Paint Review: Lefranc & Bourgeois, Blockx, Old Holland, Mussini, Daniel Smith

I recently got a couple of new orders of oil paint, seen above, and I thought I’d show you guys what I got and what I thought of it. Three of these brands are my first time ever using their paint.

First I’ll introduce the brands I got paint from-

Lefranc & Bourgeois
I’ve never used this brand, and the prices for nearly all the paint are so low that I assumed it wouldn’t be any good, but it was recommended on an art forum I go to as having some reasonably good stuff. Since it was on sale at the time I ordered I thought I’d give it a try. My overall impression from 3 tubes is that I definitely have better paint already, but it’s still a really good value considering the price.

A new brand for me. It’s been highly recommended as a top premium brand by the posters on the art forum I go to. I was kind of in a rush when I was making my order so I only got one tube from them and didn’t think too long about it, but once I tried it out it was exactly what I hoped for and wanted. They’re a littly stingy with their tube sizes; only 35ml while most other brands use either 37ml or 40ml.

Old Holland
Another premium brand, I’ve used some of their paint before and posted about it here. Many people seem to consider this one of the top if not the very top brand out there. Their prices reflect this, but their paint actually is really good from what I’ve seen.

I’ve never used this brand either, but I’ve heard a lot of really good things about it. As a premium brand they have premium prices, so being on a budget I only got 1 tube of their cheapest paints. My so far very narrow experience with them has been very good, although they also use only 35ml tubes.

Daniel Smith
I first started using this brand somewhere between 10-11 years ago and with few exceptions I’ve always been very satisfied with them, but it’s been a very long time since I’ve actually ordered anything. Based in the US, their paint can only be gotten either direct from them or I think from a couple of international suppliers. A large portion of my oil paint collection and a very large portion of my watercolors are from Daniel Smith.

Lefranc & Bourgeois

Lefranc & Bourgeois Chinese red vermilion hue
Actually a very attractive paint. I like the pink tints it gives. I don’t normally get paint that’s made of more than one pigment, but these are both good ones. When I mixed this with paints from other brands it seemed like the pigment load was a little lower, which makes sense considering the low price.

Mineral Violet Light – PV16
This is apparently their name for what many other brands call manganese violet. It looks pretty good and makes nice violet tints. I think the handling is what would be called waxy though and I found that the paint has a dull matte surface, even straight from the tube.

I’ve been wanting a silver in oil paints so I thought I’d try theirs. Seems like it’d be good enough for what I want to use it for, and the price was right.

Blockx, Old Holland, Mussini

Blockx mars violet
A very strong tinter, I mixed this with white twice to show off the hue at lighter values. This is a cool, dark earthy red that tints to a dull violet red. I chose the Blockx version of this paint because from what I saw in side by side comparisons theirs was one of the coolest and most violet and I wanted to make sure the mars violet I got would be noticeably different from my other varieties of PR101. I’m liking this paint more than I expected to and it’s a welcome addition to my palette. The handling is a little thick. One annoying note- even after I stopped squeezing paint was still coming out of the tube, each of the few times that I’ve gotten paint out now. I’m pretty sure it has more to do with the individual tube and the way it was packed than anything else.

Old Holland yellow ochre burnt and Old Holland burnt sienna
Last time I mentioned how I had wanted to get yellow ochre half burnt instead of the yellow ochre light that I went with, but this time I decided to get the full burnt version. It’s similar to the burnt sienna, which I put next to it, but yellower and lighter. Mixing this with some cadmium vermilion from Blue Ridge and a little white actually got a really good skin tone. I think I prefer this paint over the standard burnt sienna. One note- when I first squeezed the tube nothing came out. I squeezed harder and still nothing. I then pushed a nail into the open mouth of the tube and penetrated a thin layer of nearly dry paint. The paint under that now comes out, but not with any small amount of squeezing and it’s very thick and feels partly dried. Did I just get an old tube? I don’t think I’ve had this happen before. Tube issues aside, I do recommend this paint for its color. There’s burnt yellow ochres from a couple of other brands I know of that I might try now that I see how much I like this one.

Schmincke Mussini atrament black
This seems like it’d be an odd choice of paint for my first tube from this brand, but I’ve been wanting to try this pigment for awhile now. It’s a black pigment, sometimes referred to as perylene black or perylene green, but unlike other blacks it has a greenishness to it. Think of it as an extremely dark shadow green. Mixed with yellow it produces some really good greens. I could easily see myself painting a shadowy pine forest with this. It kind of seems like more of a specialty pigment than something to have on a standard palette, but for what it’s good at it’s very good at.

Daniel Smith

Nickel Azo Yellow – PY150
A very attractive paint and my first time using this pigment in oils. I don’t think the colors in this photo are accurate because in real life it’s just slightly greenish, but it’s so subtle it’s hard to notice. There seems to be an odd grittiness to the paint. At first I thought it was just some of the dried oil that had leaked out around the cap, but even after squeezing out some more paint there was still an evenly dispersed grit throughout the paint of what I think is little bits of dried oil. I’m not sure what’s up with that. That aside, the color is extremely good and when mixed with a little white it become a bright golden yellow with a slight greenish cast. My only regret is not getting this paint years ago. I highly recommend this one.

Daniel Smith nickel titanate yellow
A subtle, cool, pale yellow. This is also my first time with this pigment, and I’m finding it to be very useful for mixing greens. It doesn’t seem like a strong tinter. I haven’t done a whole lot of mixing with it yet, but so far it feels like its main purpose on my palette will be for making greens with blue or for lightening and yellowing greens.

Daniel Smith phthalo blue green shade
Phthalo blue is known for being extremely intense and often requires being “muddied up” a little by mixing in other paints just to get it to be subdued enough to harmonize with the other paints on your palette. Although clearly a green shade of phthalo blue, for some reason they don’t specify the exact version of the pigment (e.g. PB15:3, PB15:4, etc) the way most other brands do, but I’ve placed it next to my Phthalo Blue Green (PB15:4) from Rembrandt for comparison. I can hardly tell a difference between them, but the Daniel Smith paint is cheaper than ASW’s price on the Rembrandt paint by a few dollars, and less than half their suggested retail price. I did a further test of tinting strength (not shown) and these two paints performed pretty much identically for me. The paint from Rembrandt is also looser while the Daniel Smith paint has a slightly thicker consistency, but without being too thick, which I prefer. Being comparable to other brands, often at a lower price, is one of the things that first attracted me to Daniel Smith’s products. An another annoying note- this paint also seemed to want to continued coming out of the tube even after I stopped squeezing.

Daniel Smith cerulean blue chromium
A light, pale blue, similar to a sky blue. There’s 2 (technically 3 if you count PB71 which nobody currently makes paint with that I know of) versions of cerulean out there- the “real” cerulean (PB35) and the “imitation” cerulean (PB36). To make things more complicated, there’s several variations of PB36- ranging from the bluer one seen here to a greenish turquoise version. It’s not an apples to apples comparison that I’m doing here, but Winsor & Newton’s cerulean (PB35) is the only other one I have. It’s important to note that I got the W&N paint probably over 10 years ago, and from what I’ve read in several places they improved their paints a few years ago, so a newer cerulean from them would probably perform better than this one. Of the two Daniel Smith cerulean is very slightly greener, and I prefer the bluer color of the W&N paint. The tinting strength is the same for both, even in the further tests I did (also not shown). It’s very important to point out that the Daniel Smith paint is about half the price of W&N’s from ASW and less than 1/3rd of the retail price. Daniel Smith’s paint here is glossier than the unfortunately dull matte W&N paint, something that I think I’ve only seen in the old cerulean from W&N. While I actually prefer my tube of W&N’s cerulean, for the bluer color at least, I would recommend at least considering the Daniel Smith paint. Makes an interesting range of light greens mixed with the nickel titanate yellow above.

Well, that was a lot more typing than I thought it’d be. Hopefully you guys don’t mind these really long posts about paint though, since I’m planning on another one of these in a few days.

Old Holland, Gamblin, Williamsburg

New Tubes of Paint

I finally got my order of new paint from Jerry’s Artarama today. All three brands – Old Holland, Gamblin, and Williamsburg – are ones that I’ve never tried before and I thought I’d write my first impressions of each. I normally use brands like Daniel Smith, M Graham, or Winsor & Newton.

Note that the photos in this post are not 100% true to life, even though I tried many times to get as accurate of colors in the photos as I could.

Here’s what I got and Jerry’s normal price for each. I actually paid less for most of them thanks to a coupon and sales. The normal retail price would be higher for any of these if you got them in an art store.


I first learned about this brand about 10 years ago, but I never got around to trying it until now. From what I’ve seen it doesn’t have the reputation that a brand like Old Holland does, but I expect it to be of solid quality.
Raw Umber – Burnt Umber – $7.46 each
Black Spinel – $17.96
Portland Grey Deep – Portland Grey Medium – Portland Grey Light – $8.96 each
Torrit Grey – free ^__^

Old Holland

This is often regarded as a “premium brand” of paint. Their prices can get very high, very fast, so I only got a selection of their cheapest paints. Theoretically the quality should be the same as the expensive paints, it’s just that certain pigments cost more to make. There’s no way I’m spending $50 on a 40ml tube of paint, and some of their paint does reach that. I’ve seen worse though.
Burnt Sienna – Ultramarine Blue – English Red – Mars Yellow – Yellow Ochre Light – $11.75 each


I’ve heard this brand is on par with Old Holland, but since I couldn’t use my coupon on it I only got one color. I kind of have a thing about only wanting to buy paint when there’s some sort of sale or coupon discount.
Naples Yellow Italian – $11.56

Paint Sample Color Swatches

To get to know each paint, I squeezed a small dab of each onto a wax paper palette sheet. I then scraped away the paint at the bottom of the dab to see its transparency. After that I made a roughly 50/50 mix of the paint with M Graham Titanium White (actually a blend of titanium white, PW6, and zinc white, PW4). I then took some of that blend and made another 50/50 mix with that and more white, and then repeated that once more. This showed me what the paints looked like in tints (i.e. having white added). I didn’t use any solvents because I normally don’t when I work and I wanted to see what the paints would look like under normal conditions for myself.

Quick note about a pigment’s color index code- Each paint has a code like PB29 on it. This stands for Pigment (P) Blue (B) 29. The number is just the number given to it when added to the color index. Knowing these codes is a lot of memorization, but important because different brands may refer to the same pigment by different names. For example, depending on the brand PO62 might be called “permanent orange” or “azo orange” or even “helio genuine orange.”

Naples, Ochre, and Mars Yellows with English Red

Williamsburg – Naples Yellow Italian

This is my first experience with pure PBr24. It’s much warmer than I thought it’d be, but without the intensity of other yellows. The paint is very thick, and took a slightly firmer squeeze than I’m used to to get it out of the tube. This would make a very good yellow for an earth palette. This one example of Williamsburg’s paint has made me very interested in trying some more from them in the future.

Old Holland – Yellow Ochre Light

PY43 is natural yellow iron oxide and because of many different factors this pigment can have a range of appearances. Given that this paint has “light” in its name I didn’t expect it to be nearly this dark. Instead of this one I wish I had stuck with the Yellow Ochre Half-Burnt that I was originally going to, so it’d be more different from the paint below.

Old Holland – Mars Yellow

PY42 is synthetic yellow iron oxide and one of my favorite pigments. It’s the source of the name “yellow oxide” that I use on some sites like twitter. This paint is very similar to the one above it but slightly more intense. Of the two, I prefer this one. I was hoping they’d be more different than what they are. As it is they’re too similar to need both of these paints on one palette.

Old Holland – English Red

English red is one of the paints in this order that I was most looking forward to. I was a little disappointed that it’s not quite as strongly red or as warm as I had hoped. Even so, I was very impressed with its tinting strength. As you can see, by the third tint you’re looking at a mixture of about 1/8 red with 7/8 white, and yet the strength of the red is about equal with all that white. This is the kind of paint where a little bit really does go a long ways. Its pigment, PR101, is synthetic red iron oxide and comes in many varieties depending on certain factors in how the paint is made. Other varieties using that same pigment might be called things like “venetian red,” “indian red,” or “transparent red oxide.”

Raw and Burnt Umber with Torrit Grey

Gamblin – Raw Umber

PBr7 is one of those very versatile pigments that has many variations. In the case of umbers it’s natural iron oxide that has some manganese in it. This raw umber from Gamblin is greyer than I expected, but makes a potentially useful warm grey as some artists use it for.

Gamblin – Burnt Umber

Maybe it’s because I don’t use burnt umber very often, but I really didn’t think it’d turn out to be this grey. In real life its just slightly warmer than what this photo shows, and the paint’s masstone (what it looks like straight from the tube) is a little darker, but I’d say it was disappointing that there’s such a minor difference between the raw and burnt umbers. Burnt umber is made by taking the pigment that would be used for raw umber and applying enough heat to it to remove the water molecules. This darkens and should redden the pigment. I say it should, but in this case it didn’t really.


After working with this paint a bit and mixing it with some Liquin to thin it down for a transparent glaze I was pleased to see that it does have the redness that I was hoping for. It’s just in tints, when mixed with white, that the paint quickly greys. The difference between the raw and burnt umbers is more noticeable when mixed with Liquin and used like this.

Gamblin – Torrit Grey

Torrit Grey is unique to Gamblin. Every spring they clean out their air filtration and put all of the pigment dust into one paint. The result is a limited edition slightly greenish grey that changes each year and includes, I assume, every pigment they use. I looked over Gamblin’s website and counted 44 different pigments in all their paint, not including things like the many variations of PBr7. The reason this is greenish is because of phthalo green (pronounced “thalo”), PG7, which is famous for being very intense and overpowering other pigments in mixes. As for the paint itself, it’s actually really nice. Very opaque due to the huge variety of pigments in it.

Burnt Sienna Comparison Swatches

Old Holland – Burnt Sienna

Just like the umbers, siennas are also listed as PBr7. They just don’t have the manganese in them. When I first put some of Old Holland’s burnt sienna on the palette I was surprised that it wasn’t nearly as strong of a color as I thought it’d be based on online images. What I was hoping for was a burnt sienna that was a little redder than the one from M Graham that I already had. After comparing the two I was definitely disappointed that the paint from Old Holland was actually slightly duller. It seems like it’d be a good paint, but they look almost the same and on Dick Blick’s catalogue M Graham’s is only $6.23 (for 37ml) compared to Old Holland’s $11.75 (for 40ml). The tinting strength is about the same too. The only thing that I can tell in favor of Old Holland’s burnt sienna from my first impression making these swatches is that it’s a thicker paint, something I do like.

Swatches of Ultramarine Blue

Old Holland – Ultramarine Blue

This color was frustrating to photograph. In real life it’s much more intense in the transparency and the masstone is closer to black. Again I’m comparing Old Holland to M Graham. This time there’s more of a difference between the two brands and I’m more pleased with Old Holland. M Graham’s paint was very oily and had some separation between the oil and pigment while Old Holland’s had the same thickness as the rest of their paint that I tried today. The tinting strength was also a little stronger for Old Holland, although that may have been just me not making a perfectly 50/50 mix with the white.

Black Comparison

Gamblin – Black Spinel

This was another difficult one to photograph. Different black paints will have very subtle shifts toward warm or cool when mixed with white. PBk28 is billed by Gamblin as “the only truly neutral black in masstone and tint.” This is my first experience with this pigment. I was a little confused when I first started making the tints because it seemed to me to be slightly blueish (a little more so than this photo shows). I got out some M Graham ivory black for comparison, which was definitely a warmer grey in tints by comparison. Unfortunately I don’t have any lamp or mars black in oil paint for further comparison. It’s not at all an unpleasant grey, I actually really like it, but it just doesn’t seem to fit what I expected. It’s possible that the white I was using was the reason. I’ll have to try this again once I get some pure zinc white (PW4) because I’ve at least heard that titanium white (PW6) tends to cool down colors when mixed with them. The price is kind of high, and after looking around some more I found at least one other brand that uses PBk28 in a paint that’s cheaper, but I could easily see myself using this black as part of a minimal palette. The ivory black from M Graham was again kind of oily, but not as much this time.


I got that backwards, it’s actually zinc white that cools mixes down. I tried again with pure titanium white and it was still definitely a non-neutral cool grey.

Gamblin's Portland Grey Deep, Medium, and Light

Gamblin – Portland Grey Deep, Medium, and Light

I don’t normally use grey when painting, but I think that’s going to change. These were actually the first three of the new paints I got that I tried and I photographed them under different lighting conditions from the rest. Gamblin’s website doesn’t list PBr7 as being in them, but it’s written on the tubes and makes sense to me because normally a mix of black and white won’t be 100% neutral and if the grey is leaning a little toward the bluer side of things then a touch of brown will balance it out. These three paints are what I expect when I think of a neutral grey.

Texture of Gamblin's Portland Grey

One of the first things I noticed with Gamblin’s paint was how thick it is compared to at least some of what I normally use. I gently pressed my palette knife into one of the greys and lifted it. It’s now at least 5 hours after this photo was taken and it’s still standing up, although the thin tops have curled over. There’s no way I’d be able to get the kind of texture with M Graham’s paints that I can with this.

Conclusions from my first impressions

I was very pleased with the consistency of every paint from every brand I tried. They’re all thick and I expect will hold a brushstroke well when I want to give a painting a little texture. Some of the paints were a little duller than I hoped and weren’t all that different from the less expensive (but still good quality) paint that I already have. The Naples Yellow Italian from Williamsburg is definitely my favorite based on these color swatches, with Mars Yellow and English Red from Old Holland being second and third place. I think the Portland Greys are going to be very useful. Although Gamblin’s Burnt Umber was surprisingly greyish, it should also be useful as a warm grey. I’d try more paint from any of these three brands. As for the prices on some of them compared to other brands offering the same paints, let’s just say that artist paint is not immune to the law of diminishing return.