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Art Supply Review: Old Holland Watercolors

Scanbot Sep 18, 2017 9.17 PM44.jpg

Old Holland is kind of a strange brand. There are not a lot of reviews of it because of its expensive price in many parts of the world. I’m lucky enough that my local art store has a full collection of this brand at fairly reasonable prices.

Handprint.com doesn’t think very much of this brand because of its lightfastness issues and its odd labeling practices. That’s totally understandable. I don’t think I would ever recommend this brand to a beginner.

The pigments are definitely pure. They claimed that they include twice as much pigment as other brands, and that might be true. However, the binder for these paints is what makes it different from all other paints, and calm cause problems for a new or experienced watercolor artist. The binder has been described as gummy and sticky. And the paints lift extremely easily.

Not normally something that you’d associate with a high-grade artist quality watercolor brand.

Despite all of that, I love these paints!

Background

Many artists don’t like Old Holland watercolors. They say that they are too gummy , too thick, and too difficult to rewet. And all of these things are true to a certain extent. The colors do not stay still on the page, and lift extremely easily. All of these things can easily be considered negative points.

But there is one thing that I think is important to realize about these watercolors. They are really gansai.

Pseudo-Gansai

Okay, or at least they are basically gansai or very similar to gansai.

At my local art store, I picked up this pamphlet talking about Old Holland watercolors that comes directly from the company. Here is what it says.

Old Holland Classic watercolour
These watercolours combine the best qualities of the original colours as used by the Chinese masters. All 168 colours are lightfast. The old fashioned Chinese binder accepts more pigment. This binder is based on distilled water, bleeched cristal arable gums, pure glycerine 99.9% with various mixtures of different natural sugar syrups,special selected honey, rabbit skin glue, rosin varnish (made from roots), seaweed extract, mhyr, etc. The colours tend to be considerably stronger than normal artist’s watercolours, while retaining the transparency required to produce the most delicate hues. Due to the higher level of pigmentation the intensity and brilliance is superior, while less quantity of paint is required to make the artwork.

Pamphlet

Okay, so what does that sound like? If you have read my blog post about Gansai, this will all sound very familiar.

And it makes sense. The Dutch were one of the few countries that were able to trade with the Chinese and the Japanese in the 17th century. You have probably heard of the Dutch East India Company, haven’t you?

Gansai is a Japanese art medium, but many of Japanese traditional arts have their roots Chinese culture. I don’t know what the Chinese word for gansai is, but I’m pretty sure that is what is going on here with these Old Holland watercolors.

So the characteristics fit. They lift easily, they are extremely vibrant, and extremely pigmented. The only thing that seems to be different is that the colors also mix with absolutely no problems.

Also, it is important to note that this binder is the main reason why old Holland colors have a bit of a lightfastness problem in some formulations. Some of the binder combinations that Old Holland uses yellow over time.

Stats

Quality Where Does it Stand?
Lightfastness varying lightfastness, I would not trust the lightfastness rating given by Old Holland
Where Is It Made? Holland
Identification (Color Labeling and Accuracy) No pigment number or other information on the tube, also the label does not match the color inside at all
Tube size 6 mL
Price US$6 - US$22

Colors Reviewed

  • GOLDEN BAROK RED – PO 65
  • SCHEVENINGEN YELLOW LIGHT – PY 174
  • ULTRAMARINE BLUE DEEP – PB 29

Swatches

These colors are all extremely vibrant. They are surprisingly transparent, and every single one of them is extremely lifting. I have never seen colors that lifted as easily as this. You could put a drop of water on the paint and it would completely come off the page.

This can actually be really frustrating when you’re painting because you can basically erase the entire thing depending on what paper you are using.

This Ultramarine Blue Deep is my favorite ultramarine. The granulation is absolutely gorgeous and unlike the granulation I have seen in any other brand. I will definitely be buying more of this.

Scheveningen Yellow Light is now my favorite warm yellow. It’s transparent, and just glows.

Mixing

The colors mixed together extremely well. They harmonize and have a lot of movement when used wet in wet. The painting that I did using these colors has a sort of gentle harmony to it.

Re-wetting

This is where these colors fall down. Because of the binder, it’s extremely difficult to rewet these pains in comparison to other artistry paints. You have to add water to them before the pigment will come off of the pan.

Glazing and Layering

I don’t use these paints when I am planning to do a lot of layers. Or at least I don’t use them on the bottom layers, particularly because of that issue with listing. These colors don’t stay down very well. They always want to come off the page if there is any sort of agitation on top.

So I normally only use these paints if I am going to be doing a painting that doesn’t require a lot of layers, or if I want to use them on top of already painted layers.

They glaze well, and are very vibrant.

Vibrancy

Extremely vibrant, obviously full of pigment. Beautiful. There are variations of tone within each color.

Pros and Cons

Pros Cons
Extremely High Pigment Load No pigment information on the tube
The Most Beautiful Granulation Difficult to Rewet
Very Vibrant Lifts easily
Unique Pigments Extremely Expensive
Questionable Lightfastness
Strange Names
The line is full of overly complicated convenience mixes

Who is it for?

Obviously not a reasonable person.

Not for anyone who is a stickler about single pigment paints or lightfastness.

I will probably continue buying these pains, but I will attempt to be aware of the limitations of the paint and careful about the lightfastness.

This brand is definitely a “luxury” brand if you think about the price and the lack of functionality. This isn’t really a brand that you go to for consistency or predictable quality. This is a brand that you go to because there’s just something about it that you love, despite all of the negative aspects.

So this is for somebody who has already tried artist grade watercolors, and is already very comfortable with them, and wants to be a little silly with their paints.

The Last Word

  • Price: ★
  • Quality: ★★★
  • Overall: ★★

Official Website

Availability

In Europe

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