Aquafine Watercolour Ink Set Daler-Rowney

REVIEW: Aquafine Watercolour Ink by Daler-Rowney

Last month I reviewed Aquafine Watercolours in the tube and pan versions. They are also available as pigment-based inks. I felt they were different enough to rate their own review. Daler-Rowney Aquafine Watercolour Ink comes in 48 colors. I received the six-color set along with two extra colors. The set includes a refillable felt-tip empty marker. I’ll be giving away a set at my blog.


Aquafine Watercolour Ink

Aquafine Watercolour Ink Bottles

If you have used a lot of dye-based craft, fountain pen, or alcohol inks, Aquafine watercolour inks will probably seem very different. They are pigment-based, so the colors are concentrated and strong, but not brilliant. They’re watercolors, just in a different form.

They are water-soluble, meaning you can mix them with water, and they can be rewet once dry.

The pigment particles sink to the bottom of the bottle, and you can see the clear fluid they are in, when the ink has set for any length of time. It’s very important to shake the bottles thoroughly before using the ink.

The colors that I received match those in the tube and pan formats with the exception of the Ultramarine Blue Dark. I’ll discuss that more later. They have the same lightfastness rating, but they do handle a bit differently. Although, they rewet easily on the palette, they don’t lift as easily on the paper. They tend to dry with harder edges.

If you use a thicker application, they dry with more of a gouache-like matte finish, and like gouache can have a chalky appearance. Mixed with water, they have a watercolor finish.

When you mix some the colors and let them set, the colors separate, but are easily remixed with a swish or two of the brush.

I really like having the choice to use these inks like either gouache or watercolor. It does add a level of complexity, but it isn’t rocket science to figure it out.

The Bottle

One of the main differences between these inks and the pan and tube varieties of Aquafine watercolor is the glass bottle.

Each bottle has a dropper and a cap you can squeeze to drop the paint. I’ve had no problems whatsoever with clogging.

Each bottle has the color name, pigment index information, amount of paint (1 fl oz/29.5 ml), and are AP Certified as non-toxic.

The bottle is clear and you can see the color easily.

The bottles are a bit heavy, making them difficult to knock over, and able to withstand being dropped (yeah, I’m a klutz and have proven this by dropping one more than once). The downside is that the bottles are a bit heavy!

They are also bulky and may pose a storage problem. The set comes in a plastic tray with an inset for each bottle, and a plastic cover, but I don’t think it’s suitable for long term storage.

I’m not sure what I’ll do with the bottles once the paint is gone. As concentrated as the paint is, I imagine that will take a while. The dropper holds a nice amount and is easy to control, so I can see using one to hold water and dropping controlled amounts into paint. I can see a lot of ways to use them, but if you buy very many they could really use up room.

Good thing glass is recyclable!

Aquafine Watercolour Ink – The Colors

Aquafine Watercolour Ink Swatch Painted Examples

The first thing I did when I received the set was drop each color onto paper, a few drops onto dry, then into wet.

Surprisingly, there wasn’t a lot of movement, even when dropped into the wet. The paint was so thick! I wasn’t sure I was going to like it. Then I spread a couple of the colors with my brush, and realized just how concentrated the ink was.

With only eight colors, I decided to make three color charts, to get a better feel for what kind of water-to-paint dilution that I might need.

Aquafine Watercolour Ink Straight From The Dropper Examples

I repeated the straight-from-the-dropper test, this time with a black line to show just how thick and opaque the colors are. I used the droppers to move the paint without any water, at all. Honestly, the colors are more like gouache when used in this manner.

Aquafine Watercolour Ink Painted Straight from the bottle swatch examples

For the next chart, I poured paint onto a palette first, then used a damp brush to paint the squares. No other water added. It’s amazing how quickly the colors became mostly transparent, and more like watercolor than gouache.

Aquafine Watercolour Ink mixed with 3 drops to 1/2 ml water swatch examples

For my third chart, I used a syringe to measure out 1/2 ml of water to approximately 3 drops of paint. And now, these were watercolors, nothing gouache-like at all.

This mix was very watery, but made it clear that there is a lot of flexibility in the way you can use these paints. I’ll discuss that a bit more when I show you my examples.

The biggest surprise was the Ultramarine Dark Blue. It wasn’t dark. I thought at first that I hadn’t shaken it enough, but that wasn’t it. At full strength from the dropper, it matches the Ultramarine Dark Blue in the tube and pan formats. But it lightens almost immediately once you add water. I got around this by using a higher ink to water ratio, and if I want it really dark, by adding just a touch of black. The black does change the color slightly, but not significantly if you are careful.

The 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
  • TR = Transparent 
  • O = Opaque
  • Normally Permanent means it shouldn’t fade for quite a while
  • Permanent means it may never fade

The Six-Color Set

  • Lemon Yellow – PY3, TR, Normally permanent
  • Cadmium Red Hue – PR242, TR, Normally permanent
  • Quinacridone Magenta – PR122, TR, Normally permanent
  • Ultramarine Blue Dark – PB29, TR, Normally permanent
  • Yellow Ochre – PY42, SO, Normally permanent
  • Burnt Umber – PY155/PR176/PBk7, SO, Permanent

The Two Extra Colors

  • Coeruleum Hue – PB15 / PW6, O, Normally permanent
  • Lamp Black – PBk7, O, Permanent

The Empty Marker

Aquafine Watercolour Ink Set Includes Empty Paint Marker

The set comes with an empty marker that you can fill with the color of your choice.

It has a 1 mm round nib and holds about 3 ml of paint. There is a ruler on the side so you can measure how much you have.

The pen is easy to take apart for filling. The nibs are replaceable.

There are two steel balls inside the tube to help distribute the pigment when you shake up the ink.

These markers come in two larger sizes and are available to be purchased independently from the ink set.


Painting Example using Aquafine Watercolour Ink Daler-Rowney

Because this was the first time I had used pigment-based watercolor inks, I did more tests than usual.

Using the same method of testing that I did with the Aquafine watercolor tubes and pan colors. I mixed up approximately 3 drops of paint to approximately 1/2 ml of water for a nice juicy color and sprayed the paper until puddles ran. Then I dropped the paint onto the paper at random, and let them run.

With this amount of water, the paint had a great flow. You can see that the Ultramarine Dark Blue granulated (lower right corner, next to the brown umber). The tube and pan Ultramarine also granulated but not as much.

Since the ink set came with a marker, I decided to test it out.

I chose black, since I would be using it like a marker, and half-filled it with paint directly from the bottle. No water was added, though I left room in case I wanted to do so later.

To get the marker working, you push down on the nib until it changes color. It took several pushes, but there was no sign of clogging. Once started, the color flowed freely. On a side note, I sat the pen down after finishing this, waited a week and used the pen again. The color still flowed freely — no skips, clogging or lumps.

With no secondary colors, green, purple or orange, I thought it important to see what mixes I could get for those colors.

For the purples, I was able to get both warm (leaning to red or yellow) and cool (leaning to blue). The lavender I mixed was very nice.

This painting was done with about 3 drops of paint to about 1/4 ml of water, and painted using both wet-into-wet and dry on wet methods.

Next, I played with mixing oranges and greens. There’s a little purple too.

I used the paint at almost full strength wanting more of a gouache look.

I do really like the flexibility of these inks. If someone wanted to decide if they liked the idea of gouache, you could start with these inks, and then have the option of using them purely as watercolor, simply by adding more water.

Aquafine Watercolour Ink mixed with water Painting Example

For my last test painting, I used the colors without mixing them, using a 3 drops paint to 1/8 ml of water. Enough to use them like watercolor though I didn’t use wet-into-wet methods this time.

It takes very little water to start getting watercolor versus gouache effects, though. You really have great control over the opacity and transparency.

I did lots of fussing, lifting color, and repainting on all of these examples. The color does lift though not as much as with the tubes and pans.

When painting wet-into-wet, the colors blend easily. When using as watercolor, wet on dry, hard edges form that are difficult to remove.

When used at full strength, gouache style, with little to no water, it is easy to paint over any hard edges.

I like hard edges and work them into the composition. But, for those who want soft edges and full control of them, this might be a problem.

I’ve been using Aquafine Watercolour ink often for my daily postcards.

Aquafine Watercolour Ink – Overall

Whether used in a gouache-like manner or purely as watercolor, the inks have a distinctive look. At full strength, it’s matte and can be chalky, like gouache. Mixed with water, it’s more of a semi-gloss finish.

The strength of these Aquafine watercolour inks is in their flexibility, the many ways they can be used, and I think, in that distinctive finish.

The weakness is in the bulk of the bottles. They’re heavy and take up room. The flexibility, that is a strength, might be frustrating for some.

I can’t compare these to other pigment-based watercolor inks because these are the first I’ve used. Personally, I like them. I like them a lot. You can enter to win a set of these Watercolor Inks and a package of Strathmore Ready-cut watercolor paper at my Life Imitates Doodles blog and/or my Life Imitates Doodle Instagram account.


The Rowney brothers started as apothecaries in Oxford in 1780, making perfumed powders for wigs. As wigs became unfashionable, and art became more fashionable, they began grinding their wig powders to use for oil color.

Today, the Daler-Rowney color factory production consists of 27 filling lines handling everything from 5 ml to 5 L units in batch sizes from 10 units to 67,000 units.

Links of Interest



I was given a 6-set of Aquafine Watercolour Inks, along with two extra bottles, Strathmore Ready Cut watercolor paper, and a 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

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