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.

Color Theory Thursday: Secondary Palette

This week I thought I’d show a palette that most of you have probably not seen before. I’m assuming you all know about the color wheel and both primary and secondary colors, where the three primaries are red, yellow, and blue, and by mixing them you get the three secondaries of green, purple/violet, and orange. It’s probably been explained to you that the reason the primary colors are called that is because by mixing them you can get any color but you can’t mix any color to get them. Well today I’m going to challenge that.

Click for full size

Above I have green, purple, two oranges, and white along the top of the palette. I mixed each with a little white just give a fuller picture of what they look like. I didn’t end up using the cadmium orange, and instead opted for indian yellow from Blue Ridge. Although classed as a yellow pigment in the Color Index, Blue Ridge correctly describes it saying “not really a yellow, more orange than anything,” and besides this gives me an excuse to try more mixes with my new paint anyways. I added a second violet in the bottom left to see how it’d mix with the green.

Green + Purple = Blue

When mixing any two colors what you’ll end up with is basically whatever is between them on the color wheel. Normally you’d get green by mixing blue and yellow because it’s between those two, but since blue is between green and purple that’s what you get from mixing them, as you can see in the PG7+PV23 and PG7+PV16 examples.

The blue was a little dull, and different greens and purples might result in a more intense blue, but this is an important point to notice here- From my experience, whenever you mix two colors the overall chroma (aka intensity) of the resulting mix will be less than at least one, if not both, of the original colors, especially if the two colors are far apart on the color wheel, and especially when your mix is midway between the two colors. There could be exceptions I’m not thinking of, but that seems to be the case to me. So if you want a really high chroma green, for example, using something like a phthalo green will get you higher chroma than a mix of yellow and blue.

Purple + Orange = Red

So here my goal is to get a red, and since it’s between purple and orange that’s what I’m mixing. I made three mixes with different amounts of each. The middle mix is an earthy orangish red and was a nice surprise. I’ll definitely be recording that one for latter.

Green + Orange = Yellow

Yellow was a hard one for two reasons: First, the green I was using is very overpowering in mixes and I started off with way too much of it, so I kept adding more and more orange. Second, yellow is only a very narrow slice of the visible light spectrum, and there wasn’t a lot of room for error in the mix. I actually went a little too far with adding more orange and should have stopped at the bright yellow I had right above the last color in the bottom right, which you can still see some of. I think the whole range of greenish yellows I got leading up to it were also a nice surprise too, and worth recording.


The idea of “primary” colors being something that can’t be produced by mixing other colors is false. While there may be something to be said about about psychological colors, for example psychological yellow (a yellow that has no visible traces of green or orange), I think there’s an overemphasis on the traditional primary colors of blue, yellow, and red on artists’ palettes. Having more colors on your palette does give more mixing options and make it easier to maintain high chroma in mixes, however a full range of hues can be achieved through the mixing of any three colors that are sufficiently spaced on the color wheel, primary or not.

Color Theory Thursday – Ultramarine Blue

For the first Color Theory Thursday I thought I’d take a look at one of the most common paints, Ultramarine Blue, also known as PB29 (pigment blue 29). I’ll start out with samples of a few varieties, tell some brief history, and then show what I mixed with them.

If you don’t want to read it all, skip to the end where I show a nice mix I discovered on accident.

There are many subtly different varieties of ultramarine, with many paint makers offering as much as 2-4 varieties at once. All varieties are going to be a very dark, transparent, intense, somewhat reddish blue. Ultramarine “light” or “GS” (green shade) are about the same thing; a slightly lighter and less reddish blue. “French” or “deep” ultramarines are also the same thing, or close to it; a slightly deeper and more reddish blue.

Note: The photos are all taken at the same time in direct sunlight. I find it to be impossible, at least with my camera skills, to capture the intensity of ultramarine. In reality the blues below are more intense, except the lapis lazuli, which is actually pretty close to reality.


The paints above are each mixed with Charvin Titanium White at the bottom, first 1:1 and then 1:3.

Winsor & Newton French Ultramarine
Because this was the first one I ever got I regard it as the benchmark by which others are measured.

M Graham Ultramarine Blue
Good color, but very oily. Actually one of the most oily paints I own. This is not necessarily bad and can be a good sign. Ultramarine is famous for oil separation if a stabilizer isn’t used. I’m sure M Graham does use a stabilizer, but using too much can also be bad and changes how the paint behaves. The fact that there’s this much oil separation here indicates that they do not use too much stabilizer.

Rembrandt Ultramarine Deep
A surprisingly deep and vivid blue. Of the paints here it’s my favorite as far as color goes. It’s a little oily, but not as much as M Graham by a large margin.

Old Holland Ultramarine Blue
This one is the most expensive of the first four paints because this brand is one of the pricier ones out there. The pigment concentration is high and I like the way the paint spreads and handles the most out of the paints here. The color is a close second behind the Rembrandt example for my preference.

Of all the above paints, I think the Old Holland one had the highest tinting strength, although not by much. I might not have gotten perfectly exact mixes, but overall it seems like there’s not a lot of difference. Where there is a lot of difference is how each paint handles, with Old Holland being my preference and followed by Winsor & Newton. I hardly see any difference in the color, except the depth and vividness of the Rembrandt example, and I don’t seen much of a point in having multiple varieties of this blue on one palette. I think your choice of what brand to get should be based on price and handling.

Daniel Smith Lapis Lazuli Genuine
By far the most expensive of the paints here, being two to three times the price of the others.

Long ago artists had very limited options for blue paint, and one of those was to take the semi-precious stone lapis lazuli and basically grind it up into paint. There’s a lot more to the process than that, but the important part is that while this paint was a very good blue it was also worth more than its weight in gold. The stones were imported to Europe from mines in Afghanistan and the paint was therefore called Ultra (beyond) Marine (the sea).

In 1826 everything changed when chemists in France developed synthetic ultramarine, called French ultramarine. It was as good if not better than the real thing due to lack of impurities, chemically identical though with smaller and more uniform particle sizes, and very cheap. The market for lapis lazuli paint quickly switched to synthetic ultramarine and today it’s the synthetic ultramarine that is simply called by the name ultramarine blue.

There’s several paint makers today that still offer genuine lapis lazuli. However, there’s different grades of pigment quality based on how much of the impurities have been removed and every lapis lazuli paint on the market falls far short of the purity and intensity of synthetic ultramarine, such as what you see above. In the samples of that paint mixed with white it very quickly disappears because it’s so much weaker than the synthetic versions, on top of being duller.

The left example is lapis lazuli. To the right of that I took Winsor & Newton French ultramarine and added Gamblin Portland Grey Deep plus a few things to thin the paint. I think it’s a pretty close match as far as color goes, and considering I had to actually add grey to the synthetic ultramarine it’s clear how much duller the natural pigment is due to impurities. The only thing I couldn’t seem to match was the way the natural paint produced delicate glazes due to its high transparency, and that’s something it’s very useful for.

While going though old threads on forums I came across a reference that mentioned mixing some of the synthetic ultramarine into the natural to boost its color intensity. I tried that with some of the Old Holland paint and then a little more on the right side. The obvious result is a much stronger paint that’s still good for glazes.

My conclusion? Genuine Lapis Lazuli isn’t worth its marketing hype with the choices in today’s market, but in specific cases it could be useful. If it were to cost much less I might actually like it in the same way I like natural green earth, which is also transparent and weak tinting, but the price is a bit prohibitive. I have updated the wording here to be a little less critical than it used to be. I still think it’s far too expensive, but again it does work well in some situations.


Here I mixed each of the above paints, in the same order, with cadmium yellow pale (PY35) from Winsor & Newton. I tried to go for 1:1 mixtures in the first row. You can see they each produce about the same green, even though two of these blues are the french/deep variety and two aren’t. The Old Holland mix seems a little bluer, maybe because of it being slightly stronger than the others. The lapis lazuli on the other hand barely had an effect on the yellow. To get the same effect from the first four blues I had to mix the yellow in the bottom row with the tiniest little droplet of blue paint. I’d estimate the mix to be about 1:20, or somewhere around there.

Note than when using ultramarine mixed with yellow for greens you’ll typically get earthier, duller greens around the middle of the green range because the reddishness of ultramarine will cause the mix to come closer to the neutral center of the color wheel than what you’d see if you used a greener blue to begin with.

For all of the mixes past this point I used Winsor & Newton’s French ultramarine exclusively, making three mixes of different amounts with each other paint.

One of the most common ways that artists mix their own black paint is to combine ultramarine with burnt sienna (PBr7), such as this one from M Graham, because they combine nearly perfectly to hit black in the center of the color wheel and because they’re both among the cheapest paints. On the left side I used more blue in the mix, producing a very dark blue black. The center is a neutral mix. It’s not exactly a 1:1 mix, and since I had to add more paint back and forth to get the right balance I’m not sure what the final ratio was. On the right is mostly burnt sienna with a little blue added.

Here I mixed Winsor & Newton cerulean blue (PB35) with ultramarine. The left side has the most cerulean and the right the most ultramarine. I wasn’t too excited about the results, but the middle one is kind of nice.

I really liked this mix of ultramarine with Williamsburg Naples yellow italian (PBr24). It looks a little washed out in the photo but that’s mainly because the yellow is dull to begin with. I’ll be recording the greenish blue on the left in my library of mixes to remember. Update- Since posting this Williamsburg has changed the formula for this paint due to changes in pigment supply so it’s no longer a single PBr24 pigment.

Here I mixed ultramarine with M Graham raw sienna (also PBr7). I like the middle green a lot. It’s a very nice earthy green. I highly recommend this mix for landscapes.

Here’s where I think ultramarine really shines, being a reddish blue to begin with. I mixed it with Daniel Smith quinacridone pink (PV42) and got a range of vivid purples and violets.

This time it’s Daniel Smith quinacridone violet (PV19), which is more violet to begin with than the pink version above. The mixes are very similar, but I think a little more intense, because the violet is closer to ultramarine than the pink already and so doesn’t have to cut across the color wheel quite as much.

I used Holbein Scarlet Lake (PR188 and PO69 mixed) this time. Because this red is closer to orange than to violet it has to cut across the color wheel closer to the center to get to blue, so mixes with this produce dull purples. I actually kind of like the left mix, being similar to eggplant, and the right mix, being a very earthy red, but I don’t think I like the middle one at all.

So here’s the mix that I mentioned at the start of this whole post. On the far left is pure Daniel Smith Sleeping Beauty Turquoise Genuine. Like the lapis lazuli before this is one of their “PrimaTek” paints, made from real turquoise. In the mix to the right of that I used mostly ultramarine and a little bit of the turquoise and immediately thought how similar it looked to cobalt blue (PB28), a much more expensive paint than ultramarine. I got out a tube of Winsor & Newton cobalt and put that above it. I can’t really tell a difference between the two. I know of another mix for imitation cobalt that involves ultramarine, phthalo blue (PB15), and white, but what I got here was basically a mixed paint that nearly perfectly, to me anyways, matches my cobalt and doesn’t use white to do it. This mix is far cheaper than cobalt.

My Palettes

Well I haven’t actually made much lately, but I have been doing art related things. As you can see from my palettes, I’ve been mixing paint like crazy so I can find combinations that I like. The example above is a small portion of a palette where I’m recording 50/50 mixes of different pigments. In the past I never did get the hang of mixing skin tones, so I’ve been practicing that as well.

Actually, I’ve been enjoying it so much that I thought I might turn color theory into a regular thing on this blog. How does Color Theory Thursdays sound?

Also, I’ve gone overboard lately with ordering paint and I’ll soon be getting two separate new shipments, which will include paint from four brands that I’ve never used, plus 1 more tube from Old Holland. Just 1-3 tubes from three of the brands, but I think 11 tubes from the forth. I am -very- excited for this 4th brand. I’ve only recently learned about this brand and it’s apparently a somewhat new and very small one, but I’ve heard a lot of really good things about it. Once I get all of these I’ll try them out and post my findings here like I did before with Old Holland, Gamblin, and Williamsburg.