I am about to start a new series in red, a color I don’t use much, so I thought I would take an inventory of the red paints I have already in the studio before I start making any definite color decisions or purchases.
This swatch-painting exercise caused me to evaluate the qualities of the various brands I have on hand, and I thought my findings might prove interesting to other acrylic painters.
Please keep in mind that these observations reflect my personal preferences; your mileage may vary.
First of all, Golden’s brand, the best you can buy. BUT they are so damned expensive, one purchase can max out your credit card. I use them sparingly, for top-most layers. But they have power-packed pigment quality and an exquisite palette to choose from. They also come in a range of consistencies, the cream-like fluid variety being my favorite as I am a squeeze-bottle aficionado.
Utrecht’s acrylics are terrible. They are super thick (even when not specified as “heavy body”) and can’t be diluted evenly. No matter how carefully you try to water them down, you still get watery patches alternating with undiluted blobs. They also have very poor pigment quality; it would take at least a few layers to get a truly opaque surface (and I was using reds, one of the most opaque paint colors, so cool colors would take even more coats).
That said, I adore Utrecht’s acrylic additives (matte medium, gel medium, and modeling paste); they are versatile, archival and inexpensive.
“Blickrylic” paints, sold as a student-grade acrylic by Dick Blick, have a marvelous texture – just soft enough to spread easily, not watery at all. Plus they dilute evenly if that’s what you want. Their pigments are strong – not as strong as Golden’s, but strong enough for initial layers on the canvas. The colors aren’t anywhere near as beautiful as Golden’s – in fact, they’re fairly flat and generic – but once you start layering with them, your own personal vocabulary will take over and you can come up with some lovely and unique results.
On the other hand, my experiences with Dick Blick’s acrylic mediums have varied. They are great for image transfers (read also my blog entry on this subject, here), but they are terrible mixers with colored paints and they don’t work at all as adhesives.
Those are the three brands I have on hand, and I learned a lot, just from a few minutes of testing the jars on my shelf.