Australian Fine Artist

Why Reading the Labels on your Tubes of Oils is Important

You may have noticed that oils come in averiety of  ‘series’. The number of the series reflects the quality and intensity of the pigment, and the amount of them used in each colour. A good quality oil paint will have a nice buttery thickness as it comes out of the tube, and only a small amount will reveal a strong intense colour when mixed with white.

Colours like Viridian, French Ultramarine, or Alizarin Crimson are intense and vibrant. They are also usually a Series 4, making them more expensive, but also requiring less quantity on the palette.

Other colours are made up of more than one man-made or natural pigment, depending on their toxicity. Many natural pigments have been replaced in recent years due to their toxic levels, Flake White is one example, which was made up from lead. Others like Cadmium Red and other Cadmium colours are now made up from man-made alternatives due to health concerns.

Multiple pigments are used when a single one can not create the colour that the manufacturer desires. This said, when colour theory is learnt well, artists can usually mix most colours themselves. A basic set of primary colours, a few secondaries and tertiary colours, plus a mixing white and black can create most if not all the colours that hobbyists need, as well as many professional painters.

A good exercise is to test out how many ‘tube colours’ you can approximate, by mixing your own to see how close you can get to the pale hues of colours for example, or some secondary colours that are available in art stores.

For further information about single and multiple pigment colours please visit:,GS2,FFRLV,1AH1,1.

Until next time,

Happy Painting!

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