I have written previously on the above subject of painting on a budget and due to the escalation of prices propose to revisit . First a qualification. The above title suggests this is about the 'Best'. It isn't but instead about what I consider 'best buys' , combining price and quality. This isn't the same thing. Watercolour artists get ripped off (in my opinion), especially in paints but also to a lesser extent in brushes and paper. Professional artists nearly all recommend you buy 'the best quality products'. Some, not all, promote various brands, some telling you they are the 'best in the World' either being paid by the respective companies or supplied with product free for doing so or very cheap prices. I'm not saying all artists take this line but some undoubtedly do. The only one I know of that was very cynical about this was the late Ron Ranson, who used the cheapest materials in all three categories. I know of one artist who promoted a particular brand of paint then switched to another when the deal was withdrawn. Each was 'the best'. Enough of that now to a summary. These are only my opinions so you can take what you want from them or ignore them. There are a huge range of brands available in all these products so there may well be others I've missed , especially in the USA and other countries but my perspective is primarily a UK one. Daler Rowney, until recently a 'best buy'; have increased prices to the extent I've dropped them. I would stress I am very flexible in buying paints taking the view nearly all artists quality brands are acceptable subject to personal preference.
Here prices of artist quality paints are horrendous. At the top end we have Daniel Smith, QoR and one or two lesser known. For the purpose of this exercise I have also discounted brands like Winsor & Newton at current prices. However look out for special offers and you may find them cheaper at some other outlets. I am only talking about what is currently on offer from Jacksons - a good benchmark. There are certain colours in these top brands that are 'must have' to some artists' Fair enough. Another might be Permanent Rose from Winsor & Newton (PV19). There are lots of paints made with PV19 but the Winsor & Newton one is a favourite of many flower painters.
The following are my recommendations as things stand. I'm in a slight state of flux at the moment as what to buy so put these forward for consideration. Schmincke are a good buy IF you are comparing them with brands like Daniel Smith. The range is extensive with over 100 colours and prices are cheaper than Daniel Smith .You have to watch though in what price category each paint is listed as there is no industry standard. Schmincke don't have a lot in category one - the cheapest. They also do a 5ml in addition to the 15ml plus half and full pans.
Another to look at is Talens (Rembrandt). They mainly do a 5ml tube but also a few colours in 21ml. Prices are pretty keen and if you only use a small amount of a certain colour I recommend the 5ml size.
For bulk users the best buy is Lukas with a range of 70 colours, a few outstanding. They don't match the range of the others but all the standard colours are there. The problem may be they offer a 24ml tube size plus pans. This may be too large unless you paint a lot. Keep in mind though paints should last ten years or so, according to the chief chemist at Daler Rowney. However I have found that quite a few colours (pigments) solidify in the tube after much shorter periods, and that includes some from Daniel Smith. I know we are told to cut open the tubes and they can be utilised like pans but to me that's a pain! Lukas prices are excellent.
Another brand well worth consideration is Sennelier. With nearly 100 colours they also do 21ml (the best buy), 10ml plus full and half pans. Prices are a little more than Lukas but still well short of Daniel Smith.
There are two other groups of paints outside of the main European and American brands - I would include Holbein here also. They are the Korean brands, Mission Gold and Shin Han plus the Japanese Turner. Prices are really cheap compared to the others - almost too good to be true. I have written extensively about them in my back catalogue so read it and make your mind up. I am minded to try a few colours in some of these brands but be selective. I did try Shin Han a few years ago and was not impressed but the current range may be different.
We then have the house brands which are growing all the time. They tend to have fewer colours, often less than fifty but claim to be 'artists quality'. Jacksons, which used to be made by Sennelier (they may still be); is one with 48 colours and new ones seem to pop up regularly. All the major companies now seem to have them both here and in America. Try a few colours by all means and you may be pleasantly surprised. The SAA have a growing range.
Finally as I said at the beginning it's possible deals may be available at local shops that are normally more expensive. For instance I called in at Cass Art in Bristol the other day and two shops from them is an outfit called Stationery World or similar. That shop has been there many years and I spotted some art materials in the window. On going inside I was surprised to see a full range of Maimeri watercolours together with the budget Venezia range, Prices were better than current Jacksons on the Maimeri and Maimeris excellent budget brand is normally hard to find. There is also the Cotman brand from Winsor & Newton together with the excellent Talens budget brand Van Gogh if you are really strapped for cash - and many amateurs are. Thats it folks take your choice. For overseas visitors outside the EU Jacksons prices are less 20% VAT so even with carriage at cost only you may be pleasantly surprised how competitive they are.
I've always enjoyed your budget posts. Always very informative. One of the distressing things about painting is that it can be prohibitively expensive. Once a month I teach watercolor and acrylic painting and one of the things I always stress is that one does not need to spend a fortune. To that end I have my classes paint with three primaries and white. They mix everything they need from these colors and learn in the process. I've seen some amazing results. I also want to show that they don't need to spend a fortune to express themselves creatively. In other words, you don't need much to start and, in all honesty, not much more to sustain a continued interest in painting.
Hi there Oscar keep up the message. .Nice to hear from you.
I have to confess.... I mostly use the Van Gogh paints from Talens. Cheap and easily available for me in The Netherlands.
Lovely post, Peter! Waiting for Part Two...
Some more info: The Italian firm FilaGroup currently owns Maimeri, Daler-Rowney and Lukas paints, plus other art supply companies such as Canson, Strathmore, etc.... Huge art Holding.
I'm using Cotman, Van Gogh and MaimeriBlu (great paints). I don't spend a fortune on paints. There's no need to. I also don't pay attention to people who constantly hawk the "only use artist's quality paints" argument. I'm one of those persons who believes that with patience and adjustments in technique one can make any kind of paper, paint and brush work for you. With that, I do have to admit I do only use lightfast paints and acid free paper, but they don't have to be expensive brands.
Thanks all for comments. Always good to hear from Oscar. Thanks Judy and Miguel. I knew Daler Rowney owned Lukas but didn't know Maimeri were in the mix and the whole owned by an Italian company. I wonder what this will mean to pricing because Rownyr have hiked prices considerably for the DR brand.
So I was browsing the Talens website this week to check some colour composition for Rembrandt paints and I've discovered that the Van Gogh student grade line has been expanded and some paints reformulated.
No pigment composition in the chart and the brochure that includes it still has the old colours, but if the pigment choices are good this could be a great option for budget painting. I've written to Talens to get more information. Because good golly if the idea of having a cheaper Buff Titanium paint available doesn't make me happy.
Well, the answer arrived way faster than I expected!
The new brochure is this one:
Sadly their buff titanium is a hue so I still need to rely on the lovely but pricy Daniel Smith paint. But I see some surprises in the line like all the earths now being monopigmented and PV55 and even Green Gold PY129 as single pigment paints. Don't think I've seen PY129 in a student range before.
Thanks Sebastien. I like Van Gogh - very good value. Artists watercolours have become so expensive that we are seeing as expansion of budget ranges. Many - be selective - are excellent value and quite adequate for the amateur or hobby painter.
Sebastien. Where di you get your pigment information from? I've accessed the new range -impressive - but nowhere does it give pigment information.
I found it in this PDF:
It's quite small, but if you check in the part when you see all the colors catalogued, under the color number, +++ signs for lightfastness and the symbol for transparency you can see the pigment composition. It's quite small, but it's there. Had to zoom the PDF to read them.
Some things I found while reading the brochure:
- Introduction of Buff Titanium, sadly as a hue of PW6 and Pbr7.
- Changes in the yellows, which was the weakest point by far in old Van Gogh formulation and student grade paints in general.
- Transparent Yellow Medium is PY128 which I don't think I've ever seen in a watercolor before? Only mention I've seen is an old thread in wetcanvas from 2015 about why is not available as a watercolor: http://www.wetcanvas.com/forums/showthread.php?t=1381335
- PY154 introduced in a lot of yellow hues. Sadly not as paint by itself.
- Introduction of Pyrrole orange PY73 in the line.
- Perylene Scarlet PR149 introduced, which is a pretty rare pigment. Handprint says it's marginally lightfast, they say rate it as +++.
- PV55 introduced in two paints: Quinacridone purple red and quinacridone purple blue. Not listed in Handprint, I've never seen before in a watercolor.
- Green Gold PY129 introduced as Azomethine Green Yellow. First student range that offer this color. Really surprising.
- Reformulation in earths, making them single pigment.
- Multiple colours formulated with Pbk11 called "Dusk Colors" which is the magnetic black Daniel Smith use in Moon Colours.
- Metallic and Interference colors, including Graphite Grey. This one is surprising but makes sense for them to be in a student range. This type of colour appeals more to crafters than painters.
All in all very intriguing, both for introducing new pigments and for being Talens of all people to do it. Rembrandt has always been the no fuss "we use a few reliable pigments" range, so to see new stuff like PV55 and PY128 in Van Gogh makes me wonder if a reformulation of Rembrandt is underway.
yhanks Sebastien. I've e mailed Royal Talens asking for information but so far 3 full days - no reply.
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