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Materials - Watercolour Paint

In this post I wanted to share my thoughts about watercolour paint. With a huge choice of paint available from many different manufacturers, it can be very hard to pin down what paint to buy and which brand to choose. So I wanted to share with you which paint I use, which brand I prefer and the reasons for my choices.

One of the many studio colour charts
Studio watercolour chart

Watercolour Paint - Pans or tubes?

This has been a question for artists for years, and a topic that will always in my opinion be debated. To use pans or tubes really is a personal choice, and one that only the artist can be comfortable with. Some artists swear by exclusively using tubes, and some swear by only using pans.

For me, I have always used both as each can offer consistent reliability, and bring their own angle on how you work with paint. I think it would be a mistake to disregard one or the other, and I have always found that when used together, the results are very pleasing.

But what are the real differences? Pans are solid " cakes " of watercolour paint that are always ready to use. They are excellent when painting on location, as you don't have to worry about squeezing tubes of paint, just add water and away you go. The only disadvantage is that you cannot mix so much pigment as you can with tubes, but for me that is all.

A palette of watercolour half pans
Watercolour half pans

Tubes on the other hand is what it says on the tin, or tube as it were. The pigment is fresh and so can offer a more intense mix if that is what you want. Less paint is needed and so fresh paint is easier to mix in large quantities. It has been said however, that there can be more waste with tubes as the paint can dry, but then isn't dried tube paint the same as pans?You can still use paint even though it has dried, and just because it has dried doesn't mean that you can no longer use it. I have always used dried tube paint from my palette as it is still pigment that can be used. As long as the paint is in a suitable palette and the paint hasn't sat there for too long, I have never had any problems.

An example of just one of the watercolour papers that I use.
Watercolour tubes.

Artist or Student quality?

For many years there have been many discussions around what quality of paints to use. It is always good practice to buy the best you can afford, and indeed artist quality paints are the best. But I wanted to touch on strength of pigment rather than artist quality, student quality etc. I feel that so much time is spent discussing more about the label of artist or student quality, rather than strength of pigment and what this can mean for your artwork.

At times, artist quality higher pigment paints can be too overpowering for the effect you are trying to achieve. I always think of the term " little and often ", and this can also translate into colour mixing itself in regard to pigment strength and how a colour or tone will be achieved.

I have always had a couple of Winsor Newton Cotman paints rattling around in my painting box, and this is by no means my sole choice of paint. These paints although lower pigment grade, still offer Winsor Newton quality and are lightfast across the whole range, this for me is an important factor. In my opinion, I think theses paints should always be considered in an artist kit, as I believe they can still be useful. I do stress however that on their own they cannot offer the same results as artist quality paints. But when used together with professional/artist watercolour paint in certain situations, the results can be a great hybrid mix that can offer very subtle gradients of colour. More intense colour can always be added, but you cannot take the colour away once applied. I think in many respects and in certain situations this can be detrimental to the effect trying to be achieved.

Winsor Newton Cotman tube
Winsor Newton Cotman tube

Which brand?

I have used Winsor Newton watercolour paints for many years, and I find that their consistency in quality brings a reliability to the paint. There are of course many other brands available that are of equal quality or even for some artists better quality. This is however just my personal choice and other brands should never be disregarded. It can take some time to find what brand you feel settled with, and it doesn't mean that you have to stick to a particular brand for life. It is always good to try something new at times.


Cost is a very important factor when buying art materials, and paint is no exception. You can easily spend hundreds on paint alone, and that is even before you have purchased other art materials. I have always purchased the best that my budget can allow, but I have never scrimped on quality. A quality product will give consistency to your work, as opposed to a poor quality product that may well impede your work.

At times it is more cost effective to buy paint in a set with many tubes or pans included. The only downside to that is you may well end up with certain colours that perhaps you will never use, that is just how it is. To buy your paint as single tubes or pans can end up far more expensive, as many art suppliers will offer better discount on sets. It is unfortunately the case of shopping around the different art suppliers.

A palette full of dried tube paiint
Dried Tube paint

My conclusion...

What paint you buy and what brand you choose is as personal as painting itself. You may well come across a brand that you are comfortable with and stick with it, and at the same time you may not. It is a personal choice, nothing more and nothing less. A review can be read time and time again regarding anything including art materials, but it really does come down to how you feel about the product as you use it. I have always believed to follow what you are happy with, rather than following a trend just for the sake of it. We all see things in a different light, particularly for an artists eye.

To close.....

And so there you have it, a blog post about watercolour paint and how I feel about the product that I use. I hope you have found this interesting and informative. If you would like to make a comment or if you have a question, please feel free to comment below. Best wishes.

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