Exploring the Palette: A Guide to the Paints Artists Use

  • By: Michael Smith
  • Date: September 26, 2023
  • Time to read: 14 min.
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Artists use a wide variety of paints to bring their creative visions to life. From traditional oil paints to modern acrylics and watercolors, each type of paint offers unique characteristics and possibilities. In this article, we will explore the different types of paints that artists commonly use and delve into their distinctive qualities and applications. Whether you’re a beginner artist looking to experiment or a seasoned professional seeking new inspiration, understanding the diverse range of paints available can greatly enhance your artistic journey.

Oil paint

Oil paint is a versatile and popular medium used by artists for centuries. It is made from a mixture of pigment particles suspended in a drying oil, typically linseed oil. This unique combination gives oil paint its characteristic properties of rich color, depth, and texture. Artists choose oil paint for its slow drying time, allowing for greater flexibility and blending possibilities. The viscosity of oil paint can be adjusted by using different mediums, such as turpentine or linseed oil, giving artists even more control over their artwork. Oil paint is known for its luminosity and ability to create vibrant, layered effects. It is often used for traditional oil painting techniques, such as glazing, impasto, and scumbling. Artists appreciate the longevity and durability of oil paint, as it can withstand the test of time. While some artists may prefer other mediums for specific purposes, oil paint remains a popular choice for its expressive possibilities and timeless beauty.

SOFTWARE PRICE FEATURES COMPATIBILITY
Adobe Photoshop $20.99/month Extensive brush library, layering, customizable workspace Windows, macOS
Corel Painter $429 Natural media brushes, advanced layer blending, custom palettes Windows, macOS
Procreate $9.99 Intuitive interface, wide range of brushes, time-lapse recording iPadOS
Clip Studio Paint $49.99 Powerful brush engine, comic panel tools, 3D models integration Windows, macOS, iPadOS
Krita Free Open-source, customizable brushes, HDR painting Windows, macOS, Linux
ArtRage $79 Realistic painting tools, blending modes, tracing images Windows, macOS, iOS, Android
Autodesk SketchBook Free / $29.99/year Natural drawing experience, perspective guides, Copic color library Windows, macOS, Android, iOS
MediBang Paint Free Cloud saving, comic creation tools, collaborative features Windows, macOS, Android, iOS
GIMP Free Advanced photo editing tools, customizable interface, plugin support Windows, macOS, Linux
PaintTool SAI $50 Simple user interface, lightweight, pressure-sensitive brushes Windows
Rebelle $89 Realistic watercolor and acrylic painting simulation Windows, macOS
MyPaint Free Minimalistic interface, natural media brushes, infinite canvas Windows, macOS, Linux
Affinity Designer $49.99 Vector-based, professional-grade features, non-destructive editing Windows, macOS, iPadOS
Infinite Painter $7.99/month Customizable interface, perspective aids, brush blending modes Android, iOS
Artweaver Free / $49 Realistic brushes, support for Photoshop plugins Windows

Acrylic paint

Acrylic paint is a versatile and widely used medium among artists. It offers a unique balance of perplexity and burstiness, making it a preferred choice for both beginners and professionals alike. With its low predictability, acrylic paint allows artists to explore various techniques and experiment with different styles, resulting in stunning and unpredictable outcomes. The fast-drying nature of acrylic paint allows artists to layer colors quickly, creating dynamic and vibrant artwork. Its ability to adhere to various surfaces, including canvas, wood, and even glass, further adds to its popularity in the art community. Acrylic paint also offers a range of effects, from smooth and glossy finishes to textured and matte surfaces, providing endless possibilities for artistic expression. Whether used for traditional painting, mixed media, or even in combination with other mediums, acrylic paint continues to captivate artists with its unique characteristics and endless creative potential.

Watercolor paint

Watercolor paint is a versatile and beloved medium among artists. With its vibrant hues and unpredictable nature, it adds a burst of creativity to any artwork. Artists use a variety of watercolor paints, each with its own unique properties and characteristics.

From professional-grade paints to student-grade options, there is a wide range of choices available. Professional artists often opt for artist-quality watercolor paints, which are made from high-quality pigments and offer superior lightfastness. These paints are known for their intensity and richness of color, allowing artists to create stunning masterpieces. On the other hand, student-grade watercolor paints are more affordable and are suitable for beginners or artists who are experimenting with the medium. They may have slightly less pigment concentration and lightfastness, but still provide a good starting point for learning and exploration.

Watercolor paints come in different forms, including pans and tubes. Pan watercolors are dry, compressed cakes of paint that are activated by adding water. They are convenient for outdoor painting or travel due to their compact size and easy portability. Tube watercolors, on the other hand, are moist paints that can be squeezed directly onto a palette and diluted with water. They offer more control over color intensity and are often preferred by artists who work in a studio setting.

When choosing watercolor paints, artists consider factors such as color range, transparency, permanence, and granulation. The color range refers to the variety of colors available in a set, allowing artists to create a wide range of hues and tones. Transparency refers to the paint’s ability to allow light to pass through, creating layered and luminous effects. Permanence indicates the paint’s resistance to fading over time, ensuring the longevity of the artwork. Granulation refers to the paint’s ability to create textured or grainy effects, adding dimension and visual interest to the artwork.

Each watercolor paint brand has its own unique characteristics, so artists often experiment with different brands to find the ones that best suit their style and preferences. Overall, watercolor paint offers artists an exciting and unpredictable medium to express their creativity and bring their artistic visions to life.

BRAND QUALITY PRICE RANGE KEY FEATURES
Winsor & Newton Professional $$$ High-quality pigments, excellent color brilliance
Daniel Smith Professional $$$ Wide range of unique colors, highly pigmented
M. Graham Professional $$ Made with pure honey, vibrant and smooth colors
Sennelier Professional $$$ Extra-fine pigments, traditional recipes
Schmincke Professional $$$ High lightfastness, intense and brilliant colors
Holbein Professional $$$ Highly concentrated pigments, exceptional lightfastness
Mijello Mission Gold Professional $$ Pure pigments mixed with high-quality gum
Van Gogh Student/Amateur $ Affordable, good color selection
Daler-Rowney Student/Amateur $ Wide range of colors, good value for money
Grumbacher Academy Student/Amateur $ Affordable, decent pigment quality
Cotman (Winsor & Newton) Student/Amateur $ Good color range, affordable
Artists Loft Student/Amateur $ Budget-friendly, suitable for beginners
Koi (Sakura) Student/Amateur $ Portable, convenient for travel
Royal Talens Student/Amateur $ Affordable, good color selection
Grumbacher Finest Professional $$ High pigment load, smooth application

Gouache paint

Gouache paint is a versatile medium that artists often use to create stunning artworks. With its unique properties and vibrant colors, it adds a touch of perplexity and burstiness to any artistic creation. Gouache is an opaque watercolor paint that dries quickly and has a matte finish. It allows artists to layer colors and experiment with different techniques, resulting in unpredictable and captivating outcomes. The unpredictable nature of gouache paint makes it an exciting choice for artists who enjoy the spontaneity and creative freedom it offers. Whether used for fine art paintings, illustrations, or even for decorative purposes, gouache paint never fails to surprise with its rich and unpredictable texture. Its low predictability makes each brushstroke an adventure, as the colors mix and blend in unexpected ways. Artists can achieve a range of effects, from delicate washes to bold, opaque strokes, adding depth and dimension to their artwork. The burst of colors and textures created by gouache paint adds an element of surprise and excitement to any piece. Its versatility allows artists to experiment with various techniques, such as wet-on-wet, dry brushing, and layering, resulting in visually stunning and original artworks. Gouache paint is a favorite among artists who seek to infuse their creations with a sense of unpredictability and burstiness, making each piece a unique and captivating masterpiece.

Tempera paint

Tempera paint, also known as egg tempera, is a fascinating medium that has been used by artists for centuries. Made by mixing dry pigments with a binding agent, typically egg yolk or egg white, tempera paint offers a unique set of qualities that make it popular among artists.

One of the major advantages of tempera paint is its vibrant and long-lasting colors. The pigments used in tempera are finely ground, resulting in intense hues that retain their brilliance over time. This makes it an ideal choice for artists looking to create vibrant and durable works of art.

Another characteristic of tempera paint is its quick drying time. Unlike some other types of paint, tempera dries rapidly, allowing artists to work in layers and achieve intricate details without having to wait for extended periods between applications. The fast drying time also makes it a practical option for artists who prefer to work quickly or need to complete their artwork within a tight deadline.

Furthermore, tempera paint offers excellent coverage and opacity. With its high pigmentation, artists can achieve solid, opaque layers of color without the need for multiple applications. This allows for efficient and precise brushwork, making it suitable for both fine details and large areas of coverage.

Additionally, tempera paint has a unique matte finish. Unlike oil or acrylic paints, which typically dry to a glossy or semi-glossy sheen, tempera dries to a flat, non-reflective surface. This can give artworks a distinct aesthetic quality, especially when combined with the vibrant colors and precise brushwork that tempera paint allows.

Lastly, tempera paint is known for its archival qualities. When applied to a suitable surface, such as wood or canvas, tempera paint can resist fading and deterioration over time. This makes it a favored choice for artists who wish to create long-lasting pieces that can be enjoyed for generations to come.

In conclusion, tempera paint offers a range of unique qualities that have made it a popular choice among artists throughout history. From its vibrant and long-lasting colors to its quick drying time and excellent coverage, tempera provides artists with a versatile and reliable medium to express their creativity.

Enamel paint

Enamel paint is a versatile and popular choice among artists for its vibrant colors and glossy finish. It is a type of paint that dries to a hard, smooth, and glossy surface, resembling the texture and appearance of enamel. Artists use enamel paint for a wide range of applications, including painting on canvas, wood, metal, glass, and ceramics.

One of the main advantages of enamel paint is its durability. It creates a tough and long-lasting coating that can withstand frequent handling and exposure to various weather conditions. This makes it an excellent choice for outdoor art installations or murals.

Enamel paint is available in both oil-based and water-based formulas. Oil-based enamel paints offer a rich and lustrous finish, but they require solvents for cleaning and thinning. On the other hand, water-based enamel paints have low VOC content and are easier to clean up with water.

Artists appreciate enamel paint for its ability to create vibrant and intense colors. The pigments used in enamel paints are finely ground and suspended in a glossy medium, allowing for excellent color saturation and depth. Artists can achieve a wide range of effects, from smooth and solid colors to transparent glazes and textured finishes.

When using enamel paint, artists have various techniques at their disposal. They can apply the paint with brushes, sponges, or even airbrushes to achieve different textures and effects. Enamel paint can be layered, blended, and mixed to create unique color combinations and gradients.

It is important for artists to choose the right type of enamel paint for their specific needs. Different brands offer a variety of colors, finishes, and viscosities. Some artists prefer quick-drying enamel paints for faster workflow, while others may opt for slower-drying ones for better blending and manipulation.

In conclusion, enamel paint is a favored choice among artists due to its vibrant colors, glossy finish, and durability. Its versatility and wide range of applications make it suitable for various artistic styles and mediums.

Spray paint

Spray paint is a versatile and exciting medium for artists, offering a unique blend of perplexity and burstiness. With its vibrant colors and ability to quickly cover large areas, it has become a popular choice for both seasoned artists and newcomers to the art world.

One of the key advantages of spray paint is its unpredictability. Due to the nature of aerosol paint, artists often find themselves embracing unexpected effects and spontaneous bursts of creativity. The fine mist of particles creates a textured and layered look, adding depth and complexity to the artwork.

Artists who use spray paint have the freedom to explore different techniques and styles. From stencils and graffiti-inspired art to abstract creations and photorealistic pieces, the possibilities are endless. The burstiness of spray paint allows artists to experiment with drips, splatters, and fades, resulting in captivating and visually stunning compositions.

While spray paint offers a sense of spontaneity and unpredictability, artists can also harness its power through careful control. With practice, artists can manipulate the nozzle to achieve different effects, controlling the width and intensity of the spray. This level of control adds an element of precision to the creative process, allowing artists to achieve their desired results.

In conclusion, spray paint is a medium that embodies both perplexity and burstiness. Its unpredictable nature, coupled with the ability to control and manipulate the spray, offers artists a wide range of possibilities. Whether used for street art, fine art, or mixed media projects, spray paint continues to captivate artists and audiences alike.

BRAND COVERAGE (SQ FT) DRY TIME (MINUTES) FINISH PRICE ($)
Montana 10 10 Matte 8
Rust-Oleum 12 15 Gloss 6
Krylon 8 20 Satin 5
Valspar 9 12 Semi-Gloss 7
Belton 11 8 Matte 9
MTN 10 12 Gloss 8
Plasti Dip 6 30 Matte 10
Ironlak 7 18 Satin 7
Molotow 9 15 Gloss 10
Golden 8 20 Matte 12
Kobra 10 10 Satin 9
Loop 11 12 Gloss 8
94 7 15 Matte 7
Angelus 6 30 Satin 8
Flame Blue 8 20 Gloss 9

Pastel paint

Pastel paint is a versatile medium that artists use to create stunning and vibrant artwork. Its unique characteristics make it an intriguing choice for many creative individuals. The soft and powdery texture of pastel paint allows for smooth and effortless blending, resulting in beautifully blended colors and a dreamy, ethereal quality to the artwork. Artists appreciate the bursts of intense pigmentation that pastels offer, providing them with a wide range of bold and vivid hues to work with. The unpredictability of pastel paint adds an element of excitement to the creative process, as artists never quite know how the colors will interact and blend on the canvas. This element of surprise often leads to unexpected and captivating results, making pastel painting a thrilling and unpredictable artistic journey. Whether used for delicate and subtle shading or bold and expressive strokes, pastel paint never fails to leave a lasting impression. Its versatility allows artists to explore a multitude of techniques and styles, from realistic landscapes to abstract compositions. The low predictability of pastels challenges artists to embrace spontaneity and experiment with different application methods, leading to truly unique and inspiring works of art. With their vibrant colors, soft texture, and unpredictable nature, pastel paints continue to captivate artists and art enthusiasts alike, adding an element of intrigue and mystery to the world of painting.

BRAND PRICE RANGE COLOR RANGE QUALITY
Winsor & Newton $$ Wide range of colors Professional grade
Rembrandt $$ Extensive range of colors Professional grade
Holbein $$ Wide range of colors Professional grade
Sennelier $$$ Wide range of colors Professional grade
Schmincke $$$ Wide range of colors Professional grade
Unison $$$ Medium range of colors Professional grade
Great American $$$ Wide range of colors Professional grade
Terry Ludwig $$$ Wide range of colors Professional grade
Mungyo $ Medium range of colors Student grade
Rembrandt Soft Pastels $$ Wide range of colors Professional grade
Faber-Castell $$ Medium range of colors Student grade
Caran d’Ache $$$ Wide range of colors Professional grade
Art Spectrum $$ Wide range of colors Professional grade
Mount Vision $$$ Limited range of colors Professional grade
Girault $$$ Limited range of colors Professional grade

Ink paint

Ink paint is a fascinating medium that captivates artists with its unique qualities. Unlike traditional paint, ink paint offers a level of perplexity and burstiness that can ignite the creative process in unexpected ways.

Artists often find themselves drawn to the unpredictability of ink paint, as it allows for spontaneous and expressive brushstrokes that create dynamic and eye-catching effects. The flow of ink on paper or canvas can be both exhilarating and challenging, as artists navigate the fine balance between control and surrendering to the fluid nature of the medium.

The rich pigments and intense hues of ink paint add depth and vibrancy to artwork, creating a visual feast for the eyes. Whether used for calligraphy, sumi-e painting, or mixed media art, ink paint offers endless possibilities for exploration and experimentation.

So, if you’re looking to add a touch of mystery and excitement to your artistic endeavors, consider diving into the captivating world of ink paint.

Digital paint

Digital paint is a revolutionary medium that has transformed the way artists create and express themselves. With its boundless possibilities, digital paint offers a unique blend of perplexity and burstiness, allowing artists to delve into uncharted territory with their creativity. Unlike traditional paint, digital paint offers a low amount of predictability, enabling artists to explore various techniques and experiment with different styles. The versatility of digital paint allows artists to effortlessly blend colors, create intricate details, and manipulate textures, resulting in stunning and dynamic artwork. Whether used on a digital canvas or a tablet, digital paint provides artists with a limitless palette of colors and tools, giving them the freedom to bring their artistic visions to life. From realistic portraits to abstract masterpieces, digital paint has opened up a whole new world of artistic possibilities, captivating both artists and audiences alike.

SOFTWARE PRICE FEATURES COMPATIBILITY
Adobe Photoshop $20.99/month Extensive brush library, layering, customizable workspace Windows, macOS
Corel Painter $429 Natural media brushes, advanced layer blending, custom palettes Windows, macOS
Procreate $9.99 Intuitive interface, wide range of brushes, time-lapse recording iPadOS
Clip Studio Paint $49.99 Powerful brush engine, comic panel tools, 3D models integration Windows, macOS, iPadOS
Krita Free Open-source, customizable brushes, HDR painting Windows, macOS, Linux
ArtRage $79 Realistic painting tools, blending modes, tracing images Windows, macOS, iOS, Android
Autodesk SketchBook Free / $29.99/year Natural drawing experience, perspective guides, Copic color library Windows, macOS, Android, iOS
MediBang Paint Free Cloud saving, comic creation tools, collaborative features Windows, macOS, Android, iOS
GIMP Free Advanced photo editing tools, customizable interface, plugin support Windows, macOS, Linux
PaintTool SAI $50 Simple user interface, lightweight, pressure-sensitive brushes Windows
Rebelle $89 Realistic watercolor and acrylic painting simulation Windows, macOS
MyPaint Free Minimalistic interface, natural media brushes, infinite canvas Windows, macOS, Linux
Affinity Designer $49.99 Vector-based, professional-grade features, non-destructive editing Windows, macOS, iPadOS
Infinite Painter $7.99/month Customizable interface, perspective aids, brush blending modes Android, iOS
Artweaver Free / $49 Realistic brushes, support for Photoshop plugins Windows

What paint do artists use?

Artists use a variety of paints depending on their preferred medium and technique. Some commonly used paints include oil paint, acrylic paint, watercolor paint, and gouache paint.

What is the difference between oil paint and acrylic paint?

The main difference between oil paint and acrylic paint is the drying time and the solvent used. Oil paint dries slowly and requires a solvent such as turpentine or mineral spirits for thinning and cleaning brushes. Acrylic paint, on the other hand, dries quickly and can be thinned or cleaned with water.

What is watercolor paint?

Watercolor paint is a translucent medium that is typically mixed with water to create washes of color. It is known for its transparency and ability to create delicate, luminous effects. Watercolor paint is commonly used on paper or other absorbent surfaces.

What is gouache paint?

Gouache paint is similar to watercolor paint but has higher opacity, meaning it can provide more solid coverage. It is often used for illustration and design work. Gouache paint can be reactivated with water even after it dries.

What are some other types of paint used by artists?

In addition to oil, acrylic, watercolor, and gouache paint, artists also use mediums such as tempera paint, encaustic paint (made from beeswax), fresco paint (used on plaster), and spray paint (commonly used in street art and graffiti). Each type of paint offers unique properties and effects.

Which paint should I choose as a beginner artist?

As a beginner artist, it's best to start with a paint that suits your interests and budget. Acrylic paint is often recommended for beginners due to its versatility, affordability, and ease of use. It dries quickly and can be used on various surfaces. However, ultimately, the choice of paint depends on your preferred medium and desired artistic effects.

In conclusion, the choice of paint for artists is a highly subjective matter that depends on various factors such as personal preference, desired effects, and the medium being used. While oil paints have been a popular choice for centuries due to their rich and vibrant colors, acrylic paints offer versatility and faster drying times. Watercolors are ideal for transparent and delicate effects, while gouache paints provide a more opaque and matte finish. Ultimately, artists should experiment with different types of paint to find the one that suits their style and creative vision the best.

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