It's better to get some basic colors and add to your palette one at a time as you decide what you want. 


Some artists never use black, landscape artists may want more greens and browns, and abstract styles may call for brighter, more vibrant colors than most sets have.

Find the Best Quality Paints That Last a Long Time

You may have wondered why some paints seem to be great deals and others are really expensive. Well, the expression "You get what you pay for" is 100 percent true when it comes to oil paint. While it's ideal to get the best you can afford, there may be reasons you can get away with the cheap stuff.


There are usually three grades of paint. Manufacturers use different terms, but the idea is always the same. It's fine to mix them, but the quality of the worst one is what you'll end up with.

Student Quality Can Be a Waste of Money, Even for Students

Student Quality Can Be a Waste of Money, Even for Students

Student or study paints are the cheapest. They contain a high percentage of fillers and often use less expensive modern alternatives to traditional pigments. The colors may be more fugitive and not as intense. They're also difficult to mix because they're unpredictable.


Some think that they're fine to use until you learn to handle oils, but there's an argument to be made that there's little point in learning with something that's so different than the real thing. If you're only taking one painting class, or you use a ton of paint and don't care about the quality, they can work. But honestly, it might be better to consider high-quality acrylics instead!

Susan Lucier-Ogawa
Oil Painter and Glassblower
Susan Lucier-Ogawa

Fillers can make results vary, so you may have some colors that dry to a flat, dull finish or others that have very little pigment load and look washed out. You'll also experience unpredictable mixing results because most student-grade paints don't use pure, reliable pigments


That means you may end up wasting paint as you try to tweak it to get the color you want! Some student-grade paints are fine for beginners, and others can be incredibly frustrating to work with. Read reviews and stick with reputable brands. But if your syllabus says to get a certain set, well, just do what the professor says!

Most Beginners Should Buy Mid-grade Paints

Most Beginners Should Buy Mid-grade Paints

Paints labeled professional or fine quality are a big step up from student grade, even though they still can contain some fillers. Many experienced artists use these for their underpainting and then finish with high-quality oils on top. Everyone but the most casual painters should buy at least this level, including beginners and new students.


One thing to be aware of when choosing colors: if the name has the word hue in it, then it's not made with the traditional pigment, even though it may borrow that ingredient's name. For example, cadmium yellow hue is meant to imitate cadmium yellow but comes from a pigment other than cadmium.

Susan Lucier-Ogawa
Oil Painter and Glassblower
Susan Lucier-Ogawa

Mid-grade paints are perfect for studies, the paintings you do as sketches before a final work. Why? Because your study could end up being incredible in its own right, and if you've done it in decent paints, you'll be able to sell it with no worry as to its quality! 


Buying this grade is also great if you want to try out some new colors but aren't sure you'll like them. Look for small tubes; some even come in as little as five milliliters.

Consider Artist-Quality Paints for Exceptional Performance

Consider Artist-Quality Paints for Exceptional Performance

The best oil paints will bear a name like artist-quality, finest, or extra-fine, and some manufacturers only produce this grade. They contain no fillers, use high-quality ingredients, and usually use time-tested pigments that are more lightfast.


The tubes are usually single pigments, which make for consistent, predictable blending. They're also more concentrated, so they will go farther when making tints and shades or thinning them with solvents or medium. These are suitable for beginners and experts alike as long as you know what colors you want!

Susan Lucier-Ogawa
Oil Painter and Glassblower
Susan Lucier-Ogawa

If you buy artist-grade paints, you'll get to know which paints- not which colors- predictably give you the results you want, and you'll save money in the long run since you won't waste paint mixing up mistakes. I recommend getting artist quality for everything, but especially at least for colors you use the most.

Choose Special Paints for Special Results

Choose Special Paints for Special Results

For the most part, the kind or brand of paint you choose doesn't affect what techniques you can employ. If you plan to do glazing, which is applying thin washes of pigment and medium over semi-dry paint, you need to use colors that are concentrated. Use artist-quality paints for this technique or you'll be disappointed with the results.


Impasto techniques (using very thick layers) require thick paint, but you can always add medium to get the right consistency. Or, if you've bought some paint you don't like, this could also be a good way to use it up fast!

Choose Special Paints for Special Results

Unique modern colors, like metallics, fluorescents, or interference colors that change depending on the underpainting, are a lot of fun. However, since most haven't been around too long, there's no way to guarantee their archival quality.

Susan Lucier-Ogawa
Oil Painter and Glassblower
Susan Lucier-Ogawa

Oils paints used to be seen as having a more limited range than acrylics, which come in neons and more. But recently oils are catching up, and you can find all kinds of fun effects


It's always a good idea to limit crazy colors if you want a realistic look, though. For example, using a metallic color to replicate a silver cup in a still life won't look natural.

There Are Ways to Make Oil Painting Safer for You and the Environment

Oil paints by themselves aren't harmful to your health if used as intended. Don't eat while painting, and wash your hands before your snack break. If you sand down dried paint layers, be careful not to breathe in any dust.


Solvents used with paints are a bigger problem. If you have allergies to solvents, you'll be able to find products that will help. If your concern is the environment, you will likely have to make some compromises.

Water-Soluble Oils Mean No Toxic Solvent Fumes

Water-Soluble Oils Mean No Toxic Solvent Fumes

These paints are a modern invention based on old ideas. Some alter the molecular structure of the oil and others use emulsifiers, but the result is that you'll be able to achieve results close to using regular oils with the easy cleanup of acrylics.


They can be combined with regular oil paints up to about a 20 percent ratio before you'd need to use solvents to clean your brushes. People can develop reactions to solvents at any time, and they're just nasty anyway, so if you want to avoid them, give these paints a try.

Susan Lucier-Ogawa
Oil Painter and Glassblower
Susan Lucier-Ogawa

Oil paints themselves are far less dangerous to your health than the solvents used to work with them. So, water-soluble paints take away the most hazardous part of oil painting. They have the same feel and quality as regular oils, but some may be more transparent and they will dry faster. They're not to be confused (or mixed with) acrylics.

100% Eco-Friendly Means a Limited Palette

100% Eco-Friendly Means a Limited Palette

Many of the most-loved paint pigments come from toxic materials, such as cadmium, lead, or cobalt. These aren't dangerous to use unless you eat them, but when you wash brushes, tiny amounts of these heavy metals get into the environment.


You can avoid these colors, but finding substitutes is hard, as they just don't reproduce the originals. Synthetic substitutes also often still contain petrochemicals. You can choose to buy only earth colors, but you'll be missing the brightest hues from your palette.

Susan Lucier-Ogawa
Oil Painter and Glassblower
Susan Lucier-Ogawa

If you're going to go the earth-friendly route, why not try making your own paints? It's a fun way to really get in touch with your art. 


If you plan to use it up right away, you just need pigment, linseed oil, and a palette knife, but to make paint to store you'll need a muller and some time to grind everything together. This process will fully incorporate your mixture so the particles don't separate.

Get the Most Out of Your Paint With a Tube Wringer

It's almost too easy to waste your money when it comes to oil painting, but this tool will help you save in the long run!

Gill ManufacturingHeavy Duty All Metal Tube Wringer

$20.00

Frequently Asked Questions

Even though you might know what brands of oil paints to get now, you still might not know where to start. Luckily, Susan has answered some commonly asked questions for us!

What oil paints should I start with?

Susan says, "In theory, you need fewer than a dozen colors to get started. Get two reds, yellows, and blues, one warm and one cool of each. It should be noted that whether a color is cool or warm is hotly debated (pun intended) and depends on which brand and grade you buy as well.


For warm colors, I recommend cadmium red, yellow ochre, and cerulean blue; and for cool colors, try alizarin crimson, cadmium yellow light, and ultramarine blue. You'll also need a white, and titanium white is the most versatile. I would add Prussian blue, as I find it indispensable for creating rich blacks."

What should I use to clean oil paint brushes?

This might seem obvious, but water won't be enough to clean off your oil-soaked brushes! Instead, you should use a solvent like turpentine, turpenoid or odorless paint thinner to get rid of excess paint. Dip your paint-soaked brushes until most of the excess paint is gone, then use soap and hot water to condition the bristles and wash off the solvent.


However, you shouldn't do a deep-clean after every use unless you only paint once every few days. Too much cleaning will wear down the brushes. If you paint often, just wipe off excess paint with a towel and only do a deep cleanse when necessary.


If you want to avoid using solvents, some artists only clean their brushes using an oil like safflower oil from the grocery store. Wipe off as much paint as you can, then dip the brush in oil to get it all off. Finally, wash your brush in hot water and soap.

More Painting Supplies to Perfect Your Art

More Painting Supplies to Perfect Your Art

If your heart isn't solely set on oil paints, consider adding acrylics or watercolors to your art supplies as well!

Author: Susan Lucier-Ogawa

Updated by: Susan Lucier-Ogawa, 10/12/2021


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    Do you want to take your Halloween costume or cosplay to the next level but aren't sure how? A set of vampire fangs can add an air of realism or terror to any costume! Whether you're hoping to mystify or horrify, there is a set of fangs out there that's right for you. Plus, they come in various convenient options, with ones that are retractable, some that are customizable, and even ones that look like grillz.We've put together a list of the top 10 best vampire fangs for all of you creatures of the night. We made our choices based on the points listed in the buying guide below, as well as reviewer comments when available. At the top of our list is Scarecrow's Small Deluxe Custom Fangs because they are realistic, subtle, and reusable. Check out the rest of the top 10 list for more of our favorites, and take a look at our buying guide for some fangtastic shopping tips!
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  • Top 10 Best Calligraphy Sets in 2021 (Mont Marte, Speedball, and More)
    Top 10 Best Calligraphy Sets in 2021 (Mont Marte, Speedball, and More)
    Want to create beautiful lettering for labels, cards, art, and more? Want your handwriting to look just like a font? Consider getting into calligraphy! We've taken the time to scour the internet and find the 10 best calligraphy kits. We're reviewing based on ink selection, nib choice, and nib holder quality. To a slightly lesser extent, we're reviewing on aesthetics as well. The number one calligraphy kit on our list is the Mont Marte calligraphy set. It's a 33 piece calligraphy set that comes with everything a novice or expert calligrapher could want. To see what else we loved and how we chose it, read on to see our full top 10 list and our helpful buying guide!
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  • Top 10 Best Terrarium Kits in 2021 (Hirt's Gardens and More)
    Top 10 Best Terrarium Kits in 2021 (Hirt's Gardens and More)
    Plants can brighten up any home! As well as looking good, they can also improve your mood and mental health. If you spend a lot of time inside or don't have access to a garden, then house plants become even more important. However, plants can take up much-needed space and require lots of care. Terrariums are mini-gardens that can be used to grow small plants indoors! Often small enough to sit neatly on your desk, they're easy to care for and add some greenery to any space. If you don't have space (or a green thumb), then a terrarium might be what you need! We looked at all of the terrarium kits available online and found that the best kit was TerraGreen Creations' Easy Grow Complete Fairy Garden Kit. It's easy to plant, cute, and comes with everything you need for your own terrarium. Keep reading for the rest of our favorites and a handy buying guide!
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  • Top 10 Best Tarot Card Decks in 2021 (Matt Hughes, Kim Krans, and More)
    Top 10 Best Tarot Card Decks in 2021 (Matt Hughes, Kim Krans, and More)
    Are you looking for a little guidance? Tarot card decks are a unique way to find insight about life’s ups and downs. This historic hobby is still popular centuries later as many people find meaning and enjoyment in interpreting tarot cards. Tarot cards are highly symbolic, so choosing the right deck for you takes a little extra thought.No matter whether you’re looking for a modern deck with an esoteric tone or a playful deck with an approachable style, we’ve got you covered! We personally loved the timeless style of Da Bridgh's Original Tarot Cards Deck, but we'll let you be the judge. Whether you’re a beginner or a pro looking to add to your collection, we’ve selected the best decks that come highly rated by the tarot community.
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    9,073 views
  • Top 12 Best Japanese Vape Liquids in 2021 - Tried and True!
    Top 12 Best Japanese Vape Liquids in 2021 - Tried and True!
    When people talk about the enjoyment of vaping, they tend to talk about all the different flavored liquids they can use. You can choose from a variety of flavors; everything from regular tobacco and menthol flavors to sweeter ones like desserts and fruits. Yet, since there are so many to choose from, how are you supposed to know which ones taste the best?Luckily, our editors searched Japanese e-commerce sites like Amazon and Yahoo! Shopping for the 12 best vape liquids. Then we put them to the test! We examined each liquid for the following two criteria.How strong they smelledHow good they tastedSo just which vaping liquid has the best taste and aroma? Use this article as a reference to help you make your purchase!
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    2,938 views
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