A Review of Rublev Oils

written by Sophie | Materials & Technique, Oil Painting

Rublev oils are a unique paint in that they set out to only use historic pigments and provide us with the paints of the old masters. A noble aim perhaps. These paints are professional premium paints and definitely not for all. But for some they are the the best of the best.

I got a selection of Rublev paints from the main UK supplier Supreme Paint. They have a great website to purchase online from, but what I like most about their site is the personal description of each colour. It really helps in choosing colours! The Chrome Yellow Primrose, for example is described as:

A really beautiful yellow, primrose is very apt. This is the gentlest and lightest of the Chrome yellows it leans slightly towards green which gives it those ephermal primrose yellows, particularly visible when made into tints with white. The lead base gives it a gentle luminosity.

James, who runs Supreme Paint, is a complete paint nerd (in the best way!) and has lots of knowledge. A great source for any questions!

Rublev paint is created by Natural Pigments, a company founded by George O'Hanlon. George has a huge amount of knowledge about pigments, mediums, longevity and lightfastness which he generously shares in workshops, on social media and the Natural Pigment's website.

My colours are: Barite White, Violet Hematite, Italian Burnt Sienna, Venetian Red, Lemon Ochre, Blue Ridge Yellow Ochre, Maya Blue, Cyprus Burnt Umber, and Cyprus Umber Medium

Rublev paint is described as made with "genuine natural and historical pigments like those used by the old masters" and "without additives". These paints are truly the real deal: they consist only of pigment and oil.

One of the main differences you'll notice while working with these paints is how different they all are. Every pigment has its own characteristics, it's own feel and texture. A Raw Umber might be a lot grittier than an Ultramarine Blue for example, and this is purely down to the pigment used. There are not many paint manufactures that do this, the only other that springs to mind is Langridge. Most oil paint manufacturers produce paints that have a consistent texture throughout the range. 

But one thing where Rublev remains truly unique is their focus on historic pigments. They have always aimed to provide us with the pigments of the old masters and make sure only the genuine historic pigments are used. They have mostly single pigment paints in their range: meaning that they don't offer convenience mixes. On each tube you will find the single pigment used.

Only recently have they also started stocking some modern pigments such as cadmiums.

Because of the 'honest' pigment characteristics, Rublev paint has beautiful colours in their range. The paints vary in consistency and fluidity but overall seem fairly easy to brush out. Some pigments are very fluid, while others are much more stiff.

A lot of their range contains toxic pigments (lead) so for artists who, like me, tend to stay away from toxic pigments the choice is somewhat limited. [Edit: please note Rublev's own comment below this post where it is stated that "out of the 109 colors in the range of Rublev Colours Artist Oils, 72 are considered to be non-hazardous", so I was wrong] But I have worked with a selection of earth colours that were absolutely wonderful to work with. The only colour I could not get on with was Barite White which, for me, was too much like transparent glue and it had very little mixing value. The Lemon Ochre is gritty and thick, while the Blue Ridge Yellow Ochre, is much finer and more fluid, which you can clearly see in my photos. In other colours you see similar variations. I really liked the Maya Blue and Venetian Red. 

The gritty texture of Lemon Ochre is clearly visible

Many artists who appreciate 'true' and 'honest' paint will appreciate Rublev oils. They are top quality paints for the discerning artist. Are they for me? I find some of the colours too gritty and prefer a more smooth and easy spreadable paint (also because I prefer not to use mediums). There are few non toxic colours available, although their earths are nice, so I will keep and use the colours I have now. 

Do note that lead-based paints can no longer be sold within the EU (only in certain special circumstances) and so those particular colours are not available to us in the EU. 

In short: a beautiful and characterful oil paint for the true discerning oil painter.

You can buy Rublev Oils from the Natural Pigment Website, and in Europe from Supreme Paint

Published: January 21, 2020

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  1. Thank you for the review, Sophie. One thing to keep in mind is that out of the 109 colors in the range of Rublev Colours Artist Oils, 72 are considered to be non-hazardous. We include all 7 cadmium colors in the range of hazardous oil colors. Most colors are non-hazardous, and many are derived from natural pigments. There is a wide range, even if you do not want to use toxic pigments.

    In the range of earth colors, we offer each color in several different particle sizes, so even if you do not like larger particles (and sometimes considered 'gritty') in your oil paint, we have similar colors with small, fine particles.

  2. Hello Sophie!

    Great article, although I have to note one thing, the Barite White is actually not a 'white' oil paint but rather an extender/mixing 'white' that you add to the other colours to either make them go further/soften or even to achieve more transparency (separating the pigment particles of the other colour). On its own it will dry transparent, and any yellow remnant is from the oil in it. At least that's my understanding watching countless product videos by George and Tatiana on their YouTube channel. Barite itself is one of the the extender substances that other manufacturers use to add in their tubes to make the pigment go further – hence the cheaper price of paints from them. 🙂

    Tip: to keep the pigment from separating from the oil in the tube is to store them upside down.
    Tip: to keep the plastic lids lasting longer wipe any excess oil from the top of the tube before reapplying the lid.

    As for toxicity, I'm not concerned as I always wear gloves when I handle paint, regardless of the type of paint. 🙂

    I have been using Rublev Colours for a few years now and there's no turning back. I love them! 🙂

  3. I am asking as an author of mysteries, not primarily as an artist …so please don’t think the questions suspicious.
    * The heavy metal colors… are they toxic in the same way as the old versions that were created directly from the minerals?
    * If you were creating a copy of an old master, would the components of Rublev paint be distinguishable from the expected components of the old master? (I see you are an art historian so figured you would know.). Thank you!

    1. Hi Kristen! I think the best place to ask these questions is at Rublev’s. They know their paints. I am no paint manufacturer, I’m afraid (you can ask me about English Baroque architecture though 😉 ) Good luck finding out more!

  4. I’ve bought lead white from an art supply store that sells Rublev paints – they had it (at the back) when I asked, but I guess they cannot put lead colours on the shelf here. I’m not using it any longer though because of toxicity, but I wanted to try it to see the difference.
    I think the caps are really poor in these paints, they always break, but I like some colors, like fast-drying Roman black and purple ochre for underpainting.

  5. Very interesting article Sophie and very informative, I would love to give them a try, but the price is a bit high for me at the minute , even though i do understand you have to pay for quality, they are something I must keep in mind 🙂

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