Yes, there are many professionals who use student grade and for good reason. Several pigments such as the phthalocyanine, quinacridones and some of the earth colors are so heavily pigmented, that you actually have an advantage purchasing the student quality because they are easier to work with. Plus, because of their affordability, you will be more apt to paint and be a bit more free in learning, stumbling and experimenting.
Now with the above said and out of the way and before I get to the five best student grade oil paints … A professional grade tube of paint has much more pigment, purer pigment, and can be extended by adding oils or mediums, and are almost always the better choice. Basically, you can easily make a student grade paint by adding more oil or other mediums, and as such extending the use of your paints.
When you purchase a student grade paint, you are paying the same price as you would professional oils. Work with me here. Most student grade paints add fillers and opacifiers to the paint, as well as more oil. You will find that you will use the tubes up much faster. Now, if you buy a professional grade paint at $8 and add a drop of linseed oil into a squeeze of color, you’ve extended the life of your tube, still have a professional paint, and save money. I cannot emphasize that enough!
The downside to that is the initial cost is higher. I get that. If you still insist on trying oils with student grade paints and want a zillion colors, then please, here are the absolute best ones, that if I were in your shoes, I would most definitely use.
Daler-Rowney Gregorian – Hands down the best student grade paint. While these are deemed student grade, many artists who have become professional will still use these. You can grow as an artist with Gregorian oils.
Grumbacher Academy – I find these are very nice to work with. Not as much as the Gregorian colors, but still good quality.
Gamblin 1980 – These are sketching oils, do not take these as a testament to the quality of their artist’s line of paint. Gamblin oil colors and Gamblin 1980 sketching oils are night and day. The Gamblin Oil colors are my absolute favorite oil paint. The Gamblin 1980 sketching oils, however, are not. While 1980s are uniform, they are kind of difficult use in a normal painting situations because of the pigment vs medium ratio. Unless they had changed their formula from several years ago, this was my experience.
Winton by Winsor & Newton
This will get you started in oil painting, it is a little hard to work with. Still better than others.
Van Gogh by Rembrandt
Much like Gamblin 1980, this has more medium than pigment. It is hard to get good results, but it will get you started if it is your only choice.