New Year, New Paint?

This week finds me painting three and four foot tall plywood cartoon characters for a miniature golf course we are building in our back yard. My husband and I joked about adding a windmill to the initial artificial green estimate when we had the course installed a couple of years ago...little did we know...

Artist grade paint vs. Student grade

Artist grade paint vs. Student grade

Since I paint exclusively with Golden paint, I sped to the art store to pick up some less expensive paints to use for this project. I grabbed large bottles of student grade acrylic for about $8/ea (by large, I mean 16oz. each). Since I had to cover large areas of the prepped and sealed wood, I started to mix color in plastic cups instead of on a palette.

I needed gray. I poured about an inch of white paint into one cup and added 3 drops of black. After mixing well, nothing happened. No black. I added 3 more drops. Still nothing. I added a huge squirt. Nothing...by this time my cup is half full of paint. I added another huge squirt and got grey.

What did this tell me? The pigment concentration of the paint is so low (and possibly contains dye as well as pigment). Although the paint offered "ok" coverage on the sealed wood, it took a load of paint to mix colors. And I mean a LOAD. Good thing they come in 16oz. bottles...

A lot of students in our network ask about using less expensive craft and acrylic paint than what we list on the supply lists for each class. This is fine in some cases, but keep in mind what I mentioned about pigment load. That little 1oz. bottle of paint you are hesitant about purchasing will go a lot further than the craft paints you are buying. A LOT further. When I was mixing gray, I started with only 3 drops of black because that is what would have given me gray using the better paint. I knew about pigment load, but it's been a long time since I have used student paint.

Archival. When I was at the art store, I asked the manager if these were good paints to use on my miniature golf course. She said, "Yes. But the lightfastness is poor. They will fade in a month or two." No problem for me, because I plan on storing the wood pieces in my garage. (This course is for my daughter's upcoming birthday party festivities..more on that later.) And then I got to thinking....

I see people all over the internet and in magazines making art with these paints. Selling it... pricey originals.. and craft paint. What do you think would happen if you placed or hung a piece made with these paints in a sunny spot? Does morning or afternoon sun hit the wall where your art is living? Uh-oh.

Think about these points and especially be sure to inquire before purchasing artwork. Why spend money on something that is not going to last? It's best to be informed. If the paint you are using does not say "archival", think twice. Permanent only means that water will not re-activiate the paint.. it doesn't mean it will stand the test of time.