REVIEW: Aquafine Watercolour From Daler-Rowney in Tube and Pans

Aquafine Watercolor by Daler-Rowney Tubes and Pan Set Lead Image

Daler-Rowney Aquafine watercolour come in tubes, half-pans (aka cake), and pigment-based inks. I’ll review the watercolour inks later because I’m not as familiar with that formulation. Today I’m reviewing the tube and pan versions.

I received the Aquafine Watercolour Introduction tube set, the Daler-Rowney Watercolour 24 half pan set in a metal Box, and four extra colors in tube form.

How do the tube and pan paints differ?

Aquafine Watercolor by Daler-Rowney Tubes and Pan Set

Which would you prefer? Let’s see if I can help you answer that.

Both Versions

Though Daler-Rowney doesn’t specify these as ‘student’ watercolors, they state that they are created to the same standards as their Professional Artist’s Watercolors. This statement paired with my experience in testing the colors leads me to call them high-end student watercolors. 

I think lightfastness is probably the main difference. Most of the Aquafine paints are rated as three stars out of a possible four, which is described as ’Normally Permanent’.

The colors are vibrant — bright but not brilliant or fluorescent. There is a nice mix of transparent, semi-opaque, and opaque. The colors work well together, and mix well.

There are some ‘hues’ in these sets. That means the paint is formulated to look like a pigment, such as Cadmium that is expensive or possibly toxic. The colors are never quite the same, but I found the Aquafine hues to be strong, bright colors.

Aquafine Watercolour Review Video

WATERCOLOUR INTRODUCTION TUBE SET

Introductory Aquafine Watercolour Tube Set by Daler-Rowney

Nine of the 18 colors I received were transparent. Five of these were in the 12-color set. All four of the extra tubes I received were transparent. I’ve included the complete pigment information at the bottom of the review. 

There is nothing quite like freshly squeezed paint from a tube for getting those really juicy, dripping colors, and for creating smooth, even washes. There’s no doubt about it. Watercolor squeezed fresh from the tube will allow for the widest range of techniques.

How did the Aquafine tube paint perform? Let me put it in terms of the common problems that can occur with tube paints, especially student grade.

Problem: Colors are pale no matter how much paint you use.

Aquafine: The colors are intense whether you use lots of water or a little bit of water.

Problem: The paint is stiff and won’t spread or mix with other colors.
Aquafine: The paint spreads like butter.
Problem: The paint won’t dissolve into a liquid when mixed with water.
Aquafine: The paint dissolves into liquid when you add enough water.
Problem: The pigment and binder *separate.
Aquafine: The Chinese white was separated when I opened the tube. I massaged the tube gently, and that solved the problem.
Problem: Once paint has dried on the palette, it won’t rewet well, causing most of the problems mentioned above.
Aquafine: Even after the paint dried completely on the palette, it rewet easily, dissolved in water, spread and mixed well, and the colors were intense.
Problem: Messy, messy, messy. Fresh paint gets on fingers and clothing. If you’re me, it gets in your hair, on your face, and has the cat always been green?
Aquafine: I’m a klutz and I got the paint all over. That might be my problem, though.
Problem: A separate palette is needed.

Aquafine: Yep. You need a separate palette with any brand of tube colors.

*Separation can create many problems. Pigments start as a powder. The binder turns the paint into a spreadable mediums, helps it adhere to the paper, and keeps it from cracking. You know that separation has occurred if you get a transparent, brownish glue-like substance that comes out of the tube. If this occurs, put the cap back on and gently massage up and down the tube two or three times. Try squeezing some out (warning: paint will pop out as soon as you remove the cap). If you still have separation, see about getting a replacement.

Packaging

Aquafine Watercolour by Daler-Rowney 12 Tube Set Packaging

The watercolor tubes come in a cardboard box. It doesn’t have too much information of interest, other than the number of tubes and amount of paint in each. The back of the box has the general promotional material for all Aquafine paints.

There are two trays in the box to help keep your paints in place and organized.

The tubes have good information. The top half of the tube is colored to match the paint color — though not exactly. The color name is at the top and is repeated in four more languages, which I believe are French, German, Spanish and Italian.

There is a number that I believe is part of Daler-Rowney’s indexing system, then more importantly, the opacity of the color and it’s lightfastness rating.

Key to color information on front of tube — The opacity is shown as a box:

  • Empty box — Transparent
  • Half solid box — Semi-Opaque
  • Solid box — Opaque

Lightfastness is shown as 1 to 4 *

  • **** Permanent (will never fade)
  • *** Normally Permanent (May or may not fade)
  • ** Moderately Permanent (will fade eventually)
  • * Fugitive (may fade quickly)

All of the colors I received had a *** or **** rating.

On the side of the tube, you are shown the pigment index information, which identifies the pigment or pigments used.

Nine of the 12 colors in the Aquafine tube set are single pigment colors. Single pigment colors can make mixing colors easier. The more colors you mix together, the more likely you will get mud. If you have a color that is already a mix, you’re more likely to get mud when you add it to other colors.

Daler-Rowney Aquafine Watercolour 24-color Half Pan Set

Nine of the 18 colors I received were transparent. Five of these were in the 12-color set. All four of the extra tubes I received were transparent.

This 24-color set of half-pans has a nice range of primaries, warm, cool, and earth tones.

There are two blacks. Payne’s Gray is lighter, and cooler, which means it tends more towards the blue side of the spectrum, while Ivory Black is darker, and warmer, which means it tends towards the red.

So, using the common problem approach again, how do the Aquafine watercolour pan paints perform?

Problem: Colors are pale no matter how much paint you use.
Aquafine: The colors are intense whether you use lots of water or a little bit of water.
Problem: The paint won’t soften, no matter how much water you add.
Aquafine: The paints soften moderately well. As with most pan paints, you need to keep adding water to keep them moist.
Problem: It’s hard to get enough paint on your brush.
Aquafine: You do need to work at keeping the paint moist. Once you figure out how much water is needed, it’s easy to get enough paint on your brush. This is standard for any brand of good pan paint.
Problem: It’s hard to get the really juicy, drippy colors.
Aquafine: Pan paints seldom work as well as tubes for that technique. Aquafine is no exception.

The colors in both tube and pans are the same, having the same characteristics — granulation, transparency, opacity, lightfastness, and so forth. The only exception was that the Chinese White in the pans was not as opaque as in the tubes.

Packaging

Aquafine Watercolour 24 pan set by Daler-Rowney back of package photo

There is a nice color chart on back.

Close-up of Individual watercolor pan of Aquafine Watercolour

Each half-pan is labeled with brand, color name, and pigment index information.

The set comes in a sturdy metal palette. Mine opens and closes smoothly.

24 color Aquafine Watercolour Pan Set In Metal Tin

The fold-out opens easily and slopes nicely. It doesn’t bounce a lot when you are mixing paint.

Aquafine Watercolour Pans Close up

This set has the usual metal palette set-up with a metal insert where the pans slide in and are held in place using prongs.

The prongs can be pushed back and forth to tighten or loosen the hold, keeping the pans snug when in use, but easy to pull out when needed.

Several of the pans came loose in the shipping (which is common), but the labeling on the side made it easy to put them back in order.

Aquafine Watercolour Painting Examples

Since part of what I’m doing in this review is comparing the tube colors to the pan colors, I decided I would do a similar test for both the tube and pan paints so I could see how each performed when used in the exact same way.

I decided to start with a wet-into-wet test.

Starting with the tube paints first, I created high-water mixes for each color, and then I misted the paper until there were puddles. The humidity was causing everything to dry quickly so I really saturated the paper. I quickly ran a brush across the surface to even out the amount of water.

I started dropping paint onto the page at random, until I had added a little of each color. Because of all the water the paint was exploding.

The colors didn’t run together as much as I thought they might, but there was good movement.

Water is brighter than most paint and that’s why you almost always have color shift — brilliant colors when the paint is wet and it turns pale and dull once dry. The more water, the more lightening once dry. That was one of the things I was testing — many student paints lack enough pigment and it is impossible to get intense color once it has dried.

I let my painting dry completely. There was some color shift, but the colors were still intense. Such bright colors deserved a garden, so I set out to make one.

What I wanted to see was how the paint handled wet onto dry. I also used dry brushing, and lifted color.

The white was very opaque, more like gouache than watercolor.

Color flowed well. The paint is a good consistency and moves well whether the water-to-paint ratio is thin or thick. I was able to dry brush until my brush was almost clean (don’t do this at home — a little dry brushing creates a nice effect, but too much is hard on your brushes).

*Dry brush technique: Continuing to spread paint when your brush is barely damp and there is very little paint in it.

The color didn’t lift as well as I expected. I’ll talk about this more with some other examples.

I repeated this test with the pan paints.

I misted the pan paints thoroughly and let them soak for three or four minutes. Once the surface of the paints was like wet mud, I misted the paper as I did before.

I immediately discovered that my colors were not as intense. I expected this. Because pan paints go through an extra step to dry them, it can take longer to get a working consistency, and build up intensity. I needed to drop the colors before the paper dried too much.

Pans do differ from tubes in that it takes longer to get the same intensity of color. As you’ll see later, it’s an adjustment not a failure, and comes with a trade-off in convenience.

When painting afterward, wet on dry, my colors were just as intense but I did have to keep reaching for more color more often.

Color shift was about the same as it was with the tube colors.

Overall, the pan paints came close to the same intensity, it was just harder to get there.

I‘d already done a few other paintings using the earth colors, and found them to be rich, with nice granulation and tones.

This chickadee was done with the tube colors.

This vacation spot was done with the pan colors.

No lack of intensity here. With a little experimentation, I was learned how much water and how much time it takes to get the pan colors really moistened and it was easy from there.

I decided to do a test with the primary and secondary colors.

Fishing painting using cool colors Aquafine Watercolour

First, I played with the blues and greens since they are most often the colors that granulate and/or can be streaky.

This school of fish was done with the tube colors. The ultramarine blue dark granulated a little, and was the only color that I found streaky. It wasn’t too bad, though. This streakiness is a common problem with Ultramarine and other blues, though it is less likely to happen with professional grade.

The ability to lift color can be affected by both the staining qualities of the paint and the paper. I chose a paper that allows lifting and found I could lift moderately well.

For some reason, I found it harder to lift color when I did the wet-into-wet technique above. I used the same paper and brush, so it may have been the humidity that made the difference.

Cool Colors Aquafine Watercolour painting example

This painting of sea anemones, done with the pan paints, came out more abstractly than I had planned, but the colors themselves behaved pretty much the same. The ultramarine was slightly streaky as was the Cobalt Blue Hue, but that evened out as I added glazes. I did find it was easy to lift color.

Next I played with the yellows, oranges and reds, I painted these berries with the tube paints.

Yellow Oranges and Reds Painting using Aquafine Watercolour

Beautiful washes and glazes were achieved as I used the negative painting technique to build up my shapes.

It was harder to lift color, but this time I was expecting it. Yellows and reds are usually more staining than blues and greens (unless you are using pthalos).

Flower Painting using Aquafine Watercolour by Sandra Strait

For the pan paint test, I did these tulips.

Overall, I found the colors to be almost exactly the same with the pans and the tubes. The only significant difference was that the white was less opaque than the tube white. The blue and earth tones had mild granulation in both.

So, as far as quality goes, Aquafine watercolour is a good choice, whether you go with pans or tubes. The color is rich, wets easily, mixes well and produces a beautiful result.

It comes down to the usual decision that you have with any pans or tubes. Fresh tube colors are more flexible allowing a wider range of technique, but once they’ve dried in the palette they often present the same problems as pan paints. Pan paints are more convenient if you’re working in a small space or are traveling. If you like juicy, dripping color I’d recommend the tubes. If prefer less mess and something that is easy to carry around, I recommend the pans.

For myself? I prefer pans. I do most of my painting in a chair, and I’m a klutz. Pan sets work for the techniques I use most often. But I do have both pans and tube colors and which I choose to use is according to the effect that I want.

Aquafine Watercolour Pigment Information

Pigment Index Abbreviation

  • P=Pigment
  • R=Red, B=Blue, Y=Yellow, G=Green, O=Orange, V=Violet, W=White, Bk=Black, Br=Earth

The Colors

  • Lemon Yellow – PY3, TR, Normally permanent
  • Cadmium Yellow Hue – PY155, TR, Normally permanent
  • Gamboge Hue – PY155/PR242, TR, Normally permanent
  • Vermilion Hue – PR255, TR, Normally permanent
  • Cadmium Orange Hue – PO71, TR, Normally permanent
  • Cadmium Red Hue – PR242, TR, Normally permanent
  • Permanent Rose – PV19, TR, Normally permanent
  • Permanent Mauve – PV23, TR, Normally permanent
  • Alizarin Crimson Hue – PR176, TR, Normally permanent
  • Cobalt Blue Hue – PB29/PW6, SO, Normally permanent
  • Rose Madder Hue – PR83/PR122, TR, Normally permanent
  • Purple Lake – PV19, TR, Normally permanent
  • Prussian Blue – PB27, TR, Normally permanent
  • Ultramarine Blue Dark – PB29, TR, Normally permanent
  • Coeruleum Hue – PB15 / PW6, O, Normally permanent
  • Viridian Hue – PG7, TR, Normally permanent
  • Leaf Green – PY3/PG7, TR, Normally permanent
  • Hooker’s Green Dark – PY3/PG7/PV19, SO, Normally permanent
  • Sap Green – PY73/PB29, TR, Normally permanent
  • Yellow Ochre – PY42, SO, Normally permanent
  • Light Red – PR101, SO, Permanent
  • Burnt Sienna – PR101, SO, Permanent
  • Raw Umber – PBr7, O, Permanent
  • Burnt Umber – PY155/PR176/PBk7, SO, Permanent
  • Payne’s Grey – PBk7/PB29, O, Normally permanent
  • Ivory Black – PBk7, SO, Permanent
  • Chinese White – PW5/PW6, SO, Normally permanent

About Daler-Rowney

Around since 1783, Daler-Rowney strives to inspire and support creativity in everyone. Their vision, mission, and values all revolve around the goal of providing art supplies that are sustainable, qualitative, durable and affordable. Their colors are made in England.

Links of Interest

REVIEW: Princeton Velvetouch Mixed Media Brushes

Tools

Disclaimer

I was given a 12-set Daler-Rowney Aquafine Watercolour Introduction Set-12 x 8 mL Tubes, Aquafine Watercolour 24 half pan set in a metal box, 5 singles tube of Aquafine watercolor, & 8 Aquafine Watercolour Inks and Strathmore Ready Cut, Travel Journal, Travel Pad, & Heavyweight Mixed media paper and Canson Montval paper & Princeton Velvetouch 4 brush set, for purposes of this review. I received no other considerations, though this post may contain affiliate links which help support Doodlewash. As always, all opinions expressed are my own.

Recommended4 recommendationsPublished in Art Supply Reviews
22 Comments
  1. Laura H 1 month ago

    Sandra, thank you again for such a thorough and honest review. We truly appreciate all the time and work you put into these. Happy Almost WWM to you!

    • Author
      Sandra Strait 1 month ago

      Thank you, Laura! Happy Almost WWM to you as well, lol!

  2. mlaiuppa 1 month ago

    I’ve only used the professional watercolors in their lovely travel palette. They are quarter pans. I’ve tried a few other smaller palettes for travel and find I keep coming back to this one. It holds 18 quarter pans and I got mine from Jackson’s Art in the UK. Lovely enameled metal case with even room for a small brush. Great for sketching and handy size to carry around. I find that paint very easy to work with. It rewets easily and I like the consistency of the paint. I’ve used pans/cakes rather than tubes all of my life so I am used to rewetting and keeping a moist consistency. I have difficulty working with paint fresh out of the tube.

    I think Daler-Rowney is a quality paint that is often over-looked or over-shadowed by other brands.

    • Author
      Sandra Strait 1 month ago

      I agree that more people need to know about Daler-Rowney watercolors! I haven’t tried their professional watercolors, but I’m impressed with Aquafine.

  3. JA Wilson 1 month ago

    Great review! I love the intense colors in the berries especially!

    • Author
      Sandra Strait 1 month ago

      Thank you! I was surprised by how intense the color was, especially in the tubes.

  4. Alice 1 month ago

    Very helpful and I learned some new things 🤗

  5. JEan marmo 1 month ago

    Such an extensive and thorough review. Thank you for all of the information. I think these sound like great paints. I tend to use pans but you have inspired me to put out some tubes,
    .

    • Author
      Sandra Strait 1 month ago

      Many thanks, Jean! I’ve always been partial to pans, but after playing with these paints, I’m using tubes more often.

  6. Mugdha 1 month ago

    Hello Ms. Sandra,

    How are you? Thanks so much for a super informative review as always – and the invaluable learning that a beginner can glean from it. 🙂 In the non-pandemic scenario, I tend to travel quite a lot and one of the current projects is based in a place that stands at number 2 on the world’s hottest (and driest) places list. You mentiined that pan colors undergo an extra step of drying. I tried carrying tube paints to the place 2 years ago and the tubes leaked. But am worried, if I carry pans, would that kind of heat damage the paint there too – despite being in an airconditioned room? Am asking coz when Im gone it’s for a couple of months and I don’t want to lose my practice.

    Thanks,
    Mugdha

    • Author
      Sandra Strait 1 month ago

      Thank you, Mugdha! I’ve never had to use paints in an extremely hot environment so I can’t say for sure that they wouldn’t melt. Would you be somewhere that you could purchase watercolors once there? Failing that, I’d look for brands that are sold there or in similar places. I would contact the company customer service for brands you are interested in and explain the situation. They would be able to give you a more specific yes or no.

  7. I received 20 tubes from a good friend for my birthday. And I was a bit of skeptical to try them. But the aquafines worked just fine! I have all the top brands in my studio except DS and aquafine is just as good. Maybe some Hue balanced pigments are different from the real thing but a skilled artist know how to use it anyhow!

    • Author
      Sandra Strait 1 month ago

      The Aquafine colors are fantastic! I’ve never had any problems with the Hues, myself, and like the idea that they are non-toxic. Cheaper, too!

  8. Mary Roff 1 month ago

    Wonderful review, Sandra!!!

  9. Marisela Delgado 1 month ago

    Hi, Sandra! Great review! I sent you a message on the last post. I was just concerned with the hot temps that are affecting Portland. I just wanted to see how you and your family are. I hope that you are all well. 😀 I just purchased new brushes and little pans for my paints. I’m getting bold. haha haha I only watercolor my rubber stamp cards. Be safe, Sandra. I hope the weather gets better soon.

    • Author
      Sandra Strait 1 month ago

      Marisela, we made it through the 115 degree weather and the temps have dropped considerably, It only hit 73 today! It’s supposed to start climbing again, but probably won’t hit triple digits for a while. *knocks on wood*

  10. Kathy Delumpa Allegri 1 month ago

    Sandra, you write the most detailed and helpful reviews! I love the Irish/Celtic music that accompanies it, too! Well done and as always, amazeballs! 😀

  11. Walter F Pierluissi 3 weeks ago

    I have been using Aquafine watercolors for years now, and like Van Gogh I like them a lot… They are the Step Up Student Watercolor to have, together with Cotman from Winsor and Newton. I also have the artist grade of each one of them… Your review is simply fantastic.

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