Updated: Jul 25, 2022
Before reviewing Daniel Smith Fine Watercolors, I thought I would share the Three main manufacturers that make up my favorite palette. These are; Winsor Newton, Holbein and Old Holland. I did not intend to compare these three staples that have remained in my arsenal for over 40 years to Daniel Smith Watercolors, yet I will note differences and comparisons that become obvious given my lengthy history using these three favorite paint brands. Although I don't think it's necessary to be brand loyal, I am however, interested in consistency of pigments, the investments an artist makes towards building an arsenal of art supplies as well as transparency of pigment and lack of granulation.
One of the first things I look for in watercolor pigment is lack of granulation in pigment. This is a personal preference only. Visually, the granulation disrupts a smooth and even transition while working on hot press paper that I seek in my own work which is a difficult process to achieve without the granulation distorting the watercolors surface. These colors usually consist of Blues, some violets, earth colors and some blacks but I will get more specific throughout this review.
Some background on Daniel Smith (art supply) Daniel Smith, a noted printmaking artist, founded the operation in 1976, endeavoring to produce artist grade printmaking ink. Later, watercolor paint, oil paint and acrylic paint lines were added to its proprietary selection. Daniel Smith's paint manufacturing facility is located in Seattle, Washington, where it mills pigments and mixes the final paint product. The company characterizes its paints as "professional artist" grade. One of the unique approaches to paint that the company focuses on is the use of pigments derived from semi-precious minerals and other unique geological deposits. This PrimaTek® collection of colors has paints derived from turquoise, lapis lazuli, rhodonite, kyanite and serpentine.
After receiving my 238 Daniel Smith dot cards I was excited to see all these amazing colors available and began right away to test them in my watercolor journal on 300 lb. cold press paper. You could see right away as water hit these dots the brilliance and intensity in many of these pigments becomes evident.
Printed on each dot chart is a Color Information Summary at the bottom of each card that explains | Light Fastness Rating | Non Staining/Staining | Granulation | Transparency | and Daniel Smith's special and unique colors made with authentic mineral pigments called | Primatek. Altogether, I received four dot charts and began busily painting. I am always creating color charts to refer back to because I find them profoundly helpful as a visual tool to refer to if I am seeking a specific color for a painting or just want to feel how the color reacts to different papers. Daniel Smith Dot Charts will not disappoint. Many colors have a similarity in hue but there are many that stood out even the pearlescent pigments dazzled me although I am unsure how or when I would use them in the future.
Funny story: When I was in college one of the many things that made up our grades was the ability to draw and paint a perfect circle. I remember hours and hours of practice doing these exercises to perfect holding your brush and painting perfect circles. The exercise proved to help with focus when painting in a realistic style but it also helped me with my observations of shape and form. In class, my professor would come around and observe students progress and demonstrate how to paint or draw nearly perfectly every time and if he caught your watercolor brush sitting in your water container he would pick it up and snap it in two to teach us the value of our brushes and not ruin them by allowing them to remain in the water container which after time, bends the hairs and the water loosens the wooden handle to the ferrule. Needless to say, I never had a broken brush--EVER! :-)
A very large assortment of transparent colors particularly some of the reds and violets were my favorites. The yellows and oranges were very bold with many being on the semi-transparent spectrum. Quinacridone Fuchsia was one of those colors that stood out as well as Quinacridone Violet! Beautiful colors with high staining values and no granulation. Comparatively speaking, Quin Fuchsia had a similar feel to Permanent Rose in the Winsor Newton line of watercolors that I use a lot. Some of the greens were really amazing as well. Serpentine Genuine was one of them. However, this color is part of the Primatek color group made from authentic minerals. The other color that stood out for me was Green Apatite Genuine. Rich, beautiful color but on the semi-transparent side. Cobalt Teal Blue, Viridian and Phthalo Turquoise had a beautiful depth to them and you can easily see where these colors would be best used for seascapes or dark back grounds. They are highly staining colors so a little seems like it would go a long way.
My overall thoughts on the Primatek colors was that they are very impressive and I would certainly not hesitate to add a few to my color stash. Jadette Genuine has such a rich, forest green color with excellent light fastness rating but only semi-transparent. It is a strong color to add to a palette for sure. Kyanite Genuine had an interesting sparkle to it and obviously high mineral content and as I pondered how I could effectively use this color in a painting, ideas started to come to mind. One other color that stood out was Rhodonite Genuine from the red family which had no granulation, low staining and could be used in several ways when painting flowers. The largest portion of Primatek colors from this dot chart were in the Blues, Greens, Violets and earth colors with varying degrees of granulation . All very spectacular!
Quick Tip! Make sure to reform the tips of your brushes when you are done painting. As the watercolor brush dries the tip stays in form to allow for many more painting sessions and doesn't fray or lose its shape as it dries.
My recommendation is to give Daniel Smith Fine Watercolors a chance and get yourself a set of these dot cards to help you determine which colors are a MUST to add to your stash of colors! You won't be disappointed!
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