The first week of World Watercolor Month has started off with tremendous fun and enthusiasm with thousands of artists from around the world joining in! Our stop today on the world tour of watercolors is Japan.
I have a thing for containers- jars, boxes, bags, pouches. I’ve witnessed my mom and dad arguing over who’s going to get an empty peanut can container, and recently we were all eyeing the same empty jam jars. I guess the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. I also have a thing for Japanese watercolors and art supplies. Throw nice container + Japanese paints into the mix, and well, then there are definite impulse issues. Hence this review of the Holbein Palm Box Plus. I know, some of you are nodding your heads, the ones that have the container thing too. My people. I warn that this post may bring up impulse issues for you too. I’m issuing the warning first thing, in case you need to look away😉 .
Holbein Artist Materials makes artist quality paints. It doesn’t sound like it, but this is a Japanese brand. “With head offices in Osaka Japan, the company was formed just before the turn of the last century, and took the name of the much revered European artist Hans Holbein in the 1930’s. From that time, Holbein’s presence has been significant, not only in Southeast Asia, but also in North America, Australia and Europe.” They only manufacture artist grade paints, no student quality lines. We’ll take a look at the Palm Box set, as well as a set of 24 tubes and a few other colors.
Their watercolors come in 108 colors, 5ml & 15ml tubes, 48 colors come in pans. Holbein’s Artist Watercolor Color Chart. They are very transparent, and claim to be:
“More finely ground than any other artist watercolor, Holbein Artist Watercolor is produced without ox-gall, animal by-products or other dispersing agents. This affords the user greater control in the dispersal of their pigments, enhances handling qualities and delivers color of unequaled intensity, purity and reliability for brilliant transparent washes and/or powerful, clean darks.”
I might be a watercolor collector, but I would never pay what they are asking at those sites listed up above, ebay– around $152 with shipping, straight from Japan. I have absolutely no issues importing from anywhere. Germany, UK, Japan, Philippines, Los Angeles- the world is my market. That’s still one pretty penny though! The good news is that if you really want to try this brand and don’t want to spend a lot, the tube sets are quite reasonable, and there are sets with a lesser number of pans.
It took me 22 minutes of dedicated unwrapping to liberate all of the cubes. The paint packaging “smart” design, was a little tough to unwrap. The brush holds a good amount of water, it’s pretty nice and feels like a size 6. Pans rewet instantly. The lid looks like shiny lacquer, but the entire box is made of durable plastic. The mixing tray snaps into the lid and can be unsnapped to rest on the side, although it doesn’t feel super secure and it leans off to the side a little. Once the mixing tray is removed, the lid is designed to hold a postcard sized paper. I like everything about this, except that the swatch card does not fit into the box! I would think that it would fit into the lid or on top of the pans (after paints dry). It would if the top part was trimmed off. One of the colors that I’ve always wanted to try is Bamboo Green, which is an exotic name for PG36- Phthalo Green YS, this set didn’t come with it.
The swatch card that comes with it lists the paints by number in the order that they come in the case.
The pans are all labeled and they secure in by magnets. Not super strong ones, just enough to keep them from rattling around. For experimental post purposes, I opened it, turned it over and gave it a slight whack- not recommend, they will fall out.
Swatches below are on Strathmore 400 Series Watercolor paper. Row 5 colors are what I added in. I ended up getting the Bamboo Green. Colors listed in order of how they came in the box:
Row 1: Permanent Alizarin Crimson, Carmine, Opera, Vermilion Hue, Pyrrol Red, Naphthol Red, Brilliant Orange, Lemon Yellow, Imidazolone Yellow
Row 2: Yellow Ochre, Cadmium Yellow Lemon, Cadmium Yellow Deep, Indian Yellow, Leaf Green, Viridian Hue, Emerald Green Nova, Cadmium Green Pale, Olive Green
Row 3: Sap Green, Shadow Green, Cobalt Blue Pale, Cerulean Blue, Phthalocyanine Blue, Ultramarine Light, Ultramarine Deep, Prussian Blue, Dioxazine Violet
Row 4: Quinacridone Magenta, Burnt Umber, Burnt Sienna, Indian Red, Sepia, Imidazole Brown, Ivory Black, Payne’s Grey, Chinese White
Row 5: Bamboo Green, Raw Umber, Manganese Blue Nova, Bright Violet, Cobalt Violet Light, Lavender, Brilliant Pink, Shell Pink
Might want to click to enlarge this one.
I am in love with this box. The only thing that I don’t like- the box is a little deep to be able to access the paints in the bottom row. It’s kind of difficult to get a good angle without the brush hitting the edge of the box. If you see little bits in the Bright Violet and Cobalt Violet Light pans, it’s sand from previous outings with those pans, which I filled from tubes.
This thing- the Holbein Artist Water Pan Color 48 Color Lacquer CUBE made me weak in my watercolor knees when I first saw it. Look at the ceramic mixing palette! They have other really appealing sets in nice plastic, porcelain, and lacquer boxes with 8, 12, 18, 24, 36, and 48 half pans.
The color this brand was known for is Opera. Many manufacturers have introduced Opera to their lines. So garish- I love it! But the lightfastness is questionable. Those that paint mostly in journals might not be overly concerned about it, but for those that display or sell their work it might not be the best choice. From Handprint.com:
“Holbein opera is a more intense bluish pink hue (chroma of 79), and has long been a favorite of botanical and landscape watercolor painters for its captivating, bright floral or flamingo color. It is unfortunately only marginally lightfast because the fluorescent basic dye rhodamine B (BV10) has been used. (The dye is formulated by dissolving it in an inert, insoluble resin, then crushing and grinding the cured resin matrix to the desired particle size.) In 2005 Winsor & Newton introduced their own opera rose, which has a slightly darker and less intense color and shows pigment separation (resin from quinacridone) in juicy, dilute washes. These paints should not be used in collectible quality artwork.”
This is the brand for Cobalt Violet Light. I checked out Daniel Smith, Winsor & Newton, and M. Graham before buying this tube, they all cost less, but don’t look as good. The price is significantly more for Holbein- $23 for one tube! This quote is from Handprint.com:
“ Holbein cobalt violet light is the bluest in hue and one of my favorite cobalt pigments: lighter valued, more intense and more opaque than other brands, with a more homogenous, glowing purple color. Daniel Smith is in the middle of the hue range, but darker valued and less saturated than the others; the Utrecht paint is the same hue but is thinly mixed and even more unsaturated.”
Below is a swatch comparison of Holbein Opera with two other brands- Mission Gold (hold on to your retinas- POW!) and Daniel Smith. Holbein Manganese Blue Nova compared with Manganese Blue Hue from Daniel Smith and Winsor & Newton. Holbein Cobalt Violet Light next to Daniel Smith Cobalt Violet. The painting of the sheep is an example using Manganese Blue Nova and Cobalt Violet Light mostly surrounding the sheep. There’s also Cobalt Violet Light in the body of one sheep.
This practice example was a lesson of Jean Haines’.
The colors like Lavender, Brilliant Pink, and Shell Pink have white as one of the pigments. They are creamy pastel colors. I used swatches from Dick Blick here, but you can also see them in the big panel swatch above for row 5.
A set of this brand in tubes is very reasonable on Amazon, about $49 for 24 5ml. tubes, and $33 for the set of 18 tubes. Tube sets on places like Dick Blick, cost almost double over Amazon’s prices. Individual half pans and tubes, are around $9 and up, which is comparable to most artist quality brands. Some pigments are way up there $18-$23. My local art store, and many brick and mortar shops sell 15ml. tubes in this brand, as well as most online retailers.
My first palette set. I squeezed paints in without putting much thought in. They dried into these hard little lumps. It bugs me every time I use it, and I think it’s hard on brushes. If you’re new to tube watercolors, please learn from my mistake. Flatten and smooth the paints out with a palette knife and/or some serious tapping of the palette.
The last seven colors in the palette and on the swatch below are other brands. I left them in because if we are looking at paint, we may as well look at them all. This set of swatches came out more intense than the pan swatches above.
Row 1: Crimson Lake, Rose Madder, Vermilion Hue, Juane Brilliant #2, Permanent Yellow Lemon, Permanent Yellow Deep, Yellow Ochre, Yellow Grey, Cobalt Green, Permanent Green #1, Permanent Green #2
Row 2: Terre Vert, Viridian Hue, Compose Blue, Cerulean Blue, Cobalt Blue Hue, Ultramarine Deep, Prussian Blue, Mineral Violet, Light Red, Burnt Sienna, Burnt Umber
Row 3: all but the first two in this row were added in: Ivory Black Hue, Chinese White, Lavender, Opera. The other colors and brands: Schmincke Cadmium Orange Deep, Winsor & Newton Manganese Blue Hue, Mission Gold Permanent Red Deep, the rest are all W&N- Davey’s Gray, Sepia, Potter’s Pink, Magenta Permanent
One of my favorites from Holbein is their Brilliant Gold gouache. If you would like to check it out, it was reviewed in the Gold & Luminous Paints post.
Holbein Artist Watercolor Chart has ratings for the permanence of the pigments and codes for other properties, scroll down to the bottom for the key. Colors like Bright Rose, Bright Violet, Opera, and Compose Blue are not completely lightfast. The classification they use do describe this is “Moderately Durable.” For a more technical look at this brand, see Handprint.com. He talks about lightfastness and fugitive pigments. His initial review was done in 1999, changes to the brand could have happened since then, but I’m not sure on that. This site is a great resource! Guest Doodlewasher Jane Blundell also has some pigment info and swatches on her blog.
You Can Paint Vibrant Watercolors in Twelve Easy Lessons by Japanese artist Yuko Nagayama. If you want more fruit and flowers in your painting diet, this book has wonderful step by step instructions and some pointers on how to paint glass and water. It shows how to start with pencil sketches of objects and then the painting of them. She has a very three dimensional style and walks a nice line between lose and realistic.
World Watercolor Month is also a non-profit initiative. The Dreaming Zebra Foundation is an organization that brings art supplies to underprivileged kids in need. Please click image below or here to donate!
This is an ongoing Saturday series of watercolor and art supply reviews. All previous review posts can be found under “Reviews” on the menu or click here. If you haven’t already joined the Facebook group for this first ever celebration of World Watercolor Month, come join us, we are having a lot of fun over there! The rest of the Saturdays in July, we continue on with the world tour of watercolors, next stops- Russia, Germany, France and the UK!