Ken Bromley, the well-known supplier of artists’ materials, have recently introduced a range of own-brand oil paints into what is already a very competitive market. They claim that the paints are made using the finest pigments, ground in refined linseed oil and roller milled in small batches for superior blending. The paints, which contain no extra drying agents, are available in 37 colours in 60ml tubes and 21 colours are available in 225ml tubes.


The paints – first look

The tubes certainly look business-like. The paper wrappers conveniently carry all the relevant information: colour name, series, transparency, permanence rating, and the codes of the pigments used to make the colour. All this is printed beneath a painted band of the tube colour – this is a thoughtful touch, as it gives a much better idea of the actual colour inside the tube and suggests a quality product. For those buying online, the Ken Bromley website shows the colour chart and, if you hover the mouse pointer over each colour, all the relevant details of each colour will be revealed.

But do the paints perform as well as the packaging suggests they might? The tubes are certainly well filled with paint of a smooth, toothpaste-like consistency that shows no excessive oiliness. Certain colours are slightly stiffer out of the tube than others but this is nothing unusual, as different pigments require different amounts of linseed oil when ground into a workable paste.

The colours are rich and match the label colour. Without added medium they brush out well but the consistency also holds the shape of the brushstroke when used as an impasto. The paints contain no added dryers but drying can easily be accelerated with the use of a proprietary drying agent or alkyd painting medium in the mixes.

Buttermere, Ken Bromley Artists’ Oil Colours on board, (30.5x30.5cm)
This study was painted over a dull green ground. Viridian was the base for the green mixes with added earth colours, ivory black, cobalt, titanium white and yellow ochre. Light opaque mixes covered darker areas of paint with no trouble. Glazes were used for the clouds



The colour range covers all the work-aday colours most artists use and should cover all mixing possibilities. Two blacks, Mars and the cooler ivory black are included, as are four whites: zinc white, which is semi-opaque and highly suitable for mixing with cool colours and can also be used for mixing glazes; the more opaque slow-drying titanium white and a quick drying titanium white, and a mixing white. Mixing white is a special formulation of titanium white that has a lower tinting strength and, like zinc white, it’s useful when mixing transparent colours for glazes and light pastel colours.

Thirty two colours are manufactured from a single pigment, which goes a long way to help the less experienced create clean colour mixes. The cadmium colours are supplied in their genuine form but also as hues. Cerulean and cobalt are both hues, which helps to keep costs down, as both colours can be eye-wateringly expensive when made from genuine pigments. The cerulean is lovely and bright – sometimes cerulean hue can be a little bit dull.

Covering power

The paint is a pleasure to use, colour mixes run true and the results are exactly as hoped for, with no unpleasant surprises. Two colours that I use constantly, Payne’s grey and viridian green are particularly nice. The Payne’s grey is slightly warmer than many other manufacturers’ versions and is ideal for toning down warm strident colours. The viridian is dark and will form the base of countless green mixes. The true cadmiums are strong and opaque, and all the opaque colours seem to have good covering power, which indicates a high pigment content. The titanium covered very well unmixed, straight from the tube, but mixed very well with other colours to create strong opaque tints. The violet is made from pigment violet 23 and often known as dioxazine purple; I find this the most useful prepared violet/purple as it’s not too red and lovely when mixed with yellow ochre or orange to create rich browns.

Derwent Water, Ken Bromley Artists’ Oil Colours on board, (30.5x30.5cm)
This study was painted over a deep red ochre ground. The paint covered very well and mixed smoothly – both thin and thick mixes were used and once the work was dry glazes were used in the sky and water. Liquin was added to speed up drying

I liked these paints very much, they did precisely what I asked of them and clearly when compared to other brands will not break the bank. And while the adage ‘you get what you pay for’ is certainly true for most paints, in this case I think that you get just that little bit more.

This product report is taken from the April 2014 issue of The Artist