Paints and paint quality

Paints and paint properties

There is no one type or brand of paints that a given artist uses. Some grind their own pigments (such as painters using the traditional egg tempera technique), use cheap off-the-shelf generics to create temprorary work, swim in poster paints that kindergarten kids use (and often wear), use the more expensive brands like Liquitex and Golden, favour economical varieties (also known as student) paints), and any variation that can be imagined.

I do not endorse one brand or another. To each their own ... to each undertaking, whatever works ...

For me as a starving artist, economy is essential. Paintings are substantial investments and as you would expect when buying a fine pino noir wine or a Corvette, you have every right to expect that quality materials were used, and as close to perfection in the application of ingredients and workmanship as humanly possible.

The quality of being paint

There are many types of paint: principally, I use acrylic paint. Acrylics were first first invented in the 1940s, and developed for artist use by an Ohio company Permanent Pigments in 1955. Acrylics are made with a liquified acrylic polymer resin (a plastic) and pigment emulsified in water. They work and look like oil paint, but are typically less toxic, they dry and cure much more quickly, and since acrylic cures as essentially a plastic, present a durable, long-lasting, waterproof finish. Other paints that I use occasionally are:

  • watercolour (in tubes)
  • powdered or liquid tempera or poster paint (just like kids do)
  • guache (a kind of thick watercolour)

There are many considerations in the quality of paints. Lightfastness is extremely important for artists and art lovers alike.


Lightfastnest of a colour is a measure of its permanence, saying
"The red stays the same red the day I bought this work and with luck, my descendants can admire that same red too."

The lightfastness rating indicates the resistance a colour hue has to change when exposed to light. Colors can lighten, fade, darken or turn grayer. Paint with poor lightfastness qualities may create an entirely different painting in time, generally not something you would want. Who wants a Dorian Gray when you purchased a Dorian Red? Pardon that ... forgive me Mr. Wilde.

Click to view a larger image in a separate 
window The systems used for lightfastness ratings of a paint and printed on the label depends on who manufactures them and the rating system used. There are many systems used ( manufacturers' in-house systems are common). Two examples of international systems are the American Standard Test Measure (ASTM) and the British Blue Wool systems. The ASTM gives ratings from I to V:

  • I is excellent (Blue Wool scale 7 and 8), suitable for outdoor display (high UV exposure)
  • II is very good (Blue Wool scale 6), intended more for interior display
  • III is fair (non-permanent) (Blue Wool scale 4 and 5), useful for non-permanent work such as set painting, temporary advertising
  • IV and V are poor and very poor, and not considered artist quality paint (Blue Wool scale 3,2 and 1)

Cadmium Yellow Light Hue, lightfastness II**
Cadmium Yellow Medium Hue, lightfastness I***

Cadmium Orange Hue, lightfasteness I
Cadmium Red Light Hue, lightfasteness I***
Portrait Tone, lightfasteness I***

Earth colours
Yellow Ochre, lightfasteness I
Raw Sienna, lightfasteness I
Burnt Sienna, lightfasteness I***
Red Oxide, lightfasteness I***
Raw Umber, lightfasteness I****
Burnt Umber, lightfasteness I

Cadmium Red Medium Hue, lightfasteness I***
Cadmium Red Deep Hue, lightfasteness I***
Alizarin Crimson Hue Permanent, lightfasteness I***
ACRA Magneta, lightfasteness I***

Deep Violet, lightfasteness II**
Dioxazine Violet, lightfasteness I****

Indigo, lightfasteness II**
Cerulean Blue Hue, lightfasteness I****
Cobalt Blue Hue, lightfasteness I
Ultramarine Blue, lightfasteness I
Pthalocyanine Blue, lightfasteness I***

Deep Green, Permanent, lightfasteness I***
Light Green, Permanent, lightfasteness I***
Hooker's Green, lightfasteness I***

Grays, Whites and Blacks
Neutral Gray, Value 5, lightfasteness I***
Titanium White, lightfasteness I***
Carbon Black, lightfasteness I***

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Contact Douglas Laing and sons Arts & Letters for further information.
P.O. Box 659, Winchester, Ontario. K0C 2K0   613-774-5180
e-mail Click to send me an e-mail about the acrylic paints that I use.
© 2012 Douglas Laing