Michael Harding oil paints are renowned by artists all over the world. Formulated without fillers, extenders, or driers, their high pigment content makes for vibrant and buttery oil colours that are popular with traditional and contemporary painters alike. The story of Michael Harding oil colours goes back to the 1980s. As a painter, Michael Harding found that the paints he was using could not achieve the qualities that he saw in the paintings of the Old Masters. This inspired him to make his own oil colours, just as the artists of the past did. Now, Michael Harding and his team have been making oil colours at their current site in South Wales for over 10 years, after leaving London when rents became hugely expensive and they did not want to pass on the cost to artists. We paid Michael Harding a visit to see how his paints are made, and we also got the chance to see his upcoming watercolour range in production.
What Goes Into Michael Harding Oil Colours?
Oil paints are made of two essential ingredients – dry pigment and linseed oil. Choosing the best raw materials is key to the quality and longevity of the oil colours. Michael Harding oil paints are made with linseed oil that has been cold-pressed which is then further refined (with the exception of Cremnitz White in walnut oil, and Titanium White No.1 which is made using safflower oil).
The Michael Harding oil paint range includes a spectrum of pigments, from modern synthetic pigments like Phthalocyanine Blue Lake and Napthol Red, to Old Master paints like Genuine Lapis Lazuli, Genuine Rose Madder and Genuine Chinese Vermilion. Each pigment is individual, with a particular set of characteristics which need to be taken into account when making oil colours, and which are also important for the artist to know when using the oil paints. On each tube of Michael Harding oil paint, the label states the oil content, opacity, drying time, pigment index number, pigment chemical composition and tint power of the colour. Watch part two of our In Conversation with Michael Harding film to see Michael explain what oil content means for oil painters, and how it relates to the fat over lean principle.
Some ranges of oil colours homogenise the individual properties of pigments by adding fillers, extenders, or driers to even out consistency, level of gloss, and drying time. While some artists find consistency helpful, what this takes away is an authentic experience of the properties of colour – whether it is a slow drying Alizarin Crimson which packs a punch in mixtures, or a gently tinting, fast-drying Italian Green Umber.
The Process of Making Oil Colours
In the first step, dry pigment and linseed oil are combined in a mixer. Different pigments require a unique amount of oil, and the proportions must be honed to precise amounts. After mixing, the pigment has been wetted throughout the oil, but the individual pigment particles need to be dispersed evenly throughout the oil paint. This is achieved using a mill.
Michael Harding have several large mills to grind the pigments, some with stone rollers and some with steel rollers. Which one is used depends on the pigment being worked. The paint could go through the mill several times, depending on the needs of each pigment. The result is rich oil paint with a buttery consistency.
Michael Harding’s New Watercolour Range
On the day that we visited Michael Harding, we got the chance to see his highly anticipated watercolour paints in production.
Michael Harding has been developing his watercolours for over twenty years, and they are due to be released in Autumn 2021. With this new range of 140 colours, he has strived to achieve the same colour intensity and clarity that he looks for in his oil paints.
At the heart of Michael Harding’s approach is his knowledge about the physical properties of colour, and this shines through in the paints he creates. We’d love to know what your favourite Michael Harding colour is – let us know by leaving a comment below. If you haven’t tried his colours yet, we’re sure that you’ll find them exceptional.
Watch our On Location film to see Michael Harding’s oil paints and watercolours being made:
Find Michael Harding’s artist paints and mediums at Jacksonsart.com:
- Michael Harding Oil Colours
- Michael Harding Oil Mediums
- Michael Harding Non-Absorbent Acrylic Primer