My Schmincke Pan Watercolor Palette

April 28, 2009


Above: A color chart of the selection in my Schmincke travel palette. This chart is on a page in an 11 x 7.5 inch journal I made with Arches 140 lb. cold press watercolor paper.

Today on the Official International Fake Journal Month Blog I posted another spread from this year's journal and wrote about how I am experimenting with these Schmincke colors. I thought people reading this blog might be interested in that post and other folks might like to see swatches of the colors mentioned.

I first started using Schmincke pan watercolors in the early 1990s when I read an article about an artist who used them for his editorial illustrations. The convenience of them appealed to me. I liked that I could take them out into the field with me, easily as well. But I was also still experimenting with other paints and I finally settled on Daniel Smith Watercolors as my primary watercolor brand. (The large range of quinacridone colors swayed me, or I should say, seduced me. I loved the rich pigmentation and the fact that they easily rewet into vibrant washes.)

But I kept the Schmincke box around for various occasions and over the years have fiddled with which colors to include in it. At the end of 2007 I decided to experiment with it a little more and got out the box and switched out some of the colors to conform more closely to the pigments I was readily using in the Daniel Smith line.

It was the end of the year and I needed to start a new journal, with a goal of filling the whole volume in less than a month so that I could start a new one on January 1, 2008 (it's not critical that I do this but I do like the orderliness of it). I found a sample journal I'd made as a class sample in 2000. The journal had Arches 140 lb. cold press watercolor paper for pages. I had never used the journal because I don't like the way Arches watercolor paper cracks when folded even with the grain, and I don't really like landscape orientation in my journals—I find these very wide books (and this one is 22 inches wide) difficult to hold when I'm standing and sketching.

I ended up using different paper and a different size for the class, and this book got shelved. But it was perfect for watercolor swatch tests. Over the next several days in December 2007, when I had time, I would make a variety of color mixing tests in this book. The cold press paper allowed the granulating qualities of the paint to exhibit. It was a happy choice.

One of the colors I added in December 2007 was Translucent Orange. This is a wonderfully vibrant paint and if you use orange in your palette I really suggest you give this a try. It has none of the heaviness of cadmium orange. It creates delcious neutrals when mixed with its complement. Wonderfully rich and quirky "near neutrals" when mixed with split complements. It's just a great color to have on your palette.

If you are looking for a pan watercolor line I recommend Schmincke's. A slight touch with your wet brush generates a lavishly rich line of color. If you spritz your pans lightly with water when you start sketching you'll have very moist colors for painting when the time comes. The pans also last a long time.

The one problem I have with these paints is that in some heavier passages of color, with some of the paints there is a bit of shine. It's the gum Arabic. I find this happens with most watercolors off and on, but I notice it more with these pans. When I returned to experimenting with them in December 2007 it bothered me a lot at first, then it bothered me less and less. After almost a month of daily use in my fake journal (only 3 more page spreads to go), I have to say it doesn't bother me at all.

I recommend that you start with a basic set of a warm and cool of each of the primaries and play around with the colors to see what you love or don't love about these paints. (Or maybe just get 3 primaries for experimentation.) There are tremendous thrills to be found with the Translucent Orange, the Translucent Yellow, and several of the Helio blues (I'm a particular fan of Helio Blue Reddish). Titanium Gold Ochre is a fabulous color, very opaque (I actually use their gouache version of this pigment on my gouache palette), and a satisfying and useful color, particularly when you want to blend in highlights in a brown eye!

Now that IFJM is winding to an end will I stay with the Schmincke pan watercolors? Nope, I'll go back and forth between them and my Daniel Smith selection. But I have really enjoyed the break and the intensive use of just these paints. I'm also anxious to get back to, of course, gouache.

  1. Reply

    I need to make a chart for my little watercolor set I bought!

    • Roz
    • April 28, 2009

    Trish, I hope you do make a little chart of your new set. I find the charts very helpful when I’m just starting to use a new line of paints. I get to see what the color is in action, how it dries, washes out and so on. I will be putting up a couple other charts to show what else I do to get familiar with a paint line.

  2. Reply

    Could I ask why you prefer Dark Blue Indigo over Delft Blue? Just noticed that they’re both PB60 =D

  3. Reply

    Michelle, they are both PB60, but the Dark Blue Indigo is darker (I don’t know how they do this exactly but imagine it has something to do with how they prepare the pigment, heating it perhaps…?).

    I prefer it because that little shift in value makes it great for monochromatic paintings, I can get a really dark dark. And in mixes it creates a darker neutral as well.

    When I mix PB60 and Burnt Sienna I get my wonderful favorite color, the most wonderful dark neutral, which can be diluted to a fantastic Malamute Grey.

    I do keep Delft blue on my watercolor palette from them and SOMETIMES have a tube of that gouache out, but in the case of gouache I don’t often use the Delft blue and it is not in my smaller travel palettes.

    I hope you asked because you are going to buy gouache and have some fun in 2013!

    Have a great year.

  4. Reply

    I would love to try Schmincke gouache!! The only reason I’ve been hesitant is because it’s twice the price of M. Graham gouache. Could I ask then why you chose English Red instead of Burnt Sienna in your Wet Paint set?

  5. Reply

    Michelle, I don’t think that it’s twice the cost at Wet Paint, but then I don’t follow the prices once I start getting a product.

    M.Graham is a great gouache too but Art refuses to come out with a PB60 in his line of gouache, though he has it in his other paint lines, and so if I want to work with just one brand (and for ordering purposes before Wet Paint started carrying it again ) it was easier to stick with Schmincke. (If I had to mail order for Schmincke just getting one tube of PB60 didn’t cut it so I’d get all my paints from Schmincke. No hardship. Now of course Wet Paint carries Schmincke gouache again, so I don’t have that worry.)

    I have some colors of M.Graham that I’ll use.

    As to why English Red, it gets me the mixes I need with the other colors and originally I was asked to suggest 3 sets and I tried to have different colors in each. Of course they only wanted to do one set and it was the one with English Red in it.

    Also Schmincke’s Burnt Sienna gouache is a 3-pigment paint and I tend to prefer single-pigment paints. I can get what I need with the English Red (which is a single pigment paint).

    Always check your labels!

    • Linda Daniels
    • May 15, 2014

    Hi Roz,
    After participating in Sketchbook Skool, I bought some gouache but am not sure when to use it. When would you use gouache vs watercolor? And do you ever mix the two?Also will you be doing any more online classes?

  6. Reply

    Linda, funny you should ask. I have a post that addresses just that question.

    You can always mix the two. They use the same watersoluble binder (Gum Arabic) so they are totally compatible. You just have to discover a way that they work together for you. Since I use two great brands of gouache that can be diluted in such a lovely way I typically don’t feel the need to combine wc and g. I simply combine watercolor methods and gouache methods, using only the gouache paint.

    I had plans last year to do a number of online classes but due to some changes in the family (elder care) that wasn’t possible. I hope to finally do more online classes in 2015. Please check back every quarter and look at the “classes” category if you want to know what’s going on.

    Currently I’ve only got live classes in the works. But everything changes in an instant as I’m sure you know!

    Thanks for participating in SBS. It was a great group of students and so much fun.

    • Ronney Marshall
    • August 21, 2020

    I’ve got an old Schmincke full-pan set I bought in about 2000. It has 28 colors. I can’t remember if it started with 24 colors, and I squeezed 4 more in, or if was a 28-color set. I don’t see any 28s available now. Would you know if there were 28-color sets back 20 years ago?

    1. Reply

      Ronney, I am afraid that you’ll have to ask Schimincke this question directly. I recently tossed old catalogues from them (if you’d asked last month I could have looked in them for possible information!). My recollection is that they’ve usually sold sets in 12-, 24, 36-pan combinations.

      20 years ago, which is what you’re asking, I was only using Daniel Smith tube watercolors and making my own pans out of them.

      Then around 2002 or so I started buying factory made pans from Schmincke. But never as a set, always an empty can which I filled with the pans I selected.

      I continue to use Daniel Smith Tubes in the studio, and Schmincke pans in the field.

      Because of the above nothing in my journals with mention of past palettes would enable me to answer your Schmincke palette question.

      I also only use half-pans so I don’t pay attention to what is sold as full pan sets.

      Hope you can get an answer from Schmincke.

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