Monday, August 30, 2010

Acrylic paint comparisons

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.


Ian MacLeod said...

I love this painting Catherine. Regarding the comparisons - I agree with you that Golden is the best. Here (in Vancouver) we don't have - or at least I'm unaware of - the Utrecht or Blickrylic brands. But there's a small shop called Kroma that make and sell only acrylic paint. Well priced - great quality.

Catherine Carter said...

That's good to hear a confirmation of Golden's, Ian. Utrecht and Blick (a.k.a. "Dick Blick") are probably similar to your Kroma, in that they originated as retail stores and also manufacture their own brands. Both have branches in Boston (the location closest to me), as well as other stores across the U.S.

Binnie said...

I too have used a lot of different acrylic paints. I have found that Golden are by far the BEST. They are juicy, vivid, consistent. I think you can actually use less because they have less fillers.

Catherine Carter said...

Binnie, another Golden's fan! I definitely agree that you can use less paint because the pigments are so strong.

CMC said...

Sure Golden paints are great...but so expensive even on sale. I mostly use Nova Color acrylics. They are made in southern California and make up most of my palette except for a few Golden colors I love.

I will say that the consistency varies with the pigments. Some are thicker and some thinner. I never have good luck with their Yellow Ochre for instance. BUT I don't use a lot of yellow ochre.

They are a home grown business like Golden, good products and great prices. Their soft modeling paste is also wonderful and they will send you a 'real' color chart.

Catherine Carter said...

Cheryl, ITA about Golden's. It takes me an hour to earn the money for one of their jars of fluid acrylic! That's great to know about Nova Color.

Tim McFarlane said...

I've used Utrecht's acrylics a lot over the years and only recently have been able to move over to Golden. There is a big difference in pigment strenth and consistensy. Hoever, i have found that, for my purposes, Utrecht's cadmium colors stand up pretty well, along with their pthalo greens and blue.

I've bgun to use Golden more as top layer paints because they are still too expensive for me to go crazy with for entire paitnings.

Catherine Carter said...

I definitely agree, Tim. I was amazed at how comparatively strong Golden's pigments were. But yes, if you went crazy with them, you'd have to take out a special "art supply loan" to afford it!