What is the Difference Between Student and Artist Grade Paint?

By Nicole Tinkham


With so many choices, buying art supplies can feel overwhelming. There are many options when it comes to brushes and paper, and paints are no different. When shopping for paint, you may have noticed different paint qualities available: student and artist grade. The cost of these paint grades differ greatly so before running out and purchasing the best price, let’s discuss the differences.

Student Grade
These paints have lower pigment content (the main difference between the two grades), which makes them inexpensive. However, student grade paints don’t have as large of a color range because of this. Student grade paints will have similar characteristics when it comes to consistency and opacity no matter the color, so there’s no surprise there. They also tend to run the same price regardless of color. You will notice that artist grade paints have multiple series (and prices) based on the materials used to produce specific colors. Keep in mind that student grade paints don’t mix well with each other. Also, beware of overly cheap paint. These often come in some sort of value pack and you probably can’t purchase the colors individually. If you’re unsure which student grade paint to go with, feel free to ask us here at Keeton’s. We only sell quality paints so you’re safe with any student grade from our selection.

Artist grade paints
These paints are made of the purest and highest-quality ingredients, making them the highest quality paint you can get. They have more vibrant colors than that of student grade paint. While student grade paint is great for starting out, artist grade paints will give you experience mixing colors (something that can’t be done with student grade). Artist grade paint will cost a bit more – make sure to look at series number! The higher the series number (typically running from series A to series D), the more the paint will cost. This all depends on the materials used to make the paint.

Mediums with Student Grade
Mediums can be added to student grade paint which is great for extending colors and creating textures. They can be pricey but are less expensive than the pigments you would be paying for in artist quality paints. Learn more about the different mediums available in our blog post The Various GOLDEN Mediums Explained.

Can artist and student grades be used together?
When painting a large area, you may want to use a student grade paint to save money while using artist grade paints in other areas of the painting. Most think these two are incompatible but they can actually be used together. Just keep in mind that the finish and texture on the two may differ (mediums and varnishes can help keep the finish consistent though). Painting with oils is the perfect opportunity to combine the two paint grades. You can do the under-painting in student grade and then switch over to the artist grade when working on the details.

How to choose
Now that you know what the different grades mean, how do you know which one to choose? Let’s sum up the benefits of each, making it easier for you to decide. Remember, you can use a combination of both.

Student Grade

  • Less expensive (allows you to experiment more)
  • Great practice for beginners
  • No series means one price for every color
  • Great for large areas in a painting

Artist Grade

  • High quality
  • Vibrant colors
  • Larger range of colors
  • Able to be mixed together

In this post we went over both student and artist grade paints, but we did not go into detail about the brands we offer at Keeton’s. To find out more about our paints, stop in, give us a call (941-747-2995) or visit http://www.keetonsonline.com/Art.html! For a list of our upcoming workshops, check out The Artist’s Corner.

Image used under Creative Commons from stevendepolo.

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