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Matteo Grilli Watercolor

Matteo Grilli

Maker Matteo
Location Brisbane, Australia
Website Matteo Grilli Wildlife Art: Handmade Watercolour Paints
Etsy? Wildlife Watercolour Art Handmade Watercolour by MatteoGrilliArt
Average Price per Pan $10.52
Specialization Simply high quality watercolors for the professional watercolor artist
Number of Colors 10
Opacity? transparent colors are very transparent, and opaque colors are appropriately opaque
Special or Exclusive Colors An Indian Yellow with PY153
Pigment Information? Yes
Ingredients Schmincke pigment, Gum Arabic, Honey and Essential Oil of Clove
Vegan? No

Note from the Maker

I have been painting with watercolours for 23 years and I have been making watercolour paints for the last four years. Every batch of paint is hand-mixed on the glass slab for no less than one hour non-stop. These handmade watercolour paints feel very smooth on the brush and on the paper. All paints are very lightfast.



A talented professional artist himself, Matteo makes these paints for his own use and eventually decided to share them with others.

In a sense they are very simple. Only 10 colors. Single pigment. Nothing fancy.

But there is something to be said for a line that simply focuses on quality and utility. You can see in the way these paints shine in his own paintings come out where his focus is. The end result. Beautiful paintings.

You can see how careful he is in the creation of his watercolors in videos he has produced and blog posts explaining the topic.


  • Extremely well made paints
  • Color payoff is great even from dot cards
  • Includes all colors necessary for nearly all paintings in the range
  • Perfect for the painter who simply wants their paints to do their job well


  • Packaging is not fancy or cute
  • Line does not include a very wide range, and is very orthodox

Who is it for?

These pains are best suited to the painter who simply wants to get their job done with very high-quality paint. There are no glitter paints. There are no multi pigment colors. Just a few single pigment colors.

Mateo is an artist himself, and you can see that in the colors that he has made here. These are colors for a working artist. You didn’t have to worry about the pigments that he has chosen fading on you or ever worry about low pigment load. They are reliable and dependable. And of course, beautiful!



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Art Supply Review: Eventually Everything Mixes

I wanted to share with you this amazing handcrafted watercolor brand called Eventually Everything Mixes!

Recently I got to meet Amé on a trip to Berlin. She is a wonderfully sweet and kind person, and she obviously put a lot of thought into the processes she uses to make her watercolor paints.

Her paints are all vegan and cruelty free. That might sound my distance distinction, but the majority of watercolor paints have either honey or ox gall (which comes from the gallbladder of cows) in them, which makes them not vegan. Instead, Amé uses sugar syrup and synthetic ox gall as the humectant and wetting agent in her paints.

Personally, I am not vegan, but I do believe in trying to make the products that we use as free from cruelty and as gentle on the environment as possible. This is obviously something that Amé cares about. Not only are her products free of animal byproducts, but she also even notes when the pigment might be dangerous to the water supply and aquatic life. This is something that’s almost never noted and is really important since watercolors are often flushed down the drain.

In addition to all of this, her paints are beautiful, moody, and inspire me to be more creative.


Quality Where Does it Stand?
Lightfastness depends on the pigment, but the colors are sourced from Kremer Pigments
Where Is It Made? Berlin, Germany
Identification (Color Labeling and Accuracy) Name and pigment number on the pans, but other information only available on the website
Tube size Available in half pans, full pans, and bottle tops
Price around $5 per half pan

Colors Reviewed

  • WATER BY THE PIER - PB 71, PR 101

Amé gave me a full pan of Pyrelene maroon, a bottle top of Lausitzer Ochre, and a dot sheet with Water By The Pier and Free He Wanted To Be. The dot sheets were very generous, and I’ve done several paintings and all of my swatches with these alone!


p>You can see in the slots is that all of these colors are pretty granulating. Even though purely maroon, which is not actually a granulating color, has a more textural quality than in other brands.

The colors are all extremely highly pigmented, and they have a medium level of dispersion.

Even though I am a stickler for single pigment colors, I am absolutely in love with “Water by the Pier” and “Free – He Wanted to Be.” Normally I don’t see any reason to have a great color on my palette, but that granulation and the different colors in ”Free – He Wanted to Be" entrance me every time I use it.


This is the part that I was worried about. I have never used handmade watercolors before, but I know that watercolors which are not correctly formulated or not correctly mulled can be very difficult to mix and glaze. But this is not the case with these pains.

They paint and makes just like I would expect them to and it’s easy to get a wide range of colors from just the four paints that I have.

Obviously, this is not a high intensity palette, but I was still able to get some version of basically each color.


These colors rewet pretty easily, although there is a bit more difficult re-wetting the Lausitzer Ochre. It’s pretty common for first colors across brands to be more difficult to rewet.

“Free – He Wanted to be" was also a bit more difficult to rewet, and clearly had a bit more binders and the other paints. It had a sort of a gummy texture. It’s also more muted in intensity.

The easiest color to work with was the Pyrelene maroon, which is crazily intense as soon as you put a brush into it.

Glazing and Layering

No problems here either. I painted a portrait, which normally includes a lot of layering and glazing. The collars had no trouble staying on the paper and did not lift off inadvertently.

One thing that I did notice is that the colors seem to stay wet on the page longer than with my conventionally made paints.


These pains are very vibrant and have very deep color. However did notice that, depending on the paper you use, they may be a fairly large color shift. The colors are much darker when they are wet than when they are dry. However the saturation level seems to stay about the same, and the colors do not become pale and washed out after drying.

Pros and Cons

Pros Cons
Cruelty free, vegan, and environmentally friendly paint Large color shift
Unique colors The rewet ability of the paint might vary by pigment
Supports an independent artist
Smells of Cloves
Pigment is sourced from a reputable supplier, and no fillers are added

Who is it for?

If you want to dip your toe into the world of handmade watercolors, I would definitely start with this brand.
I don’t often add new colors to my palette now that I’ve decided on a set of colors, but I find myself often wanting to play with these paints. I’m not sure if it’s the moody colors, the scent of cloves, or the memory of meeting Amé, but using these payments is very freeing. If you like deep, dark, moody paints with a lot of texture and the smell of clothes, then these are the perfect paint for you. If you are looking for a high-quality, vegan watercolor brand, this is absolutely perfect.

Of course we can’t forget that every purchase helps the support an independent artist who also organizes workshops to help get people acquainted with making art!

The Last Word

This is a great first experience with handmade watercolors, I really want to try out some more colors in her line, and see how they compare with other handmade watercolors!

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

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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. 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!


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.


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.


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.


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



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.


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.


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.


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


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Art Supply Review: Viviva Colorsheets

I first heard about Viviva colorsheets last year when I watched a video from StudioBAS. The colors were amazingly vibrant and saturated, so I knew I had to try them!

I wrote to Rohan and Aditya, who created the product and they sent me a sample. At that time, they were planning on doing a kick starter in October 2016, and they had a totally different design for the product.

After sending out more samples and getting feedback, they have completely revamped the product, and I have to say that is a joy to use!


The story behind Viviva Colorsheets is that my brother Aditya is an amateur painter since childhood. He is currently a medical student studying to be a doctor and used to always complain that ever since he got into medschool, he doesn't get the time to paint at all. And given how it used to be a stress buster for him, he missed it a lot. And while studying one of the diagnostic techniques he came across a similar process that deposits pigment on paper and that sparked an idea. I've been helping him with things like packaging, brand etc. The name Viviva is our grandmother's initials. :) - Rohan


Quality Where Does it Stand?
Lightfastness Unknown. But since they are dyes, probably highly fugitive
Where Is It Made? Handmade in India
Identification (Color Labeling and Accuracy) There are names printed underneath each of the colors, but several of the color names do not match the expected hue
Size 7.5 x 13 cm
Number of Colors 12 (OLD), 16 (NEW)
Ingredients “The pigments are made from standard inorganic salts/compounds with special additives to make them deposit on paper and pick them with water easily later. We have refrained from using any known harmful chemicals like lead, mercury etc.”

Colors Reviewed

I am reviewing both the old and the new color sheets for comparison. The old color sheep do not have any names. Here are the names of the new ones:

  • Crimson
  • Deep Pink
  • Vermillion
  • Flesh
  • Chrome Yellow
  • Gold Ochre
  • Burnt Umber
  • Burnt Sienna
  • Light Green
  • Sap Green
  • Viridian
  • Peacock Blue
  • Persian Blue
  • Violet
  • Magenta
  • Slate Black


As you can see, both the old and new versions of the product are completely transparent. The colors are extremely vibrant, extremely saturated, and have no granulation.

The problem is that the colors in this set are not very varied. Eight out of the 16 colors in the new set are some kind of red/orange/yellow color. None of the Reds are particularly cool.

The peacock blue and Persian blue are nearly identical, as are the flesh, chrome yellow, and gold ocher. Crimson and deep pink are only distinguishable in tints, and are the same in mass tone.

Just as a note, these colors will stain anything that they touch, possibly permanently. Also, if you get the papers very wet, they will smell a bit.


These colors mixed together with absolutely no problem. Since they are dies, they have very good flow, and shoot across the page.

Since this is intended as a of urban sketching or plein air set up, it's worth noting that there is no mixing area in this booklet.


The majority of these colors jump off of the page very easily. There are a couple that need a bit of scrubbing to be activated. When using a medium-size brush, it looks like it activates a lot of the dye, and I'm a little worried that the color will run out very quickly. I haven't had this problem yet, though.

Glazing and Layering

The colors are extremely staining, so it makes it extraordinarily easy to layer the colors. Once a color is put down, it's not going to move. Also, since they are transparent, they build up colors beautifully.


As I said, these colors are extremely vibrant!

For some people, these might be too vibrant, and it could be difficult making more natural, muted colors with this palette.

Pros and Cons

Pros Cons
Extremely Vibrant Colors Not Lightfast
Easy Portability Unbalanced Palette of Colors
Able to Create a Wide Range of Colors No Mixing Palette
Designed and Handmade in India
Extremely Transparent

Who is it for?

This is not for somebody who wants serious watercolors all the time.

Normally, I would never recommend a product that I was almost certain was extremely fugitive. I don't really like the idea of using lower quality watercolors for sketches and things like that.

However, I do love these Viviva color sheets.

Why? Because they are extremely portable. I can slip these in my pocket or my prayers and as long as I have a water brush, I have something to paint with. A watercolor field set cannot get any more simple than this!

I have several small portable watercolor sets, but this is the one that is always with me. You know how they say that the best tool is the one in your hand? That's how I feel about these.

So the Viviva colorsheets are perfect for the person who always wants to be ready to paint, but cannot always spare the room that a watercolor kit might take up.

The Last Word

  • Quality: ★★★*
  • Overall: ★★★

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Zirconium Cerulean Blue PB71

Normally I'm not too excited about specific pigments, but I’m really excited about this one!

Cerulean is a really beautiful color to paint with. It has nice granulation, a light blue color that is perfect for skies, and it’s cool and non-staining.

It's not really a color that you can replicate with any other pigment, although some manufacturers make a cerulean blue cube by mixing phthalo blue with white. I really try to avoid white in my watercolors because it adds a chalky look that I don't really like.

I used to have Caribbean in my palate, but once I realized that it includes cobalt, which is a toxic chemical, I removed it from my palette.

Then one day, I learned about zirconium cerulean blue!

As far as I'm aware that this pigment is only available from Kremer pigments. They sell it in a powder form as well as watercolor half and full pans. I got a full pan of the watercolor and I’m so happy that I did!


Versus Cerulean Blue PB 35

The color is not exactly a match for traditional cerulean blue which is made out of PB35 or PB36, but it's a close. It's slightly cooler, and it granulates a bit more.

In terms of granulation, zirconium cerulean actually seems pretty close to manganese blue genuine, which is the very toxic pigment. You could add a little bit of phthalo blue or phthalo turquoise to get an almost exact match. Also, adding a little bit of phthalo green gives you something close to cobalt blue turquoise or cobalt teal.

Also, it's a lot heavier, and doesn't move in water as freely as cerulean blue does. I think that you could probably add ox gall to this color to make it flow a bit more.

Despite these differences, I think that it's a very good substitute and has most of the characteristics that I loved about cerulean blue without the toxicity.


mixing zirconium

I did a couple of tests mixing PP 71 with other colors.

With Potter's pink, it makes a series of beautiful grays and the old granulating purples. With PY 175, it makes amazingly vibrant granulating spring greens. With PR 122 makes saturated purples as well as lavenders, which is something that is difficult to achieve with other blues. Finally, with Indian or Venetian red, it makes deep dark browns and cool grays, similar to the way that burnt sienna mixes with ultramarine blue.

Check it out!

If you're interesting in trying out an unusual pigment, or you're looking to substitute the really improve on your palette, order one of these from Kremer pigments and I think you won't be disappointed !


Kremer Watercolor - Zirconium Cerulean Blue

Zirconium Blue and Cerulean Comparison | Too Much White Paper

Artist AEE Miller - unSpooky Laughter Studio


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Art Supply Review : KUM Automatic Long Point Pencil Sharpener

The KUM Automatic Long Point Sharpener was, until very recently, my favorite pencil sharpener. Even though I have some trouble sharpening with it consistently, is still miles above your standard pencil sharpener.

Facts Where Does it Stand?
Name KUM Automatic Long Point Sharpener (AS2)
Type Handheld with 28 mm holes, it also has two lead pointers at the side
Point Type Long point
Size 6.5 x 2.5 x 3 cm
Body Material plastic with the wedge body made up of light magnesium alloy
Blade Material steel
Made In Germany
Price $4.39- 7.73

The KUM Automatic Long Point Sharpener is marketed under several different names in the United States. There is a Palomino version that is marketed by California Republic Stationers in orange and gold. There is also the Palomino Blackwing version in black and gold. The one I have is blue and is the version that comes with two lead pointers on the side.

The sharpener comes with two extra replacement blades, which are very welcome because it seems that the blades wear out very quickly if you use harder lead pencils. If you’re only using writing pencils within the 2B to HB range, then there is probably no problem. But if you use 10H or 6H pencils, you may find yourself changing the blade very often.

I have also heard about sharpeners coming with dull blades straight from the factory, so if you’re having trouble sharpening with this pencil, consider changing the blade.

The KUM Long Point sharpens in two steps. The first step simply strips away the wood from the graphite core. You end up with a long cylindrical type of graphite which looks a little odd.

The automatic part of the name comes from the auto stop of this first section. There is a big sign that says stop which doesn’t allow you to over sharpen the pencil. don’t be disappointed if he thought there was some kind of electric component. That’s all it is.

The second step actually sharpens the lead. It doesn’t take away any of the wood, but only sharpens the graphite. This is useful, because you can also re-sharpen the pencil without having to strip away any more of the wood.

This is also where you can run into trouble. Depending on the size of the pencil and how well the lead is centered, I often had problems with lead of the pencil breaking before I was finished sharpening. Then I had to start the whole sharpening process all over again.

In order to be successful with the second step, you must be very gentle and very slow.

I also had problems with consistency and sharpening. At its best, the KUM Long Point makes a needlelike point which is so sharp that it can prick you. But this is very inconsistent. Sometimes it cannot get this sharp. Sometimes it is very blunt. Sometimes it basically can’t sharpen the pencil at all.

Despite this, overall it is still an upgrade over most handheld pencil sharpeners. But I’ll be saving it for when I am sketching outside, and use a hand crank sharpener at my desk.

Pros and Cons

Pros Cons
Can produce a very very sharp point Inconsistent sharpening
Small and lightweight Blades dull very quickly
Has a sharpening receptacle Sharpening receptacle is very small
Able to sharpen lead points

Who is it for?

The person who would get the most use out of a very long point is probably an artist, but there are also regular pencil users who like the look of a long point. The point can be extremely sharp and give a very fine line.

However, the sharpener is not for someone who is not willing to deal with the inconsistency that can occur depending on the pencil your sharpening.

I would recommend the sharpener for someone who requires a pencil sharpener on the go, or someone who wants a pencil sharpener at their desk but does not want to give up the be necessary for a hand crank pencil sharpener.

The Last Word

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

In the end, despite its problems, it’s still probably the best (or at least one of the best) portable pencil sharpeners available for those who like long points on their pencils.

Official Website



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Art Supply Review : Mitsubishi KH20 Pencil Sharpener

This is my new favorite pencil sharpener. It’s easy. Quick. Light. Quiet. Efficient.

What else could you want?

I got this pencil sharpener specifically because I was tired of being frightened to sharpen my Caran d’Ache Museum watercolor pencils. I also thought it was probably time to upgrade since I was doing more work with graphite.

This was definitely an awesome upgrade.

Facts Where Does it Stand?
Name Mitsubishi KH 20 Handheld Pencil Sharpener
Color Black, red, blue
Type Handcrank desktop sharpener with autostop, rubber grips, blunt and long point modes
Point Type Blunt and Long point
Size 13 x 8.5 x 8 cm
Body Material Plastic
Blade Material Metal
Made In China

It’s pretty surprising that this pencil sharpener is made in China, that’s not exactly what you would expect from Mitsubishi. Despite that, there’s no reason to assume that there is any kind of deficiency in quality. The sharpener is sturdy and works very smoothly.

Pros and Cons

Pros Cons
Stabilizes pencil while sharpening Too large to travel with
Autostop Can shorten pencils a great deal
Can sharpen (slightly) larger pencils Not metal, so maybe not super sturdy?
Both long and blunt tips Sometimes sharpens a bit off center
Huge waste receptacle, with viewing hole Does not include desk clamp, must be purchased separately
Fairly quiet
Includes a hole for a desk clamp
Easy disassembly for repairs or troubleshooting
Rubberized base for stability
Rubberized clamps do not damage pencils

Who is it for?

This sharpener is ideal for anybody who just wants to get a good tip every time with no fuss. They are sharpeners that give a sharper point, but not much sharper. If you don’t want to spend time fussing around with those, this is perfect. You could go through an entire collection of pencils in a few minutes and have consistent results.

Since the cutting mechanism is not entirely made out of metal, I wonder just how long the blades will remain sharp. I’m not sure if there is a replacement available.

The blunt tip is an interesting added feature. It’s probably not interesting for most pencil users, but for artists who use colored pencils, it can be helpful to have a broader tip sometimes.

I have seen it recommended that after sharpening several colored pencils, it’s a good idea to sharpen a graphite pencil to make sure that the blades are not excessively dulled.

The Last Word

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

I don’t think anybody could go wrong with this sharpener. It’s a good price, good quality, and it doesn’t mar your expensive pencils!

Official Website



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Art Supply Review: M Graham Artist's Gouache

When I ran out of some colors in my Winsor and Newton gouache set I decided to try some different brands. At the top of my list was M Graham gouache. I am really happy that I decided to try these since they have definitely lived up to the artist grade gouache claims that I have heard about.


Quality Where Does it Stand?
Lightfastness 31 out of 35 colors in the line have an LF I rating of Excellent, and 4 out of 82 colors in the line have an LF II rating of Very Good. All of the colors in the line have a very high permanence rating.
Where Is It Made? USA
Identification (Color Labeling and Accuracy) The tubes have color swatches on the front that are fairly accurate. They also have the name in English, French, and German. The tubes also include the series number, like fastness rating, pigment number along with the pigment name, vehicle, and ASTM D – 4236 confirmation.
Tube size 15 mL (.5 ounces)
Price Around $5-$8 per tube

Colors Reviewed

  • Quinacridone rose – lightfastness I, PV 19
  • Hansa yellow (primary) – lightfastness II, PY3
  • Pthalocyanine blue (primary) – lightfastness I, PB 15:3
  • Raw Sienna – lightfastness I, PBr7
  • Burnt Sienna – lightfastness I, PBr7
  • Lamp Black – lightfastness I, PBk6


There is so much pigment in these paints. It’s just totally vibrant. It’s also very clear that they do not add a new pacifiers to the payments because classically transparent pigments like Quinacridone rose and Phthalocyanine blue are not opaque unless they are applied extraordinarily thickly. That’s fine with me because you can always add white to make your pigment more opaque if you want to.

The opaque paints like raw sienna, burnt sienna, and lamp black are completely and totally opaque.

All of the colors water down very nicely and they are not chalky at all. They have a velvety matte finish that is just wonderful to look at.


There is absolutely no problem mixing these colors. The all mixed very cleanly. Actually, there is so much pigment in some of the colors that you may need to water them down to get the shade that you desire.


M Graham gouache re-wets very easily. There is no problem and the colors are not diluted. You do not need to scrub of your brush, and you can get very opaque colors with little difficulty. This is totally different from the Winsor and Newton gouache.

Pros and Cons

Pros Cons
Lightfast Colors Not easily available outside of the United States of America
Re-wets very well Product line is not as large as some other brands, although that is probably because they focus on lightfast pigments and single pigment colors
Artist grade gouache Not all paints are completely opaque without adding white
Does not contain chalk or pacifiers
All the colors dilute extremely well
Great price

Who is it for?

Anyone and everyone who is interested in learning to paint with gouache! The colors mix beautifully. It takes a lot of the frustration that I felt with the Winsor and Newton gouache out of the painting process.

The M Graham paints are even slightly cheaper than the Windsor and Newton paints, so it seems like there are no downsides.

The Last Word

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

I love these paints. They’re the best gouache that I have ever used. I would recommend them to anyone.

The only potential downside is that it is a little more difficult to acquire these paints over here in Europe. There are only two places that I know of where they can be bought in Europe, and that’s at a more expensive price than available in the United States.

Outside of that, I don’t see any reason why anyone would be upset with these paints unless they really do not want to modify the opacity of their own paints with white.

Just Go Buy Them Already!


In Europe

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Art Supply Review: Uni Posca Paint Brush Pen (PCF-350)

Calligraphers are always looking for the perfect white ink, but what about the perfect white brush pen?

I’ve only ever seen a few, and so I had to try out this Uni POSCA when I saw one.

It's an ink-based brush pen that uses a pump system to deliver the pigment. Pretty unique, huh?


Quality Where Does it Stand?
Ergonomics/Feel It has a normal pen body, so it handles normally.
Tip Type Felt
Firmness Medium
Ability to Flex Stiff
Tip Size Medium
Sharpness Blunt
Ink flow Medium
Pigmentation Medium
Bleed No bleed
Watersolubility Waterproof
Copic/Alcohol Marker Proof Yes
Smell No smell
Lightfastness Very Lightfast
Acidity Acid Free
Toxicity Non-toxic
Color Availability 60 Colors


  • It’s a white brush pen!

  • You could use the Uni Posca for accents and really large brush lettering on toned or black paper, which is pretty cool.

  • Totally unintended, but you can mix the pigment from the Uni Posca with pigment from your water soluble pens (like the Winsor and Newton watercolor marker or the Tombow dual brush pen) to get pastel shades. That’s so cute!

  • You can use the Uni POSCA to write on unconventional surfaces. It will even write on glass, rocks, or porcelain. Basically, it will work on any surface you try! (Keep in mind that the paint can be wiped or scratched away on nonporous surfaces)


  • The white is not totally opaque, and the brush can get pretty dry unless you’re constantly pumping the button.

  • The bristles don’t really come to a sharp point, so it’s hard to get good detail with this brush. [1]

  • Did I mention how much I hate pumping the button? ‘Cause it’s a lot.

My Rating: ★★☆☆☆

I had so many expectations for this price, but I don’t think I’ll be using it very often. I just hate that button, and no matter how many times I press it, I just can’t get the ink to be as juicy and wet as I want it to be.

Bristle brushes are generally harder to control than felt brushes, so I don’t think I would recommend this to a beginner.

In the end, it’s probably easier to work with an actual brush than the Uni POSCA brush pen.

Other Reviews Of This Pen

Where to Get It

Official Website

POSCA PCF–350 - paint, colour, draw, decorate, calligraph - All material markers


  1. It is also possible that there is a fine point version of this pan, which would make me very excited!  ↩

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Art Supply Review: Faber Castel Pitt Artist Brush Pen

I got this pen specifically because of its lightfastness. I was pretty upset to find out that Copics are not lightfast, and wanted to find an alternative that wouldn't fade on me. So I turned to the Faber Castell Pitt artist pen.

The ink inside is actually India ink, which is pretty cool. That's what gives it its lightfastness. Unlike most markers, which use dyes, this is a pigment-based ink.

It’s not the most popular pen around on instagram, but it's very easy to pick up in Europe for an OK price. So this was one of the first brush pens that I tried to letter with.



Quality Where Does it Stand?
Ergonomics/Feel It has a normal pen body, so it handles normally.
Tip Type Felt
Firmness Medium
Ability to Flex Stiff
Tip Size Medium
Sharpness Blunt
Ink flow Medium
Pigmentation Medium
Bleed No bleed
Watersolubility Waterproof
Copic/Alcohol Marker Proof Yes
Smell No smell
Lightfastness Very Lightfast
Acidity Acid Free
Toxicity Non-toxic
Color Availability 60 Colors


  • Very highly lightfast. Actually, some of the shades are so lightfast that they should last longer than 100 years!

  • Depending on what kind of paper you use, you can blend with these colors before they dry. It’s kind of difficult though.

  • I love that this comes in a range of grays, which is great for shadows and shading. I also love the fluorescent line, which is more of a novelty than anything else, but it’s fun!

  • Since they are waterproof, you could layer watercolors on top of the Faber Castell Pitt artist pen without worrying about it smudging or bleeding, which is awesome!


  • The tip of the pen is not conical, like some other brush pens. Instead, it’s kind of long and skinny. I find that I don’t really like this style for brush lettering because it doesn’t give you very thick down strokes.

  • When you first get this pen, it feels very stiff. However, with use it loosens up. The problem is that the very tip also becomes more and more blunt. That is super annoying when I’m looking for a sharp line. [1]

My Rating: ★★★☆☆

This is not one of my favorite brush pens, but it’s not one of my least favorite either. It’s a little too stiff for me and a little too blunt after a while.

However, it’s one of the only brush pens with a felt tip that I know of that is actually lightfast.

I wouldn’t recommend this to beginners because it can be a bit unwieldy, but it’s definitely an awesome pen to complement your collection.

Other Reviews Of This Pen

Price and Where to Find It

  1. Apparently, there’s a way to fix this problem: Sharpen your PITT pen - YouTube  ↩

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Art Supply Review: Winsor and Newton Watercolor Marker

I'm not really sure what I was expecting when I bought this!

Something between a watercolor marker and a Copic marker? An alternative to the Tombow dual brush? Something to allow me to do watercolor lettering without lugging around paints and water?

Well, this pen is none of those. And that's not necessarily a bad thing!


Quality Where Does it Stand?
Ergonomics/Feel It’s a bit thicker than normal pens, so that can be a bit uncomfortable.
Tip Type Felt
Firmness Medium
Ability to Flex Medium
Tip Size Broad
Sharpness Medium
Ink flow Wet
Pigmentation Dark
Self Cleaning Unknown
Bleed No bleed
Watersolubility Watersoluable / Not Waterproof
Copic/Alcohol Marker Proof Yes
Smell No smell
Lightfastness Very Lightfast
Acidity Unknown
Toxicity Non-toxic
Color Availability 36 colors


  • Holy cow! This thing is pigmented. Just like the Faber Castell Pitt pens, these watercolor markers are actually formulated with pigments. However, instead of Indian ink, these markers use the same pigments that are used in watercolor paints. I really didn't expect the color to be so intensely pigmented, but they are wonderfully deep and rich. It is a very very wet pen.

  • In terms of handling, I would say that this is somewhat like the Tombow dual brush pen but a bit stiffer. It gives wonderfully thick downstrokes.

  • This is actually meant to be a watercolor marker, and the intense pigments definitely would result in beautiful hues for painting or sketching as well as calligraphy or hand lettering.

  • The colors blend out very easily with a bit of water.

  • You might not care about this if you're not into watercolors, but the fact that each brush is labeled just like a tube of water color would be makes it really easy for me to understand what is going on inside of the brush.

  • The color label is very accurate, so you don't have to second-guess what color will be coming out on the paper.


  • The nib is nice and flexible, but only to a certain point. It seems to stop somewhere halfway up the brush, which is kind of weird.

  • The tip of the brush is not very sharp, so upstrokes are not as thin as I would like.

  • Something about the brush seems a little squishy or unstable, so it's a bit harder to control than the Tombow dual brush pen.

My Rating: ★★★★☆

Actually, this was very close to having five stars. I mean, high lightfastness, non-toxic, no odor, what’s there not to like?

However, I have a bit of difficulty managing this pen in comparison to the Tombow dual brush pen, so it gets knocked down one star.

Still, I would recommend this to anyone who is looking for a highly pigmented, lightfast brush pen.

Other Reviews Of This Pen

Where to Get It

Official Website

Water Colour Markers | Winsor & Newton


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Art Supply Review: Tombow ABT Dual Brush Pen

The Tombow Dual Brush Pen is one of those brush pens that you see all of the time if you follow calligraphers and hand lettering artists on Instagram. It also seems to be a big hit with many crafters.

So, I was pretty excited when I finally was able to buy one. Be calm and a ton of colors, and I have to say that they are worth all of the praise. The colors are gorgeous, and the brush has tons of flex. I think I would recommend it to anyone wanting to try brush lettering.


Quality Where Does it Stand?
Ergonomics/Feel It’s quite long. That seems to make it unwieldy for some, but it’s okay for me.
Tip Type Felt
Firmness Medium
Ability to Flex Medium
Tip Size Broad
Sharpness Medium
Ink flow Wet
Pigmentation Light
Waterproofness Not Waterproof
Lightfastness Not Lightfast
Acidity Acid Free
Color Availability 96 Colors!


The Tomboy Dual Brush ABT comes in a rainbow of colors! Since it is a water-based pen/marker, it has a lot of other abilities besides just putting down ink. You can blend colors with the Tombow and even do imitation watercolor patterns with it!

Not only that, but the squishy felt head gives you very smooth calligraphy, so it kind of erases your imperfections. Very nice.

Probably my favorite thing about this pen is how the colors fade out at the end of the downstroke. It gives this pretty gradient effect to your writing.

Oh, and since it is double-sided, it has another site which is not flexible, but you can use it for faux calligraphy or adding details to your lettering.


I haven't had this problem yet, but some people say that the tip doesn't last very long. apparently it's very easy for the felt tip to start fraying, making it unusable for lettering.

I wouldn't ever use this pen for something I was creating for a client since it is not lightfast, and would fade with time.

Also, since it is water-soluble, you couldn't use this underneath watercolors or any other water-based media.

My Rating: ★★★★☆

This is overall a great pen, and I can see myself buying a whole bunch of them in the future! I also think that this would be of very good beginner brush pen because it is easy to handle and makes very smooth calligraphy or hand lettering.

Other Reviews Of This Pen

Price and Where to Find It

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Art Supply Review: Winsor and Newton Cotman Compact Set Watercolors
Art Supply Review: Winsor and Newton Cotman Compact Set Watercolors

Now, this was probably my very first set of watercolors ever. Yeah, I was really lucky and my parents spoiled me by splurging on student grade watercolor paints instead of Crayolas. I don’t even know how long I’ve had these paints, but it feels like forever.

Since Winsor and Newton is such a famous company, I think it’s fair to say that their Cotman line of paints is where many new watercolor artists begin. So, I thought it would be a good idea to start my series of reviews with this set.

Bear with me though, because it’s old and it looks like it!


This is a pocket-sized plastic box full of paint. It’s about 13 cm wide by 11 cm long, by 2 1/2 cm high when closed. When fully opened, it’s around 26 cm long, which is a lot of mixing space!

The plastic housing has a thumb hole, which makes it easy to hold when painting en plain air (that’s French for outside) or urban sketching. It has two palettes, one of which is detachable.

The Cotman Compact Set also has a little dish that you can use for holding water or painting mediums. The little distance on either side of the pallet or in the middle, where your thumb goes.

Oh, and it also comes with a totally cute Series 3 Cotman watercolor brush in size number 5! I’ve lost mine, so you’ll just have to imagine it.


The Cotman Compact Set comes with 14 halfpans:

  • Lemon Yellow Hue [1] (PY 175)[2]
  • Cadmium Yellow Hue (PY 97, PY 65)
  • Cadmium Red Hue (PR 149, PR 255)
  • Cadmium Red Pale Hue (PY 65, PR 265)
  • Alizarin Crimson Hue (PR 206)
  • Purple Lake [3] (PV 19)
  • Ultramarine (PB 29)
  • Cerulean Blue Hue (PB 15)
  • Viridian Hue (PG 7)
  • Sap Green (PY 139, PT 36, PR 101)
  • Yellow Ocher (PY 42)
  • Burnt Sienna (PR 101)
  • Burnt Umber (PBr 7, PY 42)
  • Chinese White (PW 5)


$23.10 on Amazon and $22.86 on Dick Blick.

Let’s Talk about Student Grade Versus Artist Grade Watercolor

Cotman is Winsor and Newton’s student grade line of paints. But what does that mean exactly?

Less Pigment, More Binder

Student grade paints generally have less pigment and more binder and artist grade paints. That means that the colors are often less intense or saturated than the exact same pigment in an artist great paint.

In addition to using more binder, student grade paints can also use lower quality binders, which make the painting process a bit more frustrating.

This can also make student grade pigments more chalky and dull. If you have pan or cake watercolor sets, like the Cotman Compact Set, student grade paints may be harder to re-wet and take more scrubbing to get pigment.

But They Are Cheaper, Yay!

Artist quality watercolors are pretty pricey. I have paid over $10 for a single tube of paint! That’s half the price of this entire 14 pan set!

The exact same compact set using Winsor and Newton’s artist grade watercolors costs $99.46 [4]. That’s almost $77 more expensive than the Cotman line set!

Because they are cheaper, student quality watercolors might be easier for watercolorists On a budget to start with. However, some artists recommend only using artist grade paints, and simply buying fewer of them in order to spend less money.

The Cotman Line

Let’s look at the Cotman line itself. There are 40 colors in all, which you can see in a color chart here. Winsor and Newton also provides a detailed list of all the paints with their properties here. I’ll be looking at each of those aspects below.

Fewer Single Pigment Paints

The majority of the paints in the Cotman line are not single pigment paints. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but it’s much easier to mix bright, clear colors when you are using single pigment paints.

When too many pigments mixed together, the colors tend to be dull and brown. Using single pigment paints means that when you are mixing a red and yellow paint, you know that you are only mixing two paints. If you are using paints with multiple pigments, you could be mixing together three, four, or even eight pigments without even knowing it!

That’s a surefire way to get into trouble while mixing your colors.

Of course, if you don’t mix colors too much, then this shouldn’t be a problem.

Out of the 40 colors, 19 of them are single pigment paints. In the Cotman Compact Set, eight of the 14 pigments are single pigment paints.

Cheaper Paints

All but one of the paints in the Cotman line are considered Series 1 paints. What does that mean?

Manufacturers often label their pigment Series 1, 2, 3, 4 or 5. Series 1 paints are the cheapest, and Series 5 paints are the most expensive.

This doesn’t necessarily mean that they are worse pigments, just cheaper. For example, most earth colors (burnt umber, yellow ocher, you know, the brown ones) are really cheap because they are literally made out of dirt.

One positive aspect of this is that student grade paints, and these Cotman paints, are often less toxic than artist grade paints. Pigments like cadmium are more expensive and are not often used in student grade paints.

I personally don’t paint with toxic pigments, so I have to be careful when selecting my artist grade paints.

Lower Lightfastness

Only 18 out of the 40 Cotman colors are considered to have the highest lightfastness rating as assigned by ASTM international.

What does that mean?

Lightfastness is how likely the paint or pigment is to fade when exposed to sunlight. Most student grade paints have lower lightfastness then artist grade paint. That means if you hung a painting you made with paints that are not lightfast, it would probably fade over time and lose its vibrancy.

If you are just painting in a sketchbook, lightfastness probably doesn’t matter very much. That if you ever plan on selling your art or displaying it, you should probably pay attention to the lightfastness of your pigment.


And finally, a note on the packaging. The packaging for Windsor and Newton’s Cotman line is exactly the same as it is for the artist line. So be careful, because it’s really easy to get them mixed up!

Testing it out

So, how does this thing actually work out when you’re using it?

The Palette


The palette is made out of plastic, which has its good and bad points. It’s great because it’s light and durable. Also, plastic doesn’t rust.

It’s not so great because, especially in the beginning, plastic is not a really good material for mixing on. The paint kind of blobs together and makes it difficult to see what you’re doing properly.


The pans are basically normal half-size pans. The only problem here is that they come out really easily because they are loose in the palette.

Don’t be surprised if you open up your pallet and the pants are all over the place.


This palette is a very good size for traveling. It could be a little bit smaller, but the size allows you to have a ton of mixing area.

The Cotman set is comfortable to hold in your hand and it also lays on the table very easily.

Basically, the format is great!

The Paint

Color Selection

The color selection of the Cotman set is really good. You get a warm and cool of each color, which is basically what you need to mix a ton of colors properly. It also includes purple, which can be difficult for beginner watercolor painters to mix.

The one thing is that I’m not sure why there is a white included in the set. I can only guess that they are including it to cover up mistakes or something like that.


Here are my swatches of all of the paints that I actually had from the set. Before painting, I added a drop of water to each pan and let it sit for five minutes.

As you can see the colors are pretty bright and vibrant. I didn’t really have to scrub to get the pigment out, and the paint is not streaky at all.

The Sap Green is kind of weird though, because I’m used to it being a more dark, natural color instead of this light green that we get in the Cotman Compact Set.

The Burnt Umber it is also a bit problematic. It’s very gritty and leaves big chunks of paint in your swatch. No good.


The colors mix very easily. Here I mixed green, purple and orange. The colors are mixed were bright, vibrant, and clean.

No problems here!

Versus Artist Paints

To show you the difference between the Cotman colors and some artist grade paints, I used my own palette and picked colors I thought would be close to those in the Cotman set.

Can you see the difference?

By now, it’s probably pretty obvious to you that the artist grade watercolors are much brighter and more vivid than the Cotman watercolors.

However, that’s not saying that the Cotman colors are bad. You would just need a lot more of the same pigment to achieve the intensity you can get with artist grade watercolors.

Tomato Test
The top image is using Cotman colors, and the bottom image is using artist grade watercolors.

The top image is using Cotman colors, and the bottom image is using artist grade watercolors.

This is just a super quick wet in wet sketch of some tomatoes to see how the paints interact with one another.

As you can see the Cotman colors mixed together very well. The gradation between colors is very soft and nice. They were also very easy to control.

Below is the same thing done with artist colors.[5] The colors blended much more evenly, and were more active, but the effect is still very similar. Some people might not be able to tell the difference.

Pros and Cons

Pros Cons
Inexpensive Lower grade paint
Less Toxic Less lightfast
Portable, great for sketching Fewer single pigment paints
Good color selection -
Easy to get nearly anywhere -
Reputable manufacturer -

Who is it for?

I would recommend this Cotman Compact Set to the beginning watercolor painter or artist on a budget.

Of course it’s better to get artist grade paints if you can afford it, but if you can’t this is a great pace to start. Some people might say that it’s better just to get three to six tubes or pans of artist quality watercolor. The price difference is not that huge then.

However, I think that it can be kind of frustrating for the beginning watercolorist to deal with such a limited palette. It’s a really great way to build up your mixing skills, but it might be frustrating to beginners who are not very good at mixing colors just yet.

This would probably also be a good set for crafters or anybody doing simple watercolor and projects that doesn’t require a lot of mixing or layering.

I would also recommend a set over the artist grade set for children because the artist grade set definitely includes toxic watercolors. Not exactly what you want when paint can end up on little fingers and faces.


Here are a couple of alternatives that I have seen around in a similar price and quality range.

  • Sakura Koi Watercolors 24 pan set, $19.50 (Review) I used these paints when I was a teenager and I loved them! Having said that, I wouldn’t use them now because there is no pigment information or lightfastness information available. If you are just sketching and you’re not worried about your pigment fading, this is wonderful bang for your buck.

  • Zig Kuretake Gansai Tambi 24 pans set, $19.53 (Review) The thing about these is that they are gorgeous! Brilliant colors. Superbright. The whole shebang. But they are not watercolors, at least not in the European sense. Gansai are traditional Japanese water-based paints that use hide glue as the binder. That’s not a bad thing, but it means that these paints behave differently than Western-style watercolors and might be confusing when you are just learning how to paint. They are also more opaque than Western-style watercolors.

  • Crayola Watercolors, 8 pan set, $1.48 (Review) Just don’t do it. Please. I know that price is really tempting, but it’s not worth it. And not just the Crayola brand, all the ones that are like this. Please just stay away. (To be fair, you can make beautiful things with these pains, but it is just so much extra work that it’s better just to pay to avoid the frustration if you can afford it at all.)

  • St. Petersburg / White Knights / Yarka, $57.84 (Review) First of all, I have to let you know that I’ve never actually tried these paints. The manufacturer describes these as artist grade paint, but some people consider them student grade. The problem is that apparently some of the colors are not as lightfast as they claim. However I have seen these the sets used by many professional watercolor artists, and they look gorgeous. They are a bit more expensive than the Cotman Compact Set, but cheaper than the Artist Grade Compact Set. So a nice middle ground.

The Last Word

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

They are pretty okay! Not the top-of-the-line, but definitely not the bottom. This is a solid choice for any beginning painter or painter on a budget.


Amazon, $23.10 // Dick Blick,$22.86 // Jackson’s Art, £15.19

Other Reviews

  1. When a paint name includes the word “Hue,” that means that the manufacturer is not using the pigment that is normally associated with this name, but a substitute that is generally cheaper and of lower quality.  ↩

  2. Those strange numbers and letters that you see in the parentheses are the pigment codes. If there is one, the paint is made out of one pigment. If there are more than one, the paint is made out of many pigments.
    These pigment codes are important because different manufacturers give their paints different names even when they are using the exact same materials to make their paint, and that can be really confusing!
    If you want to learn more about watercolor pigments, head to  ↩

  3. When a paint name includes the word “Lake,” it means that it is a paint made with dye or that are very transparent.  ↩

  4. I found the artist grade set on Amazon for a bit cheaper: $75.67  ↩

  5. I used much less pigment for this drawing.  ↩

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