Painting: How to Buy the Right Colors


Why is Buying Oil Paints So Confusing

If you have ever had a to buy paints, gone to the art store and found yourself staring at the paints wondering why so few have the same names for their paint colors. It’s a problem that has plagued the art world since they began manufacturing oil paint over 150 years ago. Companies are more interested in great sounding color names than accurate color descriptions. So let’s demystify some of the ambiguity.

Here are some ways of buying the correct colors

1. Every paint color lists the pigment or pigments used to make that tube color(it’s required by law). Not only the pigment name is listed but also the color index number. So for instance I need to find a paint color Phalo Blue, the problem is the manufacturer paint names for this color varies. Here are some of the common names across manufacturers : Thalo blue, Monestial Blue, Winsor Blue, Monastral Blue, Phthalocyanine Blue, Phalo Blue, Heliogen Blue, Intense Blue, Old Holland Blue, Rembrandt Blue. I however know the color pigment name is Copper Thalocyanine and that color index number is PB15 or PB16(either works but one is greener and the other slightly bluer). By looking at the pigment name or the color index number listed on the paint tubes you can be sure you have the right color no matter what.

Below I list some of the paint colors whose names vary the most between manufacturers

The paints that vary the most in terms of paint names are the following:

Thalo Blue – copper phthalocyanine – PB 15 or PB 16 Hansa Yellow Light – arylide yellow – PY 3 Hansa Yellow Medium – arylide yellow PY 74 Hansa Yellow Deep – arylide yellow PY 75 Thalo Green – copper phthalocyanine -PG7 or PG36 Thio Voilet – quinacridone – PR122 Thalo Rose- quinacridone – PV19 Dioxizine Purple- carbazole dioxazine – PV23 ]

Be Aware of Color Hues

“Color Hues”- Cadmium, cobalts and Chromes are all paints made with metals. Many companies make paints that look similar to these colors they are less expensive but don’t mix the same as the real paints. These are named “hues” such as Cadmium Red Light Hue. These paints don’t actually contain any cadmiums, cobalts or chromes. Don’t buy the “hues” if you can avoid it. They are harder to control as a beginning or intermediate painter.

Metal Paints are Always named Accurately

The good news is the Classic metals paints are always named by their pigments names. So for example it will says it’s Cadmium Red Light or Cadmium Red Light Medium, Cobalt Blue or Chrome Yellow and so forth, you will know you are buying the actual metals based paints. Use these tips and save yourself¬† a headache at the art store.

2 Responses

  1. I find this article very helpful! I’m thinking of taking painting classes, but I have very little knowledge of paints to use. Thanks for the tip on avoiding color hues as they are harder to control as a beginner painter. Much appreciated!

  2. I really appreciate your tips for getting the right paint. My sister and I are considering taking some kind of art or painting class together as my birthday present to her, and neither of us have painted before, so knowing what kind of paint to bring will really help. We’ll be sure to take your advice and look at the pigments named on the paint tubes to get the right colors.

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