The Best Watercolors on the Market

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Paints today come in several different types and many varieties. Selecting the best watercolor to purchase can be a daunting task, and one that takes experimentation on the artist’s part.

It is not only a matter of purchase price and brand name, but it is also a highly personal choice. One artist’s needs differ from another artist. Each artist has different ideas about what features a paint should have and how it behaves on brush and paper.

Not every color in a particular brand may be right for an individual either. Many artists have a variety of brands in their tabouret as well as several brands of the same color for different uses.

Pan and Tube Varieties

There is a degree of difference between pan watercolors and tube watercolors. Because of its solid form and portability, pan watercolor is perfect for plein air painting, sketches and dry brush. These paints are available in half pan, full pan and large pan.

Since they are dry, they remain usable for years, only needing activation with water to renew them. Pan watercolor is perfect for air travel.

Unlike tube watercolor, there is no need to worry about the unpressurized cargo compartments for luggage. Tubes can become damaged and leak their contents.

Tube watercolors are made with more binder to keep the pigment in an emulsified state. It is easier to prepare amounts to cover a larger area of paper with tube watercolor than pans.

Using pans, one has the advantage of instant access to color. There is no need to stop to open a tube to prepare your palette with additional color.

However, care must be taken to keep the pan untainted with other colors from a dirty brush. Many artists have a combination of both types in their tabouret. They create different styles of painting, and want both types for use regardless of where they set up their easel.

Paint Characteristics

Each paint in an artist’s palette has a variety of characteristics. Some paints are very transparent while others are more opaque. A number have a staining and tinting quality whereas some lift quite readily from the paper.

Sedimentary colors have pigment that is heavier and tends to separate and sink into the surface of the paper. They have a more granular appearance.

Fugitive colors are generally those made from organic products, as opposed to mineral sources. These colors are not colorfast, and will fade or change over time. These colors, however beautiful, are not lasting and should not be part of the artist’s box.

Watercolors are made from ground pigment, water and binder. Modern watercolor paint is made with gum arabic. The proportions of pigment to binder contribute heavily to the quality. Likewise, the quality of the pigment used and level of refinement is critical in determining the superiority of the product.

There are two levels of watercolor: student and professional grade.

Student grade uses a higher proportion of binder and lower quality of pigment. These are inexpensive and should not be considered for purchase.

There are, however differences in professional grades of paint on the market, and the artist must evaluate which paint is best suited for the work, the expense and its availability.

Color Choices

Many manufacturers in the market today have a wonderful, wide variety of colors to purchase. Some companies have a more traditional range of colors, while others add contemporary colors and offer a broader palette choice. Each manufacturer will have their own formula for a particular color and you will see differences in the same color between producers.

Individual preferences dictate which brand of a particular color an artist might use, and many individuals will utilize more than one make of a color, finding one suitable for a particular theme and another brand appropriate in another painting.

Professional Brands

Here is a list of some of the best Professional Brands of Watercolors on the market:

Schmincke Watercolors

Schmincke Watercolors, a German company, has a reputation for excellent, rich colors with vibrant, strong hues and no fillers. Their line of over 100 colors makes them very strong in the market of high-end products.

Holbein Artists’

Holbein Artists’ Watercolors, imported from Japan for over 100 years, has a history as some of the most brilliant, lightfast colors in the market. The colors do not contain any dispersants to hinder the natural qualities of the medium and are available in a complete range of colors.

Sennelier Artists’

Sennelier Artists’ Watercolors are a French product in the market place. They purchase the finest pigments and to avoid any change in color, do not use heat during the grinding. Their colors have unexpected intensity and a luminous quality.

Windsor and Newton Artists’

Windsor and Newton Artists’ Watercolours have been in the market for over 175 years. 97 percent of their line of 96 colors has an AA or A permanence rating and 78 percent of their colors use single pigment formulations. Single pigments are unadulterated colors and cleaner in hue than mixtures of multiple pigments.

Artists have been able to purchase painting supplies from high quality manufacturers for nearly two centuries and this list is by no means complete. There are a number of superior quality brands of paints on the market, and the thoughtful artist will audition individual colors to find the one that fills their needs, rather than purchase an entire line of a single brand of paint.

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