Shopping for paint is similar to buying groceries. Sometimes it just makes sense to stick with national, name brands. You know the quality is good, it’s widely available and you’ll encounter no surprises. However, sometimes you pick up an off-brand or house brand and are pleasantly surprised to find that the product has everything found in the name brand and perhaps even more yummy goodness.
This is the same for watercolor paints. With recognized name brands, you can expect reliable quality, consistent color and ingredients that will always behave in the same manner. As a beginner, make your initial purchases based on your instructor’s recommendations, the advice of trusted artistic friends and reviews from un-biased sources.
Choosing Paints To Match Your Preferences
Once you’ve passed a few hurdles in your race to becoming an artist, experiment a little with colors, brands and lines of paints. For example, you may find the coloration of one manufacturer’s Payne’s Gray preferable to other brands. Alternatively, you may prefer the consistency or price of one brand over another.
Unless you have a generous patron, material costs are always a nagging thought in the back of your mind. Try out a color from a house brand or lesser-known paint producer. Buy the smallest tube available of an often-used color, and evaluate it for brilliance, translucence and graininess. If it works well for you and is less costly, consider adding the line slowly to your paint box as you replace and add colors.
There is no reason to use one brand or line of paints exclusively. Watercolor paint formulas all use variations of the same materials, and the brands can be interchanged at will. Unless you are paid to promote a paint line as part of a manufacturer’s marketing strategy, you are under no obligation to use only one brand of paint.
Many internationally recognized manufacturers have produced watercolor paint for hundreds of years. A number of newer companies have come on the scene in the last 100 years, and several large retailers offer their own house brands of paints and supplies. The following descriptions are by no means complete, nor does it exemplify all the products produced by a wide range of manufacturers.
Let’s take a look at some of the most popular and well known Watercolor Brands and Manufacturers…
Blick Artists’ Watercolors
Dick Blick is a household name in art supply retailers. They have a house brand of watercolors with 54 colors available in 14 ml tubes. These paints offer a good selection of standard colors at a reasonable price. Try a color or two before investing, as reviews of the product range from fantastic to average student quality.
Blockx Artists’ Watercolors
This company, commencing production in 1865, stone grinds their pigments and uses gum Arabic and honey in their formulation. They have a wide array of light-fast colors available in 15 ml tubes. Blockx has a variety of seldom seen colors that may be interesting additions to the curious art student intent on expanding his palette.
Da Vinci Artists’ Permanent Watercolors
One of the newer names in quality watercolor paint, Da Vinci boasts an extensive paint line that is available in 15 ml and 37 ml tubes. It offers one of the largest selections of colors, including a number of Quinacridone, Manganese and iridescent paints. The large, 37 ml tubes are value priced for the artist doing epic-sized works, and the reviews indicate it has the quality of the high-end industry giants.
Daler-Rowney Artists’ Watercolors
For more than 225 years, Daler-Rowney has been producing paints for artists all over the world. They incorporate their knowledge, honed through generations of experience, with new technology and material innovations. The 80-plus color line of 15 ml tubes provides a variety of modern and traditional colors that have been used by professional artist for years.
Grumbacher Finest Artists’ Watercolors
With 54 colors packaged in 14 ml tubes, this line of paints is Grumbacher’s professional grade of watercolors. The colors are consistent and provide good quality without breaking the budget. They also produce Academy Artists’ Watercolors, which provide reliable products and a good range of colors. Both the professional and student grade paints offer quality at low price and this brand has been used by both beginners and professional for generations.
Holbein Artists’ Watercolors
A Japanese import, Holbein Artist’s watercolors have their basis in the traditions of the world’s oldest watercolor practitioners. Their recipes exclude ingredients that would inhibit the brushstrokes of the artist. This makes for a very free-flowing paint that is vibrant and perfect for fine details and Japanese-technique brushwork. The 15 ml tubes are available in a range of colors that include some unusual shades such as Peach Black and Jaune Brilliant #1 and #2.
Maimeri Blu Artist Watercolors
Located in Italy, Maimeri Blu watercolors have been produced since 1932. This line of 72 colors is packaged in 15 ml tubes. The company uses Kordofan gum Arabic, which is a clear and resilient binder. Pricing varies significantly among the colors, which makes some tubes a great value and others a costly purchase. The paints are rich and vibrant, and the line has a wide diversity of colors. These paints have been growing in popularity with both professional and student artists.
Old Holland Classic Artist Watercolors
Old Holland has been in continuous production since 1664, making it one of the oldest art suppliers in the world. There are approximately 169 colors available in their line of watercolors, and the paint is available in 6 ml tubes. It is expensive, but the paint is a superior quality that many professional artists feel is worth the cost. The extensive line has a number of exclusive paints that include Scheveningen and Old Holland colors. The paints have a heavy consistency due to the heavy pigmentation load used to produce the product. An unusual feature is the packaging, which is a lead tube in lieu aluminum alloy that oxidize and corrode.
Rembrandt Artist Watercolors
This Dutch company, which began producing paints in 1899 as a family business, produces a paint that has an intense concentration of pigment and maintains a high degree of light reflecting properties and transparency. Approximately 48 colors in 5 ml and 20 ml tubes are available. The 20 ml tubes are a good value compared to the 5 ml size, if an artist is looking for a larger quantity of paint.
Sennelier French Artists’ Watercolors
Gustave Sennelier began selling artist’s paint in 1877, which he ground in his backyard. Today, with a view of the Louvre and a short walk to the École des Beaux Arts, the property is much the same as it was 100 years ago. It remains the home of Sennelier paints, which is known worldwide as a leading manufacturer of artist’s paints and supplies. The 98 colors in the French Artist’s watercolor line are available in 10 ml and 21 ml tubes, and this line has been reformulated to reflect today’s desire for permanence and lightfastness. Along with Kordofan gum Arabic, honey is used as a binder and preservative. This honey adds to the brilliance and color intensity of the hues, as well as giving a satin luminosity to completed paintings.
Winsor & Newton Artists’ Watercolor
Moist watercolor may not seem like such a big deal to today’s artist. However, it was a revolutionary concept in 1832, and Mr. Newton and Mr. Winsor were the first to offer this type of artist’s paint for general sale. This tradition of innovation and excellence continues today with formulations and production methods that use the latest in technology and materials to produce paints that are brilliant, transparent and stable. Many of the colors are available in three sizes. The 5 ml, 14 ml and 37 ml tubes give the artist a wide choice in size and cost. Winsor & Newton has a broad assortment of standard colors, unusual pigments and their own proprietary hues.
Additional Paint Manufacturers
Many, many paint manufacturers produce Watercolor and other artist’s mediums. This list is ever changing as the companies go in and out of existence or change their lines to meet current customer preferences. The following list of manufacturers includes some of the more widely known paint lines.
Lascaux Aquacryl Artists’ Watercolors
Lukas Aquarell 1862 Watercolors
M. Graham Artists’ Watercolors
Mijello Mission Gold Watercolors
Pebeo Fragonard Extra-Fine Artists’ Watercolors
Schmincke Horadam Aquarell Artist Watercolors
ShinHan Premium Artist Watercolors
SoHo Premium Professional Watercolors
Turner Professional Concentrated Watercolors
As a beginning watercolorist, listen to the advice of instructors. Read reviews and compare prices and availability. If you attend a class or paint with a group, share paint with other students to try out various brands and colors. As you grow in familiarity and skill, set aside a little discretionary money to purchase paint from a different manufacturer or an exotic color.
You may not have the funds to start your career with the most costly brand of paint on the market, nor should you. However, painting with a good quality medium makes learning less of a chore, and the results are more satisfying. Use the best quality materials you can afford.
There’s no need to create giant, sofa-sized paintings. Work small, buy fewer colors of good quality and learn all about color mixing. All artists need this valuable skill, and learning it early minimizes your reliance on pre-mixed colors. Just remember, you don’t need all 64 colors in the big crayon box.
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Watercolor Paint Brands (This Article)
Watercolor Paint Brushes
Watercolor Basic Painting Techniques
Advanced Watercolor Painting Techniques
Watercolor Painting Accessories
Watercolor Painting Tips and Tricks
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