M. Graham Oil Paints Review




"We wanted to make color better than anybody on the face of the earth" -Art Graham 

With all of the high quality professional grade oil paint manufacturers, setting out to "make color better than anybody on the face of the earth" is a pretty lofty goal. But after years of use and comparing their paint to other brands, I think they might have achieved their goal or at least rivaled the top tier manufacturers.

Here's a video (produced and upload by M. Graham) where they show their process of testing tinting strength in comparison to other paint brands.



First off, there are two brands of paint that I regularly use and love, but I've replaced almost all with M. Graham, and I'm happy that I have.

Paint Selection Criteria:
  1. Color.
  2. High pigment load.
  3. Texture/Consistency.
  4. Price.

Color:

M. Graham's colors are as pure and vibrant as I've seen. Because there are differences in color between brands with the same color name, sometimes the choice comes down to personal preference. As an example; M. Harding and M. Graham both offer Naples Yellow, but their colors are very different (see the photo below). One thing that separates M. Graham from the pack is that they exclusively use walnut oil as their pigment's vehicle. Walnut oil yellows far less than the more popularly used linseed oil, leaving walnut oil paintings more vibrant over the long term. This has been proven with many independant tests and examples can be found online.

Pictured: Naples Yellow - M. Graham and Michael Harding. I prefer M.Graham's (left) because of it's higher value.

Pigment load:  

Pigment load has a lot to do with the paint's handling properties and is a personal preference dictated by the artist's desired effects and application approach. There are brands that have such a high pigment load and low oil content that the paint is very stiff when squeezed from the tube, and can be unusable for certain applications without being thinned with a drying oil. This is not the case with M. Graham.

Having worked with many different brands, I can say that M. Graham's pigment load is excellent, and they have obviously mastered the pigment milling process as to not sacrifice that paints workability or leave a gritty texture, which leads to my next point...

Texture/Consistency:

"Long", "Smooth" and "Buttery" are the best words that I can use to describe the consistency. They tend to be more loose (or less stiff) than some artist grade oils, but the high pigment load ensures that the paint will hold its peaks. Straight out of the tube, they can be used without additional medium while still blending well, which is a valuable attribute for a realist painters. 

Price Comparison: (September 2017 prices from Dickblick.com for Cadmium Red or closest equivalent)

Listed from highest price to lowest. I honestly believe that M. Graham oils are of equal or greater quality than the higher priced paints listed.


  1.  Schmincke Mussini - Cadmium Red Md - 37ml.....$56.81
  2.  Old Holland - Cadmium Red Md - 37ml.....$44.37
  3.  Blockx - Cadmium Red.....$42.57
  4.  Michael Harding - Cadmium Red - 40ml.....$34.71
  5.  Williamsburg - Cadmium Red Md - 37ml.....$28.73
  6.  Blick - Cadmium Red Md - 40ml.....$22.79
  7.  Rembrandt - Cadmium Red Md - 40ml.....$19.65
  8.  Holbein - Cadmium Red - 40ml.....$18.84
  9.  M. Graham - Cadmium Red - 37ml.....$18.45
  10.  Winsor & Newton - Cadmium Red - 37ml.....$18.30
  11.  Gamblin - Cadmium Red Md - 37ml.....$17.97
  12.  Da Vinci - Cadmium Red Md - 37ml.....$17.43

Oil Separation:

It's a myth that oil separation is a sign of low-quality tubed oil paint. In fact, oil separation is proof that the manufacturer hasn't used additional fillers or extenders. Over time, with temperature changes and many other factors, oil can naturally separate from the pigment. All artist quality tubed oil paints are prone to separation, especially "longer/smoother" paints, as they contain more oil to achieve the consistency. I have experienced separation with M. Graham paints as well as some of the much more expensive brands.

Good approaches to dealing with oil separation are: Store the tubes upside down and/or remove the separated oil by dabbing with a Q-tip or paper towel.

Over time and with oil separation and removal, you might notice that the paint will become stiffer. On the palette, simply add a little walnut oil to the bring it back to the desired consistency. 

Environment and Health Conscious:

I applaud M. Graham's efforts to be as "green" as possible in their manufacturing process and that they actively minimize their pigment's toxins to help reduce the chances negative health effects to oil painters. They also promote "solvent-free" oil painting as an alternative to the unnecessary use of turpentine. 

To learn more about these topics visit the M. Graham website:
mgraham.com - Green Story
mgraham.com - Solvent Free Brush Cleaning

Made in the US:

As an American, I feel that it's important to support our artists, craftsmen and businesses whenever possible. As an added bonus; in the US, M. Graham paints are less expensive than overseas brands because the international shipping charges aren't added into their prices.

Conclusion:

M. Graham is a small US paint manufacturer that only produces small batches and inspects the quality of each and every batch to maintain the highest standards. High pigment load, consistent quality, made with walnut instead of linseed oil, a fraction of the price without sacrificing quality and a brush feel that I personally love, are the main reasons that I've switched from comparable brands. I would highly recommend M. Graham oils to anyone who hasn't tried them. Also, they are paired beautifully with their walnut oil and walnut/alkyd medium.

Painted with M. Graham Oils

"Sierra Still Life #1"
10 x 8 oil on panel 
by Slade Wheeler 




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