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  • Jenny Gilchrist

Why do I need to use Artist quality paint? It's so expensive!!

Ugh...yes it is. Isn't it. But wait....compared to Student quality does it stack up?

OK - Student paints are cheaper and often supplied in bigger tubes, so you get more for your money. You can even get giant sets for the same price as one or two tubes of artist quality paints. You might even think they look and feel just like the real thing, and how great are those colours!!

BUT - Student quality paint is false economy.

1. They are full of fillers and gum to bulk out the pigment. You are not getting the absolutely pure colour pigment that you get in artist paint. So you only need the TINIEST amount of artist paint to get the same depth of colour as a large blob of student paint. You'll use up your student paint 3 or 4 times as fast, and therefore need 3-4 times as much. 1 tube of artist quality = about 3-4 tubes of student.

Gorgeous Daniel Smith Artist quality paint

(Daniel Smith Artist quality - left)

2. Artist paints are lightfast. They are governed by an ASTM rating which gives it a lightfast rating internationally. Pigments which are fugitive (not lightfast) have been slowly phased out by reputable companies. Student quality paints do not have to comply with these ratings, nor display them. They can, and will fade.

Winsor & Newton Artist Quality Watercolour Paint

3. Artist quality paints can be used for many years, even after they've completely dried out. EVEN if they've dried in the tube. Actually, many artists prefer dried paint (or pans). We squeeze the whole tube into the palette and let it dry out. Then we wet it when we need it. (much easier to transport too!) So if your tube dries, cut it open and keep using it. But if you have student quality paint, chances are you'll just find dried glug, crumbly fillers and separated garbage. Once they're dry, they're usually useless.

Art Spectrum, Aussie made, Watercolour Artist quality paint

4. and finally, artist quality paint is made with all natural pigments, concoctions of minerals, herbs and chemicals which are rated and advertised on the sides of the tube. If the 'colour' is not natural, they'll tell you...describing it usually as a Hue. Manganese for example, is unable to be produced now due to toxicity. (I think?) and we now have Manganese Hue. That's fine. But if it's not real I want to know.

Schminke Artist Quality Watercolour paint

So cobalt blue is made from cobalt. Cadmium red is made from Cadmium. Raw Umber is made from Italian dirt!! It's true. AND real pigments have those gorgeous qualities we expect... Burnt sienna granulates, (fake sienna doesn't), Cadmium is almost opaque, but super bright, (fake cadmium might not be), Phthalo blue stains and shoots out in water, but fake Phthalo doesn't. But student quality paint can be made from anything. So the pigment is not necessarily what it says it is. Therefore results can be irregular, unexpected and unsatisfactory. If I'm painting with Ultramarine blue, I expect it to be exactly the colour I imagine. Not something different. I get the right thing with artist quality.

5. Using Student grade paint can yield student grade results. You'll ALWAYS get better, more interesting, and higher quality results with artist paint. Students don't need disappointment, they need encouragement. So I hope this has explained why I prefer my students to use good paint. :D

So what brands are artist quality? You can usually tell by the price - Au $9 - 25 a tube. Art Spectrum (made in Australia and beautiful paint) Daniel Smith Winsor and Newton (not Cotmans) Schminke, Maimeri Blu ....and more.

Which are Student quality brands: You can usually tell by the price $3 - 10 a tube. Cotmans (by Winsor & Newton), Monte Mart, Van Gogh, White Nights, ugh...I don't even know or care.

Wait for more blog from Jenny, coming soon. :)

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