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My Top 10 Favorite Watercolor Brands | Professional & Student Grade Recommendations

September 11, 2019


[Music] Hello, everyone, and welcome back to the channel. Today we are finally going to be taking a look at my Top 10 Favorite Watercolor Brands. Now, the format for this video has flip-flopped a bunch of times, and that is part of the reason why it is coming to you a little bit later than planned. It is that I haven’t been able to decide on the way I want to present these watercolor brands to you. Originally, my plan was to do a Top 5 Favorite Professional Watercolors and a Top 5 Favorite Student Watercolor segments into one video for you. But the more and more that I looked at my paint, the more of the professional brands that I wanted to be able to include In my list, and I realized that I actually didn’t have enough favorites in the student watercolor category to go ahead and round out this list. So, instead, what I’ve done is I’ve broken it down into a Top 3 of my favorite student watercolor paints and affordable watercolor paints in one list, and then I also have a separate Top 7 for my professional watercolor favorites. I do want to go ahead and mention that if you are new to the channel, or new to this series, that this is just my personal preference for my watercolors. This whole series is based around the things that I like and being able to share those with you, so it by no means means that these are the best or only brands of paints that I can use, and if I didn’t mention a brand here that it means that it’s not good, because everyone has their own personal preferences, and throughout this video I’m going to tell you a little bit about why each of these made my Top 10 list. So, even given everything that I just told you about narrowing it down and having this Top 3 and Top 7 list, I still had one brand of paint that didn’t really fit the mold of either of these categories that I did want to include in this list. So, as an honorable mention as we move into student brands of watercolor paint, I want to go ahead and feature Schmincke Akademie. Now, this is a student brand of watercolor paints, and they are my favorite student brand of watercolor paints that I have used so far. “So, Denise, why aren’t they in your number one spot for this category?” Well, the reason for that is I am a California-based artist, and these paints are almost impossible to find here in the United States. You can sometimes find them on eBay, but they are by no means affordable when you do that. I got my set on Jackson’s, I believe, when they were running a Christmas sale, so if you’re able to pick them up in that fashion, or if you are in Europe, and these are commonly available to you, I would absolutely recommend this brand of paint. However, if you have to pay an arm and a leg for it, I don’t want you feeling like I’m recommending this to you and that you have to go out of your way to acquire it. So, officially moving on to my favorite and recommended brands of student and affordable watercolor paints, in number three is the Grumbacher Academy. Now, again, this list is me being based out of California, and just the paints that I have experience working with. These paints are really, really ubiquitous, and you can find them in just about any art store here, at least in my area of the United States. They’re very, very affordable, and they come in tubes. So, if you are looking to start with your watercolor journey and want a little bit of an upgrade from a Cotman set, or a Prang, or maybe Reeves, or something like that, I think these are a really good buy. Now, there are some cracking issues, and they don’t sit beautifully in your pan, and it varies a lot based on the specific paint, some of them are more juicy than others, but, all in all, I think this is a really great brand to start off with. There might be some issues with some brighteners in the paints, but that also means that they’re very, very vivid. And as long as lightfastness isn’t at the top of your importance list, these, I think, could be a really great addition to your collection. Moving into our number two spot, I have the Van Gogh watercolors. Now these watercolors are made by the Royal Talens company, which is the same company that has Rembrandt watercolor paints. The Van Gogh line is not super common in the United States, but you can still find it on our web sites in tubes for very, very reasonable prices, and from my understanding, and my brief experience, when I took a trip over to Budapest, is that they are pretty ubiquitous in Europe. I was able to pick up some pans for myself, and instantly I knew that I loved these watercolor paints. The vibrancy, and the re-wet-ability, and the flow on the paper just felt so much better to me than the Cotman watercolor paints, and if you’d like to see a comparison directly with these two brands of paints, I’ll put a link in the description below, so you can go ahead and check that out. But these are a very, very highly recommended brand of paint, in my opinion, for people who are just starting off with watercolors. So, if Van Gogh and Schmincke Akademie are my favorite brands of student watercolor paints, what on earth did I put in the number one spot? Well, that would be White Nights. Now, please, don’t get mad at me, hear me out before you go ahead and tell me, “Denise, wait! Those are professional watercolors!” I know! I know they are professional watercolors. The reason I put them in this category is because the price is so comparable to the other watercolors in the student grade area that I wanted to go ahead and put this option in there that if you are looking in this price range specifically because you need affordable paints, I would recommend looking into these White Nights as well. You can find these paints very, very commonly throughout Europe, and, in the U.S., we have availability with sets and some places even sell open stock. I have a full review that I just did here on the channel, and I had so much fun painting with them. There are a couple of things that you’ll want to keep in mind with the White Nights, like if you buy the entire sets that some of the colors, particularly in the warm range of yellows, oranges, and reds, are quite opaque, and some of them also have some lightfastness issues. But, if you are specifically hand-picking out colors open stock, like I did, you can absolutely ensure that you have a lightfast, beautiful, artist quality pigments at a very affordable price. All right, everyone, so we are going to be moving into my top seven favorite brands of professional watercolor paints, and this list was really difficult to put together for me, because I realized that I actually sincerely enjoy working with a very wide range of brands. So, in order to help me narrow this down, rather than say, like, “Oh, what’s my favorite watercolor paint?” because it’s such an open-ended question, and can vary on so many different things, I went ahead and instead asked myself, “If I could only paint with one brand of watercolors for the rest of my life, which brand would I pick?” So this list is going to be answering that question from my number seven answer to my number one answer, and, I should have mentioned this at the top of the video, but, if you want more information on any of these brands, I have reviews on each of them, so, please, go ahead and check description for more information. Coming in at number seven is QoR Watercolors by Golden. Now, this is the only brand of watercolor paints on this list that does not use the traditional gum arabic binder. They use their own, called Aquazol, which makes them handle just a little bit differently. So, here, I’m swatching out the paint and starting with the water from the back end of the swatch all the way to the front so you can see how much this paint jumps and leaps across the page. Now, the reason this beautiful, vibrant, luscious brand of paint is in my number one [sic] spot instead of higher up on the list is because, if I was only working with one brand of paint for the rest of my life, I might want something a little bit more predictable. But this brand is so much fun to play with and to work with, in my opinion, I know there’s some people who don’t like this loose flow, and, if you are someone who wants controlled watercolors, I cannot recommend this brand to you, but if you love that reckless abandon, free watercolor flow that just jumps across the page and creates big beautiful washes, this might be the brand for you. Coming in at number six is Sennelier. And this one was actually kind of a last-minute add when I really, really thought about this question of, “If I had to only paint with one brand,” yes, Sennelier would be on that list, but it’s not up a little bit higher only because, even though these are a really beautiful brand of paint, I don’t find myself reaching for them right away. There are many other brands that I reach for before I reach for this one, and I’m not sure why that is. These are paints that really benefit from layering them, rather than putting down one coat and being done with it so, if you like doing your paintings in layers, which I do, I would recommend this brand of paint. Another reason why it is lower down on my list is that their earth tones are really, really weak, in my opinion, and because I paint so many animals and love my earth tones so much, it does make it harder for me to put this higher up on the list. Overall, Sennelier is a beautiful, delicate watercolor that I know suits floral painters really well, and, if you are someone who might benefit from the ability to glaze lots of layers on top of each other, and build really luminous paintings, then this might be a good brand for you. Now, officially, moving into our top five list in number five is Mission Gold. Now, this is a brand that I wasn’t quite sure where to place on my list, but, as I thought about it, I knew that it needed to be somewhere in the top. This is a brand that I really, really enjoy. I think it was the first set of watercolors I purchased. I got the 36 set of these 7 mL tubes, and they are so vibrant and beautiful to work with. Unlike QoR, though, which is also beautifully vibrant, the Mission Gold does not have a synthetic ox gall in it, or ox gall at all, so it’s really going to stay where you put it on your paper. And there are some watercolorists who do not like it when the pigment stays and doesn’t really flow too much, but, especially for new painters who might not like the unpredictability of a lot of watercolors that kind of jump across the page, a paint like Mission Gold might be really helpful to get you started, so that you know where you are putting your paint is kind of where it’s going to stay. The colors, as I mentioned, are incredibly vibrant. They’re not highly granulating, which is another factor that I think a lot of early-on watercolorists really enjoy, I know I did, and it wasn’t until later that I really started appreciating more of the granulating colors. In the United States, you can pick up predetermined sets of these watercolors for very affordable prices on places like Amazon, which I will put some links of in the description for you, and open stock is a little bit trickier, a lot more expensive, but Jackson’s Art did just start carrying them where you can find them affordably priced. One area that this brand of paint does lose a couple of points in, once again, is their earth tone range, which I am not a huge fan of. I do love their Burnt Umber, but their Burnt Sienna is basically useless. Although they do have a couple of really great colors, including Permanent Brown, which is the first color on this swatch, as well as their Van Dyke Brown which is made from a PBr7. [Correction: they call “Permanent Brown” Red Brown (PBr25).] Coming in at number four is a smaller watercolor company based out of California, actually, which makes me pretty happy, and they are called Da Vinci. Da Vinci Watercolors might not be as ubiquitous as some of the other ones, but I really, really love the way that these paints handle. They are predictable, vibrant, the colors that are supposed to granulate do granulate, and they’re just a joy to work with overall. Their company also gets major kudo points, in my book, for having a wonderful customer service, and I have had nothing but good interactions with this company. These paints do dry a little bit harder than I prefer in the pans, but with a tiny, little spritz of water they’re going to reactivate just beautifully for you. Unlike the previous brands that we have looked at, the earth tones in this selection are absolutely gorgeous, and I really, really enjoy working with them, so much in fact that their Burnt Sienna just made its way onto my permanent palette in my Burnt Sienna spot. Coming in at number three, and possibly a little bit lower than some of you might have expected from me, is Schmincke Horadam. I really love these watercolors quite a lot. They are beautiful to re-wet out of the pan. The company uses the same formula both in their pans and in their tubes, so there’s no gimmick about having to purchase one over the other, or not being able to replace one over the other, and I just find them such a joy to work with. They are a little bit different than the other paints that I do typically tend to favor, in that they are a little bit less vibrant on their first pass, however, they are one of those paints that is beautiful when you start glazing them and layering them together, and they just have a gorgeous, soft range of colors that is just dreamy to work with. In addition to being slightly less vibrant than some of the other watercolor brands that I prefer to favor, these are quite unaffordable for me, so, going back to the question of, “If I could only paint with one brand of paint for the rest of my life, what would it be?” These ones do rank a little bit lower because I would be able to afford so much less paint than I would to use some other brands. However, if I lived in Germany, perhaps, and this paint was at my back door, there is no question that this would be one of my favorite brands to paint to paint with and use on a regular basis. So, if you’ve been around the channel for a while you probably already know my number one spot, but, with Schmincke at number three, what is my number two? Well, we’re gonna turn back to the west coast of the United States to find the M. Graham Watercolors. This company is one of the first major, professional brands of watercolors that I reviewed here on the channel, and they are based out of Oregon. They are a smaller watercolor company, and I’m not sure how available they are outside of the United States, but they are beautiful paints to work with. They are incredibly affordable here in the United States, and they have amazing customer service to boot. I love everything about this paint, from their incredibly high pigment payoff, to the fact that they have honey in them, so, when they are in their pans, they don’t fully set up, and they are incredibly easy to re-wet. Some people may not like that about the M. Grahams, because, if you are in a tropical or humid environment, it means that they don’t travel as well, since they don’t set up, but here in arid regions of California, that means that they are completely, at a moment’s notice, easy to re-wet out of the pans. So, you probably don’t even need me to tell you what my number one choice is, but, for formality’s sake, my favorite watercolor brand is Daniel Smith. Now, I find myself incredibly lucky because, in addition to M. Graham and Da Vinci, Daniel Smith is also relatively local, being based out of Seattle, which is also on the west coast of the United States. They are a little bit pricier than some of the other brands on this list, but, here, in my area, they are still very much affordable with the other professional lines of paint. They’re actually even cheaper than Winsor & Newton. I know that a lot of people think that Daniel Smith is over-hyped, and, while that might be true for some people’s painting styles, I find that their paints work so well with how I paint, they flow the absolute perfect amount, like, not too much, not too little, the colors are vibrant, and beautiful, and the longer I go on painting, the more I appreciate the gorgeous textures that are found in Daniel Smith watercolors. I do agree that having over 250 colors in the line is a little bit excessive, but, if I am picking a brand to use for the rest of my life, I’d rather have too many choices than not enough, and, even though I won’t find myself ever using, like, the duochrome colors or the iridescent colors, the range of pigments that they have for me to choose from in all of their other categories are just absolutely gorgeous. They also house, of course, the PrimaTek Watercolors, which I don’t use often, but it’s nice to have those there, and I find that their earth tones are absolutely stunning across their entire range. So, that is going to do it for my Top 10 Favorite Watercolor Brands, with maybe a little bit of fudging here or there, and I hope that this list was useful. Again, this isn’t meant to be recommendations for every single painter, but I just wanted to share some of my insights about the paints that I like to use based on the subjects that I paint. There is one more brand of paint that I do want to mention in this video. It doesn’t quite fit in with the rest of the format, as they have a limited range of colors, being that they produce only earth tones, but I’m going to give a shout out to the Colors of Nature Vegan Watercolors here. They have a gorgeous range of earth tones that I have featured here on the channel in other videos, and they have offered to do something really, really special for us. If you haven’t already noticed, I just hit 15,000 subscribers, which is insane and awesome, and I absolutely love you all for your support. Based on all of your responses to the review that I did, and how much you all seem to enjoy their paints and the little mini giveaway that I did here on the channel by myself, they offered to go ahead and supply a baker’s dozen of watercolors as a prize for another giveaway here on the channel. I asked if we could hold off until my 15k giveaway, and they very kindly obliged to do that. So, to celebrate reaching 15,000 subscribers here on the channel, as well as featuring some of my favorite specialty watercolors, they are going to be giving away a baker’s dozen, so, that’s 13, of their watercolors to one of my viewers. This is an international giveaway, and they’re going to drop-ship the baker’s dozen of paints to anyone anywhere in the world. They are shipping out of Canada, so they can only offer tracking within Canada, but they have agreed to go ahead and send those out for us. So I want to give a huge, huge thank you to Colors of Nature, in addition to all of you amazing people who are helping support this channel. And, if you would like to go ahead and enter that giveaway, make sure you are subscribed to this channel, go ahead and give the video a like, and I’d like you to comment below with what your favorite video of mine has been over the course of the channel. I can’t wait to hear what all of you have to say about your favorite videos here on the channel, so, I can continue making more content that you are going to enjoy, focused on your favorite types of things. Also, real quickly, before I go, right before I started recording the audio for this video, we got our final pledge to push us over our $500 goal on Patreon, which means that the Color Spotlight series is going to be returning to the channel. So, I want to thank all of my incredible patrons for their support over on Patreon. They are going to get to vote on the colors that I am going to be highlighting in the Color Spotlight series, and I want you to go ahead and keep an eye out for that starting around the beginning of April. This has been a huge, emotional week, hitting both the 15k milestone here on YouTube, as well as the $500 goal on Patreon to help make this more of my permanent job. I couldn’t be more appreciative. I’m so, so, so excited for what is going to be coming up. So, thank you guys for watching. I will see you in the next video, and, until next time, happy painting. [Music]

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