Friday, February 28, 2014

Paint Quality

Often I am asked why professional grade acrylic paints cost so much compared to craft paints or student grade paints.  I am asked a lot of questions about paint, and I will address this one here.  You can find loads of information about specific brands of paint on manufacturers' and retailers' web sites as well.
Golden, Blick Studio, and Liquitex Basics Paints
Americana Craft Paints

Pigment Load

Pigment is the expensive part of paint.  The higher the pigment load, or relative proportion of pigment to "binder" (acrylic polymer emulsion, in acrylic paints, plus, in cheaper paints, various fillers), the more expensive the paint will be on a per volume basis.

A paint with high pigment load, any professional quality paint, will produce more intense color, and can be extended (diluted) with medium (matte medium, glazing medium, etc) much further than a paint with low pigment load (craft paint).  In my Unlocking the Secrets of Color class I always suggest that you extend the darker colors (pthalo blue, especially) with medium; otherwise they look almost black because the pigment is so dense.  

In this video I am comparing professional quality paint (Golden, though I also use some Holbein paints and Sennelier, and you may find brands that you prefer) with craft paint (Americana), and then I try student- or economy-grade paints, in two different colors.  The student-grade paints are in two different brands:  Blick Studio Acrylic for the quinacridone magenta, and Liquitex Basics for the yellow.  So...  this is not very scientific.  I'm not intending to compare brands, just to compare color intensity with two different colors, over three different price-ranges of paint.  I suggest you conduct your own tests using this credit card scraping method.

Another test of pigment load is to mix your paint with titanium white and see how much white it takes to achieve a given "tint" of your color.  This is called "tinting strength":  the more white you have to add, the greater the pigment load and the better the tinting strength.  Your results are likely to vary a bit from color to color, and the different brands of paints will vary as well.

Transparency and opacity are a different issue, and we'll look at it in a later post. Hope this is helpful.

9 comments:

  1. I'm looking forward to your video on transparency vs opaque. I prefer to use transparent colors and own many many bottles of Golden fluid acrylics... which I love. And I use the Golden fluids and Golden Open and Golden Heavy Body paints for "painting." But for creating collage papers, I simply can not afford to use Golden paints because I use so much of it. The problem is that almost all craft paints are opaque. I have used Blick Matte Acrylics which are also all opaque. I guess that I need to try the Blick Studio Acrylics if I want a cheaper paint that is also transparent. Thanks.. as always.. for doing this video and all of the tutorials that you generously share !!!

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    1. The Blick Matte Acrylics are meant to be uniformly opaque, and I use them precisely for that quality. Definitely supplement your Goldens with some studio-grade paints such as the Blick Studio or Liquitex Basics. Many manufacturers of artist-quality paints also have a cheaper line of paints.

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  2. Cheap paints have their place, but there's no beating Golden for pigment load. Pity they are so expensive in Australia.

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    1. They are expensive anywhere. But, do try other professional grade brands. I was impressed with the Liquitex and the Blick Studio paints. I thought they would wash out more; I tried the tinting strength test, and they both tested out really well.

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  3. Thanks for sharing this video. I have a question: Is there no difference in lightfastness/archival qualities in craft paints and artists paint?

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    1. YES YES YES!!! Some craft paints actually have dyes in them that are not light fast. And they also have additives to make them a consistent sheen over the range of colors. The Goldens and other really good paints have high quality acrylic binders, so they dry to a nice flexibility too, with good adhesion to the substrate.

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  4. I found this video really helpful. I was just about to add to my paints and have chosen Liquitex basics. I always enjoy your blog and videos.

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  5. I just love the scientist in you! This was great! Do more! Post (and label) finished comparisons?
    Question: Why do I not get your blog updates anymore in my email?
    Selena

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    1. Hi Selena! As a scientist yourself, you can appreciate how SLOPPY this is as science. But you are right, there is a little scientist inside me, and I certainly brainstormed ways of making this much more rigorous and precise. Then decided to use what I had on hand, make it pretty simple, sloppy, un-precise, but still illustrate a point. But for the next one I'll do the labeled comparisons (I did actually scan the samples, but my internet connection in the studio isn't working - my scanner is out there, and I save to Dropbox, then work on the post on my laptop in the house. All more cumbersome if I have to transfer to a zip drive etc.)

      Try signing up for "Follow By E-mail" again. I don't really know how this works - it's a blogger thing.

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