To share to you what watercolor paints I have, I took the time to go and gather everything I have.
There are some sets which I’ve barely touched and/or don’t have anymore, there are some which I intensely used when I was still studying watercolor in college, and there are sets that I use until today. I’ll talk about each in chronological order as how I met these babies of mine.
Like many of us who were required for elementary school, I had one of those very cheap yellow plastic sets with the small squares of paint and super hard brush with black bristles, that was hard to paint with…
Then I was given this set by my aunt from the USA. That time (I was in gradeschool) I actually hated the medium and was always frustrated at how hard the cakes were, I was used to oil so wetting cakes to get color was tedious for me at the time.
REEVES AND BASICS
Then I was introduced by my teacher to watercolor tubes like Reeves and Basics, which I had appreciated more since they are much easier to use but I still disliked watercolor and stuck with oil painting.
Over the years my tubes have crystalized and I just chucked them out (oops). But they were fairly cheap so that’s okay.
But I do remember about my mom getting me a white tube of Cotman Winsor & Newton. Now that I know how expensive that brand is I can’t believe how supportive my mom was with giving me everything I wanted/needed. Waah!
Fast forward to college, I enrolled in a watercolor elective and we used Prang. My professor made sure we only use the cheapest materials. He was very frugal and wanted us to learn with the most accessible materials. In fact, we were only asked to use primary colors- red, yellow, and blue for all of our plates (never used white). We painted a heck load of studies and plates with… drum roll please… Prang and super cheap Chinese brushes!
Until today I still have my first sets of Prang because with these I fell in love with watercolor!
However, after a 1-3 years, and if your artwork is exposed to UV rays or sunlight, Prang colors fade and that’s such a shame for the practice works you’ve done… Since Prang is cheap, it has fillers and lower grade pigment, if you’re sure and serious about the medium I recommend you get better paints right away. They are also moist so they are prone to growing molds when exposed to humidity over time.
WINSOR & NEWTON TRAVEL SET
Eventually I got my Winsor & Newton Cotman Travel Set as a gift from my father.
It’s a very reliable set with a travel brush and compartments for mixing. I still use it today for general practices and when I’m travelling.
SIMPLY BY NICKEL & LANGTON
Last time I was in the US, I saw a box in Michaels, it was labeled “Simply” by Nickel & Langton and it was on sale. I wanted to try it and I think it fairs okay for students.
The pigments are opaque in comparison to W&N Cotman. The pans pop out of the plastic case so maybe you can put them in half pans and a better case. The only consolation to having bought this is it came with Cold Press sheets of paper, a few good brushes and a great bottle of masking fluid.
CAMPUS BY RAPHAEL
Here’s one of the better student-grade sets – Campus by Raphael Travel Watercolor Set. I was looking for workshop materials and I stumbled upon this set online in ArtNebula, a store that sells quality products. I got one and tested it out and I’m delighted by it. Although you can’t search the specific colors online, Campus has primaries and secondaries in a black compact case. You can even hold it like an artist palette since it has a hole at the bottom and it has a mixing palette with more compartments than the W&N set.
WINSOR & NEWTON
Next is this very old W&N set that my best friend lent me since she doesn’t use it. It’s over a decade old and the plastic case has yellowed but the pigments are still rich! However, I really don’t use a lot of colors because I rather mix them on my own so I only used select pans here..
Now we move to watercolor tubes!
I first bought only primaries of Van Gogh because they are very brilliant and I can just mix colors with the limited number of colors. I eventually tried on tube of Holbein for Turquoise and Terre Verde but found the latter too opaque for my taste.
I have some tubed of Daniel Smith Watercolors. I ordered the Introductory Sets for the Fine Artist Colors and Primatek Colors from Dickblick.com and got Alizarin Crimson, Pthalo Blue (Red Shade), and Moonglow from Des_Artroom (they also gave me an awesome dot chart!). Daniel Smith or DS is really brilliant and pure with pigment I really love how they are when freshly squeezed into my palette but I also have them in empty half pans I bought from HalfpanPH and Pennar in Instagram. Some particular ones have granulation effect and I love that!
So that’s my DIY holders for paints and half pans with Daniel Smith paints.
Yet again, my awesome sister gifted me these for my birthday and they’re highly pigmented! The caps of these bottles have droppers attached so you can transfer the paint to your palette. A little goes a long way, it’s best for any illustrations you plan to scan so you don’t have to edit the colors anymore. I think the price per bottle is good for the quality of the paints.
This set is Sennelier’s student-grade line. It’s meant for travel painting and has a strap at the bottom where you can fit your hand through to hold the whole set whilst painting. It has 12 colors including black and white but I don’t use white. The colros are not in half-pans. The whole plastic set just has wells, so if you finish all the color, you can squeeze in some more for refill or use a different brand of artist-grade paints. There is space that you can fit 6 more halfpans in the middle so that’s a bonus- you’d be carrying 18 colors at once.
The colors are good but some colors are a bit opaque for my taste. So I use this set only for studies or drafts.
This set is the most exciting but heart-wrenching too since it’s probably the most expensive that I have. But the colors are all high-quality and I got the one with 6 free colors. Turns out, I don’t really fancy the extra six but oh well, I’ll eventually find subject matter that need Naples Yellow and Cinerious Blue. The set has a metal case with a fold-out palette, but since some pigments stain the metal case, I’d rather use a separate porcelain palette. Opera from Sennelier is one of the best and brightest colors you’ll ever see- I have a full pan there in the middle.
All in all, watercolor is a fun medium with a lot of brands offering different colors and qualities. It’s a good measure to buy only what you can afford. It took me 4 years before upgrading my paints so don’t worry if you have the cheapest ones first. You just need to protect your first works from day light so they don’t fade. Happy painting!