Paint Advice: Filling Watercolor Pans with Tube Paint

March 17, 2023
These are some watercolor and gouache palettes I’ve used over the years. The far right palette with the Schimincke logo on the mixing area is actually a Schmincke gouache palette that I made from tube gouache as discussed below. The front palette is a Winsor & Newton palette I pulled all the student grade paint out of and hand filled with Daniel Smith tube paints—and so it goes.

Note: I’ll be published this post on my Patreon site in answer to some question. I think it is useful here as well because I do get a lot of questions on this aspect of my practice and many posts on RWU relating to it are now in the non-public archive. I hope this will help you think about how you approach paint and take it into the world to paint.

In over 40 years of teaching watercolor painting I’ve fielded a ton of questions on how to manage watercolor paint. A recent video on my Patreon Site mentioned my method for filling empty palette pans with fresh paint. Questions there made me realize that not everyone has been in class with me before Patreon, or read the appropriate blog posts on RozWoundUp (now probably in the archive because they are from so long ago).

So this post is to explain to you what I do with watercolor paints and why and I’m posting it on both my Patreon Site and RozWoundUp because I hope it will reach a lot of people and be useful. (If you want to see the video in which this topic came up, and see the other color chats we’ve been having, please use the link to subscribe to the Patreon site.

Fresh Tube Paint

I work with fresh tube paint pretty much only in the studio. This is because fresh paint really needs a water source and real brushes to be useful. (You’ll waste all the water in your Niji water brush just trying to rinse it of fresh paint.) I like to travel about light so carrying anything more than a water brush is usually not what I do.

I do have a little “table” that is still in the prototype phase. I made it for the Minnesota State Fair. It has areas to hold water cups and real brushes. It’s very compact. But typically that’s the only time I’ll use fresh paint out and about.

The only other time I’ll use fresh paint out and about is if I’m requested to work on site and they are accommodating my need for water and potential paint/water spills etc.

Watercolor Pans—Factory Made

Ninety percent of the time I watercolor on the go with Schmincke Watercolor Pans made at their factory.

These are the ONLY factory pan that I use. I’ve tried others and don’t like their rewetting capabilities. (Even though I use Daniel Smith Tube Paints I do not use, and do not like the quality of their pans. And I really hate the palette box they released them in—a waste.)

Schmincke factory watercolor pans rewet so well that a lot of the time when you see me working opaquely with watercolor paint it is these pans I’m using. I am simply wetting the pans and letting them sit until the water dissolves the top layer of paint into a slurry that is great for the type of opaque passages I enjoy doing.

Note:One of my Patreon students was confused about the Schmincke Watercolors—thinking I used it in pans because their tube color wouldn’t work as well in homemade pans. I want to be clear that you can use your Schmincke tubes to make homemade pans and they will rewet great. I don’t make pans with Schmincke tube watercolors because Schmincke came into my life when I was looking for a factory made pan watercolor for a host of reasons, and it’s the best factory made pan watercolor I’ve found. So I didn’t already have a lot of Schmincke tubes around. And when I can’t get a pan of a certain pigment I will buy a Schmincke Watercolor tube and make a homemade pan. But I have a lot of other tube paint around from Daniel Smith, M. Graham, and Grumbacher Finest—so I don’t need to duplicate all that by buying tubes of Schmincke.

If you don’t already have a brand of watercolor that you love do the following—make a list of the PIGMENT numbers on each of your tubes. Which are your favorites. If you love your French Ultramarine Blue and it’s made with only PB29 in the brand you have, go to the store and purchase FUB in another brand IF it is made with PB29 and compare the two side by side in swatches to see which formulation you like (because even if they state they are using the same pigment number the way they prepare their paint will make them turn out with differences). You get to decide, about all your paint which pigments you prefer and which paint brand has the flow and workability that you enjoy using. When it comes time to restock a particular pigment, if it’s in your art budget you can buy a paint from another line and test it against the last remaining bit from another brand AND also test it with all the other colors in your palette so that you can if you like the mixes you’re used to with the new paint.

None of this has to be done as a major undertaking. Just test a few colors at a time. And think about things like workability, flow, pigment strength; then let the paint dry for a week in your palette or on a testing palette, and see how it rewets.

You want to be using paints that allow you to fully express yourself in color, on the page. And these are all the types of choices you need to make.

Watercolor Pans—You Fill Empty Pans with Tube Paint

Because for a long time the only paints I used were Grumbacher’s Finest, Daniel Smith, and M. Graham, I didn’t use pan watercolors at all.

Yet I needed paints to go out into the field.

Well, I didn’t really need paint to go out into the field for all that long because before 1998 I couldn’t get a water brush like the Niji or the Pentel.

That meant that I would have to carry a water container and tubes etc. into the field, and have a lot of brushes! Since the whole idea of working in a journal while I was out and about was SPEED I didn’t carry watercolor before 1998 most of the time. Instead I carried a few color pencils, not even watercolor pencils, because remember I didn’t have a water brush!

Instead I only worked in watercolor in the studio or when I was planning a plein air day and taking a lot of gear into the field.

But in 1998 I got my first Niji Water Brush from a friend who was visiting Japan. And  by the end of that year they were more readily available in the US so I quickly started thinking about taking watercolors into the field.

It made sense to me, since I had an investment in tube paint of three brands that all rewet well (fast, and saturated color on the brush) that I needed first to look at how to use them in “homemade” pans.

I tried a number of things and found the following method of filling pans works best for me:

1. Fill a pan 1/3 full. Set aside for 2 or more days until solidly dry (not just crusted on top—crust will usually form in half a day.)

2. When layer one is completely dry add another 1/3 layer. The Pan will now be 2/3 full. Repeat the drying process.

3. Finally fill the top 1/3 of the pan and set it aside to dry before taking it into the field.

It is important that you fill from edge to edge at each layer, with no air pockets. The edge to edge is important because of adhesion. It’s something Dick explained to me, but like so many of his science talks I was easily distracted by something bright and sparkly, and well yeah, pity him for having to put up with me, but he does claim I’m adorable!


Not all factory pans are the same. Winsor and Newton are differently sized from most other pans I’ve used so you can’t put other pans easily in W&N palettes you may be converting. You have to empty the W&N pans and proceed from there.

I’ve found that the empty pan and half-pans sold by Wet Paint, and under the Schmincke name at various vendors have all fit in the metal pan palettes I’ve purchased. This is probably closer to a universal pan size. I know that they fit in the Whiskey Painter’s Palette, and that and generic pan palettes I have all seem to take them. Be aware of this when buying your pans.

Why Fill 1/3 At A Time?

I have found that if you fill a pan from bottom to top in one go and then go paint with the moist paint in the pan you’ll quickly move your brush to the bottom of the pan and develop a well down there. Sometimes we’re in areas where there might be particles in the air or things in the water—”stuff” can get down there and it’s a great breeding ground for contamination. (Cleaning a contaminated palette is involved and usually not successful, so I avoid anything that might lead to that end.)

Next, if you fill the entire pan at one time and let it dry even for 5 days, the evaporation of moisture from the paint at the bottom of the pan, after this one insertion of paint, takes longer to evaporate than the 1/3 layers. With a whole pan fill you develop a crust on the top of your pan, usually within 8 hours. That crust slows evaporation of the remaining underlaying paint—acrylic artists will understand this, it’s why Stay-wet palettes and the old tracing-paper-over-paper-towel illustrator’s tricks work well even though you have a crust on the top of your paint.

When you paint with a pan that was filled all at once you break through this crust as you paint. Your brush pushes right down to the base of the pan into the un-dried paint.

Therefore, in a fill-the-whole-pan-all-at-once approach it is possible to lock sufficient moisture in the bottom of the pan to cause mold growth.

Most people who have a complained to me about mold growth on their palettes have had some situation like this developing.

If you are starting your pan filling with a previously used pan or pans that are straight from a factory where they might have acquired something that will contaminate the paint—or simply through handling—contamination is more likely. (Recall what I wrote at the top of this section about avoiding anything that can lead to a contaminated palette?!)

By filling your pan in layers, 1/3 at a time as I suggest, you allow each level of the paint fill to fully dry so you don’t trap moisture in the paint at the base of the pan.

Additionally fully drying each 1/3 layer prevents you from simply cracking through a top crust of paint and digging down into the softer paint below, leaving a well were contaminants can gather. 

Why I Use The Tube Brands I Use to Make Pans (when I’m not using Schmincke Factory Pans)

The first reason for my brand choice for tube paint is historical. I was using Daniel Smith, Grumbacher’s Finest, and M. Graham. (I actually started using M. Graham because I was teaching color theory at Como Conservatory’s botanical illustration program and I wanted a paint that would rewet well, but students balked at the cost of Daniel Smith paints after shipping was factored in. Once Wet Paint [my favorite local art supply store] started carrying Daniel Smith paints I returned my focus to them. I prefer their workability and they are less problematic to make into home-filled pans. The component parts of M. Graham watercolor retard the drying and have led to all sorts of horror stories from my students who work in the field. I haven’t had problems with M. Graham in the field, but I prefer Daniel Smith so that’s the end of the discussion for me.)

Each of these brands that rewet well. By that I mean you can let them dry on your palette or in a pan and come back to them later and just touch them with a wet brush and full, saturated color will fill your brush.

Many of my students have difficulty getting saturated watercolors because they use too much water—but also because they use inferior paints, even artist quality paints which don’t rewet well. I always recommend these three brands.

If you use different brands from my recommended 3 then your results with making your own pans will differ—specifically in the rewetting ease—which is critical for pans if you’re out and about painting. (Note: You can use Schmincke tubes to make pans, but since they make such excellent pans I just buy the factory pans. I had so much tube paint when I tested Schmincke pans that it didn’t seem worthwhile to buy more tubes. But their tube colors rewet really well too.)

I would do drying tests and then try to rewet the paint. If you don’t get vibrant color from paint that has been dried and rewet you need to find a different brand of paint, or always use fresh paint.

My filling guidelines will give you a starting point to work from and find something that works. Some brands it may be possible to fill a pan all at once and not have ill-effects. I can’t say it’s never going to happen, and I believe you’re asking for trouble if you don’t follow the steps I’ve outlined, but I’m not the paint police. I’m just trying to share what has worked for over 20 years of travel palette use. People want different things from their paints—but it seems to me we all need watercolor paints that rewet quickly and with full saturation.

Gouache Pans and Fresh Gouache in the Field

Yes I use gouache when going out and about with my journal in public. 

It always seemed safest to me, because I’m a bit of a klutz, to use the same DRIED home-made pan routine. I have a gouache palette made with SCHMINCKE HORADAM GOUACHE in exactly the way I’ve described above.

People complain at me when I say this because their dried gouache cracks. My palette for the most part doesn’t crack (some earth colors cracked, but I don’t use those any more.)

Most important, unlike other gouache brands which dry out and crack, Schmincke gouache REWETS easily. So I can open my palette, spritz the pans with water, do my sketch at the zoo or at the Fair, and by the time I’ve finished sketching the paints are ready to go on—full strength if I want, opaquely, or translucently if that’s desired. And because Schmincke gouache doesn’t have opacifiers or fillers in their gouache the paint looks good either way I want to use it.

But I think I’m not alone among artists who love gouache because it allows us to slather paint on in a more “oil” paint fashion. And to do that you really need fresh paint.

So, as mentioned above, I’ve worked on a small platform that allows me to take fresh paint and a water source comfortably into the field.

On days when I want fresh gouache to work with in the field I will fill a clean palette that has a plastic or rubber gusset around it with fresh paint in the morning, and then just take off.

I’m always careful to carry the palette upright which can be a pain, and the first time you forget will probably be the last time you forget.

I also have a water bottle and regular brushes. This is the type of set up I used when I was painting in gouache before the close of the OLD Bell Museum. It’s more cumbersome and you have to know that you’ll have some place to set out all your gear. I was also working on 9 x 12 inch illustration boards. I put my stuff out on the floor in front of the displays I was painting. I was ultra-careful to not have spills or drop my palette (so it was essential that I be seated which isn’t my typical way to work in public). I never felt comfortable on my routine visits to the Bell to paint this way as there were too many kids around to cause mishaps. But as the Bell wound to a close at its old location there were fewer visitors in general, far fewer school groups when I would go over, so this worked. I would never try this at the new Bell! Space seems very tight to me. My small hand held palette and a journal and water brush are all I can juggle there.

When I go to the Minnesota State Fair and use fresh gouache I do it a little differently—again a space issue. I use a Whiskey Painter’s Pan Palette. I fill each pan with fresh Schmincke Gouache when I leave home in the morning. I take about a 1 inch square of paper towel and fold it in quarters and wet it. I place this on top of the pans before I close the lid. This small bit of moisture helps keep all the pans fresh and helps them not crust over.

When I’m ready to sketch I simply open the palette and spritz the tops of the pans. Then I paint as I normally would with fresh gouache, using real brushes and a water container. (But in the field I only have one water container I change frequently, whereas in the studio I use two water containers, one always having clean water in it.)

When I’m through painting a subject I rewet that little pillow of paper towel and replace it in the palette, close the lid, and walk on to a new subject. I am also careful to not invert this small palette of fresh paint.

Gouache At Home

Since we’re on the topic of keeping gouache fresh I’ll just mention as I’ve written in other posts, that at home I will create a fresh gouache palette on white china plates.

(For protracted jobs where I’ll use the same colors for a long period of days I’ll use a Stay-wet palette or tracing paper over a wet paper towel on my palette—in the latter the paint goes onto of the tracing paper which lets moisture from the paper towel wick up, like the Stay-wet).

I will also continue using fresh gouache pan palettes until they are “empty” because I don’t want them to get moldy.

All these plates and palettes get used daily and put into large Zip Lock bags with a small folded square of wet paper toweling if the paint isn’t already on a moist bed as described above.

I find that I can keep paint in this fashion for about 3 weeks, after which can start to turn into a science project. 

You want to catch things before that happens so I recommend you really paint your heart out and use all the paint in 7 to 10 days and clean your palettes.

If you miss the window and see mold EVERYTHING must come out and that means all the remaining paint. All your containers and brushes must be cleaned. (If things are disposable it’s simpler to just dispose of them. I’ll leave you to decide what to clean with because none of the options are good for you, your supplies/tools, or the environment. Best to stay ahead of things.)

Don’t skimp on the cleaning process. Mold isn’t always visible to the eye and if you don’t clean carefully you’re just transferring it to your paper. There, if conditions ever prove right, it can show up again on your art. Throwing away a little bit of paint is far preferable to setting up mold on your work or in your tools.

A Word About Gouache Brands

I have spent literally my entire life since 8 years of age trying brands of gouache. I am a frustrated oil painter. I want to push paint around. My students have all heard the story of how I used so much watercolor paint, tube after tube, in thick luscious strokes when I was in school in Australia, that my school art supply store privileges were canceled! My parents suggested to the Art mistress that I learn a different medium, like graphite or—you guessed it pen and ink, thank goodness for the dip pen!

This background makes me very picky about gouache. And picky about what I want in gouache.

Since I do my gallery paintings with gouache the pigments in the paint must be artist quality.

Since I don’t like weird color mixing interactions and flaking I want gouache that doesn’t have opacifiers in it. It also has to dry without cracking, and rewet well.

Because of these likes and dislikes I can tell you that Schmincke Horadam Gouache is the only brand of gouache I use with any regularity. 

I do have some Holbein gouache but I have to tell you it dries and cracks literally in front of your eyes. They claim they only put pigments in their paints, but I think, like their watercolor paper they don’t use ox gall—something is different about the movement and handling of the paint. And then they mix white into so many of their paints. (We can do that for ourselves!) For all these reasons the Holbein I have around is typically for backgrounds when I’m journaling. I find it’s less expensive to use it for that than the Schmincke. Both have a great surface for writing on in ink, but there is something about the Holbein that has me keeping about 5 tubes in bright pastels around. These are colors you couldn’t really mix.

My use of Montana Acrylic markers to do backgrounds has limited my use of Holbein gouache, but there are still some tubes around.

Looking for a good, but less expensive gouache led me to try DaVinci Gouache one year for my International Fake Journal Month Journal.

I had some surprises using it for that project—basically in the same way I would use any gouache. I cannot recommend Da Vinci gouache and you can read why in this post on my International Fake Journal Blog. 

Finding What Works For You

All of the above comes from a lifetime of working with these materials; a desire to work out and about in public, but move quickly, safely, and tidily through that public. I also have a certain way I want my work to look, and a way I like to use paint.

My approach might not work for you, but I hope if you’ve reached this point in the post what you’ll come away with is the essential points of necessity that you will have to find approaches and work arounds for if you’re going to paint in the world.

Set things up so that they work for you and allow you to work in a way that allows you to get paint on paper in a richly satisfying way for you and the audience you are aiming for. 

    • Jeanne
    • March 18, 2023

    Thank you very much, Roz, for sharing your years of experimentation (and shopping expenses!). I plan to use your filling technique when I next fill some pans. Would you please help me with a couple of questions? I’m confused by the expression “pan” to describe the wrapped dried watercolor pigment and the empty plastic “pan” the pigment is stored in. Does the Schmincke watercolor set with half pan colors include the empty plastic half pans to put the pigments in? I can’t tell from the website catalogs. I hope this doesn’t shock you, but during the pandemic when I couldn’t get empty pans easily, I cut up the little plastic concave depressions that gum or capsules came in to fill with paint. And now when I share with fellow painters, I give them a squirt of paint in one of those little gum wells.

    My second question involves a curiosity regarding Daniel Smith watercolor. More artists are using and recommending the company. Not just the growing number of artists surprises me but their appreciation of the product has been consistent. I thought it might be superlative marketing by the company or it giving product to artists to recommend it. Yet I hold your recommendations in high esteem because of your dedication, diligence, and unyielding obsession with your art and craft. As a person still learning, I have bought pigments from many of the companies, but I am primarily trying to learn value and composition as well as improve my drawing skills. Thus, I haven’t yet settled on any one brand. Is Daniel Smith doing something differently from the other companies? What sets it apart?

    Again, thank you for sharing. All the best to you.

    1. Reply

      Jeanne I’m glad if this can be helpful.

      In the history of watercolors we had people making their own, then people having a colorist make them up for them and those watercolors were in CAKES. Those cakes were disks that were hard. And like sumi ink sticks those cakes had to be GROUND with a tool to create a slurry of paint pigment mixed with water to then be applied. We know from the studio stuff he left at his death that Turner used cakes. He doesn’t seem to have bothered to use a stone to grind and mix the paint off his sets because we see he’s ground his brush into some of them. (Don’t argue with genius.) Anyway, I digress. In 1848 an American in London developed the LEAD malleable tube and Winsor & Newton bought that patent from him and started making TUBE colors. Then at some later point (which I don’t recall right now and all my notes are in storage, i.e., not in my head) companies started making what was called “the MOIST PAN.”

      Now it wasn’t really moist in the way we think of things being moist. It was solid. But not as solid as a cake. So it needed a pan to contain it. It didn’t need to be ground or rubbed like a cake. It was moist enough that it could be stroked with a brush and pick up paint easily.

      My OED (Oxford English Dictionary) is in storage so I can’t look up “Pan” for you, and I’m not sure it would have a unique enough usage to earn a mention based on when the original dictionary was compiled, but I believe since the cakes were cakes and you needed a word for something that was in a small flat container “pan” would have been a handy utilitarian word, probably in use for lots of other things (if we could only get to the OED we’d know), and may even be a borrowing of some sort from French. At any rate it has the double meaning of both the pan itself (empty) and the filled pan. There are lots of words like that in English, though of course I can’t think of any right now.

      If you are ordering EMPTY PANS to put in a palette and fill with your own paints simply look for vendors who are selling EMPTY Half or Whole Pans and you’ll be right.

      I don’t know anyone who sells blobs of dried paint wrapped without a pan, but that might just be my sheltered life. I don’t think you have to worry about that. I think Winsor and Newton may paper wrap their paint blogs and put them in the pan—but they always sell them as pans of paint and it’s clear they come with a “holding” pan—THOUGH having written that I think they have a newish product over the past 10 years or so that is a giant pan and that giant pan is maybe ceramic and would be cost prohibitive to buy over and over when you need a refill so they probably are selling refills for that pan style as paint blogs only wrapped in paper. In generally you won’t have to worry about this.

      Just look for the word Empty Pans if you want to fill your own. And then if you’re buying paint the online catalog entry will tell you that the product is paint and you’ll be good to go.

      Schmincke sells sets which have the paint pans (filled) in the palette, and they sell empty boxes. It should be clear from the listing what it is they are selling for that item and if you have any doubts you need to contact the company directly.

      Here’s an example from Blick’s site selling a “Schmincke Empty Watercolor Tins and Pans”
      If you expand their text on the page to the full spec you’ll read that the tins are available in various sizes and “Pans are not included with the empty tins”
      That means they are selling the box and that’s all.

      In those types of situations they tend to also offer the pans separately and if you scroll down that page you’ll find they do indeed offer full and half pans. VERY IMPORTANT HERE—a FULL pan doesn’t mean it’s full of paint, it only means that it is full size (which is 2 x the length of the 1/2 pan). You order either full-sized pans or half-sized pans to put into your box and fill with your own paint.

      All vendors will use similar wording and if in doubt you’ll need to ask them directly. But the description should give you some solid clues.

      If you go to the Wet Paint store site (my favorite local art supply store, I highly recommend them) you’ll see a page like this
      On that page you’ll see sets sold in boxes as well as selections for individual pans.
      In their sets you’ll sometimes see an empty row were there could be more pans but their art—this is for you to grow your set. They have supplied you with a certain number of colors and then left space in the box for you to grow it. You can see that in this listing So in that box you could buy it as it and work happily. But as you desired you would have space for 12 more 1/2 pans.

      If you like to work in the larger full pans not all companies make them. Then you’d definitely need to buy empty full pans and fill your own if the company you like doesn’t sell them. The advantage to full pans (full-sized pans) is that they are 2 x as long as the 1/2 pan and you can use larger brushes on their surface (I use pretty large brushes on 1/2 pans I’m just saying some people feel this way) AND most important if you use a lot of a certain color you might want to have a full pan with that color so that you don’t need to replace pans as often.

      I hope this helps you understand the world of pans.

      As for Daniel Smith, it makes excellent watercolor paint. I’ve been using their tube paint in the studio since the early 90s if not earlier (I don’t remember exactly when I was first able to get them). And then when I wanted to have paint to go out and about with I made my own pans with those watercolors as I’ve discussed on my blog. Over the time I’ve used their paint it has been a consistent high quality. I think there are many in the painting company, myself included, who would cry foul if the paint quality deteriorated. I was not shy about explaining to my readers that I didn’t care for Daniel Smith’s pan watercolors when they came out.

      So if you know people who are recommending them and making art you like you can have high confidence that they are a quality product. Where you need to be wary is if you are getting your information from a supported artist paid to promote that product. You’ll be able to discover that on their site with some sort of listed disclaimer or announcement of sponsorship. Take that with a grain of salt. I don’t get gifts of supplies or sponsorship from companies so I’m just reviewing what I find.

      I also haven’t purchased any new DS paints in quite some time because I’ve been using old backlogs of paint as I go through a downsizing. I can’t speak to the current state of their quality, but I haven’t heard negatives from friends using current batches so I’m not concerned. You need to learn what you like about a paint—flow, lifting, saturation, pigment quality, etc. and find a paint that meets those criteria and your budget and then you’ll be able to judge for yourself.

      DS is not the only company making good watercolor paint. As you’ll read here I love Schmincke paint. Elsewhere I’ve written about a friend who loves Sennelier watercolors. Again, Different artists have different qualities they look for, and gravitate to certain paints.

      All companies make paint a little differently. Sometimes the differences are subtle. And I’m not a chemist so I can’t explain those nuances to you and the nuances are proprietary to companies and guarded like the recipe for Coca Cola.

      That’s why you need to learn to work with paints and see which you like the fell and workability of because one company can make a Cobalt blue with PB28 and it looks and acts one way while DS makes it using the same pigment and it looks and acts another way. (I used to do a whole week on this in my in-person color theory classes.)

      Ultimately as your budget allows you’ll find a brand or several that make pigments that give you want you want for your art.

      The notable difference in brands is to always look for their Artist Grade brand. (W&N has returned to calling their Artist Grade brand Professional—which in the 80s was illustrator grade and not useful for fine art, but language changes!) Avoid anything with “Student” or “academy” in the title and Cotman watercolors from WN those are all student grade.

      What you’ll find in those paints is that they use inferior pigments or in paints where an expensive pigment is called for as in Cobalt Blue PB28 a company making inferior, less expensive, or student grade paint will use inferior pigments of the same number, but different quality. Or they will use less of a pigment, what is called the pigment load. That means there is more paint medium and other paint components, including the pigment amount than when compared to a quality paint. And also ultimately the company may make a “color” by using more than one pigment. So a Cobalt blue in an inferior brand won’t use PB 28 at all but may use a mix of green and blue pigments and in some cases even a little white paint, to make a color that looks similar to the quality paint of that name.

      Using multiple pigments in a paint also leads to mixing problems but that’s a whole post (or many posts as I’ve written in the past) on its own. So most quality paint companies use single pigments in their paints whenever feasible (some colors have to be multiple pigments).

      Other companies will use dyes, and they are fugitive and you’ll want to avoid them.
      Much of this can only be discovered by reading on their site, all the product information sheets, and the product labels.

      A little bit of research will last you a lifetime. And studying color theory will help you through all this. I suggest you get some good books on color theory (I like Stephen Quiller’s) or read for pigment information. (Handprint also has ratings of the same pigment by different companies)

      One noted difference is Holbein watercolor. This paint is made in the Japanese tradition and doesn’t contain ox gall like Western watercolors do. You’ll find the workability of their paints different, but you’ll have to test and use them on your own to learn to feel this. And additionally you’ll need to look at their pigments. They tend to have multi pigment paints and pigments I don’t like to use.

      As for why so many people are touting Daniel Smith paints—well we’ve had a whole generation of artists come up through the ranks using these paints when they were introduced and teaching with them—I taught classes with them and still recommend DS for color theory work. But we also have a lot of people getting into Urbansketching and starting to keep sketchbooks etc. And with that growth, a fine art watercolor to sell, and some good marketing just because a company has market saturation doesn’t mean that it’s a bad thing they’ve been successful at promoting their product.

      It will be interesting to see what happens in the future to all the paint quality as we go forward. One thing you can always expect—changes in your art supplies as companies devour other companies and try to make something for less while selling it at the same price. We’ve seen that for 2 centuries in the art supply market and will continue to see it so just be aware and flexible.

      Good luck.

      So I hope this helps you with your main issues. When in doubt about what you are ordering ask the vendor. But if something in the paint line is vastly cheaper than another product you’re looking at you can bet the pans are empty or the paint inferior.

      When you buy a quality paint you do get something superior and easier to work with.

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