Liquitex "Basics" paint vs. Liquitex hard body, professional paints... is there really a difference?

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Ryan Thomas wrote
on 25 Oct 2009 10:11 AM

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I have been accustomed to using acrylic paints for a while now, but I have only recently decided to really ask myself, in any great detail, what the difference is between Liquitex “Basics” acrylic paint and Liquitex hard body, professional acrylic paint.  The “Basics” paint is considerably cheaper than its “professional” counterpart, but both paints appear to have basically the same lightfastness, viscosity, etc.; the only difference I can discern is in the pigments utilized in the paints, with the exception of all the “Basics” being “translucent” compared to the majority of the professional paints being “opaque.”  Even then, I still do not see the difference in the appearances of the two respective Liquitex brands.  I understand that the professional paint has a higher pigment content than its “Basics” counterpart, but is there that much of a difference between the two? 

The Liquidtex website for its “Basics” brand asserts that the paint is “a heavy body acrylic that retains peaks and brush strokes” and “contain permanent artist pigments.”  The website even claims that the “Basics” brand is intermixable with its soft and heavy body paints.  I have consulted with many people who produce, sell, and teach in the fine art field, and they claim that the “Basics” brand is just as good as the professional paint brand; they also came that the “Basics” brand is becoming increasingly more popular with hobbyists and professional painters alike because it’s durable and relatively cheap, which is significant given the dismal economic climate. 

For those acrylic painters out there, do you agree or disagree?  I’ve wonder if I combined the “Basics” paint and Liquitex professional, heavy body paint, would the pigment content be ‘better’ or just about the same.  I hope I’m not sounding completely clueless, but everything I’ve read and been taught has brought me to a crossroads of sorts.  I am seemingly getting sucked into quality debate; I’ve also been drawn into discussions about quality regarding Galeria, another favorite brand of mine, which was asserted as being nothing more than a “student’s brand,” while others assert it’s just as good as professional brands. 

This debate has even extended into the my use of the Daler-Rowney brand too, and that brand appears to be just as contentious as Winsor & Newton’s Galeria brand when it comes to durability, pigment content, viscosity – the professionality of the paint, in effect.  I hope my questions make sense.  Anyone’s ideas, thoughts, and suggestions will be greatly appreciated!!!

Just for reference purposes, Liquitex’s Basics brand website URL is – http://www.liquitex.com/Products/paintbasicsstudent1.cfm

 

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Karyn wrote
on 26 Oct 2009 10:12 AM

Hello Ryan,

Usually the biggest differences between student grades and artist grades have to do with pigment and pigment load which you can test yourself by doing a tinting strength test.

Pigments vary greatly in cost and to keep cost down for students, some colors are created with a less expensive pigment.  And, some of the paint may also contain less pigment than its professional counterpart.

Why would this make a difference, or does it make a difference?  Well, I think that really depends on the artist and how you use the paint.

You can test the tinting strength yourself by mixing one part student grade paint into 5 parts white and then doing the same for the professional grade.  (You can even do a lot more white than 5 parts).  The test will show you that it can take a lot more paint to reach the same hue if you're using student grade.

Some companies might use filler in their student grades, or they might have a different resin.  Either way, the paint ends up being less expensive for the student.

I'm not sure that viscosity is a measure, but lightfastness can be if the pigments are different between the grades.

I've found that using professional acrylics meet my standards much better and I can see a huge difference when mixing in gels or mediums. 

Good luck in your venture to find the best paint for your process

Karyn Meyer-Berthel

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Ryan Thomas wrote
on 26 Oct 2009 7:42 PM

Hello  Karyn,

I tried your 5 parts white test - and it worked rather well.  I did see a subtle difference, but nothing overly striking.  I also tried a tip that I was recommended by a fellow painter.  They said to take Liquitex professional paint and mix it to roughly 1/3 (33%) to 1/2 (50%) ratio with the Basics brand paint.  I also tried that with the 5 part white test, and compared that result to the strictly Basics paint and professional paint tests.  The result had more of a resemblance to the professional paint test than to the Basics paint test.  If I did this 1/3 to 1/2 professional paint ratio to the Basics paint, would this be a better route to increasing the pigment content  without strictly buying all professional, heavy body paints?

I'll admit it, I'm a broke (recent) college grad that will be out of a job in less than 2 months.  I can't spend a fortune anymore on high-end paint.  I have enough professional paint (in the colors I want to use for upcoming projects) to do a roughly 1 to 4 ratio (25% professional) with the Basics paint I currently have in supply.  I know it will not be the best pigment ratio in existence, but I am trying not to sacrifice quality and pigment with the limited funds I have at my disposal. I may try to buy enough paint to hit a 33%-45% professional ratio range if you would recommend that doing that instead.  I may have a lot of time on my hands soon - courtesy of my lost job - and I would like my work, paint quality-wise, to be the best it can possibly be within practical limitations I currently find myself confronted with.  These art projects are not commissioned works; just me painting as a hobby, which I take seriously, and like to have fun doing.

I also have a question about the lightfastness ratings.  Both the professional and Basics brands have a lightfastness rating of "M  Lightfastness: I *** - which I've been taught to be as "excellent."  My question is regarding how these ratings are arrived at.  Are the ratings determined on a specific, all inclusive criteria for acrylic paints, or are they determined strictly by the 'class' of paint (e.g. professional vs. student brands)?  Would this imply that one paint type/classification would retain color better than its counterpart - or be about the same? 

Thank you again Karyn.  I hope you don't feel like you are on a Jeopardy contest of acrylic technicalities. 

-Ryan

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Karyn wrote
on 27 Oct 2009 9:48 AM

Hi Ryan,

I think the biggest answer to your first question would come from how you are using the heavy body paint.  In your own paintings, on the canvas, once they are complete. . . can you tell a visual difference in the pigment load?  If so, then your mixing the paint is a good solution at this point.  You can save some money and have a higher pigment load.  If you're not mixing your paint much into mediums, gels or white where you can visually see a pigment or chroma difference, then why not just stick with the student grade paint?

The professional paint can go farther in pigment load when you're doing a lot of mixing, and extending the paint.  If you're using heavy body paints and intend for them to stand alone on the canvas, then pigment load may not be an issue at all for you.

The lightfastness of a paint is determined by testing against a predetermined scale.  Artist paints are put through rigorous testing in the sun, sometimes humidity, depending on the medium, to see how they'll hold up.  The rating is determined by how much that pigment fades over a specific length of time.  There are standards written by ASTM for each medium in this, and more work being done to keep those standards up to date on Lightfastness for paints and even colored pencils.  (The specific committee for ASTM artist materials is ASTM D01.57.) The lightfastness standard for Acrylic is 5098, which you should notice on the label if the company is following that standard.  ASTM standards are optional.

A lightfastness rating of excellent on one your student grades would be the same as on your artists' grade, but just take note that the substance containing the pigment does alter how lightfast it is.  So, if the resin or fillers are that different in your student grade, the lightfastness might be different, too.  But, possibly not enough to be noticeable to the naked eye. 

No worries, ask away.  If I don't know the answer, I'll let you know.

Karyn Meyer-Berthel

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Maywyn wrote
on 29 Oct 2009 11:53 AM

Thank you both. Great information here.

I began with Liquitex in the 1970s and 1980s. I was away from painting for many years. On my return I began using Golden, and trying a few other brands becuase the paint didn't flow or cover as well as I remember.

After reading this discussion, I'm going back to Liquitex.

In all my past lives, I have been me.

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Ryan Thomas wrote
on 29 Oct 2009 12:03 PM

Hey, I just wanted to say that I spoke with a friend of mine who also paints with the Liquitex brand, and she recommended that I do a "UV test" on the Basics brand and the Liquitex professional brand.  I think I'll take a canvas panel, paint those brands separately (and a mix of the two) with the colors I plan to use in my future works, and leave them out in the Sun for a few days.  She said that this may be the easiest way to test the lightfastness on my own. 

She also asked me to get back in touch with her to let her know how well the respective paints survived in the sunlight.  I am not sure if this is the best possible way to test the lightfastness, but I thought I would give it a shot.  I'll post again and let you all know how well the paints survived my "test" - though I don't think the appearance will really change much.   

To answer your question Karyn, I was not mixing neither the Basics or professional paints in mediums or gels.  I have considered applying a retardant to slow the drying time of the paints so I could do more color blending, but I haven't done that yet on any works of mine.  I was, for the most part, applying the paint straight to the canvas after I applied a few coats of Liquitex Super Heavy Acrylic Gesso to the canvas (I've used Fredrix canvases in the past, but I'm seriously considering jumping over to another brand). 

Liquitex also produces a "Basics" Acrylic Gesso version too, but I have been buying the "professional" version of their gesso products.  I suspect before it's all said and done, I'll jump over to using professional paints full-time for now on.  I have a feeling I'll use my Basics paints for color mixing techniques and practicing different styles of painting for future projects I may pursue.  I hope that clarifies the context of some of my questions. Big Smile

-Ryan Thomas

 

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Margo5 wrote
on 29 Oct 2009 12:46 PM

Ryan and FiveBroomsArt, thanks for the interesting information. At this point I don't use acrylics, but was thinking about eventually trying a limited amount in mixed media. I have a hard time getting past my frustration with the clean-up and the fact that acrylics are hard on brushes. Every time I went in and worked on painting my walls, I reminded myself of why I don't like working with acrylics. But, if I limit it to small areas of mixed media, that might work.

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Karyn wrote
on 30 Oct 2009 6:26 AM

Hi Ryan,

If you're doing a test in the sun, I'd recommend covering one half of the samples with foil so that you can accurately see how the colors change when you bring them in.  But, to be honest, a few days isn't going to do it for you.  These paints, like any ASTM standard paints are manufactured to weather years of sunlight.  A more accurate test would be to leave the colors in the sun for 6 months or so.   The closer you are to the equator, the less sun time you'll need.

Good luck!

Sounds like you're really considering your process and archivalness of your work.  I think that is a great way to go at it.  Keep us posted! 

 

Karyn Meyer-Berthel

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Karyn wrote
on 30 Oct 2009 6:35 AM

hi Margo,

I use Murphy's Oil Soap to clean both my latex and acrylic paints to remoisturize the bristles.  It can also work to soak a brush and reshape it, or get out some dried paint.  But, I have also used hair conditioner for the same purpose.  Smile

Karyn Meyer-Berthel

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Margo5 wrote
on 30 Oct 2009 8:33 AM

Karen, thanks for the tip. That would probably make a big difference.

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Ryan Thomas wrote
on 30 Oct 2009 8:44 AM

Hello Everyone,

Thanks for the tip Karyn - I actually meant to edit my last post.  As I was writing the post, I decided that it the UV test would take too long too show any real obvious results, but I think I completely misconstrued what my friend was talking about.  It really confused me because what she was saying about the lightfastness and the UV test didn't make sense to me - a few days wouldn't make any sense, as far as tests go, based on lightfastness standards.  I called her back while I was typing up that post and she meant crafts paint and Liquitex paints - so I completely missed the point she was making.  I got a call in my office immediately after I talked to her and I forgot to take that out the post before I posted it.  Sorry for the mix up; I greatly appreciate everyone's help and advance!!! Wink

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Karyn wrote
on 30 Oct 2009 10:18 AM

Ryan,

Thanks for the update, keep us posted on your work. 

Karyn Meyer-Berthel

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Paul4 wrote
on 30 Oct 2009 11:05 AM

Thanks, Ryan, for posing your initial question. I too was wondering the same thing as I didn't see the difference between the various grades of paint. I never use much medium or gels in my paintings, though. Another thing I like about the Basics line is that they're available in large sizes; I often buy the quart size or 16 oz. size. The more expensive paints are sometimes difficult to get or just not available in the large sizes. And of course, the cost is drastically different!

Paul

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stephenrosa wrote
on 29 Dec 2009 10:03 AM

Judging by the posting dates, I'm a bit late here!  I started painting with acrylics, and used the Basics brand to start with.  It was great!  As I got more involved, my daughter bought me a book on color theory, and how to mix colors.  It never worked!  I would see the color I was supposed to get when I'd mix A with B, but my result was never what it was supposed to be.  Over time, I moved to Golden heavy body paints,,,and the color mixing became much more precise.

I've since switched over to oils (still use acrylics though!) and the difference between the student and the pro series is very very apparent.  Not to say I purchase all pro,,,it's too expensive, and for most of my work, the student works great.  I do, however, purchase the pro series, when on sale, in the basic primary colors.

So, in short, if one does not color mix to a great extent, the student paints are great.  If you want clean pure mixes, go with the artist grade.

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ArtPro1 wrote
on 15 Apr 2014 1:09 AM

It looks like quite a few years have passed since your question was posted, however, I recently found myself asking the same question. I discovered that some colors in Basics have excellent pigment, while others don't seem to have as much pigment, which are likely the more translucent colors. For those colors I buy the professional quality Liquitex. BTW- the heavy body in the jars dry up faster if you don't use them often. Much to my surprise, I had to throw a lot of jars away (i.e. $$$) because the paint had become too stiff to use, even with the lid tightly screwed on. 

I am a professional artist and I paint both realism and large abstracts with a lot of texture. To create texture I usually use a molding paste first to save paint costs. I then add many, many layers of different colors. I have found that the Basics is just fine for what I want for my abstracts and it's a lot less costly. It would cost me a fortune to paint my abstracts using only professional brand because I make so many layers. I like the effect I get with some of the less pigmented paint, some of the time. I have always mixed my acrylic paints with other acrylic brands including the Basics with other acrylic brands such as Grumbacher and Golden.

For realism, I am much more picky about the pigment saturation. However, I still feel comfortable using some Liquitex Basics that have greater pigment. I can test pigment immediately to determine if I want to use a specific color by painting a strip of dark opaque color with high pigment, letting it dry, and then painting a strip of the other paint over the center of the strip. I test this with several colors that are the same but different brands or student of professional grade. If it covers the dark color you know it's more opaque and perhaps heavier pigment.

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