Oil painting can be an expensive hobby. After the pigments for the paint have been sourced, mixed with a binder, and milled, some paints can reach shelves with hair-raising price tags. Thankfully, you can be kind to your wallet without sacrificing too much in terms of quality. There are plenty of student-grade and hobbyist oil paints on the market that are well worth inclusion in your art arsenal. These tend to be made with easily sourced or synthetic pigments, contain more oil or fillers, and lack outstanding lightfastness. But many still handle and perform very well. Our picks below will convince you that you can indeed achieve satisfying results with budget-friendly oil paints.
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Blick Artists’ Oil Paints and Sets
Affordable enough for everyday use, these are artist-grade oils that are easy for beginners to handle but carefully formulated so you’ll want to keep using them as your skills advance. The paints can be used straight from the tube, they apply smoothly, and the creamy texture is consistent across colors. Blick’s series includes 60 colors—about half of which are made from a single pigment (rather than from blended pigments, which are less predictable when mixed). Pigments are hand-ground into fine powders, and almost all are mixed with safflower oil to prevent finished works from yellowing over time (a handful are made with poppy or linseed oil).
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Winsor & Newton Winton Oil Paints and Set
In addition to being well priced, Winsor & Newton’s Winton line showcases the reliability that this longtime brand is famous for: You can buy multiple tubes of one color and they’ll be perfectly uniform. Slightly stiffer than Blick’s line, they are fantastic for learning the fundamentals of oil painting, from basic application to layering to mixing. The low cost stems from the fact that most of the paints aren’t single-pigment colors but rather blended hues, and the results have a lower pigment load and less vibrancy than pricier paints. Still, with 55 colors to choose from, this is a great line for students who need to buy a lot of paint without breaking the bank.
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Grumbacher Academy Oil Paints and Sets
Grumbacher’s Academy paints, like the Winton line, are designed for student use. The pigments are finely milled to yield incredibly smooth, vibrant, and highly pigmented paints that provide excellent coverage. The color line, however, is quite limited: There are just 45 choices, and almost all are blended hues. Still, these paints tend to have better tinting strength than Winton paints, and they retain their richness when mixed with mediums.
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Gamblin Artist’s Oil Paints and Sets
If you’re a beginning painter looking for a slightly nicer oil that isn’t quite professional-grade, consider Gamblin’s. These are handmade paints formulated with alkali-refined linseed oil so they are flexible, flow easily, and dry to a durable, brilliant finish. They are also good to use for pieces that demand longevity, as the oil will help slow yellowing. The buttery paint has a higher pigment concentration than others on our list, blend out beautifully, and simply feel good to work with. There is a wide range of colors to dive into, including 10 different versions of white, from cool white to radiant to titanium-zinc white.
Daler-Rowney Georgian Oil Colour
The paints from this British company have their drawbacks: They have relatively poor tinting strength, and they come in just 54 colors. But they’re inexpensive, and a little goes a long way in terms of coverage. These paints have a thick but softer body than comparable paints—they are quite oily—which gives them a natural, seamless flow that some artists might enjoy. These are also great paints for high-volume users, since they’re available in massive 225 ml (7.5-ounce) tubes.