Best Oil Paints for Professional and Beginner Oil Painting Artists

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There are so many different oil paint brands available! It can be overwhelming to choose (and know) the best oil paints for what you need.

Here is a clear overview of the best oil paint brands that range from top tier professional paints to more affordable student grade options. All of the brands mentioned here offer high quality paint as well as different types of oil paint. Some are thicker or runnier than others, while others might use a different type of oil in the paint.

Don’t be afraid to explore and try different paint brands before finding the one(s) that you love. You don’t need to limit yourself to a single brand at any point. I use several different oil paint brands on my own palette, as I prefer some colors from particular companies to another.

best oil paints to purchase at art store
choosing the best oil paints can sometimes be difficult!

This is not an exhaustive list but rather a curated list of some of the best oil paints you can purchase for what you need!

Professional grade oil paints

These oil paints are professional grade and will give you the best results. They all use the highest grade of pigment with no fillers. Even though these paints are the most expensive they will also go further and last longer than cheaper oil paints because of the amount of pigment they have.

Williamsburg Handmade Oil Paints and Sets

Williamsburg best paint for oil painting
Williamsburg oil paints are among the best for professional artists.

I mostly use Williamsburg oil paint for my own work (personally love these!) and find them to be among the best oil paints.

Williamsburg paints are different in that they were originally created by professional oil painter Carl Plansky. However, since his death the company has been taken over by Golden Artist Colours.

A lot of care goes into creating Williamsburg paints. They are produced in small batches to ensure the highest quality. These paints are handmade in the USA and you can be confident in their quality and enjoy the beautiful range of colors offered – over 170!

The downside to Williamsburg oil paints is that they are on the pricier side, but are worth it.

Old Holland Classic Oil Paints

best old holland paints for painting
Old Holland Classic (from the Netherlands) is widely known as one of the highest quality and best oil color paint brands available today.

One of my professors in art school would compare purchasing old holland paint to getting a cashmere sweater. Very expensive but luxurious and worth it!

Old Holland Classic was first established in 1664 by Dutch master painters and is the world’s oldest paint manufacturer! The paints they create are some of the best oil paints in the world. They set themselves apart by using some of the same production techniques as the Dutch old masters and are loved by many professional painters today.

These paints are made in the Netherlands with the utmost care, and you can really see and feel the difference in quality. The colors are beautiful and very rich. The pigment content is very high which means that no cheap fillers or artificial colors are added to the paint.

However, it is worth saying that oil holland paint does come out stiffer than other paint brands. So, you might need to use some linseed oil (or oil of choice) with the paint.

The paint is more expensive than other brands, but since you get very high-quality pigments it could be a better value than other brands when you see how far your colors go.

Michael Harding Artists (professional line)

a row of the highest quality and best oil paints in tubes
Very high quality (professional line) Michael Harding paints

Michael Harding is an artist from the UK who was inspired to recreate the rich colors that the old masters used. His paint-making operation is still run by him today!

The company prides itself on using the best pigments and ingredients to create their paints. Their paint is made in small batches so that they can continually test and tweak the recipe until they are satisfied with the results.

Michael Harding oil paints are quite expensive when compared to other brands. However, you are paying for high-quality ingredients and beautiful colors. No fillers whatsoever are added to the paint so a little bit of paint will go a long way!

With pricey paints like Michael Harding it is best to purchase paints individually instead of a set so that you can just get the colors that you need. If you wish to try out Michael Harding paints purchase a tube of a series 1 color and see if you like it!

Schminke Mussini paints

One of best oil paints for artists is Schmincke Mussini
Schmincke Mussini oil paints are not used as widely as some other paints but are still excellent quality

Schminke Mussini is a German oil paint brand that has been around since 1881. They have high quality pigments as well as a high pigment to oil ratio, which makes it perfect for fine details and glazing. They also contain natural resins which gives it a balanced drying process. Each color contains varying amounts of damar resin to ensure that all the colors dry at the same time – which in turn helps to create durable paint layers. It also has a long drying time, so it’s great for thick applications and painting wet into wet!

The main drawback to Schminke Mussini oil paint is that it has a high price tag. But, the quality of the paint is undeniable and it’s worth the investment for serious artists. If you’re looking for a great all-around oil paint, Schminke Mussini is definitely a brand to consider.

Mid range oil paint brands

Mid range oil paints are not at the level of hight-quality oils, but they offer a lot and are still much better than student grade paints. They are also less expensive than the top tier oil paints, making them a popular choice for many artists.

Winsor & Newton Artists Oil Colors

a box containing some of the best oil paints for artists
This is a very well-known brand that has been making oil paint colors since 1832.

Winsor & Newton oil paints are made in the UK and have a line of artist’s colors which is their professional grade oil paint. Professional grade paint contains more pigment than the student grade version and less filler to bulk out the paint. So, the price is always higher for professional grade oil paint.

Winsor and Newton paints are sold at most art stores and tend to be reasonably priced. When comparing the quality of W & N paints to top brands, they don’t come out as the best but are still a very good option.

The colors mix well and are consistent and reliable. They are great to try out, especially if you are just starting with oil paints. Some professional artists stock up on Winsor and Newton with colors they go through quickly as this will save them some money!

Sennelier Artists’ Extra Fine Oil Paints

Sennelier oil paints are handmade with good pigments.

Sennelier is a French company that has been around since 1887 and offers a wide range of colors in their line. Sennelier oil paints are handmade with good pigments.

Most oil paints use linseed oil as their binder but Sennelier uses safflower oil instead. The advantage of safflower is that it will cause your painting to yellow less over time. So, you can be sure that your painting will not develop as much of a yellowish tinge compared to other paints years down the road.

Since Sennelier paints use safflower oil it will take longer to dry than paints using linseed oil as a binder. This can be to your advantage if you like to work wet into wet!

The paint consistency is runnier compared to paints that have linseed oil as a binder. If you like to be able to easily spread your paint across a canvas you might want to try this brand.

M. Graham Oil Paints and Sets

M. Graham & Co. oils are an excellent choice if you get frustrated with paints drying too quickly. These are one of the best slow drying oil paints

M. Graham oil paints are made in the Pacific Northwest and are created using walnut oil instead of linseed oil. Most paint brands use linseed oil so this makes them stand out. Like the Sennelier brand, they also dry slower than paints that use linseed oil so you can enjoy working wet in wet for a longer time. Walnut oil also yellows less over time than linseed oil does.

M. Graham paints are solvent free which makes for a less toxic painting experience. No fillers or additives are in the paints so you get superior pigments with M. Graham. The paints are handmade in small batches which results in a superior paint quality.

If you are looking for an environmentally friendly and high-quality paint then M. Graham is a great option. They are also less expensive compared to similar level paints. I used M. Graham paints for years before switching to more expensive paints. They are still a beloved paint brand in my studio and find their way into my paintings.

Gamblin Oil Paint

Gamblin is a common brand used among art school students as well as some professional artists.

Gamblin oil paints and sets are a great option for those who want very high quality paints but aren’t yet ready to shell out a lot of money for top tier brands.

These oil paints are made in the USA and have high quality pigments. The downside to them is that they don’t have as many colors as other brands.

However, the colors Gamblin does have are very vibrant and mix well. The paint consistency is thicker than other brands so it can be harder to spread the paint evenly.

Gamblin oil paints are moderately priced and the quality is much better than what you would find in a student grade paint. If you are looking for a high-quality but affordable option, Gamblin is a great choice!

Student grade (beginner) oil paints

Student grade oils are the cheapest and are not as finely ground as the other two grades. They are also less pigment dense, so the colors are not as bright.

Oil paints brands in this range, can be great for beginner oil painting artists. As well as those who wish to try out painting and see if they want to invest further and get better materials. There are some great brands available for student grade paint!

Winton Oil Paints and Sets

Winton is a great alternative for students or beginners who need to save money.

Winton oil paints are the student grade paint line of Winsor and Newton. They are less expensive than professional grade paints and have a lower pigment concentration.

The colors in the Winton line are not as vibrant as professional grades and some of the more expensive pigments are not available.

Also, the binders in Winton paints are not as high quality as those in the professional grade oil paints.

However, the Winsor & Newton Winton line does have some good colors and the paints mix well. They are a great option for those just starting out with oil painting or on a tight budget.

Daler Rowney Oil Paint

Daler Rowney oil paints were founded in London and have been around 1783

Daler-Rowney georgian oil paints are another student grade paint line, and are less expensive than the Winsor and Newton Winton line.

The colors are vibrant and mix well. The binders used in the Daler Rowney paints are of a higher quality than in the Winton line.

One downside to the Daler Rowney paints is that they don’t have as many colors as the Winton line does.

They’re a great brand of oil paints for beginners wanting to try out oil painting for the first time, or if on a tight budget.

Van Gogh Oil Paints

Van Gogh Oil Paints – Set of 10 Colors is a great starter set before investing more in oil painting.

Van Gogh oil colors are student grade oil paints made in the Netherlands. The colors are vibrant and mix well. The binders in Van Gogh paints are of a higher quality than in the Winton line.

One downside to the beginner oil paint brand, is that they don’t have as many colors as the Winton line.

They are a great option to try out oil painting for beginners! Though if you find that you love oil painting, I recommend upgrading your paints the next time you purchase.

Choose the best oil paints for your own needs

It is important to choose the best oil paint for your needs wisely. Resist the temptation to just purchase what is the cheapest. Think of buying quality materials as an investment in your painting.

Personally, It took me a while to find the best oil paint brands I really liked. It was not until receiving guidance and recommendations from trusted instructors that I felt more confident with the paint I purchased. However, even though I have a set palette of colors I still keep myself open to adding and trying different brands and colors!

I think it is important to experiment and keep yourself open to trying new colors. It is sometimes good to add something new to your painting practice.

Choosing good quality paints

Above all, try to purchase high quality oil paints. Painting is a big time investment! There is nothing more valuable than your time and good paints will give you the best painting experience and results. They will also help your paintings to age well over time.

So, be adventurous and try out some new good quality paints! You can start out small and just buy a few tubes or get a whole new palette of paints!


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    Hello! I'm Elisabeth Larson Koehler

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    6 thoughts on “Best Oil Paints for Professional and Beginner Oil Painting Artists”

    1. Hello Elisabeth. I thank you for your rating of the various brands commonly available but there is one element about which I can find little information. Where do you place Winsor & Newton ‘Griffin’ fast drying oil paint in the table of professional quality paint? I like using the paint which is considerably cheaper than their Professional range (and appreciate the speed of drying) but does the cheaper price necessarily mean lower quality? I am not aware of a loss of quality. Please clarify

      1. Hi Ian, I have never used Winsor and Newton griffin paints before, however winsor and newton paints in general are very good. You are correct, it is difficult to understand the exact quality specifically of griffin winsor and newton paints. One of the best ways to figure that out might be to contact the manufacturer via e-mail and ask if its quality is more similar to their student grade (winton) paints or if it is more similar in quality to their artist grade paints. This should help a lot to understand what level of quality it is.

    2. Sheree C Carter

      Hello Elizabeth, How do you rate the water mixable oils and have you tried Schmincke Medium W on lesser grade oils?

      1. Hi Sheree! I personally use traditional oils for my own work but have tried water mixable oils. The ones I used were not as good as the traditional oil paints I have. However, I think more and more effort is being put into water mixable oil paints and making them better. I plan to try them out again and see how they are and write about them in a separate article in the future. Thank you for mentioning Schmincke Medium W – I actually hadn’t heard of it yet so am happy to know about it 🙂 Will be trying it out!

          1. Hi! I would put Rembrandt paints in the medium tier category of this article – and I consider them to be a big step above the Van Gogh paints (which I put in the ‘student grade’ category of this article). This isn’t an exhaustive list of all paints which is why I didn’t list Rembrandt paints. But I do think Rembrandt paints are also a good option along with the other paints in the medium tier category. They have a lot of more transparent colors that can come in handy for glazing!

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