After a promise to do this almost a month ago, here it is.
A couple of things led me to making this list, one of which was reading about how artists use a specific colour of a specific brand of paints on their palettes because no other colour does the job they want. Portrait painters especially have favourite colours. Sometimes this is not specifically the colour but the other properties (handling, blending, transparency, saturation, drying time etc.).
Interestingly this challenges the idea that with a ‘double palette’ (three cool and three warm RGB primaries, with two whites [flake and titanium] and two blacks) plus Cobalt Blue, Magenta, Dioxazine Purple, Viridian Green and Permanent Rose (to substitute for Rose Madder), you should be able to mix any colour.
One will note that Cobalt Blue and Magenta are two of the CMYK ‘subtractive primary palette’, (the K is black), as opposed to the additive RGB palette, so what the ‘double palette’ does is cover both.
Another issue was market research. A key part of better oil paint is better linseed oil. The current commercial process of turning flax seed into fast drying linseed oil for artists creates a toxic product. The Velasquez CSO sun polymerizing process produces a non-toxic, non-yellowing fast drying oil, but the scale of production is small. Even if one cornered the commercial market of small paint makers it is still not clear that the CSO process could be profitably scaled up to be worth the effort.
The important point is that mass produced artist paints are, at some point in every Creative’s journey, simply not good enough.
Thus my list.
Alphabetically here are the best independent artists’ paint makers in the world, circa early 2020:
Blockx – Belgium small family owned Since 1860’s, old school
Greenleaf and Blueberry – Colorado USA, two partners, Since 2011 watercolours only https://www.greenleafblueberry.com/pages/our-story
Geneva Fine Art – USA Since about 1990. Marc Carder. True hand made, old school, extended drying oil paints. https://genevafineart.com
Isaro Paints – Belgium, sole proprietor, Since 2009, true handmade paint https://www.isaro.be/shop/gb/content/30-isaro
Kama – Pigment Montreal, Canada, small operation, 15 pure pigment paints http://www.kamapigment.com/en/products/artists-oil-paints.html
Landridge – Melbourne and Victoria, Australia, David Coles, from 2011, pure, modern intense colours
M. Graham Co. – New York USA, two partners, 25 pure pigment paints – highly regarded.
Maimeri – Italy, large high end, Since 1923, known for traditional earths
Michael Harding – Cwmband South Wales, UK small company, Since 1982, super old school & rare colours
(Me: one of the best paint makers in the world. Irreplaceable colours.)
Natural Pigments – Willits California USA, small, 2002, very traditional and old school https://www.naturalpigments.com/about-natural-pigments
Old Holland – Holland, large operation, Since1664 (yes, 354 yrs!), progressive old school https://www.oldholland.com/discover/about-old-holland/
(Me: maybe the best of the bigger makers.)
Peppercon – Melbourne Australia, two partners, New in 2018? watercolours only
R&F Handmade Paint – Kingston NY USA, small, Since1988, unique colours
RGH Artists’ Oil Paints – Albany NY, Rolf Haerem o/o Since1989, traditional paint, custom orders. https://rghartistoilpaint.com/about-us.php
Sennelier – Paris, France, mid size, Since1887, smoothest old school paints
St.Luke Artist Colourmen – Australia, small company, since 2000, densest pigmentation in the world
TriArt – Waterloo Canada, 3 partners,15 yrs?, best new and experimental paints
Vasari – New York USA, single founder in 1995, intensely pure oil paints – also highly regarded
And that is the list.
What is missing is the Stevenson Company, an Ontario Canada based artist paint making company that was in business for a couple of generations and made the finest affordable artists’ paints in the world. It was a family business and when the founder had to retire the family just closed shop. They’d made their millions.
To complete the overview, here is a list of the other large paint makers you see out there. A few have been bought by the giant paint makers, for their brand names, and are no longer ‘hand made’ or even mid sized.
Martin F. Weber Co. USA, Permalba Brand. Large. Oldest in US, since 1853. Makes a unique white .
Richeson Art, WI USA, Shiva Brand, large, high end – now wholesale only, since 1920s, old school
Daniel Smith Inc. Washington State, USA large since 1976. Makes rare earth colors and experimental
Da Vinci, USA, family owned, in California since 1975. Famous for creating first Permanent Alizarin Crimson
Lefranc and Bourgeois, France, large , since 1720. Oldest French paint maker. Also innovative.
Bocour Paints – 1930 to 1990. You might still find this paint out there. Made unique Magna oil soluble acrylics. Replaced by Golden’s Mineral Spirit Acrylics
Golden – NY USA 1980. First true acrylic artist paint. Golden co owned Bocour Paints. Split in 1980 to form Golden
Williamsburg, USA now part of Golden, was the best US maker of oil paint until sold
Royal Tallens, Holland since 1899, now owned by giant Sakura Corp, was best in Europe before sold
Schmincke, Germany, absolutely huge but still family owned, from 1881, Norma oils, Aquarell watercolours
Lukas, Rowney, and Nerchau, Germany, 3 separate old companies, now part of the giant art supply company Fila, famous for Bob Ross paints
Other paint makers of various size and quality:
Chroma , USA, Jim Cobb, founder circa 1960. Private company, no history. Commercial and artist paint . Makes a special acrylic paint that can be ‘opened up’ like oil paint for reworking. Patented. Makes mid grade oils.
Gamblin – they are everywhere and yet nowhere. No wiki entry. A private company with no history.
Grumbacher – USA from 1905, sold to Sanford L.P. , (Rubbermaid Co.) to 2006, then sold to Chartpak Inc. USA.
Holbein – Japan, since about 1900. Has 40 subsidiary companies, all art products. World wide.
John Howard Sanden Portrait Colours – made by Weber Inc., as above.
Rembrandt – made by Talens / Sakura Corp.
Amsterdam – made by Talens / Sakura Corp.
Van Gogh – made by Talens / Sakura Corp.
Utrecht – house brand of a chain of art shops, NY, USA, 1949. Bought by Blick in 2013
Blick – house brand of the chain and online art supply giant. Owns Utrecht.
Here are the last two massively giant paint makers:
Pebeo – France, 1919 – family owned. Early patents for lead oxides (PbO), and later non-lead based paints. Most of the paint is now made in a monstrous factory in China.
Windsor and Newton – 1832. English. Inventor of the tube for tube paints. Big big company, like Schmincke.
Here are mass market Chinese paint makers, just to be fair:
Magi Wap Oil Paints, gigantic commercial paint makers
Marie’s Oil Pant, huge company
Picasso Oil Colour, details secret. (I guess they license Picasso’s name?)
And that is the list, circa 2020. Happy Arting!