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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. 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

About the author

Sophie is an artist, art historian, tutor, author and blogger. She writes on oil and pastel painting, art history and the life of an artist. She paints portraits and still life and specialises in painting drapery and lace.

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  1. 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.

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  2. 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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