Painting on the cheaper side: Soho Oil Paints
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.
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
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.