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All paint is made up of two things; pigment particles and binders. Binders hold the pigment together and help hold the paint to the support. Watercolour uses gum arabic, Oils use linseed or safflower oils, Acrylics use synthetic or vinyl based binders, and encaustic uses wax etc.
The other choice facing most beginners is student-grade versus artist quality or professional quality paint.
The main differences between these are:
- the cost of the pigments sourced to give the colour. Some pigments are rare and costly but offer greater fade resistance over the years. Artist quality paints have different prices for different levels or grades among their colours. These reflect the cost of production. They also have a choice between opaque and transparent colours (most tubes carry labels signifying degree of transparency).
- the use of opaque fillers in the student grade paints which makes transparent pigments only available from the artist quality products (this is important if you wish to work with washes – thin layers of pure colour that allow the underlying colour to glow through). You can make an opaque colour from a transparent pigment by adding white. You cannot make a transparent colour from an opaque one.
That’s it. Those are the main facts.