Today for the world tour of watercolors celebrating World Watercolor Month, we will take a look at brands manufactured in three different European countries. Schmincke from Germany, Sennelier from France and MaimeriBlu from Italy. All watercolors presented are artist quality. I also have a short watercolor paper comparison between student grade and artist grade, and a couple other odds-n-ends. As usual, there’s quite a bit going on in this post!
Founded in the year 1881 in Germany, by Hermann Schmincke and Josef Horadam. The Horadam line was patented in 1892. One of my favorite artist’s- especially his landscapes, Emil Nolde, used these paints. They come in a range of 110 colors, 69 are single pigment. Sold in full and half pans, 5ml and 15ml tubes, and numerous different sets.
“The motto of the founders of the Schmincke Company was “Meliora Cogito” (I strive for the best). 120 years later, we find today’s owner continues to strive for the best products to meet the demands of today’s artists. Schmincke watercolors contain the best raw materials, such as rare gums, water soluble resins and the finest quality artists’ pigments in the highest possible concentrations. Schmincke quality control is very exacting. For instance, Kordofan Gum Arabic from the Southern Sahara region is a principal ingredient. Like most natural products, quality differs from year to year – like good wine. To maintain consistent quality, Schmincke’s laboratory conducts extensive tests and selects only the best crop of the respective year.”
The Horadam pans have no info other than the brand on the bottom of the pan, I wrote the paint name on with a Sharpie. Pans are a bit smaller in size than other brands. Schmincke is more on the expensive side of paints, at least in North America. It’s a very nice paint, but sometimes there is a huge price difference on sets if you are in the US, when compared with other artist grade paints. Paint sets that are just as nice are available for more reasonable prices. Individual tube prices seem slightly higher compared to other brands. Shop around for this brand if you are interested in purchasing- a few links provided below. This is a very popular brand, but I don’t feel that it stands out over other well liked artist quality brands, especially for the price.
I took the railing out of this metal palette box to fit more pans in. I put a small amount of rubber cement on the bottom of the pans to secure them in. Rubber cement is a removable adhesive, inexpensive, easy to use, and works fine. See the post on Metal Travel Palettes for more ideas. In the second palette photo up there, the metal box contains Schmincke pans and the MaimeriBlu reviewed below.
Watercolor swatches done on Strathmore 400 Series watercolor paper.
Rows 1 & 2 are from the original set, row 3 I added in.
- Lemon Yellow, Cadmium Yellow, Cadmium Red Light, Permanent Carmine, Ultramarine Finest, Prussian Blue
- Phthalo Green, Permanent Olive Green, Yellow Ochre, Venetian Red, Sepia Brown, Ivory Black
- Cadmium Orange, Brilliant Purple, Helio Green, Helio Cerulean, Payne’s Grey Bluish
Colors are vibrant and transparent. The Cadmium Orange flowed really nicely out of the tube.
Schmincke small box with Da Vinci travel brush 12 half pan set on Amazon- $90.
Schmincke large box, without brush, 12 half pan set on Amazon- $61. Cheaper and room for more pans in the rails.
Full Pan Set, 12 Colors in a metal box at Dick Blick- $140
Every year Wet Paint sells a limited edition 12 pan set for a really good price. I don’t remember what time of year this happens, but if you are a member of any Facebook art groups, word gets around.
A little price comparison of the tubes between brands. I used the price of Burnt Sienna for all brands and linked to Dick Blick for this example.
- Schmincke 15 ml- $11.32
- Sennelier 10 ml- $5.88, or 21 ml- $8.25
- MaimeriBlu 15 ml- $8.99
- Daniel Smith 15 ml- $10.04
- Holbein 15 ml- $8.99
- M. Graham 15 ml- $7.98
- Winsor & Newton 14 ml- $13.08, or 5 ml- $6.50
Sennelier– Watercolors Made in France using traditional methods:
Founded by Gustav Sennelier, this company has been around since 1887 and started making watercolors in 1893 and it looks like their l’Aquarelle line went through a revamp in 2012. They are well known for their oil paints and oil pastels.
“L’Aquarelle Sennelier has been produced in the same way for more than a century using the best pigments and top quality Kordofan Gum Arabic as a bonding agent. This mix of natural ingredients produces colours which have a smooth, bright texture and offer lively, colourful shades. The Gum Arabic and honey combination offers incomparable quality of application, producing superb washes. Then, this base is mixed with pigments and carefully ground. Sennelier makes sure to wet the pigments in purified water (with no mineral salts) for 24 hours before mixing them in with the bonding agent. This improves the way in which the colours and bonding merge together, in turn bringing out the full beauty of the colours”
This brand is so lovely- comes in 10 ml and 21 ml tubes, half and full pans and sets, in 98 colors. Out of the brands featured here, this one is my favorite. The price of their individual tubes is also great. Somehow I ended up with this sample pack. I think I wrote to them sometime last year and they sent it. I’m waiting to squeeze the samples into pans, it’s a lot of paint and I need to decide some stuff before I open them. Sennelier also sells their own brand of paper. That’s a small 4.25″x 6″ block below, I got it from Cheap Joe’s for $11.25, which was the best price I could find.
Aqua-mini– this is a cute little travel set that comes with a tiny little brush. The brush isn’t super useful, but I love this set. It’s totally worth getting if you want to try this brand- $22 on Amazon. More options listed below.
The pigments are so clear and vibrant. I like that their watercolor pans have the brand name and pigment number on them, but it would be nice if the color name was printed on them also. I wrote it on with a Sharpie. They rewet with a touch of the brush. The paints are made with honey, the pans aren’t as sticky as M. Graham or White Nights. Although, I haven’t filled my own pans with tubes to make a further stickiness comparison.
Watercolor swatches done on Strathmore 400 Series watercolor paper. Colors listed below and I bought a half pan of the last one, which is Neutral Tint.
Primary Yellow, French Vermilion, Cinereous Blue, Ultramarine Blue, Phthalo Green Light, Sap Green, Burnt Umber, Payne’s Grey, Neutral Tint.
Watercolor Chart with lightfast and opacity key. Technical info available on Handprint.com. Not a stellar review from him, which surprised me, but I only have this small set to show. His review might be outdated. I stress might because of updates made to the Sennelier line since the initial Handprint review in 1999.
Metal box 12 half pan set Amazon- $60, which is $30 cheaper than the small Schmincke box, but it does not come with a brush.
3:05 minute video from Sennelier of pigments being mixed and processed and packaged.
MaimeriBlu watercolor from Italy:
“Founded in 1923 by noted Italian impressionist painter, Gianni Maimeri, who was searching to satisfy his own burning desire for artistic excellence in paint.”
These are “handmade” watercolors with a gum Arabic binder from Kordofan, in 72 colors, of which 52 are single pigment. Sold in 15 ml tubes and half pans. Two of the pans I filled from tubes. The others are the most disappointing pre-filled pans I’ve ever seen. When I first opened these, I went…hey wait a minute, look at this shrunken little paint pad rattling around in here!? There are no color or pigment labels on the pan, only the brand name. Again, I wrote the paint names on with a Sharpie.
They rewet nicely. A lot of pigment shift from wet to dry and they look dull. I wouldn’t buy this brand again, it’s the most disappointing artist quality paint I’ve used. I’m not going into this brand much, because your money would be better spent on another brand. Full disclosure, all other reviews I came across had nothing but praise for this brand. Because opinions vary- here is the link to a review done in 1999 on Handprint.com- he gave them a good review. 17 years ago was a long time, maybe something in their paint recipe changed.
Naples Yellow Redish, Indian Yellow, Garnet Lake, Venetian Red, Cobalt Blue Light, Green Blue, Indigo
Their color chart.
Paint swatch comparison of all three brands, you can see how different the MaimeriBlu looks compared to the other two brands. All swatches done on the same day and photos taken consecutively, in the same light.
So far, I always do swatches on Strathmore 400 Series watercolor paper. I use it because I have some, it keeps all the swatches in one place, it keeps things consistent, and a lot of people use it. I’ve also said a few times that I don’t like painting on this paper, today I show why. Bellow is a comparison, not only in the three different brand of paints, but artist grade paper vs. student grade paper. Or two brands of paper at least. Three simple sample paintings done with Schmincke, Sennelier, and MaimeriBlu. Arches cold press artist grade watercolor paper on the top, and Strathmore 400 Series student grade watercolor paper on the bottom. I did them all in a row. Paper makes a huge difference. I’ll make the disclaimer that I paint wet and most of the composition of these were painted using wet in wet technique. Usually I’m a little heavy handed with the paint. I stuck to doing a lighter wash for example purposes🙂
The second half of the post from last week had a price comparison of sets from different brands- here it is if you would like to check it out.
Below is a full sheet of Fabriano Artisitco 140lb Italian watercolor paper divided into 16 small sheets. A pack of ten 22”x 30” sheets is about $35 at Jerry’s Artarama, about $3.50 a sheet. It works out to be cheaper to buy full sheets and tear them to the size you want, these are approximately 5.5″x 7.5″. I used the bone folder to crease the fold back and forth a few times, and then to tear. There was something satisfying about doing this. If creasing and tearing paper, make sure your hands are clean without lotion or oils. I ended up doing this on my kitchen floor because it’s tile, and the largest surface I have. Someone asked why not scissors when I posted this photo on IG, which is a logical question. Scissors won’t give that hand torn look, and then there is also the risk of not getting a straight edge. This lady uses a karate chop- here in her 1:53 minute video! I might go Karate Kid on it next time.
Urban Watercolor Sketching by Felix Scheinberger. Put simply- I love this book. I’ve shared it before. Since there are a lot of new people, and it was translated from German so it goes with the theme, I’m sharing it again. It’s super lively, creative, and fun. I checked it out from the library and liked it so much that I bought it. I love his section on pigments, and there are a lot of tips throughout the book. The whole thing is illustrated by him with a lot of expression. I wouldn’t exactly classify this book as classical Urban Sketching. It’s kind of wild and unruly- which is what I love about it.
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 – it takes you to the Art Room Aid Project on Dick Blick to donate. OR if outside the United States, then please donate directly to The Dreaming Zebra and let us know it’s for World Watercolor Month in the comments with this link.
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! For the last Saturday of World Watercolor Month, we will visit the UK!