A Roundup to Find the Best Acrylic Paints

Gallery artist and illustrator, Cassandra Kim, carefully judged some of the most popular acrylic paint brands

Cassandra Kim

I was excited to take the opportunity to look at a bunch of paints at the same time. It’s something I’ve never done before. It forced me to think about why do I like the paint brands that I do. I unconsciously rate paint when I work with it; but it took me some time to actively figure out how I decide if I like a brand. I’m not going to pretend that I am not somewhat biased to paint brands, because I am.

I have been working to as a professional artist for way longer than I’d like to admit and with all of that time, I have my own personal experience with paint. I have used the cheapest stuff possible when I barely had two dimes to rub together as a baby art student, and as I have grown as an artist and painted significantly more I’ve gotten to know what I like in paint.

This is my personal experiment to pit 6 other brands of heavy bodied acrylic paint up against my favorite brand that I predominantly use. I am willing to have my opinion changed and I’m curious to see if I would consider brand switching. I hope in explaining at how I look at paint, maybe it will help you decide when you are searching for new paint.  Please, take my opinions with a grain of salt, they are merely my thoughts based on my preferences and personal experiences as an artist.

I want to add before I begin: I have no affiliations with any paint brand or art supply company, all the paints I purchased were paid for by Visual Arts Passage.  I would also like to say that the quality art supplies do not make you a great artist, but it can be nice and can possibly enhance your painting experience.  One of my favorite artist’s Mark English shopped for his art supplies at the hardware store and his work are masterpieces.

The Results For Best Acrylic Paints:

The Best Acrylic Paints: Liquitex Professional Heavy Body Acrylic

The Best Acrylic Paints: Liquitex Professional Heavy Body Acrylic

Second Best Acrylic Paint: Winsor Newton Galeria Acrylic

Honorable Mention: (very close runner up) Golden Professional Acrylic

Expensive But Worth It: Holbein Heavy Body Acrylic

My Least Favorite Acrylic Set: Blick Artists’ Acrylic

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Acrylic Paint Sets rated and tested by Cassandra Kim

The Selection Process

Let’s begin: When I thought about this challenge of rating paint I decided to narrow the field to heavy body acrylics, because that’s what I work with. I also took advantage of that fact that when I started writing this article it was the beginning of the holiday season. There were a lot of paint sets available. This gave me the chance to look at brands primary colors as well as black and white without breaking the bank.

The Rating Process

I started off just looking at the individual paint sets and rating them, but then also started to access the sets they put together. If you are a beginner with acrylics, a basic set of white, yellow, red, blue and black should be enough to allow you to make the colors you need. You should have nice tints, get good warms, cools, darks, lights and be able to created secondary colors (green, orange, and purple).

For this reason, I realized that making paint swatches and tinting the colors with white and black wasn’t enough for me to decide if I liked it or not, so I also did a little portrait studies. These little painting were where I was really able to decide if I liked a paint brand or not. I tested all of these paints on white gessoed cardboard (upcycling at it’s best!), and used copyright free images for references for my studies.

My at home heavy body acrylic brand of choice is Liquitex – so I am definitely skewed in that direction and it’s what I compare everything against. Because of that, I didn’t need to purchase a set but used the colors that would be in a set.

The paint sets I purchased:

  1. Winsor & Newton Galeria Acrylic (set of 10 x.7fl oz) $13.05
  2. Blick Artists’ Acrylic (Set of 6 x 2fl oz)  $27.23
  3. Holbein Heavy Body Acrylic (set of 5 x 2fl oz) $40.30
  4. Golden Professional Acrylics (set of 6 x .75fl oz) $26.38
  5. Soho Urban Artist Acrylic (set of 5 x 2.5oz) 26.99
  6. Utrecht Artist Acrylic Basic Set (set of 6 x 2fl oz) $35.98
  7. (For Price Comparison) Liquitex Heavy Body Acrylic Set (set of 6 x .74fl oz) $22.45

1. Winsor & Newton Galeria Acrylic (set of 10 x.7fl oz)

This paint is a delight to work with, I got wonderful warms and cools. The set didn’t actually include black, so I made it by mixing raw umber with ultramarine blue.  I would highly recommend this brand.  I thought it had good pigment, mixed beautifully and also maintained good color when watered down, and didn’t darken significantly when it dried. This isn’t even their professional brand, I’m impressed, these are quality acrylics. Individual tubes can cost between $7-13.  

What the Brand Claims:

Galeria Acrylic is a high-quality acrylic paint which delivers professional results, ideal for artists who want high quality more accessible range. The Galeria Acrylic range offers excellent brilliance, professional quality pigment, opacity and permanence with a smooth, satin finish. Galeria uses either the same pigment as the professional range or a similar pigment load, but in a lower concentration. This makes it easy to use with, or transition to artist grade paints when a wider choice and high pigment strength is needed.

2. Blick Artists’ Acrylic (Set of 6 x 2fl oz)

I really wanted to like this brand.  I have ordered supplies from this company before and always have had a positive experience, but their acrylic paint brand was disappointing for me.  The Napthol Red was very cool and dried dark, when I tried mixing with yellow it continued to stay cool.  I also found a slight grittiness to the paint itself, and thought it was odd how matte it dried, almost like gouache. To me this said their pigment quality is not as high as advertised.  At $5-9 a tube I was hoping to tell you that this would be great, but honestly I wouldn’t recommend this brand. At best this is a student grade paint, in spite of describing itself as professional quality. I will add that I liked that their paint tubes are recyclable. $5-9 per tube.

What the Brand Claims:

Smooth, lightfast, and permanent, with excellent pigment quality, color strength, and longevity, Blick Artists’ Acrylics offer an exceptional combination of quality and value.

3. Holbein Heavy Body Acrylic (set of 5 x 2fl oz)

Holbein Heavy Body Acrylic paint set

I’m familiar with the brand Holbein and have used their watercolor paint before, but I’ve never used their line of acrylic paints. I thought it was super smooth, mixed beautifully and had a nice vibrancy.  I got good warms and cools.  I’m a big dabber with my finger to blend and it holds up. Working with primary colors and white and black should be enough to give you the full range of color- this set does that.  I did find because its’ primary colors were somewhat transparent, it was tough layering on top of a darker color. The transparency of the colors versus the opaqueness of the white and black takes a little getting used too, but overall I really like this paint and I would buy it, though it is a more expensive brand. Price per tube $9-22

What the Brand Claims:

Professional quality at an affordable price — that’s what you get with Holbein Heavy Body Artist Acrylics, engineered to add more luster, brilliance, and color vigor to your paintings, as well as higher lightfast ratings.

4. Golden Professional Acrylics (set of 6 x .75fl oz)

Golden Professional Acrylics paint set on cardboard test

Beautiful high pigment, and super smooth.  The Napthol Red is nice and warm like I was expecting it to be.  All the colors are more opaque but still pigment forward which is what I want in a heavy body acrylic paint. Screams high quality, worth the money. Price per tube $7-22

What the Brand Claims:

The 6 Golden Heavy Body Acrylics in this set can provide the foundation for the professional acrylic painter working with heavy body viscosity paint. The Golden Principal Heavy Body set is a more cost effective way to establish a basic palette, capable of mixing a full range of hues, tints, and shades, that can later be supplemented with the wide selection of Golden Heavy Body color offerings

5. Soho Urban Artist Acrylic (set of 5 x 2.5oz)

Soho Urban Artist Acrylic paint set test

This acrylic paint was more soft body than heavy bodied in spite of it advertising itself that way.  This was a Hail Mary pass, super affordable so I thought I’d give it a try. I wanted this one to be an exciting surprise- alas it’s living up to it’s price. It dries glossy, which is better than Blick and I am pleasantly surprised that I can mix a warm color.  Out of the tube the red is more pinkish so I worried because of that it would be cool, but the pigment is okay.  It’s pretty transparent and I found layering difficult.  At best this is student grade paint. For $3-4 a tube, it’s okay.

What the Brand Claims:

Thick and Rich Color! By combining the finest pigments, superior binding, and modern manufacturing techniques, Soho Urban Artist Acrylics give you all the best-loved qualities of a professional acrylic color at a very affordable price point.

6. Utrecht Artist Acrylic Basic Set (set of 6 x 2fl oz)

Utrecht Artists' Acrylic paint set test by Cassandra Kim

I have heard a lot about this acrylic paint, and I know many artists that use it.  This may controversial on my part, but I wasn’t a huge fan. The yellow, red and blue are really nice separately, they are heavy bodied, have a smooth consistency, and have a good amount of pigment in the paint.  I take issue with the version of primary colors they send in the set. I find it weird that they include a brilliant blue that is like a cerulean blue in the set when they included a cadmium red light.  With their basic set you can’t mix a purple.  If you’re going to provide a primary color set, you should be able to mix secondary colors (orange, green and purple.)  In my opinion, it says an artist didn’t put this set together because primary colors, plus white and black should be enough to make all the color you need. If you want to work with a limited palette, which I think is smart for a beginner painter to learn about color, this set won’t work.  Maybe this won’t bother anyone else, but this irks me.  When painting faces, purple is an essential color for undertones on the face.  I find that this paint company is good enough that they should have done better on this.  I struggled with painting this portrait because of I couldn’t mix a purple.  For an acrylic paint set at this price, I expect better. Price per tube $7-22. Overall, the paint is good, but the set should change it’s blue.

What the Brand Claims:

Pure pigments in the highest possible concentrations are combined with superior-quality polymer vehicles to produce colors with exceptional clarity, covering power, and tinting strength. A wide range of single pigment formulas offers excellent mixing results. Although they are professional quality

7. Liquitex Heavy Body Acrylic Set (set of 6 x .74fl oz)

Liquitex Heavy Body Acrylic Paint Set test

Perfection, I intentionally waited to work with this paint last in this group. Great warms and cools, thick opaque paint, excellent pigment, waters down well while maintaining color and it layers beautifully.  This continues to do everything I am looking for. Price per tube ranges for $7-28.

What the Brand Claims:

This is thick, high viscosity, pigment-rich professional acrylic color, ideal for impasto and texture. With a high concentration of lightfast artist-quality pigment and a satin finish, Heavy Body Acrylic gives you rich, permanent color, with crisp brush strokes and knife marks.

I was disappointed by Utrecht’s Artists Acrylic paint set combo, but overall their acrylic paint was fine but not my favorite, and Soho is price appropriate, but not for me.

That’s my assessment of these brands. Feel free to disagree with my opinions, and if you like a brand that I didn’t care for, keep using it. I’m happy it works for you, but it didn’t work for me. There are so many more brands I can look at, I just started with a few. If you want me to look at more brands, or you found this helpful drop a comment below.

Illustrator and gallery painter, Cassandra Loomis Kim

Cassandra Kim

Illustrator & Painter

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