I recently reviewed the new increased range of Van Gogh watercolours, made by Talens who also produce Rembrandt. Van Gogh, although originally only 40 colours, have never been a strict student quality brand more of a mid-range type with the student quality range called Amsterdam. I used them for a time in the distant past before being seduced by the alluring charms of Artist Quality watercolours.
With the steep escalation of prices of artists quality I thought I'd try some of the cheaper ranges starting with Van Gogh. Incidentally Jacksons recently published a 'Materials Guide'. In the section referring to watercolour I was surprised to see they are now splitting them into three groups. 'Artist Quality' are no longer the top of the range which they now classify as 'Professional'. Interestingly Winsor & Newton now call them 'The Professional Range'. Artist Quality are now somewhere in the middle with 'Student Quality' the bottom range. Is this a ploy to claim they are better than some competitors or just to justify the eye-watering prices.? Cynical me looks at all this with a jaundiced eye. They also claim that 'professional quality' have a much higher concentration of pigment. This is something I once accepted until reading what the Handprint man Bruce McEvoy had to say about it. Bruce said that pigment concentrations varied from paint to paint and I suggest anyone interested find this in the relevant Handprint page and see for themselves. Although Handprint is no longer updated - sadly - it's still available tp peruse. Now on to van Gogh.
I apologise that these swatches are less than ideal, in particular the top one where the paint appears streaky. I think this is because the paper I used isn't either Waterford or Fabriano and of a lesser quality.
The bottom one is Fabriano which is better and certainly less streaky. Together they will just give you an idea which you may or may not wish to explore further.
My overall impression of the paint when sqeezing it out of the tubes is that it is quite fluid. The two dusk colours are obviously influenced by Daniel Smith introducing several similar ones. The single interference colour 'Gold' seems quite weak on first impressions, although the Dusk colours are fairly strong. They are available in 10ml tubes and half pans. Prices are too good to be true Just over £3 for a 10ml tube. This works out at 30p a ml compared to roughly 71p for a leading make.
I can't really say a lot more as I haven't attempted a painting with them yet. I probably shall as I have the complimentary colours and a few others. My main criticism of the new range is that many are multi-pigment paints, although there are sufficient single pigment paints for a moderate sized palette. Yes they aren't up to the quality of the leading makes but are quite adequate for most amateurs who are not affluent possibly a little beyond that.
My current 'best picks', using my criterion of quality and price taken together, are Lukas and Sennelier. This of course applies to the UK and most of Europe only as prices vary considerably across the globe.
Of the two I'd give Sennelier the edge with both 10ml and 21ml tubes, as well as pans, and a larger range. Lukas are limited by having a 24ml tube - although they do pan colours as well - which may be too large for many hobby painters. Sennelier paints are fairly liquid due to the use of honey but not as much as Graham. Lukas are like toothpaste consistency out of the tube but dissolve very easily and well when water is applied. This is the position at the moment but things change. Daler Rowney were once a 'best buy' but no longer with a substantial price hike. They are in the same group as Lukas so I'm wondering whether Lukas will change at some stage. Difficult isn't it.
NOTE: As Miquel says Talens have also upgraded and re formulated some paints in a major upgrade. There are now 120 colours including some 'specials'. 70 of the normal colours are single pigment paints, a big change for the Rembrandt range. Further details when I obtain them.