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Paint Review: Gapka Oil Paints

Posted by on Dec 19, 2012 in Art materials, Oil paint geekery | 2 comments

Gapka Oil Paints

My exciting adventure with Gapka Handmade Artist’s Oil Colour of Waltham, Mass.


Just a few tubes from Gapka.

A few months ago I was doing an Internet search for small companies making paint. Don’t ask me why; it’s not like I need more paint. But out of curiosity I found another small company making oil paints: Gapka. And I bought some paints from them. So I thought, why not review them for this blog?

Alas, I’m not knowledgable or geeky enough to do a paint swatch analysis for you or anything. I’m just going to give my gut reaction to how it handles, the colors, the consistency, and then a few words about customer service.

Here’s a sample painting, created with mostly Gapka brand oil paints:

“Ice Cold Mama” Oil on masonite panel, 6×6 inches.

Some Gapka colors used in this painting: Prussian Blue, Indian Yellow, Titanium – Zinc White, Red Oxide Transparent, Quinacridone Magenta.

An overview of the paint:

The tubes I sampled were very soft and “long” (runnier, not stiff). The Prussian Blue tube I received actually poured out of the tube. It laid on my palette like a big wet blob surrounded by a small puddle of oil. But actually, that didn’t bother me. I like softer paint, and while I don’t prefer paint that pours, I had no problems working with the Prussian Blue. Other colors were less runny, but most were soft and buttery (not unlike Blue Ridge, another paint that I like).

Color pigmentation (richness) seemed high to me.

Some of the colors were “unexpected” to my mind. The Indian Yellow didn’t seem as golden as I expected. Same for Red Oxide Transparent; I’m used to this color being warm with an almost orangy tinge to it. Gapka’s Red Oxide Transparent seemed more like Burnt Sienna in my opinion.

I’m not complaining overmuch. Many paint brands will have different qualities to their colors. Some you like, some you don’t. All these colors are serviceable, so no complaints from me.

Their white is fantastic. I’m a bit of a white junkie anyway, and love a white that is rich and creamy. This was a dream. I got the Titanium/Zinc mix, so it wasn’t too overpowering. The paint squeezed out of the tube easily, was lovely in mixing. I love their whites. I’ve already ordered some more tubes. Much love for their Titanium White too.

Some of the other colors were as I expected. Buttery and creamy, some softer than others, but nothing was unworkable for me. (Again bear in mind that I love softer paints anyway.) One color that became an instant favorite was Mauve Umber. It’s perfect for underpainting portraits. A very dark brown with a little bit of a mauve or pink cast to it. Lighten it with white and it can do amazing things. I’d love to do a monochromatic portrait with just Mauve Umber and White. Love this paint. Needless to say I’ve ordered more!

On a whole I have good things to say about the paint itself. As long as it’s understood that a color here or there may “pour” out of the tube! ;)

Their paint line (good and bad):

I wish they had a few more colors, like an Alizarin Crimson “Permanent” color. They neither carry regular Alizarin (which I wouldn’t order due to its lightfastness issues) nor do they carry some sort of magenta/carmine color, other than Quinacridone. I think their line of reds are a bit lacking. It’s Quinacridone, some Cadmium Reds, and an Azo Red Transparent (which has a lightfastness rating of “Good” instead of “Excellent” or “Very Good”).

They carry a unique and intriguing line of neon-bright colors. I’d be tempted if it were not for these paints’ lightfastness of “Good,” as  I prefer “Excellent” or “Very Good.” (Not that I blame Gapka. I assume that this is the nature of neon colors such as this.) I can imagine that these colors would be exciting for many artists. You don’t see them often in an oil paint line.

I wish they’d list the pigments used in their color chart. A lot of oil paint geeks really want to see this. I do appreciate that they give lightfast and transparency/opaqueness info on the color chart. That’s of primary importance to many artists.

Observations about Customer Service:

This is a small company and I get the impression they want to make the customer happy and are very generous and try to always be fair. A few hours after I made my first order, I saw what I thought was a promo for “free” paint from Gapka. Just email them and tell them what you want! I emailed them, but then almost immediately realized that the free paint offer was ancient and there’s no way it could be still in effect. Yeah, I felt like an idiot. But guess what? Gapka gave me my free paint anyway. This puts them in my “Awesome” column for quite a while.

They continued to supply me with samples or “upgrade” me with larger tubes in subsequent orders. I don’t want to push their generosity too much; always having my hand out expecting freebies. But still, it’s pretty nice of them to do that. (Please don’t read this review and assume that they’ll give you freebies too. It’s best to contact them to ask what their current sales or offers are, if any.)

They communicate pretty fast (usually within 12 hours or less) after you contact them. I’ve never phoned them; always email.

I’ve had a few minor issues with a color being out of stock (they explain that they like to make small batches of paint to keep everything “fresh”). I’m not griping about that, but it’s something to keep in mind when ordering.

A few pet peeves:

As of this writing, the shipping is a flat $15 for the USA. That’s a little higher than most of us are used to (the standard for many online vendors hovering at $10 or under). This makes many of us hesitant to place smaller orders, when we know that the shipping is going to be $15 regardless.

I wish, I plead, I beg for them to ship their paints in boxes! So far all the paint has arrived undamaged, but it’s disconcerting to see a simple padded envelope with paint tubes in it. They are in those thin cardboard paint boxes (see my photo of Gapka paints at the top of this page), but often the tubes slip out and are loose in the envelope. But, I emphasize, no damage yet. Everything has been fine. I do feel that they are tempting fate with simple envelopes, though.

The latest order I made (a few months ago) had a big HOLE in the envelope! I don’t know if Gapka sent me a sample (as they are apt to do, bless them) but there was a hole big enough for a small tube or sample to escape. Fortunately I had ordered a jar of paint and that was intact and fine. So my order arrived okay. But no customer likes to see a big gaping hole in the package that contains their order! I’m just saying. ;)

My Final Verdict:

I’ll keep ordering more paint from Gapka. I want to support small businesses, and it’s obvious to me that they are trying to offer a quality product and will deal fairly with customers. I believe that they are still working out the kinks in their product and business. None of my pet peeves are personal deal-breakers. Their product may not be for everyone, but I think many artists would be well-pleased with their paint. Try them for yourself!

(Note, I get no compensation for this review, or even any more paint samples! ;) I am in no way affiliated with Gapka. I’m just a paint geek.)

Lukas 1862 paints, plus priming hardboard

Posted by on Apr 23, 2012 in Art materials, Oil paint geekery | 1 comment

A while ago I did an experiment where I only used Lukas 1862 oil paints. 1862 is Lukas’s “artist grade” line of paints, but it’s still quite affordable. I did a few paintings with just Lukas (have to finish two of them up) but here is one that is as done as it’s gonna get.

6×6 inch oil painting (using Lukas 1862 oils exclusively) on acrylic primed hardboard. Another painting done without any model or reference. I did a similar painting a while ago, but in this one the guy is about 20 years older!

The texture you’ll see on the painting is from the panel that I prepared for painting. I’ll give a short tutorial on how to do that at the end of this post.

I keep on looking at this painting, ambivalent about the color, about the flesh tones. I seemed to have a lot of trouble keeping the colors light and fluid—moreso than when I paint with other brands of oils. I’m not sure why that is. Was it the paint I used? Was it just me, not able to adjust?

This painting was done with only Lukas 1862 oil paints. (In the USA, these line of paints are exclusively available at Jerry’s Artarama and ASW.) I can’t recall all the colors I used specifically, but it was a full palette which included Titanium White, Yellow Ochre, Cadmium Red Light, Magenta (Primary), Cassel Earth, Beige, Cyan (Primary), Ultramarine Blue.

I found the white to be very opaque, which was good but sometimes it felt like I was painting with tempera or gouache. I guess I am used  to whites that have a little zinc in them (which lowers their opacity). And lead white—a newly found addiction—is known for not being overwhelmingly opaque. But no matter, I should be able to handle this opaque white, and I hope I did. But still, an extra opaque white makes some techniques and mixing more difficult. So that’s something to consider.

I loved a lot of the colors and found them to have a good pigment load. After having done some paintings with the very inexpensive, student grade Soho Paints (see my review here), the Lukas 1862 (which are classified as “artist” grade, aka “snob” paints) was a welcome upgrade. I especially loved Lukas 1862′s Beige, which is a very, very light yellow. I found that it was an attractive alternative sometimes to mixing white—the slight yellow tint didn’t bleach out my mixes quite so much.

An interesting characteristic about Lukas 1862 is that they have added driers in them. This may or may not be desirable. I am all about getting my oils to dry faster, so I don’t mind. However, since I always use an alkyd medium (), my paintings always dry pretty fast anyway. (Within 24 hours on average, since I don’t paint too thickly.) However, I sometimes found Lukas 1862′s faster drying properties to be inconvenient. I use this covered plastic palette () and find that even with my paints covered up (thus hopefully slowing the drying time) the Lukas paints “skin over” (start to dry out) within a day or two. So I’m not sure I’m too crazy about that.

On the whole, though, I like Lukas 1862 paints and recommend that you try a few, especially if you’re on a budget. They are much, much, MUCH muchmuchmuch better than many “student” grade paints, and yet they’re still very affordable.

About preparing a painting board:

I saved money by preparing my own painting board, following this simple procedure.

I bought pre-cut hardboard (because I am too lazy to get hardboard at the hardware store) but you can also use masonite and have it custom cut. The boards I purchased are from Dick Blick: (see illustration below)Then I wipe off the boards with  rubbing alcohol and wait for the alcohol to dry. (I have learned that wiping off the boards will clean off any dirt and oils.) Then I “seal” the board with two coats of  . This prepares the wood so it doesn’t “overabsorb” (or unevenly absorb) the oil or acrylic ground (aka “gesso”). Additionally, the GAC medium protects acrylic paintings from some sort of weird discoloration. (“SID” aka Support Induced Discoloration. Read more about it.) Then I wait at least a day for the GAC 100 medium to “set” into the wood panel.

After the GAC 100 has had some time to “set,” I then apply my ground (either oil or acrylic based). I’m quite fond of Daniel Smith’s “Best Gesso” (available at Or,    is quite good.

To get the texture that you see on the painting I show at the top of this post, I used a small sponge paint roller that I bought at a hardware store. I gave about 3 coats of acrylic “gesso” (aka acrylic ground) and then sanded down the gesso after it had dried, so it was a little smoother. However, the sponge roller provided a sort of pebbly texture which is not unlike canvas and I really liked it! So a lot of my paintings are now painted on boards using this method. If you’re willing to put a little time into the preparation of the boards, you can save a lot of money. And TRUST ME, it’s EASY. If it weren’t, I wouldn’t do it this way. I am not a very handy person (I hate hardware stores) but this I can even do!

Fun with The Student Palette

Posted by on Apr 23, 2012 in General Painting | 2 comments

I got this idea from Llawrence, who introduced a lot of us to the “Student Palette.” The challenge was, see what you could get with just a white, a black, an “earth” yellow, and an “earth” red.

I chose Titanium White, Ivory Black, Yellow Ochre, and Terra Rosa (a reddish brown).

A little oil sketch, not exactly finished (but I’m not rushing to finish it now!) 6×6 inches on acrylic primed panel.

This is one of my little imaginary faces that I sometimes paint. (No model or reference used.) I had a lot of fun with this sketch. It was surprising to see how many colors could be achieved with just these few tubes of paint.

The black, when tinted with white, turned a greenish color. I tinted the highlights in her face with a teensy bit of black, to give the highlights a cooler cast. The lips are almost all pure Terra Rosa (the earthy red). It was nice how the Terra Rosa, plus a little bit of Yellow Ochre, was sufficient for the flesh tone (when mixed with white, of course). Black and Terra Rosa were mixed for the shadows.

I highly recommend the “Student Palette” for anyone, not just students. If you’re trying to save on paint, you can get by with just these few colors. If you’re scared of color mixing, having only a few tubes to work with can help ease the tension. Try it out!

Painting on the cheaper side: Soho Oil Paints

Posted by on Apr 23, 2012 in Oil paint geekery | 0 comments

Playing around with the bargain brand Soho (with a few other brands mixed in).

So as you’ll find out soon enough, I am all about “snob” paints (higher-end, artist-grade oil paints) but it’s good to see what the lower-end stuff can do (and not do).

Recently I did some messing around with Soho oil paints (found at Jerry’s Artarama), which can be pretty darn cheap—around $1 for a 20 mL tube! But, you get what you pay for, so . . .

What I found with my adventure with just using Soho paints was that some colors just were not up to the task. Their whites were too wimpy, and the Ultramarine Blue was woefully . . . bleah. Not very strong at all. Frustratingly weak.

So I thought I’d see if I could use some of the stronger (more pigmented) Soho colors, and replaced some of the weaker colors (like their Titanium White) with a better brand. So I purposely selected colors that are notoriously stronger tinters (like Prussian Blue). Here is the result.

painted with Soho OilsOil sketch on 5×7 linen board. Another little oil sketch that maybe took 2 hours to complete! I must disclose that, to hopefully excuse some of its wonkiness.

The colors used for this painting were:

  • Permalba White (this is a special mix of Titanium White and Zinc). I love Permalba White for its good quality and low price!
  • Soho Light Red
  • Soho Prussian Blue
  • Soho Permanent Rose
  • Lukas 1862 Cadmium Yellow

(Special note: The Soho and Lukas paints are exclusively available at Jerry’s Artarama and its “sister” store, ASW.)

I decided to not use a Soho color for the yellow, so instead chose Lukas 1862 Cadmium Yellow, which is not an extraordinarily expensive paint. Had I been more strapped for cash, I probably could have used Soho’s Yellow Ochre, but I haven’t tested it out yet (will do that soon).

The most important thing for me was, to avoid using Soho’s white. It really drove me up the wall, because it was too thin and wimpy. Not enough covering power. Once I switched over to a superior white, most of my problems were solved. (Permalba white was chosen, but many other “artist” grade whites would have sufficed, like Winsor & Newton’s Artist Oils—NOT Winton—Grumbacher’s Pre-Tested Oils Titanium White, Old Holland, Maimeri Puro, and so forth.) Then I selected three colors from Soho that I knew had decent tinting power. Light Red (an earthy red-brown), Prussian Blue (very powerful—a Pthalo Blue would have worked here too), Permanent Rose (not Alizarin Crimson, since it has lightfastness issues). For yellow, I went with Lukas 1862′s Cadmium Yellow (not Light, just the regular Cadmium Yellow). It has a warmth to it that is suitable for portraits, and it’s a sufficiently strong tinter.

With these colors on my palette, I was able to paint the above portrait without any feelings of frustration about the paint. The carefully selected Soho colors were strong enough and their consistency was pleasant to work with. The Permalba is a good, solid, tried-and-true white that I’ll always recommend, and the Lukas Cad. Yellow was rich and strong too (considering its price—Cadmiums are notoriously more expensive).

I also used Liquin Painting Medium which helps paint flow and decreases drying time. Usually, because I don’t paint too thickly, a painting is dry enough to continue painting on within 24 hours when I use Liquin.

So, the moral of the story?

Yes, you can use cheaper, low-end paint, if you choose carefully and are willing to spend the bucks to get higher quality paints when needed. At the very least, get a good quality white. I recommend Permalba White because it’s affordable (about $10 for a 150 mL tube at places like DickBlick) and available almost everywhere.

More reviews and info on dealing with cheaper paints will be forthcoming.

Playing around with Chroma Archival Oil Paints

Posted by on Apr 23, 2012 in Oil paint geekery | 1 comment

So, for my first real blog post, I will shamelessly pimp Chroma Archival Oil Colors:

Chroma Archival Oil Colors

I have been hearing about Chroma for a while, but wasn’t sure about taking the plunge. But then again, I have a paint addiction, so sooner or later I was bound to try it out!

I have now collected a full palette of Chroma colors, in addition to some of their “lean” medium, and am here to report my impression and findings:

I like these paints overall. The pigment load (how saturated or concentrated they are) is good. A nice selection of colors, including some unusual ones I haven’t found elsewhere. Plus good prices!

dastardly painting with Chroma Archival

I did this little oil sketch on a 4×6 inch linen board. Like many of the oil sketches shown on this blog, this was a quickie painting (maybe took 90 minutes). My pride dictates that I disclose that, since it explains some of the unfinished look and wonkiness!

I enjoyed painting this little sketch and found that I only needed a few colors to get a ‘full color’ effect. The colors used were:

  • Quick Dry White (I later got a tube of regular Titanium White)
  • Napthol Red Light
  • Permanent Brown Madder
  • Yellow Ochre
  • Prussian Blue
  • Blue Black

The Blue-Black is very dark, but when you mix white with it, it turns to a lovely teal color. I was exceedingly impressed with the Permanent Brown Madder. It looks like a darkish, reddish brown at full strength, but when mixed with white, it becomes a lovely rosy Caucasian flesh tone. Perfect in many flesh tone mixes.

There’s a strange smell to some of the tubes (reminds me a little of nail polish?) and the white is kind of “sticky” (especially the Quick Dry White). Drying time is satisfactorily fast, especially when using the Quick Dry White and using their “lean” medium. (I am all about cutting down the drying time of my oil paints!)

Chroma advises that you use their special mediums, which I intend to do. Their claim to fame is that Chroma Archival paints are specially formulated so that you can violate the “fat over lean” rule (which dictates that faster-drying, less flexible layers of paint be applied first, leaving the thicker, slower-drying layers of paint until last). They encourage you to paint thin over thick, don’t worry about it, nothing bad will happen like cracking or anything! Well, I can’t verify that this is true, but it sounds like an intriguing concept and I’m looking forward to playing around with my Chroma Archival Paints some more!

So here’s another link pimping Chroma Archival Oil Colors. So far, the best online source is DickBlick (click on the link and they’ll take you there). I think they definitely hold promise and have the added advantage of being pretty affordable too!

I have too much paint

Posted by on Apr 23, 2012 in General Painting | 0 comments

I thought I’d start this blog off with a confession: I have too much paint. No, let me rephrase that: I. HAVE. TOO. MUCH. PAINT.

I think it comes from years of deprivation. Of always using the cheapest brands and feeling guilty for “wasting” paint. Of scrimping, always. Well, when I returned to painting after a too-long absence, I finally decided that I “deserved” to get some “nice” paint. And so I got some. And got some more. And then found other addicts paint fans on the forum for WetCanvas, who all had opinions on their favorite paints, and so I had to try out all the different brands recommended, and it mushroomed from there.

So now I have too much paint. And I don’t feel nearly as bad as I should! In fact, as I type this, I am awaiting a shipment of even more paint!

behold my shame

And this is just the tip of the iceberg. I didn’t want to reveal the full depth of my problem by showing all the paint I have in my possession. This should give you an idea.

Note how I have resorted to sorting the paints by brand. In the photograph you’ll see two baggies full of Blockx (a favorite), a nice-sized baggie of Chroma Archival, another baggie full of Lukas 1862. The containers (there are several more not photographed) contain various colors and sizes. I got the “Everwhite” (in the black and white cartons) on eBay; that brand of paint has been discontinued for years now. I also have a nice baggie full of Rublev (from in the container at the top right, and also some Blue Ridge (also in top container). It doesn’t stop there; I also have a goodly collection of Maimeri Puro, Old Holland, and Vasari—all top-flight, high-end, “snob” paint (as I like to call it in a tongue-in-cheek way). So I am a lost cause with my paint collection, but I LOVE it! So I’m going to blog about it.

And on a final note:

fat studio catThe Fat Studio Cat wants to say hello.