DOODLEWASH REVIEW: ArtBin, FineTec, DS Raw Umber Violet, Stillman & Birn Softcover

Artbin slim line magnetic case watercolor travel palette with metal pans, Stillman & Birn Softcover Alpha Series sketch journal, Finetec mica watercolors, Daniel Smith Raw Umber Violet Watercolor

A smattering of supply stuff today- a travel palette, watercolors, and a journal.  For anyone new to these supply posts- they are written to help those who are trying to figure things out, there are lots of supplies out there. We all learn as we go and these are dedicated to the folks finding themselves through artistic expression, no matter how they came to it- formal or informally educated, just starting out, been at it for a while, or however you identify yourself.  Art is for everyone.

Artbin slim line magnetic case watercolor travel palette with metal pans, Stillman & Birn Softcover Alpha Series sketch journal, Finetec mica watercolors, Daniel Smith Raw Umber Violet Watercolor

The first three items presented, were purchased online from The Merri Artist.  They are located in McMinnville, Oregon, USA.  No products were received in exchange for a review, or anything like that.  I have consistently had a great experience ordering from them.  And when you do art supply reviews, you pretty much write about what you’re getting for yourself.  

The Merri Artist has free shipping in contiguous US with a $90 order.  Every so often I stop by their site to see anything unusual that they might be carrying. Their customer service is fantastic, and they ship super-fast.  Same day shipping on orders received by 2pm PST Monday-Friday.  They also have the best selection of FineTec mica watercolors.  Their prices are very good. Besides the FineTec, I ordered a travel palette made from an ArtBin Slim Line case and a tube of Daniel Smith Raw Umber Violet. All items are available elsewhere.

ArtBin Slim Line Magnetic Palette

Artbin slim line magnetic case watercolor travel palette with metal pans

I think this thing is a bit ingenious.  The entire bottom is a slab of adhesive magnet.  It’s marketed and sold to catch metal objects like Exact-o Knife blades, needles and the like. The Merri Artist also sells metal pans so it can be used as a watercolor travel palette.  Fits up to 18 metal pans.  Turn it upside down and whack it, they won’t fall out.  The box is $6.49 and the 18 pans to fill it are $7.20, for a total of $13.69- overall size: 7 3/8″ x 3 5/8″ x 11/16″.  The mental pans are sold individually.  Such a good deal for a travel palette!

The ArtBin Slim Line case looks to be available all over the place, but the metal palette tins are a little more difficult to come by.   I found these round metal palette pans meant for eyeshadow on Amazon- $9.99 for 25ct.  They probably won’t quite line up as nicely as the square ones. Found these square ones from Ulta Beauty- $4.50 for 10ct.  Easiest and less expensive to get the set-up from The Merri Artist.

Half and full pans fit in it and the lid closes.  I have magnets on the backs of a couple of these half pans, and they fit in as well.  Without magnets or some type of adhesive, they won’t stay put.  The metal pans are way more secure.

A post on another idea for a cheap travel palette, which includes the 18 half pans to fill with your own paints, can be found here, one on metal palettes here, and another one on how to make your own from mint tins and various things here.

FineTec Mica Watercolors

Finetec mica watercolors set of six 6

A quick overview of the FineTec Pearl Watercolor 6 Metallic Color Set- $18.75.  A lot of calligraphy artists use these, but they are watercolor.  I chose this set over the newish Kuretake Gansai Tambi Starry Colors because I’ve used both of these brands before and the FineTec shimmers more.  The Gansai Tambi seems like it has more filler and less mica. With the FineTec, a little goes a long way and they will last a long time. I’ve reviewed another FineTec set, and other gold and luminous paint and ink options here.

These swatches were done on Bee Paper Company 100 % Cotton Watercolor Paper– cold press.

Finetec mica watercolors swatchFinetec mica watercolors swatch

Tibet Gold, Inca Gold, Arabic Gold, Gold Pearl, Moon Gold, Sterling Silver

This example uses mostly Moon Gold for the mythical creature, and a little color from other FineTec set and Winsor & Newton Watercolors pictured in the photo.  The luminosity of these can be difficult to capture in a photo.  A small Pentalic Aqua Journal was used.

Finetec mica watercolors example painting by Jessica Seacrest with winsor & newton twilight line


Daniel Smith Extra Fine Watercolor

Raw Umber Violet– 15ml tube $10.04.  I’ve had my eye on this color for a while, but kept telling myself no.  Then when I placed the order for the stuff above, I told myself- Jes…yes!  There are reviews on the Daniel Smith lines here on Doodlewash- Part I and Part II. Kind of odd to feature only one color, but it’s not one I’ve seen in use much.

“This Daniel Smith exclusive is a blend of Raw Umber with Quinacridone Violet, creating a semi-transparent medium to high tinting pigment with a beautiful deep burgundy-brown color.”

The swatch also has regular Raw Umber- both from the DS line. If you already have the two colors mentioned above, try mixing for it.  Swatch done on the same Bee Paper mentioned above.

Daniel Smith Raw Umber Violet and Raw Umber

This example is in a Stillman & Birn 4″x 6″ Gamma Series, the sky is Raw Umber Violet. For the brush curious- it’s a Rosemary & Co. Series 170. Pure Squirrel Mop size 10/0 and is a super sloppy brush.  If you like wet washes, this one’s good for it.  A post on brushes can be found here.

Daniel Smith Raw Umber Violet watercolor example painting by Jessica Seacrest

Raw Umber Violet

Stillman & Birn Alpha Series Softcover Journal

The long awaited re-release of the new and improved softcovers has arrived.  I was a little slow and getting one, but here it is.  The Alpha Series 150 gsm is my favorite and this little one is the 3.5”x 5.5” size. I purchased it from Amazon, but other places sell them and I’ve heard many brick & mortar stores do as well. I would like it if my local art store did.

Stillman and Birn Alpha Series softcover journal

S&B paper never disappoints.  I’ve reviewed S&B and many other journals under Journals Part I & Part II.  Sketcher Larry D. Marshall has a nice and recent review on the S&B softcovers here.

I’d like to share a little something life and people related rather than supply related.  I yammer on about supplies, but my thoughts run much deeper.

As a result of participating in social media more than ever before, I’ve been thinking about freedom from artistic criticism, easing up in that area on ourselves and others.  Don’t we get that enough in life, criticism? It’s pretty much an automatic inward and outward response for a lot of us.  Does it ever feel good?  How would it feel to just not go there, or not stay there for very long once you are aware of it?  It would be liberating!  Art and painting aren’t just about putting something out there that looks talented or sell-able or admirable or pretty or amazing or cool.  It’s about creative spirit and creative expression.  Criticism can crush that spirit before it gets a chance to soar.  We all want our art to improve and it does over time when we keep working with it, not by criticism- which does nothing to improve our art, or are personal development. Like many of you, I create because I can’t help it, it’s part of my makeup. I’m choosing to do myself a kindness by doing my best to let go of being critical of myself and others. Encouragement and support are where it’s at- everyone benefits from this! I thank you for taking the time to read this and giving it some consideration.

“What lies before us and what lies behind us are small matters compared to what lies within us. And when we bring what is within us out into the world, miracles happen.”

The quote is widely attributed to either Ralph Waldo Emerson or Henry David Thoreau, or Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., but probably originated from much lesser known Henry Stanley Haskins, or possibly a few others.  Whomever it came from- thank you mystery man for your wisdom.

Normally I don’t announce what I’m reviewing next in case I change my mind.  I don’t want to promise and then not deliver.  But!  Sometimes there are sneak peeks on my Instagram- @jessicaseacrest because I’m using the products in the weeks prior so that I can write about them and I usually tag what I’m using.  The cat, it never wants to stay in the bag.

FineTec Mandala painting by jessica seacrest

FineTec Mandala

All previous review posts can be found under “Reviews” on the menu or click here.   Doodlewash has a Facebook group called World Watercolor Group.  Huge variety of folks from all over, and a wide variety of painting styles. We have a lot of fun over there, join in if you haven’t already!

Supply posts are every other Saturday. See you next time!

Happy painting!

Recommend0 recommendationsPublished in Art Supply Reviews
  1. Carol 7 years ago

    Hi Jessica. Once again you’ve given us such useful, in-depth information and examples of how the products perform. Great job! I agree wholeheartedly that encouraging, positive words lift up everyone involved, especially when it comes to self-expression. How sad it would be if one harsh word too many would cause someone to stop creating. We are all at so many different levels in our art journeys, and I am grateful for all the kind words I receive that made me want to continue on. I find art to be a very personal thing and was quite shy about sharing at first, but thanks to this inspiring blogging/IG community I keep at it and am not afraid to experiment and share. 😘

    • Author
      Jessica Seacrest 7 years ago

      So awesome Carol, so glad you share! Like you, I have experienced a lot of support from blogging/IG community. IG has really helped me to open up. Yay us!! <3

  2. M. L. Kappa 7 years ago

    I do so agree about the criticism, Jessica, especially since art is so subjective. There are a lot of very established painters I have the irreverence no t to like, and I might love a scribble one of my grandchildren has made. So let’s just enjoy the making!
    The pearl colors look intriguing, I’ve never used them before. Would you use them on your stars, and nebulae? And another thing I’d be interested in, if you’re ever so inclined, is a post about fixatives, or other ways to protect watercolors. 🌹🌹🌹

    • Author
      Jessica Seacrest 7 years ago

      Hi M.L. :). For stars I use either white gouache, but mostly white FW acrylic ink, splattered about with a toothbrush or stippling brush. The white shows up better. I sneak the FineTec in on a lot of paintings, but it’s one of those things that is better in person, it doesn’t translate well into photos. I do love them! I will put the fixatives on my list. Although, I don’t have much experience with them. I’ve only used Krylon and mostly for pastel work. That stuff is caustic! And I always manage to mess up my piece.

      • M. L. Kappa 7 years ago

        I’ve never used anything yet! So I was curious, although you’re meant to put watercolor behind glass, I suppose. I use white gouache for the stars, but yours look much brighter! Will try the ink. Thanks for sharing all those tips, you’re too kind. X, Marina

  3. lisa550 7 years ago

    Great review! I must try the Finetecs. They look so luscious! And I just love all things Daniel Smith😉

    Thank you for sharing your expertise!

    • Author
      Jessica Seacrest 7 years ago

      Thanks so much for your comment Lisa! I tried one pan of Arabic Gold of the FineTec, and then took the plunge for the bigger palette. It did not disappoint!

  4. creatingincolors 7 years ago

    Thank you for all this great information. That Magnetic Palette and the Raw Umber Violet have really caught my eye…..

    • Author
      Jessica Seacrest 7 years ago

      You are welcome, I’m happy that the info is useful…or tempting maybe ;). The Raw Umber Violet is so lovely!

  5. Sharon Bonin-Pratt 7 years ago

    I always appreciate your product reviews. I love that raw umber violet.

    But it is the paragraph about negative criticism that really caught my attention. You are so right that a little bit of caustic comment goes a long way toward destroying a person’s confidence.

    I hope that my attempts to be funny (sometimes) don’t get taken the wrong way by folks, and I apologize for anything hurtful I may have written.

    • Author
      Jessica Seacrest 7 years ago

      Hi Sharon! Please keep the funny coming! My comment was a general one and more along the lines of expressing that we are all in this together and supporting each other is a lovely thing. So happy to be in this artistic circle with you 🙂

  6. ybromfield 7 years ago

    Great reviews! I really want check out the travel set. It’s so hard to find a portable 18-count set.

    I completely agree about creating. At our school, we always talk about Silo-busting, meaning we have to let go of the notion that teachers have all the knowledge or teaching has to be done one particular way. I truly appreciate people who can bring real life on paper. But I love it and fills my creativity when I see artists’ interpretation of things. I love it when you said you create because you have to get it out. That’s what I’m interested in seeing. I like the thoughts that went into the creation that breathes life into art. I’m not sure if I’m making sense.. So art on, my friend!! ❤️❤️❤️

    • Author
      Jessica Seacrest 7 years ago

      I love it Kari! Silo busting, shifts in the way we perceive things….yes!! We shall art on! 🙂 <3

  7. Teri C 7 years ago

    You always do such a great job on your reviews Jessica. And love the personal touches of your art and commentary. 😍

    • Author
      Jessica Seacrest 7 years ago

      Thank you Teri! <3

  8. Teri C 7 years ago

    I just thought of something, I see you using ink and pens and maybe a review of them would be good. I don’t have much luck with pens and would like to get a good one. I have a Lamy but don’t like it.

    • Author
      Jessica Seacrest 7 years ago

      I’m glad you mentioned this. I was planning on doing a little something in October for Inktober. Have you looked at the Platinum Carbon? Super affordable, waterproof and always writes.

      • Teri C 7 years ago

        I have that pen and LOVE it but I was thinking more of a ‘real’ fountain like a Lamy but better. Hmm, does that make sense?

        • Author
          Jessica Seacrest 7 years ago

          It does make sense. What size nib is on your Lamy and why don’t you like the pen? You can text me if you want 🙂

      • Teri C 7 years ago

        And it would be perfect for Inktober!

  9. SHARON HASCHALK 7 years ago

    Hi Jessica!
    I just joined Doodlewash and this is the first I knew of your supply blog. I’m really excited to learn about it because like everyone else, there are so many products out there that we haven’t tried, and would like to know about them before spending our hard earned money on them, and possibly be disappointed. The metal pans sound like a really good idea and inexpensive, too. I’m going to check those out. And the Finetec metallic watercolors are beautiful. I do watercolor but have never used anything like those, just the standard watercolor. Thanks also Jessica, for your encouraging and uplifting words! I’m always looking at other people’s work, wishing I could paint like this one or that one, but I think what I need to do is just enjoy the process of painting and not worry about what everyone else thinks. Hugs from Sharon in Florida

    • Author
      Jessica Seacrest 7 years ago

      Thanks so much for your heartfelt message Sharon! It’s wonderful to connect with others that have common interests. So glad that the supply posts are helpful! I’m always looking to see if someone else has used something and had something to say about it before I buy. When first starting out, the generosity of other’s sharing what they had discovered is how I figured some things out. Are you part of the FB group? I hope to see some of your painting!

  10. dkatiepowellart 7 years ago

    Merriartist is my go-to online art store; I try to shop at small online stores because of Blick taking over so many stores in cities and the service is not great — the employees often know little about what they are selling. Merriartist is so helpful! Free shipping at $90 and that doesn’t take much to hit with art supplies. Also, the don’t dump your cart so you can keep adding until you get to that point.

    I wish you’d talk about whether the slim metal pans (designed to be used for the make-up industry) work well or not with watercolor paint. I’ve been thinking about this one, even bought it from Merriartist, but have not filled it yet because I think the pans themselves are so slender it will not work well. (Merriartist will take them back if I decide not to use.) I keep looking at the skinny depth… Did you try working with them filled?

    I love the S&B paper but so far, even with the quality control, am not enamored by the books. I don’t like the soft cover, as I then have to have a hard board, and none of their books really don’t lay flat. I keep asking them to go hard cover, get the books ot lay flat, make an A4 landscape, and they’d have me (It is how Moleskin keeps me all things considered). S&B has, by far, the nicest paper in a ready made book.

    • Author
      Jessica Seacrest 7 years ago

      Hi and thanks for your comment. There are other palettes out there than use the low depth metal pans. A lot of people use then and seem to like them. Since it’s a travel palette the need for a lot of paint isn’t as high for some people. Check out the Art Tool Kit.

      And here’s a link to Jane Blundell’s blog with a picture of the one mentioned above filled and some pans next to it just like the ones at TMA for comparison. She got them super smooth and nicely filled.

      The pans from Merri Artist seem easier because there is more room than the slender ones linked above. I do wonder if they might eventually rust though. Since it was so inexpensive, I’m giving it a shot. Haven’t filled it yet because I have no plans to take it anywhere soon.

      Not sure if this is useful at all, but here is a link on how to break in a Stillman & Birn to lay flat.

      If you decide to keep the palette and and care to share your experience, I would like to hear about it.

      Best wishes and happy painting!

      • Ellie 7 years ago

        I just got the business card-sized palette and little pans from Expeditionary Art – love them so far! Her case is lighter than a business card case, which is great. I also got extra pans and made a palette from a business card case I have (used a flat magnet from an office supply store on the bottom). So now I have two palettes with 1 X 0.5 inch pans and some 1 X 1 inch pans. They are terrific with a water brush. The slim pans are fine, although I think I’ll have to move the Hansa Yellow Light from next to the Phthalo Green…..

        And Jessica, I’m not sure I can live now without D.S. Raw Umber Violet. Must. Have. ( :

        • Author
          Jessica Seacrest 7 years ago

          This is awesome Ellie, thanks for sharing! It’s nice to know how those slim cases are working out for you! I was looking at Jane Blundell’s blog yesterday at how nicely she had the slim pans filled. It’s great when we find out “thing.” This weekend I realized mine is this cheap-o Alvin vinyl mesh zip bag. I have all these nicer looking bags, but I love that one 🙂

  11. tmikeporter 7 years ago

    I have started using Dots and Doodles located in Astoria lately, but will check out the other. I did a sketching workshop put on by Derek Gundy and Ron Stocke last June and it was based out of that store. Great prices on Daniel Smith paints. Personal service. Really appreciate the metal and plastic palette review.

    • Author
      Jessica Seacrest 7 years ago

      Thanks so much for your comment! I’ve always wanted to visit Astoria 🙂

    • dkatiepowellart 7 years ago

      I’ve not been to Dots and Doodles — an art shop? I love Merriartist in McMinnville and then there is Nic’s the best eatery around! We are neighbors… of sorts — down the long road — I’m in Portland!

      • tmikeporter 7 years ago

        Yes an art store and one of the best I’ve been in

  12. […] right- I was able to fit the ArtBin Slim Line Magnetic Palette into it (I reviewed that last post), and a pocket Moleskine Watercolor Journal. This pretty much stretched it to capacity.  In either […]

  13. Ann Grasso 7 years ago

    Just wrote a fairly long (for me) highly positive reply to your review. Sigh, it seems to have disappeared when I tried to delete a website that Word Press attached to my email information. I’ll leave in the incorrect info on this reply. Great post, Jessica!

    • Author
      Jessica Seacrest 7 years ago

      Thanks Ann! Sorry your comment disappeared as it is always nice to hear from you.

  14. […] juxtaposition. Depending on the subject, specially when I do client work, I use Copper Gouache or Finetec Pearl Watercolors for detail. I’m nuts for that metallic […]

  15. […] play a little game.  The winner gets the prize package below- an ArtBin Sketch Pouch, ArtBin Slim Line watercolor travel palette with 18 pans to fill with your own paints, two full size tubes of […]

  16. […] media. I use Inktense pencils, watercolor sticks, Caran D’ache watercolor crayons, inks, and FineTec mica watercolors. When I want to just have fun, or maybe just add a little pizazz to my artwork, I […]

  17. […] are photos of the gold set of paints from a previous review.  Okay, one is silver, but I still call it the gold […]

  18. […] 8 x 5”. I was using Koi Watercolors with a waterbrush. Moleskine paper changed and I tried Stillman & Birn Beta Series journals and continue to use them. I switched to a portrait format, 8.5 x 5.5”. I […]

  19. […] paper back lately. I have slowly upgraded my materials over the years. My current to-go setups are Stillman & Birn Beta sketchbook, Rosemary 1/4” travel dagger brush, and a mix of Daniel Smith, Winsor & […]

  20. […] paper back lately. I have slowly upgraded my materials over the years. My current to-go setups are Stillman & Birn Beta sketchbook, Rosemary 1/4” travel dagger brush, and a mix of Daniel Smith, Winsor & […]

  21. […] myriad of fineliner and gel pens in every colour of the rainbow. With my mixed media style, I find Stillman and Birn sketchbooks to be the perfect match for my everyday […]

  22. […] are photos of the gold set of paints from a previous review.  Okay, one is silver, but I still call it the gold […]

  23. […] myriad of fineliner and gel pens in every colour of the rainbow. With my mixed media style, I find Stillman and Birn sketchbooks to be the perfect match for my everyday […]

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