Best Oil Paint Sets

Updated October 2019
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
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Why trust BestReviews?
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
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We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

23 Models Considered
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Zero products received from manufacturers.

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

Buying guide for best oil paint sets

Last Updated October 2019

Often, the most important thing we should add to our hectic schedules is some downtime. One of the best ways to do that is with a rewarding hobby. Besides relieving stress, oil painting can increase memory, enhance critical thinking, and improve motor skills. To get started, you need a quality oil paint set.

The best oil paint set will be slightly different for each individual, depending on his or her preferences and artistic needs. Paints with vibrant pigments that are fade-resistant and easy to work with are the most desirable. Red, yellow, and blue are typically the most important colors to have, but depending on your artistic vision, you may prefer a set that contains different colors.

If you would like to learn more about painting with oil paints, keep reading this article. If you are ready to dive into your new hobby now and just want some highly rated options, consider the oil paint sets that we've recommended.

Oil paint often contains linseed oil, which, over time, will deteriorate a canvas. Before painting, your canvas must be primed and sealed, preferably with gesso.

How does oil painting work?

There are two basic components of oil paints: the pigments and the drying oil. The pigments are what provide the color while the oil might best be thought of as the initial consistency.

After being applied to the canvas, oil paints dry slowly through oxidation (a chemical reaction with oxygen) that makes the paint turn hard. This slow-drying process gives the artist time to work with the paints to create and finesse their vision.

An additional substance (a medium) may be added to the oil paint by the artist to alter factors such as the drying time or the paint's consistency/transparency.

High-quality handmade oil colors

Williamsburg's oils are hand-crafted in small batches so each color can be given a unique and lasting character. Because of this, these paints are not a low-end item, you're getting some of the highest quality oils available. This particular set comes with ten warm earth tones that are perfect for creating your masterpiece.

Oil paint set considerations

Pigments

The most important feature to consider when choosing an oil paint set is the pigments. Higher quality oil paints use more pure pigmentation (natural substances) and less synthetic filler. This pigmentation is also more finely ground in higher end oil paint sets to produce a smoother, more even consistency.

Oil paints made with pure pigmentation offer brighter, more vibrant colors that provide better coverage. The pure pigments also hold their original color much better than paints that use synthetic pigmentation and fillers. Because a little goes a long way in regard to pure pigments, higher grade oil paint sets often have smaller tubes.

Oils

The oil used in creating oil paint is responsible for providing many important qualities. The most common oils include linseed oil, walnut oil, safflower oil, and poppyseed oil.

  • Linseed oil

This oil is made from the seeds of a flax plant and typically gives the paint a higher gloss while making it more transparent. It also has a tendency to add a yellow tone and dries completely in about three to five days.

  • Walnut oil

Walnut oil makes your paint more fluid and produces less of a yellow tint than linseed oil. It typically dries in about four or five days.

  • Poppy seed oil

This is the slowest drying oil — it can take up to seven days to dry — so it should not be used on the lowest levels of paint in your painting as it may cause cracking. Poppy seed oil gives the paint a slightly thicker consistency and is the least likely to yellow.

  • Safflower oil

Safflower oil has similar properties to poppy seed oil, only it dries a little faster.

DID YOU KNOW?

A medium is a substance that is added to oil paint that alters the consistency, the drying time, or the finish of your painting.

Other considerations

Although oil paints can be modified by being mixed with other substances (mediums), it is most advantageous to work with a set of paints that already has the key features you desire.

Consistency

Each artist has a consistency that he or she prefers. This consistency may change depending on technique. A thicker, creamier paint that feels like butter, for instance, is better for techniques where retaining brush texture is important.

Finish

Just like the paint in your house, different oil paint sets offer different sheens. Whether you prefer a matte finish or something with a higher gloss, it's up to you. Look for the paint that offers what you desire.

Color choice

Although there is a basic set of colors that are the most versatile, ultimately, the ones that come in your oil paint set are a matter of personal preference. For instance, if you are looking to work in earth tones you will want a different set than someone looking for a wide and diverse range of vivid colors.

Tube size

The size of the paint tubes can be deceiving. High-end oil paint sets offer paints that are rich in pigmentation and often may come in smaller tubes, yet allow you to achieve the same (if not better) results as a larger, less pigmented tube of lower-end paint.

The most important colors to have

Painting with oils is not like coloring with markers, pencils, or crayons — as already stated, you do not need every color imaginable to create a vibrant work of art. Because you mix and blend to create what you need, your palette can actually start off with just a few essential colors. Following is a list of colors that together as a base set of paints offer the widest range of possibilities for a beginner.

  • Titanium white

  • Ivory black

  • Cadmium red

  • Alizarin crimson

  • Cadmium yellow

  • Ultramarine blue
     

Some other desirable colors you may want to consider are:

  • Cadmium yellow light

  • Yellow ochre

  • Burnt sienna

  • Raw umber

  • Phthalo Blue

  • Cerulean blue

  • Cobalt blue

  • Permanent green light

  • Sap green

  • Violet

EXPERT TIP

As a general rule of thumb, the less you spend on oil paints and brushes, the more difficult they will be to work with.


Staff  | BestReviews
EXPERT TIP

Oil paint sets have deceptively small tubes. Because the colors can be so rich and concentrated, a little bit will go a long way.


Staff  | BestReviews

Oil paint sets prices

Oil paint sets start at $14. These paints are often made from inexpensive or synthetic pigments, which are fine for a student who is just beginning. These sets also typically give the burgeoning artist a wide range of colors.

At around $25, you start finding sets that are for the more serious artist, or students. These oil paint sets tend to have about half the colors as the lower priced sets, but they are of considerably higher quality.

As you move past $60, you will find oil paint sets that are for the serious artist, offering some of the highest quality paints with long-lasting colors. Some of these sets may offer drying oils and brushes, which will come in handy, but if you're just looking for paints, these extras won't be needed.

Budget-priced, vibrant, and long-lasting

Castle Art Supplies' Oil Paint Set provides the beginning painter with a wide palette of 24 expertly blended colors that are highly pigmented to offer remarkable vibrancy. The paints have an even consistency that allows them to be applied effortlessly. The long drying time gives the artist the freedom to enjoy the journey and relish the creative process.

Oil painting tips

You probably weren't allowed to use oil paints as a child because they stain, so the medium has a bit of mystique to it. To help get you started doing your best work, here are a few tips for working with oil paints.

  • Set limits: Limit your colors. The fewer colors you work with, the more control you will have.

  • Work clean: Do not allow your unclean brush to contaminate the colors on your palette.

  • Control your strokes: Whether you are in tight or using broad motions, painting is all about being in control of how you apply the paint to the canvas.

  • Experiment with mediums: Do you like your paint thick and creamy or thin and fluid? Find the medium that works best for your needs.

  • If at first...: Don't just paint a subject once. Paint it several times.

  • Less is more: The less colors you mix, the more vibrant your blend will be. Also use the smallest amount of paint that will get the job done.

  • Knife painting: Don't be afraid to use your palette knife for painting. It's not always about adding more, some impressive effects can be accomplished by scraping away paint with your palette knife.

  • Focus: No matter what you are painting, always include a focal point, the area where you want the eye to zero in on first.

Other products we considered

We've spotlighted a number of highly rated oil paint sets. However, there are a few more that we'd like to bring to your attention. Winsor & Newton Winton Oil Colour Paint Basic Set provides ten essential colors with moderately priced pigments, which are suitable for both students and professional artists who are on a budget. M. Graham & Co. has a solvent-free oil paint set that offers five essential colors (azo yellow, napthol red, ultramarine blue, phthalo green and titanium white) along with non-yellowing walnut oil and walnut alkyd mediums. For higher end oil paints, Jack Richeson has a set of 12 professional grade paints that are produced in small batches to control quality and feature a creamy texture.

The longer it takes for your oils to dry, the more time you will have to finesse your painting to perfection.

FAQ

Q. Why are some oil paint sets so much more expensive than others?

A. There are many factors that affect the price of oil paints, but the most important ones to consider are the quality, texture, and materials used for pigmentation. These elements can vary greatly from one company to the next. Less expensive oil paints tend to have pigments that are synthetic and use more filler. These paints are often coarser and deliver a less than ideal painting experience. The lower end pigments also typically do not hold their color as well as higher end paints.

Q. Are oil paints toxic?

A. Although most oil paints are non-toxic to humans, there are still some that do contain pigments that require warnings from the American Society for Testing Materials (ASTM). These paints will be labeled as dangerous, so it is important to always read the label. The best way to proceed is to develop safe working methods and treat all paints as being potentially harmful, not only to yourself, but to pets and the environment.

Q. What other supplies will I need besides my oil paint set?

A. If this is your first time using oil paints, there are a number of other materials you will want to have besides the oil paint before you begin creating. A stretched canvas, gesso (for priming), oil brushes, palette knives, a pencil, a gum eraser, an easel, a palette, turpenoid, linseed oil (or another medium), rags, and a painting smock should be enough to get you started on your first project.

The team that worked on this review
  • Allen
    Allen
    Writer
  • Devangana
    Devangana
    Web Producer
  • Eliza
    Eliza
    Production Manager
  • Katie
    Katie
    Editorial Director
  • Melinda
    Melinda
    Web Producer

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