Da Vinci Professional Watercolor Paints

Da Vinci Professional Watercolor Paints – Swatch Sheet

I recently added quite a few watercolour paints to my collection from a brand I was previously unfamiliar with, Da Vinci Paint Co. These paints are not available in my local shops or through my favourite online store, Jackson’s Art.  One of the local retailers, Curry’s, did carry them online(not at their local shop) but recently discontinued them.  Their clearance sale price was incredible.  I bought a large selection of tubes.

My new Da Vinci paints were a very pleasant surprise.  I swatched all my Da Vinci paints on the swatch card above.  My swatch card is purchased  from fellow artist Sade of Sadiesavestheday.com and printed on Fabriano Artistico Hot Press paper.  As you can see from my swatches, these paints are very bright and saturated.  This scan is fairly true to the colours of the paints, although the raw sienna has a pleasant warm yellow tint which my scanner stubbornly refuses to catch.

Da Vinci paints are made with a vegan binder which dries to a hard but not brittle consistency and rewets readily.  The paints vary in consistency between different tubes/pigments.  The cobalt colours (Cobalt Turquoise and Cobalt Violet) both has a stiff, stringy consistency out of the tube which I have not seen before, while the quinacridones were quite runny.  However, all the paints set and rewet equally well.

I bought both new colours to try, and pigments I know and love.  I already had a Da Vinci Quinacridone Burnt Orange, which I’d bought to replace my loved-but-misbehaving M. Graham Quinacridone Rust. I added my other favourites  Nickel Azo Yellow (PY150)  and Phthalo Turquoise,  both lovely versions, as I am running low on both these pigments.

I bought several paints with the  goal of reviewing them in upcoming pigment comparison blog posts.  Da Vinci has not 2, not 3, but 6 different paints made with single pigment PV19.  I was very curious, so I bought 3 to compare (Carmine, Permanent Rose, and Red Rose Deep), along with a Quinacridone Red (PR209) to compare to my Daler Rowney version of this pigment.

I also bought 2 cobalt colours – enough cobalt turquoise to last me a lifetime (37 mL for $9 !!!) and a cobalt violet just for fun.  These are both very bright, nearly-neon colours that are semi-opaque and granulating.  I also finally took the plunge and decided to try Chromium Oxide green.  I often whine about the lack of single-pigment greens, but I’ve avoided this one due to it’s very opaque nature.  I probably won’t reach for it frequently, but the almost dusty texture of this pigment will be perfect for painting some kinds of cacti, succulents and lichen.  Finally, I stocked up on a variety of earth colours.

 Poison Oak? Small trifoliate leaf from viny shrub painted in Da Vinci watercolours Daily Leaf 002: Swamp White Oak painted in Da Vinci and other watercolour paintsSugar Maple Leaf in Ink and Watercolour painted using Da Vinci Watercolours and Platinum Carbon fountain pen ink

In the past month, I have used these paints a fair bit.  I’ve used Da Vinci Paints for quite a few of my Daily Leaf paintings.  What I found most surprising working with these paints is how much more lifting they are than some of the other (honey-based) paints I am used to.  They be easily lightened from their dry state to bring out highlights.  They also have a longer working time, not staining the paper right away, which allows you to apply a larger wash and then lift out the ligher areas.  This would be very difficult with some other paints.  These are useful properties, especially for beginners.

I often think of choosing a brand to be loyal to.  For personal painting purposes, picking and choosing from what’s on sale suits me just fine, it does make suggesting paints complicated.  I’ve often wondered whether I could choose a brand and build something like Billy Showell’s Sennelier Botanical Palette, except including my personal favourite pigments. This way, I could recommend a palette to students that they could buy all together from one manufacturer.  Until now, all the brands I’ve considered have fallen short.  Every brand is either missing some of my favourite pigments, or I don’t like their particular formulations of these pigments.

The 4 pigments I watch out for most are PY150 (Nickel Azo/ Transparent Yellow),  PB16(Phthalo Turquoise), PR122 (Quinacridone Magenta), and PO48 (Quinacridone Burnt Orange). In my main palette, I have versions of these colours by 4 different brands:  M. Graham(PY150), Winsor Newton(PB16), Schmincke(PR122) and Daniel Smith(PO48).

So far, Da Vinci Paint has come closest to meeting my preferences. Da Vinci Nickel Azo Yellow and Phthalo Turquoise are both fantastic.  These paints have the bright, saturated tones I look for.  They have the added bonus of being slightly less staining, making them easier to teach with.  Their Quinacridone Burnt Orange is a little browner than other versions, but still a very nice colour.  Unfortunately, while Da Vinci does offer a PR122 paint,”Opus”, this paint does also contain fluorescent dye.  However, their Red Rose Deep (PV19) is a beautiful deep pink colour.  It is slightly deeper than most Quinacridone Rose paints.  Either of these other paints would work well in a beginner set.  I am considering building a Da Vinci palette to recommend to my students in upcoming workshops.

Da Vinci paints can be ordered worldwide through the Da Vinci website.  Their website offers 15 mL tubes, huge 37mL tubes and pre-made pan sets.  They also offer a really handy sample set of 24 paint dots.


Palette Tour: Travel Palettes (Part 1: Discovery )

Why yes, I do name my watercolour palettes! And yes, my travel palettes are named after space shuttles.   In the next couple of palette tour posts I’ll give you a peak into my travel palettes.

Discovery Travel Palette:  A Bijou box from filled with an assortment of  “extra” paints

The first travel palette I’d like to introduce you to is Discovery.  My Discovery palette is a small, bijou-style box from Cornellison’s.

I mentioned this palette box in my gift guide post a couple months ago.  I love this little palette because it is very small but packs a large punch.  Despite it’s small size, it holds 12 half pans from any brand.

The “from any brand” feature is important.  Previously I was using the ubiquitous plastic Cotman watercolour palette. The Cotman palette is functional, but only holds Winsor Newton half pans.  Winsor Newton pans are slightly smaller and have a different shape than others. As a result I couldn’t fit many of the pans I had from other brands.

My Discovery palette box fits and securely holds any brand of half pans.  The pans are held in place using v-shaped metal inserts.

Discovery Palette Painting
Watercolour sketch of my Discovery Palette with current paint list

I filled my Discovery palette with an assortment of “extra” paints that don’t have a home in my studio palettes.  These are in all different kinds of half pans.

I bought some of these paints from handmade paintmakers just for fun.  Others are beautiful paints that don’t have great lightfastness ratings.  I don’t use non-lightfast pigments in my finished paintings.  They are no problem for sketchbooks!  Some are pigments that I have multiple versions of from different brands. A few of these paints are relics from a Winsor Newton palette I bought years ago.  These are pigments and mixes which I never reached for and removed from my studio palette.

I won’t post links to the specific paints in this set.  This collection will cycle between paints frequently.  I do not have a particular attachment to many of these paints.

Belgian Nursery Cactus Festival Urban Sketch
Urban Sketch of Belgian Nursery Cactus Festival – Created using only paints from my Discovery Palette.n the studio I am often very focused on creating precise colour mixes, and depend heavily on extensive glazing of transparent pigments, I use my travel palettes as a way to explore and play with pigments and mixes that aren’t what I would usually reach for, and to quickly add colour to urban sketches and field studies.

In the studio, I work in lots of layers using transparent glazes.  In my sketchbooks, however, I love watching granulation and bleed effects happen on the page. When I sketch, I work in fewer, less precise layers to quickly capture larger scenes.

Many paints are frustrating in the studio but perfect for sketching with.   In the studio, I find limited uses for heavily granulating Manganese Blue and Hematite, or sparkly amethyst.  However, when I am sketching I am less concerned with achieving a specific controlled look.  When sketching, I am delighted by green leaves with textured teal spots on them, or shadows that sparkle.

Using a constantly changing selection of paints, each with unique and surprising behaviours, also helps me.  By using unusual materials, I stretch out of my comfort zone and grow as an artist.

I painted the sketch on the left during an urban sketchers outing.  I used only colours included in my Discovery palette.  It was very tempting to bring other paints to capture the subtle texture of the cacti.  However, by experimenting and getting created, I was to create varied and interesting yet realistic greens using the unfamiliar pigments.  I am very proud of my result!

Of course, I can’t resist painting out colour charts and swatches whenever the opportunity arises.  I painted the colour chart below using the 12 colours currently in my discovery palette.

I  have almost used up a couple of the paints in this palette!  Once I’ve used up the last of the paint, I will paint another colour chart!Discovery001

Handmade Watercolour Brands

Most of the watercolours in my collection are from established brands such as Schmincke and Sennelier.  However, there is another option for purchasing watercolour paints.   Handmade watercolour makers are a growing industry.

Buying watercolours from handmade paint makers is one way to try out unusual pigments.  Indie paint makers buy powdered pigments from sources such as Kremer Pigments, or collect their own natural pigments.  Handmade brands sometimes offer pigments that are not available in larger brands.

Buying from an indie paint maker is buying usable art.  The personality of each paintmaker shows through their packaging, colour selection, marketing, etc.  Many handmade brands also have curated paint collections with a consistent personality to their paints.

Handmade watercolour paints are not a budget option. The high manual labour cost of making watercolour in small batches means that indie paint brands tend to be more expensive than commercial brands.  (Some) indie paint brands can also be frustrating, as indie paint makers may use creative names for common pigments, advertise fugitive paints as lightfast, and do not publish pigment information.

My favourite handmade watercolour brands

Here are a few handmade watercolour brands I love.  I have had amazing experiences with these brands:


Made by the lovely Eve Bolt in Montreal, Canada, this brand was my introduction to handmade paints.  Eve made a great series about her paintmaking experiments when she first started mulling paints.  Pruche offers a small but solid range of earth colours and bright synthetic pigments including common favourites and a few uncommon (and uncommonly beautiful) earth colours.

Pruche paints have clear and concise pigment documentation in the listings, on the packaging, and directly on the pans, which I strongly appreciate. These paints have a pleasant, even consistency, strong pigment load, rewet readily and are neatly poured into, in her words,  “the nice pans from Jackson’s” . Eve and I agree on this point, the half-pans at Jackson’s are much nicer than many other half-pans on the marke).

Muted Primaries
Muted mixing chart featuring two earth colours from Pruche (Salmon and Spanish Gold Ochre)

Pruche paints are an ideal choice if you are looking to supplement or replace a basic collection of commercially made paints.  Her use of primarily single pigments and great pigment documentation make it easy to shop for both well-known pigments and unusual extras.

I have used Pruche paints (in Spanish Gold Ochre, Prussian Blue, and Salmon) as the inspiration for a limited gamut travel palette I recently built, and will tour in my next blog post. Like many brands, Eve posts her shop updates on Instagram







Everything, Everything Mixes

These are mad scientist paints.  I strongly, strongly recommend making friends with EEM’s creator, Amé, on Instagram.  There, you’ll learn how she sources all kinds of rare and unusual pigments, and then mixes them up into moody, granulating, crazy, colourful, misbehaving magic paints that also happen to be vegan and smell like cloves.

Special Delivery from Eventually, Everything Mixes.

She makes paints out of ground up epidote and burnt green earth and the rare bluer shade of cobalt teal which she found in some hole in the wall shop in Berlin. If you buy Flüsch Green (a spring green made with the unique PB71 Zirconium Cerulean) she’ll ship you a multimedia painting of one of her cats.

My EEM paints are fun paints.  They’re more of a wild ride to use than strictly practical (although I have found practical uses for them – the Flusch Green is actually perfect the bright springy undertones of many plants).









Penholder Art

If you’re a pigment geek  or history buff looking for the highest pigment load, or rare discontinued pigments, Penholder Art is the handmade paintmaker for you.

Manganese Blue PenholderPenholder Art is, I believe, one of only 2 remaining small manufacturers of real PB33 Manganese Blue paint.  This is an absolutely beautiful electric blue pigment that has been discontinued from production due to toxicity.   This brand also produces several other rare paints made with toxic/discontinued historic pigments.

Penholder Art is a relative newcomer to the paintmaking world, and slightly rough around the edges.  Packaging can be slightly messy and some paints can be a little sticky/messy.  However, Dan from Penholder Art is very friendly and approachable, and offers fantastic prices on some of the most saturated and vibrant paints I have ever seen.

Other indie brands

Greenleaf and Blueberry

The (relative) giant in the handmade  watercolour world is Greenleaf and Blueberry.  They have a massive social media cult following.  This allows them to post flash sales which sell out within minutes.

Greenleaf and Blueberry Swatches (Not Colour balanced)
Greenleaf and Blueberry Colour Test Page (Not Colour Balanced

In September 2017, I managed to catch one of these sales.  I impulse bought myself a little earth secondary triad of three whole pans.  They are nice paints, but after taxes and shipping and duty, cost me over $120 CAD.  That isover $40/pan (for earth colours!).  I honestly can’t imagine any paint, no matter how revolutionary, being worth that much money. These paints are not revolutionary, just nice.

For comparison, I swatched out some similar colours from other handmade and commercial brands.  All of the other paints were less than a third of the price.  All these paints rewet and granulate similarly and are equally saturated.

Comparison of Greenleaf and Blueberry Paints with EEM, Pruche, Daniel Smith and Da Vinci Paints

On the far left to right we have Celadonite Green Earth by Eventually, Everything Mixes, compared to Green Earth by G&B.  These two paints are nearly identical.  The EEM paint is about 1/3 the price per volume.

In the middle, I compared Purple Ochre to Piemontite Genuine (Watercolour Stick) by Daniel Smith, and Mars Violet by Pruche.  These are both very similar but slightly more reddish than the G&B paint.  Both the Daniel Smith and Pruche paints rewet much more easily and are more saturated.  The Pruche paint is around 1/3 the price per volume, and the Daniel Smith sticks are a great deal, at about 1/8th the price per volume.

On the right, I compared Orange Ochre to Spanish Gold Ochre by Pruche, as well as Raw Sienna by Da Vinci.  The gold ochre is slightly more yellow, and the Raw Sienna is slightly browner.  However, all three paints are very similar. Both handmade paints required some coaxing to rewet. The Spanish Gold Ochre works out to about 1/3 the price.  Impressively, the Raw Sienna, always an affordable paint, I got on clearance sale for $5 for a 37 mL tube. I believe this works out to 1/16th the price.

I was hesitant to post this negative review.  Greenleaf and Blueberry is a cool company who make an effort to source unique pigments.  If money is no object, Greenleaf and Blueberry paints are great. However, I wanted to post an unbiased review to cut through some of the social media hype. If you’re on a budget, you can get very similar paints without spending nearly so much money.  You’ll also support smaller handmade paint makers in the process.

Other Brands

There are also a great many other handmade watercolour brands I am less familiar with. A few brands I watch out for are Peppercon Arts, Wanderlust WC, Hushwing Watercolours, Rivervale Watercolor and Ruby Mountain Paint Company .

Do you have a great handmade watercolour brand to recommend? Let me know in the comments!



Pigment Comparison by Brand Spreadsheet

We’ve all been there – our artist friends are raving about XYZ watercolour brand, or the local shop is running a great sale on brand ABC.   We’d love some new paints, but how to decide which paints to buy  from a whole new brand?

The Problem

The trouble is, each brand makes up their own names for paints. It can be hard to tell which paints we will like best. Often, brands offer paints with completely different names that are identical, or paints with identical names that are completely different.

Pigment information on Nickel Azo Yellow Tube from Da Vinci

The good news is, there’s a much better way to sort your paints, which is by pigment number.  Artist quality brands have pigment numbers printed right on the tube, which describe the chemical compositions of each paint.

However, trying to remember the pigment numbers of all of our paints (was that PR254 or PR255?), or finding pigment numbers for a different brand we’d like to try can be tricky.

The Solution

I’m here to help.

I’ve spent the past few weeks compiling the Pigment Comparison by Brand spreadsheet.

This spreadsheet lists every single-pigment paint produced by 16 major watercolour brands.  The paints from each brand are sorted by their pigment number.  This allows you to look up a paint and find all of the other paints made with the same pigment!  Best of all, it’s completely free for the whole world to use.

How to Use the Pigment Comparison by Brand Spreadsheet

The Pigment Comparison By Brand spreadsheet is very simple to use.  Each column is a brand, and each row is a pigment.

Screenshot of Pigment Comparison by Brand Spreadsheet

Scroll side-to-side to see the paints from a specific brand.  Brands are sorted alphabetically.

Scroll up and down to view paints made with different pigments. I sorted paints alphabetically by pigment index number.

In cases where one pigment is used to make several different shades, multiple rows will be joined together to show all of the pigment variations.  The convenient alternating colours allow you to see at a glance when multiple hues are made with the same pigment.

Search the spreadsheet by pressing Ctrl+F on your keyboard, and typing in your search terms.  To look up a paint, search either the pigment number (found on the tube or packaging of all artist grade paints) or the name of the paint.  Then scroll left and right to find other paints made using the same pigment.  If your search returns multiple results, press Enter until you find the correct one.

This spreadsheet does not contain paints made with multiple pigments.  However, if you have a mixed paint you like (for example, a specific brand of Sap Green), you can still use this spreadsheet to find the single pigments to mix your own.  Simply check the tube or packaging you have at home to find the pigment numbers, and look those up in the spreadsheet.

The Catch

The catch?  There is no catch!

However, I am an early-career artist working very hard to “make it”. If you are using this spreadsheet to help you with your paint shopping, consider using one of my affiliate links. It won’t cost you a penny  and I get a small percentage of every sale I direct.

 Jackson’s Art: This is where I buy the majority of my watercolour paints.  Jackson’s offers extremely competitive prices on all of the European brands of watercolour, and very affordable shipping (even to Canada!) Tax is deducted on international orders, which makes them even more affordable.

Amazon (Canada, US, UK):  For assorted art supplies such as palettes, sketch paper and books, as well as all sorts of other products, I shop on Amazon.  They sometimes also offer competitive prices on some watercolour brands, particularly American brands on the USA and Canada sites.

If you think I’m super cool and would like to reward me for my time and effort, you can support me on Ko-Fi 


What’s Next

In the future, I plan to build on this spreadsheet.  I want to make a simple search interface, and links to my colours swatches and reviews for each pigment/paint.

I am planning to incorporate lightfastness information for each pigment. Manufacturers can be inconsistent and misleading in their own documentation.

I will add more brands, particularly smaller, independent watercolour brands.  If you have a brand you’d like added – please send me a message. All I need is an up-to-date paint list with pigment numbers.

Feel free to contact me about any mistakes or suggestions for improvement.  I searched the most up-to-date information from all brands and organize multiple hues of the same pigment in logical way, but I’m sure I wasn’t quite right in all cases.

More Info

While compiling this spreadsheet, I refered heavily to the Color of Art Database for in-depth pigment information.

I also referenced Jane Blundell‘s colour swatches and paint listings.

I strongly recommend both these websites to anyone who would like to learn more about watercolour pigments.







My “personal palette” – Gouache Experiments

Grackle Nest
Grackle nest with three eggs:  Gouache on Paper

A couple of months ago, I finally took the plunge and bought myself some gouache paints. Although in general I love the delicacy and glazing properties of transparent watercolour, there are some subjects where the opacity and flatter finish of gouache (opaque watercolour)  are preferable.    I decided to use this opportunity of starting in a new medium to apply what I have learned about colour theory and gamut mapping as well as my own preferences to select only a relatively limited “personal palette”  of colours. Continue reading

Coloured Pencil Colour Swatching – Faber Castell Polychromos Full Collection (120)

On this blog I have mostly focused on my experiences with watercolour, which is my primary medium, but I also do some of my work (about 15-20% of my illustrations) using coloured pencils or combining both. Coloured pencil lends itself  better than watercolour to keeping full sets from a brand.  Although coloured pencils are mixable, they are easier to work with with less mixing and a larger colour selection than watercolours.There are also fewer brands of artist-quality coloured pencils, and each brand has a very unique and different formulation to their lead.  The pencils I use the most are Polychromos.  Polychromos pencils have a smooth yet relatively hard, oil-based formula.  This is ideal for drawing details and layering without a waxy buildup.  Continue reading