Oil painting can be an expensive hobby. Due to the complex, arduous processes of sourcing, grinding, and treating pigments, 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.
1. Grumbacher Academy Oil Paint
Grumbacher’s Academy paints are designed for student use, but they’ll take you far in your painting journey. The pigments are finely milled to yield incredibly smooth, vibrant, and highly pigmented paints that provide excellent coverage. Notably, they also have an ASTM lightfastness rating of I, or excellent. The color line is also sizable, with 45 choices—though note that these are almost all blended hues. Still, these paints tend to have better tinting strength than all the other paints on our list, and they retain their richness when mixed with other mediums. This set comes with 10 0.81-ounce tubes.
2. Winsor & Newton Winton Oil Colour Paint
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 our top pick, 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 want to buy a lot of paint for practice without breaking the bank. This set comes with 10 0.7-ounce tubes.
3. Talens Art Creation Oil Color Set
Talens offers the most limited line of colors, with just 36 total, but it is a fantastic option if you want to practice color mixing—and therefore challenge yourself to create your own colors! The paint is made with vegetable oil, which is slow-drying and perfect for blending colors right on the canvas itself. The downside is that your paints will take a longer time to dry. Still, the oil addition makes pigments shine so colors appear intense. It is also easy to use straight from the tube, thin out, or build upon to create thick layers. The 12-milliliter tubes come in sets of eight, 12, or 24 colors.
4. Gamblin Artist Oil Colors Introductory Set
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: 48 total, including 10 different versions of white, from cool white to radiant to titanium-zinc white. The introductory set kicks you off with nine fundamental colors.
5. Daler-Rowney Georgian Introductory Oil Paint Set
The paints from this British company fall just behind Winsor & Newton in their color selection, with 54 colors in total. They 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-milliliter (7.5-ounce) tubes. One drawback is that they have relatively poor tinting strength. But they’re inexpensive, and a little goes a long way in terms of coverage.