Do paint brands make a difference?

  • I see a lot of people posting preferences for art supplies on here.  I have only been watercoloring for about seven years or so. I do not have any favorites and have a multitude of art brushes, papers, and paints. Honestly I don’t really see much of a difference in them.  I do think the more expensive sets have more pigment (or appear to) in them but other than that they all seem the same.  What specifically do each of these paints do as opposed to other brands? Why do you prefer them?

    I can’t say that I have a favorite brand.  I tend to like certain colors from certain brands, though.  Pigment load-vibrancy of color-is one thing I do look for.  But I also look at the formulation. Even though various brands might give a color the same name and pigment index, the actual paints vary in color, granulation, transparency and re-activeness.  The colors might look the same to eye but create different colors when mixed.

    Some people are very invested in certain of those qualities, preferring paints that are all transparent or all granulating, etc.  I like to have some of each and may have the same color in different brands just because those qualities vary.


    Yes, paint brands differ. The main thing is the quality of the pigment and the ratio of pigment to fillers. Pigment is everything in paint. Everything. Where it comes from, how well it is ground, what strength of color and how lightfast it stays over time…not fading out.

    As mentioned earlier in another post, I’m a big M.Graham fan. They use Blackberry Honey as their moistener and it also acts as a preservative. It is easy to re-wet and the pigment/color load is unlike any other I have compared it too. I have a clumsy chart I made somewhere, if you are interested, I can take a picture for you to see the difference.

    I think the brand of paint makes a huge difference!  I’m a M. Graham fan even more so after trying some of the others.

    But it all depends on what you like.  I love the explosion of color and fluid movement of M. Graham, others like the control and non-movement of Winsor Newton.  Winsor Newton does have some great colors that M. Graham does not have. Winsor Newton dries in the palette and M. Graham says soft even after years in a palette.  Check out Daniel Smith for some great colors!

    PS:  if this matters, M. Graham is made in Oregon

    I have been painting for quite few years now and while I think all the major brands are excellent I find that each brand has one or two colours which stand out above the others.   So, you need to mix and match a bit to get the best combination.  I am certainly not loyal to any one brand but I have found that Winsor and Newton and Daniel Smith meet all my needs.  I am sure that I could have said the same about any couple of brands though.  Any distinctiveness you obseerve when painting swatches tends to get lost among the mixing and blending that occurs when you actually get to do a paintings I think.

    I visited the M Graham plant a couple of years ago. It’s so small.  Nine employees and two buildings, one of which is for storing the ingredients for their paints.  But they explained to us, that it isn’t just the honey that creates their bright pigments.  It’s the fact that they are a small company.  They don’t make nearly as much paint as larger companies like Winsor & Newton.  Therefore, they can afford to add more pigment to every tube they make.  Winsor & Newton would have to add it to thousands of tubes every day, which would rapidly become too expensive.

    I agree with you Tom.  Charts can only tell you so much about a pigment.  And I suppose if a person painted only in certain ways, they might never see a difference.  And a difference that makes no difference is not a difference (wasn’t it Spock that said that, lol?).  My pocketbook would certainly be healthier if I would only choose my colors based on price, but I think my technique and my paintings would be the less for it.


    Interesting. I wonder how the plant compares to DS.

    I’ve wondered that too.  Daniel Smith is about 4-6 hours away from me, whereas M Graham is about 1 – 2 depending on traffic.  I seldom travel to that part of Washington, but have often thought that if I do I’d like to see if I could get a tour.  I doubt they let just anyone come through though.

    Fascinating.  I have some M Graham paints – my only problem with them is that the wonderful honey consistency means that they don’t set in the pan all that much and if the pans are in a box on its side for example I found that they ran out.  I have a friend who demonstrates for Graham in the UK and he thinks they are the best paints of all due to their rich pigmentation.  However for me, I prefer the W&N and D Smith because they harden up more in the pan.

    Thanks for that Sandra.  I seem to have settled into a particular palette of paints now and haven’t added any new ones for a year or so – unusual for me.  Probably I have about a dozen which are my favorites.  This has the benefit that I just buy the occasional single tube to top up my collection. Bad news for the paint manufacturers though who would prefer us to constantly experiment!

    Yes Rebecca.. I would love to see that chart!

    I do think they make a difference, in pigment, binders, cost per mg, and quality control.

    Air trapped means tubes of paints dry and I am seeing a lot of that now with Daniel Smith.  I’ve had three newer tubes dry out partially, sent one back.  I’ve had pops of air come out upon opening.  I also see separation in paint colors that I did not have separation in previously… not good.  I store my tubes on their side and this should not happen.  So I am looking for a go-to brand outside DS now (oh horrors to the many who love DS), though I will always be a huge fan of Primateks, and yes, separation is one thing that happens in some of them so I think from now on when I get a tube of DS it will go into many full pans, leaving me just a little bit in the tube for my mixing pans.

    There is also the difference in student grade versus artist grade, but that’s been said.

    Personally, I have never found a favorite in WN.  I think QoR is outrageously priced and just don’t get it, though I have two colors I buy from them because I love them.  I’ve tried many Holbeins early on and I can’t say they are my favorite paint — inconsistent quality — but again, they make a Quin Gold that I will always have in my palette as it is a softer QG and it makes wonderful skin tones

    I love MG but they don’t dry completely in Portland Oregon, so I don’t use them in my travel palette except Cobalt Teal.  Heavenly paints, the richest color.  I intend to buy more of them for the studio.

    Da Vinci is wonderfully creamy when rewetted, amazing pigment, and I will be replacing many DS as I use up tubes.

    Sennelier is excellent, a bit more expensive, but I love their paint and have loved it in pans (my first pan set was Senneleir) and even more in tubes.  I’ll buy more.

    I really am not willing to comment on Schminke yet… pan only, and am not sure I like their paints over Sennelier.


    Thank you for all of the feedback.  I believe I have some Daniel Smith somewhere and I also have some Robert Doak (which are extremely pigmented and very expensive) that I like alot right now. I have a few pans of multi brands as well and I like to water down acrylic at times.  I have never tried the M Graham and will have to look into the cost and such.


    A lot of people have the consistency problem with M Graham.  Kate Powell and I live within miles of each other and have had different experience with them.  I’ve never had them completely dry hard but most of them set enough so that I could even set the palette upside down without fear of them running. They are very much affected by the humidity and temperature.

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