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The Painter's Handbook by Mark Gottsegen, Revised Edition

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The Painter's Handbook by Mark Gottsegen

The Painter's Handbook by Mark Gottsegen

The Bottom Line

An updated edition of Gottsegen's authoritative guide to painting materials and equipment should be on the shelf of any artist wanting to know more about the materials they use, how to get the most from them, and how to ensure their art has longevity. The information is written in an easy-to-understand way, without excessive technical info or jargon to put you off.
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  • New edition of a classic handbook to painting materials
  • Written in an easy-to-understand manner
  • Will enable you to build up a thorough knowledge of your painting materials
  • If you want your art to have longevity, this'll teach you how to use your materials


  • Reoccuring, bold safety warnings in text become intrusive
  • Line drawings not all of the same standard
  • Information tables presented in a very concise style
  • Watersoluble oils get only a paragraphs


  • Paperback book published by Watson Guptill (www.wgpub.com), 352 pages, ISBN 0823034968
  • More than 100 black-and-white line drawings by the author
  • Divided into three sections: (1) The Basics (2) Painting Making / Methods (3) Picture Protection

Guide Review - The Painter's Handbook by Mark Gottsegen, Revised Edition

The author Mark Gottsegen has been a member of the subcommittee on artist's materials of ASTM International (originally the American Society for Testing and Materials) since 1978, providing him with impeccable credentials for a handbook on painter's materials.*

If you're teaching yourself to paint, reading through The Painter's Handbook will be like attending several semesters of Art Materials 101. If you're at art college and frustrated by the lack of practical information about the materials you're working with, it will fill the gaps. If you're an experienced artist looking for specific information, such as the properties of a particular solvent, you're likely to find it in here.

For the most part, it's easy to digest, but some of the tables contain a lot of information in a style that requires considerable reference back to the explanatory page. An area I did find lacking was water-soluble oils, which is dealt with in a longish paragraph under the heading 'Variations on Oil Paints'.

One thing I really found off-putting: the repeated health warnings in the text. Surely an icon could've been used to avoid the repetition, which left me with the feeling I was being treated as an idiot who wouldn't get the point unless it was spelled out every single time and in bold so I couldn't possibly miss it. The author says in his introduction that "it is your individual responsibility to establish safe studio practices"; his text should reflect this more.

[*Gottsegen died in September 2013.]

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