Watercolour paint

The word aqua (water) is clearly present in the word watercolour, some people are saying water-soluble paint, but this is not entirely correct. For example, watercolour paint cannot be compared to Gouache (poster paint), which is also water-soluble. Acrylic paint is also water-soluble, but has a different composition. Watercolour is a different type of paint. Some brands such as Sennelier (Fr.) even have honey in it.


Watercolour is available in half pans, full pans or tubes, recently also in sticks and even markers. There are also watercolour pencils that have a different way of working. Pans consist of rolled pigment mixed with Arabic gum and glycerine. The final paste is pressed into a metal or plastic container. Tubes only appeared in the middle of the 19th century and are the same ingredients that are pressed into a tube with binder and water as a paste, about 50% of the content of such a tube consists of water.


The better watercolour paint consists almost exclusively of pure pigments, not cut with fillers, mixed with Arabic gum as a binding agent. The gum ensures the flow of pigment particles in the water to prevent flaking (flocculation). Glycerin or another water attracting agent is also added to the paint for better wetting.


There are different types of watercolours, from cheap to expensive. I do not recommend the cheap watercolours in pans or tubes that you can buy in different discounters. You won't get a nice result and that will only lead to frustration. It is also not normal that you can buy a whole set of watercolours for the price of a tube from the top range.


Good watercolours are quite expensive, but fortunately most brands have a studio series on the market, which is good, but obviously does not have the same flow and pigmentation as their top series. Pigments are expensive, and they save on that, but these study paints are of course suitable for taking the first steps into the wonderful world of watercolour.


Good water colours are for the most part light fast. The paint is divided into 4 groups; from transparent to opaque. For some brands this is indicated by an open square (transparent), an open square with a diagonal line (half transparent), a square with a diagonal line with a black part (half opaque) and a black square (opaque).


Up to here some general explanations about watercolours in the next chapters I will explain the brands I use.


Here are the different watercolour paints I use(d) with where I can share my experiences

and mention technical properties.

Talens Van Gogh


When I first went on a course I thought it might be advisable to buy some new watercolours. Due to a limited budget I chose Talens Van Gogh, actually after a while I was fed up with the possibilities of this study paint, personally I didn't like working with it very much. I don't detract from the quality of this product but the use and the colours simply don't suit me. I don't own this box any more because I won't use it anyway I left it to a starting watercolourist for a price. Van Gogh Watercolour is a colourful transparent paint. All colours have the highest degree of light fastness. The paint is easy to process. Because of the purity you can easily mix the colours and wash them to extremely fine nuances. Vivid colours are the result!


Van Gogh Watercolour has the following good properties: good quality Gives colour easily

Powerful and very transparent colours (although some are very difficult to get transparent)

Uniform viscosity.All colours have excellent light fastness, even at strong dilution Does not contain heavy metals Available in 72 colours including 12 special colours (metallic)

Sennelier “La petite aquarelle”


In my search for new materials I came across Sennelier, as my Cotman was almost empty and I could use quite a good study paint I was looking for more information about this French brand. After reading a lot of articles and reviews I bought myself a box “La petite aquarelle”. Study paint but of a special quality. A box with 24 cups (at the moment they have 36 cups) and the fun could start.


As usual, I immediately made a colour chart and was amazed by the colours and the flow of this study paint. Quirky colours but perfectly mixable. What immediately struck me was that this paint had a good tinting strength and that you had to take very little paint on your brush to have good results. “La Petite Aquarelle” is the little sister of “L'Aquarelle”, Sennelier's professional watercolour range, and is a colourful, fine quality watercolour paint made in France.


The pigments are specially selected for their miscibility and the binder is reinforced with glycerine and is produced to better apply the colour to the paper. This formulation of “La Petite Aquarelle” has been designed to facilitate the production of blends and washes and is perfect for artists learning to paint watercolours, but also for those who paint outdoors. The “La Petite Aquarelle” travel boxes are handy and innovative: they are fitted with an elastic band allowing them to be held effortlessly in the palm of the hand.

Artists will love these boxes because they are easy and comfortable to handle. With “La Petite Aquarelle” Sennelier makes it so much easier to paint with watercolours and artists will certainly want to take “La Petite Aquarelle” with them on their travels.

Sennelier l'Aquarelle


I was looking for better quality and through a coincidence I found an offer on a second-hand site for about 100 pots of Daler Rowney Artists' water colour. I contacted the person who was selling them and we were able to make a deal.

When I heard that Daler Rowney artists' would disappear from the market (in the meantime this issue has been resolved although there are quite a few colours that are no longer in the range) I was forced to look for a worthy if not better replacement. I wanted to leave the well-trodden paths for a while and deliberately went looking for something else. Through my experience with "la petite aqurelle" by sennelier, it was obvious that I would try their top series. I deliberately did not want to buy American water colours, and Winsor & Newton is something that so many people work with.

During my first visit to the Gerstaecker shop in Lille (FR), I purchased a box of 24 1/2 pans. My first work with this fantastic watercolour for me was the 2018 Mourning Angel. The colours of this water colour are surprisingly beautiful and bright, partly due to the addition of the honey this paint gets a kind of gloss over it and the colours are very intense and deep. A water colour that I reserve for watercolours that have to be quite intense.

This water colour is available in 98 colours. In the beginning the colour strength and softness of the pans took some getting used to, but you learn to work with them and what is immediately noticeable is that you need to put very little paint on your brush in order to make beautiful washes.

Water colour with honey that originated with the
Impressionists and meets the needs of the contemporary artist.
Honey has several positive properties. Besides its preservative properties honey gives Sennelier's Extra-Fine Watercolour unctuousness and an unsurpassed clarity. Always looking to approach perfection, Sennelier has formulated its watercolours with even more honey to increase resistance to the ravages of time and provide even more brilliance and clarity.
For over a century, Sennelier watercolours have been produced on the same basis, a selection of the finest pigments and as a binder, superior quality gum arabic sourced from Kordofan. This mix of noble ingredients results in a watercolour with a creamy texture, gloss and bright colour shades.

Winsor & Newton Cotman


My first watercolour box was a Winsor & Newton cotman scetchbox with 12 cups, which is now almost 15 years old and the colours are still bright. I only use this box when I'm travelling, I'm still satisfied with the quality of this English study paint, but over time I've started to change brands. Cotman Water Colours is a range of water colour paints that meets the usual high quality standards of Winsor & Newton but where some expensive pigments have been replaced by less expensive alternatives, in order to achieve a lower price level.


Winsor & Newton Cotman water colour is more uniform in composition than Artists' water colour. This is an advantage for beginners as they require less knowledge of individual pigments. Both Winsor & Newton ranges have similarities, for example Burnt Sienna has the same hue in both ranges. Artists can therefore easily use colours from both ranges; they only need to make minimal adjustments to their technique.


The range of 40 colours has been selected on full colour, undertone (colour cast in a very thin layer), tinting strength, relative hiding power and the character of the pigment itself. The colour spectrum thus obtained guarantees the largest possible number of mixed colours. The paint has good transparency, excellent tinting strength and good processing properties. AA and A colours Cotman watercolours are permanent artists' paints. Cotman Studio watercolours have good transparency, excellent tinting strength and good processing properties.

Daler Rowney Artists'


I was looking for better quality and by chance I found on a second hand site an offer of about 100 cups of Daler Rowney Artists' watercolours. I contacted the person who sold it, and we were able to make an agreement. After buying two empty boxes I could start with this good watercolour, for the first time I came in contact with a top range and got to work.


It immediately struck me that this watercolour has beautiful full colors that can easily be mixed with each other. They are very soft colors, I still use this paint to make soft watercolours, mostly my animal portraits are made with this paint. At a certain moment there was talk that this series would be taken off the market. I have replenished my stock and can still go away for years with this fine watercolour paint.


Artists' watercolours are characterized by the full, free-flowing colours without hard edges around the washes. This excellent quality is due to its precise composition: a suspension of the very best pigment particles in a solution of gum Arabic with water. Only the best pigments are used in the production of Artists' watercolours. The composition of Artists' water colours is aimed at the greatest possible tinting strength for all pigments.

St Petersburg White Nights


In my constant search for materials, I was stimulated by St Petersburg White Nights. In contrast to many other brands, the pans of White Nights are full-sized (twice as big). White Nights comes in 108 colours, of which 18 are pastel colours and 7 are metallics.


As I usually do, I started with a few colours and then finally bought all the pans. The pastel colours are opaque and look very nice. The Metallic colours can be water mixed well, but I would advise you not to use a sable brush or an excellent synthetic brush for this. The metallic colours do not wash out of the brush that easily.


What strikes me is that the pans feel sticky, so perhaps putting a colour card in the box is not such a good idea as it will stick to it. You can of course always laminate your colour cards, which has two advantages: it is water and stain-resistant, and you can easily remove them from the napkins.


The colours are warm and intense, and you do not need to take up as much to paint large areas. White Nights™ water colours are produced in the classic manner by the famous Russian paint manufacturer St. Petersburg, which has been in existence since 1900.


The intense and brilliant, highly pigmented colours are highly light fast. The vast majority of the range is mono-pigmented. This ensures that you can mix clear and clean shades. The binder consists of Arabic gum and honey, a tried and tested recipe. The cups are filled with liquid water colours layer by layer. This traditional method still yields the best results and ensures that these water colours dissolve easily. This water colour can be used for all water colour techniques. This excellent quality at comparatively low prices is unprecedented. It is absolutely worth trying out White Nights™ water colours! The name of this water colour refers to the period in early summer when the sun never quite sets in St. Petersburg. The sky remains light at night. This period, in which many parties and festivals are held, is called Beliye Nochi, White Nights.