Sunday, 22 April 2012

Daniel Smith Pt.3

Following up the previous posts on Daniel Smith the question arises are they worth the extra premium UK  and European buyers have to pay? I say this because prices in the USA are lower and in addition DS, through their retail shops and internet site, have regular special offers - lots of them in fact. If we had  similar offers then I'd not hesitate to say yes, although I like Graham and have not tried DaVinci, both highly rated by American artists. What we shouldn't lose sight of is that we have several very good manufacturers in Europe who have been making watercolour paints for a very long time, much longer in fact, and comparing quality and price there is a very good case for sticking to them, certainly on many of the standard colours.  Winsor & Newton, still and for  many years the top rated watercolours by many professional artists, are much more competitive in price here than in North America, where I sense they are losing out to the American makes. At the beginning of this year the new much higher prices for W & N made Daniel Smith  more competitive but almost immediately discounted offers appeared. Perhaps W & N realised the threat these new paints posed which they certainly do.

Previously I have noted that the DS range is split into three or four groups. The standard colours, those that follow most other makes, comprise the biggest number - 100 plus. Standard but still including some unique colours not duplicated elsewhere. The remainder include the Primateks, Duochrome and Iridescent paints. These two latter are for specialist purposes and most watercolourists would stick to the standard colours. What about the Primateks? Here I urge you to carefully  read what Bruce McEvoy of Handprint writes in a very comprehensive review  Essentially Daniel Smith has been gathering mineral pigments from mines all over the World. They don't have pigment numbers and are expensive. 

Here is a further selection of colour swatches. I have added pigment details and will add them to the previous posts. You will note that in many instances the pigments are those in common use by the other makers.

Cobalt Blue Violet  (PV19/PB28)

Duochrome Autumn Mystery

Cobalt Teal Blue (PG50)

Garnet Genuine 

German Greenish Raw Umber (Pbr7)

Green Apatite Genuine

Lunar Blue (PBk11/PB15)

Serpentine Genuine

Undersea Green (PB29/PO49)

Hansa Yellow Medium (PY97)

Quinacridone Sienna (PO49/PR209)

Quinacridone Rose (PV19)

I could go on forever - well almost - but with the other illustrations in Pt. 1 & 2 you should have a good idea of what is available. I am personally intrigued by the number of granulating paints offered. Rui who comments on here is fulsome in his praise of the Lunar colours for their granulation properties and I intend to try some other than black which I already have.  Jan Weeks love Serpentine Green, Moonglow and Cascade Green. Rui likes them  but says you need to be careful what you mix Cascade Green with.  German Greenish Raw Umber is another favourite.

A good source of individual pigment details is;  For the complete range try If you print this off it runs to 19 pages! The Daniel Smith website, which is a selling site with various other brands and products is: There is a mass of information including `peeks' at some DVD instructional videos they sell. In addition if you go onto Youtube `videos',and type in `Daniel Smith Watercolors' you'll get a mass of promotional videos with lots of information. In the USA the wonderful Dick Blick site has very good pigment details, although each colour has to be looked at individually.

Finally quality versus price? Are Daniel Smith watercolours worth the extra premium we are charged in the UK and Europe? As things stand Daniel Smith are the most expensive watercolours in the UK. Winsor & Newton are cheaper, certainly while the special offers continue. It isn't straightforward to compare them as the number of price categories vary manufacturer by manufacturer. Daniel Smith, Holbein and Old Holland have six, Sennelier five, Maimeri, Winsor & Newton, Bloxx, Schminke four while Daler Rowney and Rembrandt only three, although in reality Daler Rowney have only two prices as has Lukas.  Graham and DaVinci are only available from one source, Lawrence of Hove who have a fixed carriage charge on top of the prices but they do offer 20% off for 6 or more tubes. This is further complicated in that manufacturers don't all sing from the same song sheet. Apart from basic colours like the earths, usually in the cheapest category, other colour ratings vary from one make to another. In order to get an accurate picture you must compare them not just by colour, which can confuse, but more accurately by pigment numbers. Some manufacturers Winsor & Newton, Lukas, Sennelier, DaVinci and Rembrandt offer larger tube sizes that are cheaper per ml. This is another factor although personally I think W & N would have been far better with a 21ml or 24ml large size rather than 37ml. The further I get into this the more complicated it becomes so I'll leave it at that and may return to the subject at a later date. 

So are Daniel Smith paints worth the cost? Are they better than the paints from say Winsor & Newton or some of the others listed? They are good but so are most of the other artists quality makes and in the end it comes down to the depth of your pocket and personal preferences. For the average watercolour painter probably not, but they do have a whole range of wonderful, often unique, colours  so I shall continue to buy them, although selectively. For impulse buyers like me they are very seductive. As for the other makes Daler Rowney, Lukas, Rembrandt and Maimeri are very well priced and offer good quality with a choice of around 70 colours. 


Mick Carney said...

An epic draws towards a close. Great work Peter. I marvel at the time and effort you have put into this. At the moment I'm struggling to come to terms with the selection of paints I've got.

Peter Ward said...

Thanks Mick. You're not the only one struggling. I have far too many paints and despite trying to sort things out still have a way to go. The trouble is there are so many marvellous colours.

Rui said...

Hi Peter,

Thank you very much for the completion of this excellent review of some of DS colours and comparison to other manufacturers. I also did provide a comment on your second article which did not come through but this has happened in other blogs and I suspect it is to do on my side rather than your side.

I agree with your conclusions as I too use a basic palette containing paints from different manufacturers with each of them chosen for particular reasons. In fact it is not so basic as it contains no less than 18 different paints but they are used both at home and on the road during holidays, etc.

In addition to that I have a plastic palette which I call my little box of tricks and that is where things get interesting. Some examples of colours there are mentioned in this article. These are colours that I add on a 'as needed' basis to spice up my watercolours.

Thank you once again for all the work you have done on this beautiful subject of colours.

Kind regards,


Keith Tilley said...

I read somewhere that Michael Wilcox School of Colour uses DaVinci paints. I can't confirm that from personal experience and there is only a very limited range of colours, conforming to their palette theory. If they are DaVinci colours, the prices are very reasonable with a 37ml tube of Ultramarine costing £5.95

Peter Ward said...

Thanks Rui for your comments. I have two palettes at the moment. A main one with 24 colours and a supplementary with another 12. Ridiculous isn't it! I don't use all that lot in one painting naturally, but I do paint several different subjects. There are such wonderful colours these days. I can imagine Turner and others would gasp at the rich variety now available.

Peter Ward said...

Thanks for commenting Keith. The original Michael Wilcox colours were made by DaVinci and may still be. However DaVinci reformulated their range fairly recently so whether they still provide them is a moot point. Wilcox was open about the fact DavInci made the paints.

Russo said...

Great post.

In my view, it is very simple. For the professional painter everything should go, so if someone thinks DS worth the money and the trouble on geting it from the US to Europe, notihing to say about it.
Now, for the amateur/iniciate, almost any paint wold do, as I don't think they intend to paint with the centurys conservation in mind. For this group, wheree I am, the point is fun. I use a 5 color palete for example.


Peter Ward said...

I've only just come across this post. Thanks for commenting Russo.

Unknown said...

Im curious - how do Shminke compare with DS? In price and quality?

The way I see it, once you are an experienced watercolour artist, you will be able to assess which colours you use most often; most artists tend to have favourites and their work reflects their chosen palette. Once you have a handle on that, then I suppose if art is a career for you then you could justify buying those colours from DS. And if its just for fun and you can afford those select colours in a premium brand, then treating yourself now and again is no bad thing.