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DOODLEWASH REVIEW: Daniel Smith Extra Fine Watercolors Part II

Hello, this is Part II of Daniel Smith (DS) Watercolors, which reviews their PrimaTek and the Luminescent lines.  See Part I on the Extra Fine line here– that post is where the bulk of the information on the DS lines, tube sizes and different options can be found. This post has a lot of full size photos of swatches and paint examples, first part is PrimaTek, and a short second part on the Luminescent line.

The Dot Card from my local art store that started it all.  The Dot Cards provide info about lightfastness, transparency, granulation and staining qualities.

Daniel Smith PrimaTek watercolors dot card
PrimaTek Dot Card

According to the DS website, the PrimaTek line of watercolors comes in 35 colors.   This line of DS paints started in 1998.  They are made from ground minerals, some are semi-precious minerals.  Most of the PrimaTek line granulate.  A few of them have a subtle sheen or sparkle. This line is great for landscapes.  I like this PrimaTek brochure, which states that they offer 37 colors in the line. It also has information about the minerals and the different mines that they come from.  Perhaps they stopped making two of the colors along the way. If you are any bit of a rock hound, or are interested in geology, this is an exciting line.  I live in Tucson, Arizona- home of the worlds largest Gem and Mineral Show. I find this line to be very exciting.  Here is a 4:26 minute video about the Tucson Gem and Mineral Show.

If these paints are dried in pans, they are more workable with a drop or two of water to moisten them prior to painting.  The Mayan Blue really shriveled in the pan after it dried. There are a couple of colors in the palette below that are not PrimaTek and they were featured and swatched in the Part I post- Lunar Violet and Shadow Violet.

Daniel Smith PrimaTek watercolors swatches and metal paint palette with half pans

The PrimaTek line has the word Genuine after the mineral paint names, I’m going to leave that off when I refer to the paints.  Spelling is not my strong point, so if any of the names written on the actual swatches are misspelled, my apologies.  Spellcheck my friend, what would I do without you?! The swatches are on Strathmore 400 Series Watercolor paper.

Daniel Smith PrimaTek and Luminescent watercolors swatches on Strathmore 400 series watercolor paper
Rhodonite, Jadeite, Amethyst, Mayan Blue, Piemonite, Red Fuchsite, Serpentine, Fuchsite, Natural Sleeping Beauty Turquoise, Amazonite , Kyanite, Sugilite, Tiger’s Eye, Bloodstone, Hematite, Black Tourmaline, Bronzite, Burnt Bronzite, Sicklerite. Luminescent Line: Iridescent Red Scarab, Cactus Flower, Turquoise, Desert Bronze

Below there are closeups of some of the swatches to show shimmering, and then some larger swatches of a few of the colors.  I love the shimmer, but if it is used on a painting that is behind glass on a wall, I’m not sure how noticeable it would be.  I like the idea of small hand held paintings, so that people could enjoy the subtle shimmer and nuances of this line. I’ve painted a few, and also what I will classify as bookmarks.  I love seeing and handling them. I found a larger one in a book the other night, rediscovering it made me smile.

Red Fuchsite has a slight shimmer.  The Serpentine has a subtle reddish brown that granulates out, although it’s not quite visible here.

Daniel Smith PrimaTek watercolors swatches on Strathmore 400 series watercolor paper Red Fuchsite Genuine and Serpentine Genuine
Piemonite, Red Fuchsite, Serpentine

Amazonite, and Rhodonite (see pic above), are two in this line that do not granulate. Kyanite and Sugilite have shimmer.  Sugilite has always seemed like an ethereal shimmering color to me. Kyanite would look great in a shimmering dark sky or a body of water.

Daniel Smith PrimaTek watercolors swatches on Strathmore 400 series watercolor paper amazonite Genuine, kyanite genuine, sugilite genuine
Amazonite, Kyanite, Sugilite

Bronzite and Burnt Bronzite both have a shimmer. I love Bonzite. It brings to mind a shimmering sands beach.

Daniel Smith PrimaTek watercolors swatches on Strathmore 400 series watercolor paper black tourmaline, Bronzite, Burnt Bronzite
Black Tourmaline, Bronzite, Burnt Bronzite

The following larger swatches are done in a 4 x 6 Stillman and Birn Gamma Series journal.  The paper is ivory.  Look how beautiful these colors are!

Daniel Smith PrimaTek watercolors swatches in a stillmand and birn gamma series journal Amethyst Genuine

If this photo is clicked to enlarge, you may be able to see a slight reddish brown that washes out in the Serpentine. Look along the edges. I have a better example of the granulation and separation towards end.

Daniel Smith PrimaTek watercolors swatches in a stillmand and birn gamma series journal Serpentine Genuine and Fuchsite Genuine
Serpentine, Fuchsite
Daniel Smith PrimaTek watercolors swatches in a stillmand and birn gamma series journal Amazonite Genuine and Red Fuschsite Genuine
Amazonite, Red Fuchsite
Daniel Smith PrimaTek watercolors swatches in a stillmand and birn gamma series journal Kyanite Genuine and Sugilite Genuine
Kyanite, Sugilite
Daniel Smith PrimaTek watercolors swatches in a stillmand and birn gamma series journal Bronzite Genuine and Burnt Bronzite Genuine
Bronzite, Burnt Bronzite
Daniel Smith PrimaTek watercolors swatches in a stillmand and birn gamma series journal Bloodstone and Black Tourmaline
Bloodstone, Black Tourmaline

Someone requested a comparison of the NSB Turquoise with Cascade Green.  Cascade Green is part of the regular line, not a PrimaTek paint.

Daniel Smith PrimaTek watercolors swatches in a stillmand and birn gamma series journal Natural Sleeping Beauty Turquoise Genuine and Cascade Green
Natural Sleeping Beauty Turquoise

The Luminescent Watercolor line comes in 48 colors and three different varieties-  19 in Duochrome, 7 in Interference,  20 in Iridescent, and 2 in Pearlescent. On the site under the individual colors, all of the descriptions say the following:

“Our Luminescent watercolors, unlike anything ever seen in watercolor, simulate the glitter of a watery surface or the luster of mother-of-pearl. They’re made from mica pigment, thin transparent particles coated with highly reflective metal oxides. Iridescent colors reflect light and their semi-transparent quality adds a fascinating sense of depth to your work. Iridescent Gold is the quintessential gold shade – bright, reflective and regal.”

The bottom four are from this line.  The first is an Iridescent and the other three are Duochrome. When used in a painting, the paper needs to be moved around a bit to see the properties.

Daniel Smith Luminescent watercolors swatches on Strathmore 400 series watercolor paper Iridescent Red Scarab, Cactus Flower, Turquoise, Desert Bronze
Iridescent Red Scarab. Cactus Flower, Turquoise, Desert Bronze

This is not the only brand out there for sheening or luminescent watercolor.  FineTec has a really nice luminosity, but a more limited palette. I will do a review on mica, shimmering, and gold tone watercolors and acrylic inks at some point.

Here is a 3:12 minute video of 12 swatches of the Luminescent line being painted.

Here is a 3:08 minute video of a hummingbird painting using the Luminescent line.  There is also a dragonfly painting video to watch next.

“Iridescent colors reflect light directly, like a mirror reflection, resulting in intense color and sheen. Interference colors refract and scatter light; they take on different hues depending on where the light is striking and the viewer’s point of view. Duochromes bounce between two different colors depending on the reflective light. Pearlescent colors add an opalescent sheen.”

Guest Doodlewasher Natalie Rjedkin Lee painted the copper cup below using the Luminescent line.  The materials she used were: Khadi 150 rough texture watercolor paper, Faber Castell Graphite Aquarelle pencil HB, DS watercolor in Van Dyck BrownIridescent MoonstoneIridescent GoldIridescent CopperIridescent Russet. This is what she had to say about the process- “I’m pleased with the results, but those metallic paints are tricky on white paper.  I feel the best result would achieved on color or black paper . You need to layer up color if just using metallics or underpainting with color and then highlight with metallics for best results. The watercolor is an interpretation of a photo detail.  The original photo is credited to Julie Wolf.”  Thanks so much Natalie for sharing this wonderful example!

copper Cup painting by Natalie Lee- Khadi 150 rough texture wc paper Faber Castell Graphite Aquarelle pencil HB Daniel Smith WC in Van Dyke brown Iridescent Moonstone Iridescent Gold Iridescent Copper Iridescent Russet

I was messing around and managed to get the Serpentine to really granulate out into the reddish brown that I was talking about above.  This was done very wet.  Look how the bright green pooled at the bottom on the left.

Daniel Smith PrimaTek watercolors Serpentine granulation

I was a little excited over the Amethyst the night before I wrote this- painting an amethyst with Amethyst!  The example below is done with Amethyst, Lunar Violet, Cactus Flower, and a few touches of Rhodonite, Mayan Blue, and Serpentine to get the rainbow flash happening in the amethyst crystal subject that I used.  This was painted in a Handbook Travelogue Grand Portrait Watercolor Journal. It is the only painting example I did using the Luminescent line, and the Cactus Flower is very subtle.

Amethyst Crystal watercolor painting using Daniel Smith Primatek and Luminescent paints, Amethyst Genuine and Cactus Flower Duochrome

To show this example, I have to admit to recently watching the classic, The Many Adventures of Winnie-the-Pooh cartoon from 1977, because that’s what inspired this. Pooh bear is a character that was created by A. A. Milne for his son, Christopher Robin. This sketch is all PrimaTek, with the exception of the little bit of yellow is the flowers, and done in a Seawhite Sketchbook.

Painting using Daniel Smith Primatek watercolors in a Seawhite journal.

These doodle examples were painted when I first got the Dot Card above, they show the granulating properties.  They are painted in a pocket Moleskine Art Plus Watercolor Journal.  The bottom hill looks velvety with the Jadeite.  I also included these to show what it looks like to use all PrimaTek paints. Granulation overload can happen. After having some experience with them and doing large sized paintings, I feel that they work best when used in coordination with other non granulating watercolors, unless a certain look is being sought.

 Daniel Smith Primatek watercolors painting sample in a Moleskine watercolor journal

Here is a 16 page downloadable DS Watercolor Guide, it has mixes and demos for all of their lines. If you are interested in the Luminescent line, there is a seashell painting example.

Here is a 3:30 minute video of Amazonite mixes for landscapes and they are beautiful.

This is an ongoing series of watercolor and art supply reviews.  I’m working on watercolor/art journal posts next.  Your comments are appreciated.

*I’m amending my above statement- because of the interest in luminous paints that this post generated, I’m going to review some other brands first, and then move on to art journals.

You Can Read Part 1 Of My Daniel Smith Watercolors Review by Clicking Here! 

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40 thoughts on “DOODLEWASH REVIEW: Daniel Smith Extra Fine Watercolors Part II

    1. Hi Judith 🙂 These are a lot of fun. Now I’m looking at the Jadeite thinking- I need to use that more! Let me know if you try then out. Happy painting!

    1. Thanks for your comment and for letting me know about the link! It’s working now. Your watercolor paintings are lovely!

  1. Thanks for another fantastic review! So much information and great examples. (Your amethyst painting with amethyst and the Winnie the Pooh scene made me smile) I was thinking about getting the Primatek set and now it seems I have no choice ( : Plus a few more…..

    1. Yay! I always feel enthusiastic for people to try stuff :). Let me know how you like them. I just watched a video on the DS Neutral Tint and thinking about going to get a tube. I love Winnie-the-Pooh, there is a part of me that identifies with that character, hehehe.

  2. In great part I look forward to Saturday to read your reviews. The Amazonite video did link on my computer.
    Question: will you ever be reviewing masking fluids – mfg., uses, and in particular, whether it can be used over painted/dried watercolors? I am curious to learn more about adding washes over a finished (dried) watercolor painting. Thanks Jessica!

    1. Hi Ann and thanks for your comment. I hadn’t thought about masking fluid, but it’s a great idea! I’ve only used it a couple of times, but I’m willing to give it some additional tries and report back. 🙂

  3. I’d had a busy month and had been a bit lax about doing art, but I have to tell you that every time I read your reviews, it gets me all excited about pulling out the paints! 🙂 I still need to get a hold of the dot cards to try this line out myself! I’m like a crow; I like shiny things and really want to try out the iridescent pigments. Thanks again for another great review, Jessica!

    1. Hehehe, your comment about the crow made me laugh! I’m with you on the shiny things. I will recommend that you check out the Finetec watercolors over the DS if you like the shiny things. They come in sets of 6 & 12. I have the square set of the 6 Pearl and a single pan or Arabic Gold. They work really well and are less expensive. I think Merri Artist has the best selection and prices, they also do quick shipping. In case you decide to check them out, I will put a link. Just scroll down the page a bit until you get past the pencils. Sometimes providing links is only helpful if they are in the same country. I think you are in the Midwest? If you are on Instagram, send me a note (@jessicaseacrest) and I will tag you in some examples.


  4. Thank you for this review of my favorite watercolor brand…you rock Daniel Smith! lol Now I have some more to consider purchasing. I have wondered about these lines and if they would be something I would like to use. I like the idea of the shimmer that I can bring into my paintings. I’ll have to come back and study this post several times.

    1. Hi Margret, I happy that this was helpful to you. The one thing about reading reviews…purchases may ensue, hehehe. I bet these would work wonderfully in the beautiful landscapes that you paint! The link at the end about the Amazonite mixing might be right up your alley 🙂
      Happy painting!

        1. All the lines mix well together. I’ve seen a few people using Serpentine as their regular green. I hope you can get a dot card to try! I’m also happy to put some dots on a card and send it to you, just email me at jesseacrest@gmail.com and I can pop it in the mail. I would hate for you to invest and then not like them. I will point out the comment I made about Finetec under Teresa Robeson, just in case you want some really luminous paints.

      1. Jessica….I just got your samples of the colors! I was just expecting the Serpentine dot but got a whole bevy of different colors to try! I think I scared my husband when I hooted and hoorayed! thank you so much! I can’t wait to try them out…..and hopefully make some decision on a new color or more. Thank you so much!

        1. Hi Margret, yay, you’re welcome! Hahaha, that’s funny about your husband. I hope you have a lot of fun with them 🙂

  5. I have not tried the Primatek or the luminescent paints yet. I love the graininess of them. So many things to try out this summer!

    1. Thanks Sharon! The one problem with reading reviews- the wanting ;). A traditionalist, I am not. There are many wonderful and traditional approaches and presentations out there, which I have total appreciation for. When I first started posting, I had a bit of concern about my interesting and inventive approach- I like how you put that. To me, interesting and inventive expression are what art is about :).

      1. I’m curious if you’ve tried any of the turners watercolors from Japan? I see them on Jerrys and seem to have many holbein-ish and pearlescent colors as well?? Also interested in mejello white class?? Not sure why I prefer such unusual brands speaking of holbein have you tried irodori line or any kremer? I found a ridiculous source for holbein with none over $10 for large tube most closer to 6-7 just heads up! And they carry all 5ml tubes in both lines which is hard to find since they cap out at $5. This made me very excited and used up an entire paycheck. I did have them way cheaper until they found out i was in US which has some special licencing agreement and revoke right to sell for overseas companies violating this. Just their way to make more money off us Americans. But never buy foreign paints from major outlets marked up 2-5 times

        1. Hi Angela,

          So enthusiastic, I love it! I have a thing for Japanese art supplies too. I’ve been tempted buy the Irodori, but read somewhere that they aren’t really meant to rewet like regular watercolor, and that’s part of the reason I like watercolor. Mission White Class look beautiful, I’ve found that I don’t use opaque as much as transparent. The Turner set you describe sounds lovely. Presently I’m up to my eyeballs in paint, so I’m not buying anything new. I hope you get to experience some of these lovely things! 🙂

  6. I absolutely love the Primatek line and that (and Buff Titanium) were the primary reasons I chose Daniel Smith as my primary paints. I find I can’t bear to be without Serpentine and Green Apatite in my palette. If space allows I also add Sedona, Minnesota Pipestone and Piemontite. Their Amazonite is just lovely. I slowly added colors a bit at a time as they are pricey. I read some not so glowing reviews of Sugilite and Kyanite but took a chance and just love them. Another one that gets bad press is Zoisite but I find it is great when you want something even darker than Perylene Green. I think the Piemontite is the most unusual as it is a bit pink in a wash but quite brown when it is more concentrated. It’s almost a maroon brown cross that switch hits. For landscapes Serpentine can’t be beat. It’s the granulation with the orange brown floating out that really makes it unique.

    I will say the only color that disappoints is their Lapis. They do not source from the best Lapis in the world because they will not send their people into areas which are not safe. I find it very gummy and weak. I loved their Azurite but they discontinued it. I think they discontinued their Malachite because of chemical reactions with the tube containers.

    The Primatek line has a range of muted colors but is weak on yellows. For that I usually add Monte Amiata or Verona gold or Goethite to get a few yellows that are compatible.

    I’ve done several monochromatic single pigment paintings and like the Primateks best since some have such a shift in color depending on dilution.

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