Paints for the Artist

There are a variety of artists’ paints offering different properties.

Watercolour Paints

Watercolours are made from a mixture of pigments and gums, water is applied to make the paint soluble. The colours appear transparent when painted onto paper, the intensity of which can be increased by allowing paint to dry before applying further layers.

Range of watercolour colours

There is a huge range of papers and board available for the watercolour artist. It can be bought by the sheet, in gummed blocks, as pads or in sketch books. There are also different weights, surface finishes and fibre content to choose from.

Brushes for painting with watercolours need to be able to absorb water effectively. There are synthetic brushes which will do a good job of this, although the best brushes include those made from sable, squirrel and goat.


Gouache contains chalk and other opacifiers to make it more opaque than other watercolours. It can be used alongside watercolours or in its own right. The bold, opaque colours appeal to graphic artists and designers.

Acrylic Paints

Acrylic paints are thicker than watercolours and dry more quickly than most other paints allowing work to be completed quickly. They have excellent adhesion properties and will stick to a variety of surfaces. They move with the surface, expanding and contracting while still maintaining their integrity. The paints can be combined with a number of mediums to make them effective for block or screen printing and will retain inclusions such as the glistening Pearl-Ex pigments. They are a good option for beginners as mistakes can be over painted when dry.

Acrylic Paint Colours

As acrylic paints dry very quickly and it is essential to keep the paint on the brush moist otherwise it will dry hard and spoil the bristles. Keep a pot of water at hand, rinse the brush and leave in the water when at rest.

Alkyd Paints

Oil based alkyd paints can be used to mimic oils and acrylics and give a quicker drying time than oils. The resin dries to a hard water resistant film and can also be used to paint on surfaces such wood, glass and metal, as well as on outdoor items such as signs or murals. The paints can be used with traditional solvent thinners, and oil or alkyd based mediums.

Water-soluble Oil Paints

Solvent free oil paints formulated with linseed oil and safflower oil which can be cleaned up with water – no need for solvent based thinners and cleaners such as Turpentine.

Oil Paints

Oil paints consist of refined and finely ground pigment blended with a drying oil such as linseed to produce pure light fast colours. The viscosity and finish of the paint can be altered by combining it with a solvent such as white spirit or mediums such as Liquin. The slow drying aspect of the paint is easily offset by its hard wearing, glossy finish. The benefit of oil paint is that it gives an extended working time and unwanted dry layers of paint can be scraped off and overpainted. Solvents are required for cleaning up oil paints and for thinning; the environmentally friendly Zest It Oil Paint Dilutant and Brush Cleaner can be used as an alternative to turpentine or white spirit.

Different coloured Oil Paints

Acrylic, alkyd and oil paints can be used on many primed surfaces including cardboard, board, wood, and canvas. We sell a large range of primers for ‘sealing’ surfaces (see a selection online) as well as ready primed surfaces including stretched canvases, canvas sold by the metre, and canvas board. There is also a selection of special papers which have been prepared to receive either oils or acrylic.

When painting with oils it is important to select a brush which is capable of moving the thick, viscous paint around the canvas. Bristle brushes are recommended for this purpose although a hair brush will be more suitable if the paint is thinned. A long handled brush may be preferred for working at an easel.

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