Jessica's M. Graham bamboo palette with swatch

DOODLEWASH REVIEW: M. Graham Watercolor

Supplies - many paint tubes of watercolor paints on Doodlewash

Hi! My name is Jessica Seacrest and I am a Doodlewasher! After this introductory post, I will post a series of watercolor paint reviews every Saturday.  Posts will also include money saving tips, and hacks.  Check back this Saturday for a new post.

Whether you find yourself to be a hobbyist, a dabbler, a professional, or just curious, this series of supply reviews are for those interested in creative process.  Personally, I’m a hobbyist, but also one that went all in on the artistic path.  I’ve tried many mediums, but my first and true love remains watercolor.

My reviews will start out with this medium and may eventually include other mediums.  I will be reviewing a whole spectrum of different watercolors, opaque watercolors, and gouache, from the least expensive up to several artist quality brands.  We hope that these reviews will help you decide on what paints you might want to try, along with saving you time and money.

How did Charlie get those brilliant colors in his paintings of the Umbonia Spinosa and the Peacock Mantis Shrimp? Look no further than M. Graham watercolor paints.  These highly pigmented artist grade paints are made by nine folks and a part time stray cat, inside of a 3000 sq. foot warehouse surrounded by hops fields in rural Oregon, USA.

M. Graham Warehouse in Rural Oregon
M. Graham Warehouse

M. Graham makes these highly pigmented paints with a binding agent of gum arabic and blackberry honey.

“As an essential ingredient in our binding medium, honey contributes to moistness for smooth, easily controlled applications, increased pigment concentrations, and freedom from over reliance on preservatives.  Because of the honey medium, our watercolor resists hardening on the palette, or in the tube.  It dilutes easily, often after months of disuse.”

M. Graham circle of paint tubes on Doodlewash

Paints are sold in half ounce individual tubes and sets- a ten color set, and several sets of five.  The five tube sets are grouped with a “scape” theme or in colors theme- Basic, Jewel Tone, Quinacridone Quintet, Cobalt Mix, Landscape, Cityscape, Marinescape, and Shades of Summer.  They have a couple of paint colors that I believe are unique to them- Quinacridone Rust and Terra Rosa.  A full list of their colors and lightfast ratings can be found on their website.

These are available for sale at local art stores and many on-line retailers. On Amazon their five color sets go from around $43-$55, but I’ve seen the Quinacridone Quintet going for around $25 at times.  Keep your eye out for price fluctuations.  I did get a duplicate Sap Green in these two sets pictured below.

Tubes of M. Graham watercolor paint Shades of Summer and Landscape on Doodlewash

The paints rewet instantly.  Because of the honey, filled pans take quite a while to harden, longer than other paints do.  This is my M. Graham palette with full pans that I filled and put into a bamboo watercolor paint box that I got from Dick Blick. It comes with a slide lid and the swatch I did fits in the groves and slides in with the lid.

Palette half pans of watercolor paint M. Graham and swatches on Doodlewash

First Row: Bismuth Yellow, Scarlet Pyrrol, Yellow Ochre, Nickel Quinacridone Gold, Quinacridone Rust, Terra Rosa

Second Row: Permanent Green Pale, Sap Green, Olive Green, Cobalt Teal, Cerulean Blue, Anthraquinone Blue

Third Row: Ultramarine Pink, Quinacridone Violet, Dioxazine Purple, Burn Umber, and…room for two more!

See Charlie’s My Little Palette post for his travel palette set-up and the list of M. Graham paints that he uses.

M. Graham full pan filling example on Doodlewash

A tip I learned from the Guest Doodlewasher Jane Blundell on filling pans that is genius – only fill them part way, and at an angle.  This creates a slanted surface for your brush to slide in, and a little reservoir at the bottom for more diluted paint.  This works much better than stabbing the brush into a full pan. I angled these when I squirt the paint into the pan, and did a little tapping of the pan on my desk.  On a couple, I used a palette knife to get the angle.

Below are three color swatches showing more of the colors.  These were done in a 9×9 Bee Paper Company Super Deluxe Sketchbook with 93lb. paper.  Even though I did wash these out on portions of the page, I tend to be a little heavy handed with paint.  Like all watercolor, these can be diluted for transparent washes.

Paint test of M. Graham Watercolor paints by Jessica Seacrest on Doodlewash
Quinacridone Rust, Terra Rosa, Anthraquinone Blue, Nickle Quinacridone Gold
Paint test of M. Graham Watercolor paints by Jessica Seacrest pinks and greens on Doodlewash
Quinacridone Violet, Ultramarine Pink, Olive Green
Paint test of M. Graham Watercolor paints by Jessica Seacrest on Doodlewash
Quinacridone Rust, Terra Rosa, Anthraquinone Blue, Nickel Quinacridone Gold, Quinacridone Violet, Ultramarine Pink, Olive Green.

Desert painting doodlewash by Jessica Seacrest

This wild sky desertscape shows the vibrancy of these watercolors. I used everything in my palette, with the exception of Burnt Umber.  I’m not shy when it comes to using color and love to paint intense skies.  It seems like I barely touched the Anthraquinone Blue in for the clouds and they came out extremely vibrant.  This paper is a handmade cotton rag paper by Saint-Armand Papetiers.

I would like to know what paints you would like to see reviewed. Spring is upon us and summer coming soon, would a different travel palette set-up review interest you?  Let me know in the comments below! You can also find me on Instagram @jessicaseacrest, where there are a couple other recent paintings using M.Graham paints.

Recommend0 recommendationsPublished in Art Supply Reviews

55 thoughts on “DOODLEWASH REVIEW: M. Graham Watercolor

  1. Love M Graham paints and love Charlie’s work too. Your paintings are looking terrific! I’ve heard Daniel Smith can be as good as MG but I try to avoid WN at all costs as I find them overpriced and weak in vibrancy. Double whammy. Would love to see you review Daniel Smith if you were so inclined! Thx for sharing!

    1. Thank you Laura! I have Daniel Smith on my list to review as well as WN. I did a little art journal entry with MG paints last night and am always impressed with their vibrancy! Thanks so much for letting me know what you want to see reviewed!

    2. I’m with you, Laura. I love M Graham watercolors, and I find WN very lacking. I do use a lot of Daniel Smith pigments, and DS and M Graham watercolors are my favorites. If you like M Graham, you may want to give Daniel Smith a try also!

      1. Thanks, Tonya, so nice to find a kindred spirit! The WN paint turns into a hard, brittle rectangle on my palette too, which is another reason to dislike them as they are hard to “wake up” compared to the juicy MG colors. I just placed a Blick order yesterday and included DS Moonglow in it. Dying to try it, as it looks so scrumptious on the screen! Thanks so much for your comment; I often feel like I’m speaking to an echoing room when dissing WN but if they were good, I’d sing their praises even though they’re priced crazy high. Golden paint is a perfect example of quality worth paying for. Although MG acrylics are also great! I find tho that they are not always as luminous as Golden. Really looking forward to trying more DS paint, especially now, thanks so much Tonya!

  2. Lots of wonderful info, especially the tip about slanting the paint in the pans. Yes, a travel pallette review would be great and, as Laura mentioned above, a review of Daniel Smith would be helpful. I am looking forward to the next installment of this series!

    1. Hi Carol, I”m glad you liked the slanting the pan tip helpful! I plan on doing a travel palette review and on on Daniel Smith. Thanks so much for your comment!

  3. …. for a very comprehensive comparison of various brands, I find this site very very helpful…., where M. Graham gets more than a few top marks…. Of course, one of the more important comparisons when it comes to paints and pigments is their colour-fastness and resistance to fading (SEE This involves painting swatches of colour for each of the manufacturers and exposing them to direct sunlight for a specified period of time, seeing how they each compare after undergoing this test. THANK YOU to Charlie and Jessica for pointing us all in this important direction. (Personally, I use a number of brands according to which colour comes out on top in reviews, for no manufacturer makes ALL colours fabulously, and some do some better while others do others better.)

    1. Thank you for the links to these comprehensive comparisons! I hope to link to sites such as these in my reviews, for those that want to really dig into the ins and outs of this medium. Light fastness- so important! I also mix different brands and prefer certain paints over others, and all for different reasons. I will add these links to my list, thank you for providing them 🙂

      1. I am very grateful for your response, and very grateful for your willingness to review different brands and offerings. Many of us don’t have (or take) the time to devote to this–and I appreciate how you are going to do this for us Jessica!

  4. Thanks SO much Jessica for your fantastic post and being the Doodlewash Supply Blogger! This turned out beautifully and so informative! Love the way the desertscape turned out when you use all the colors… gorgeous!! 😃 For my vote, I’d love to learn more about Mission Gold watercolor in one of your future posts!

    1. You’ve got it Charlie- that one is a hot ticket item for me! Guess what showed up yesterday…it was all I could do to keep from ripping it open here at work. Thank you Charlie! So happy to be working with you.

  5. What a great post Jessica and thank you Charlie for hosting Jessica. I only have a a couple of the M. Graham paints. I soon moved over to Daniel Smith when I started on my watercolor journey as most of the artists I follow and have done workshop with use a Daniel Smith palette. I am glad you mentioned Jane Blundell. She is great. I am currently doing an online workshop with Jane – Mastering Watercolor. Look forward to your next post!

    1. That’s exciting that you are doing a workshop with Jane Blundell! Her blog and site are so comprehensive with paint swatches and information! I’ve even send her sample of M. Graham to review. I have a love for Daniel Smith paints myself and will be reviewing them in the future- so many to choose from! And those dot cards- swoon. Thanks so much for your comment Carmel!

    1. Hi Sharon, yes, art supplies a slippery slope my friend 😉 hehehe. I think I’ve slid all the way down the slope! I hope that these reviews will be helpful for you. I appreciate your comment, thank you!

  6. Jessica:

    If you are evaluating paints, I would include the Turner Watercolors available from Jerry’s. Most are single pigment, have excellent color purity and offer great value for the money. As a former chemist and someone that has worked in automotive paints for many years, I can not believe the marketing hype and flowery language used to describe watercolor paints from some of the major brands. You do not need to spend a ton of money to get a good paint.


    On Tue, Mar 15, 2016 at 8:04 AM, Doodlewash wrote:

    > Jessica posted: ” Hi! My name is Jessica Seacrest and I am a Doodlewasher! > After this introductory post, I will post a series of watercolor paint > reviews every Saturday. Posts will also include money saving tips, and > hacks. Check back this Saturday for a new post. Whe” >

    1. Thank you Fred. I’m not sure why I didn’t see your comment come through until now. If I end up trying Turner, I will include them. I’m also open to reviewing samples, if I come across them.

  7. Thank you so much Jessica, this is so informative! I recently bought WN, will try this for few days and move to MG or DS. Looking forward for next reviews. Many Thanks to Charlie for connecting us. Cheers 🙂

    1. Hi Snehal and thanks for your comment! I have a little stash of WN paints that I paint with a lot of the time. I’m glad the MG review had something to offer you. I will be doing a DS review in the future…I might even move that up because so many people seem interested in that brand. Happy painting to you!

  8. I really like my MG gouache and also their watercolors, but the watercolors took essentially half a year to dry into my pans for my travel palette, which was an interesting experience. In spite of that they’re one of my go to paint brands for their variety and cost.

    1. Thank you for sharing this. I saw a post last night where someone had their travel palette spill all over within itself because they weren’t dry enough. I hope this didn’t happen with yours. Mine are really hard at this point, but I’m always amazed at how touching a wet brush in, how much paint comes out. My other dried pans of WN, DS, Holbein or even Qor aren’t like that, I have to spritz them or work at it more. I haven’t tried their gouache…hmm 😉
      Happy painting to you!

      1. They’re dense enough that thankfully it never spilled over, but it meant I accidentally pulled up more paint than I needed at times. I think the flipside of taking so long to dry is that they are very good at rewetting, even when dry!

      2. Jessica et al, I’ve read about the M Graham and its delights. I’ve also read about the drying problem which has much to do with where you are. For instance, if you live in the southwest, drying is no issue due to low humidity in the atmosphere. On the other hand, if you live in a humid place like Fla or the Midwest and East Coast in the summer, these paints will almost always be nearly dry not totally dry. This is because of the honey (and I love honey) which always draws water to itself. Honey never dries out even if you leave the lid off for days or weeks. Heck, I have a recipe for bread that never dries out; it’s delicious by the way. The other thing about honey is it never goes bad; it can sit on a shelf for years and still be fine aside from dust or insect invasions.

        I’d love to try M Graham watercolors but since I live in Virginia, paint in regular use especially plein air must be from another source. I’m stuck with Cotman at the moment but when the money crunch clears they’ll be replaced with something good. Meanwhile, I can see how far they can be stretched in techniques and they are okay for basic sketching to hold ideas down on paper for a while.

  9. Hi Jessica, great post! I was always a Daniel Smith girl until I met Charlie and now I’m slowly adding MG to my palette.
    You are going to be great as the artist supply girl and I know this because we have painted together and explored this supply topic. Hmm, I believe we belong to the same ‘art supply addicts’. 😊
    I just found some new Watercolors to add to the list. Handmade Watercolors from Greenleaf and Blueberry. I should be getting them in the mail this week. They sound fabulous.
    And then there are the Koi. You’ll be busy doing this column. And I’ll be busy reading it.

    1. Teri!!! So thrilled to read your comment and be in your good company in the ASA Club…hehe. Out of all the paints I have…DS is what I have the most of. So I will definitely be doing a review. And I already started writing one on Koi…great minds, we think alike ;). I have a comprehensive set of Greenleaf and Blueberry to review also. I’m so excited that you are getting some! Please let me know what you think of them. I’m sure I’ll see photos. I totally want to know what you ordered! And actually, if you want to get together and paint with them, let me know.

  10. Jessica, followed you here from Cactus Monday. 😉 My first artist grade paints ever were all MGraham colors. I love their vibrancy. I have tested their transparency and some are not as transparent as their DS or WN counterparts. I would have loved to see transparency tests on the color sets you shared here. I don’t have any of those MG colors. I live in Phoenix and my M Grahams dry just fine and don’t leak in my travel palettes, I know our dry air helps with that. 🙂 Thanks for your great info and for leading me to this new art blog. 🙂

    1. Hi Kate! So happy that you are here and for your comment. Great idea! I will make sure that I do some transparency tests on future posts. And I’m with you, I’ve found that the other brands you’ve mentioned can have more transparency. I’ve really enjoyed this blog and seeing all of the different artists that are featured. I hope you enjoy it to! Stay cool this summer 🙂

    1. Hi Amanda! Thanks so much for your comment and I’m happy that you like the post! My experience with gouache is a little more limited. I’ve used Holbein and Caran D’ache. I also have a Reeves set, but I haven’t used it much and never did swatches. The Holbein is in tubes and the CD is a pan set. The Holbein is definitely better. I have some photos on my IG feed of the tubes, swatches and some very bright little sample paintings ;). If you care to check them out, my IG link is up top, or I’m @jessicaseacrest, just scroll down until you see some tubes, and then check out the three photos after that one. I will eventually be doing reviews on the gouache that I have. I will try and rotate one in after in the next few posts. There will also be reviews on more opaque watercolors, like Kuretake Gansi Tambi. I hope this helps 🙂 and happy painting!

  11. What a great post, Jessica! You, my friend, is the queen of supplies! I haven’t had the pleasure of using M.Graham paints yet but love the saturated colors that Charlie gets on his doodlewashes! And thanks for the tip about filling the pans! I have seen the Handprint site and the information is very technical. I would love to see you review some of the watercolor markers like W&N’s new line. Look forward to your future posts!! ❤️

    1. Kari! I hope teaching is going well for you! I miss having you around, even though I completely understand that there is only so much time for so many things. But know you are missed! That site is for the person that likes in-depth information, which is a great resource. You can probably guess that my posts won’t be that technical, put I will provide links for people that like that type of information. If I come across the W&N watercolor markers, I will do a review, but right now, I don’t have any. I hope that you get some useful info from the supply posts! And hey- I’m painting away on that Tomoe River paper in my Hobonichi! I love it! I hope that you are still finding time for your own beautiful creativity!

  12. Awesome! Looking forward to your reviews. Local shops near me supply, Winsor Newton, Utrecht,and Van Gogh.

    How about paletes? I have a Zoltan Szabo palette thats just OK. Looking for a better one.

    1. Hi Rob! I’m glad that you like the post and appreciate that you took time to comment. I’ve not tried Utrecht or Van Gogh brands yet, but I will review W&N. I looked up the Zoltan Szabo palette, what don’t you like about it? That might help me recommend something else. Would something like a Martin Mijello Airtight Leak Proof Fusian Watercolor palette appeal to you, or are you looking for metal to insert pans into? Also, even though this says “airtight” your paints will dry out. But, I think it’s affordable, big mixing areas- one that’s removable, and if you didn’t mind the size, you could travel with it. You’re brush can slide over the paint because the wells are angled (no stabbing into a small pan). I have one, and just got a second one. Let me know if this helps and what characteristics you are looking for.

  13. The zoltan has 16 small Wells at an angle, which isn’t too bad. But that leaves 8 irregular shaped mixing Wells. I find I also use the lid to mix. It’s a mess for sure. I tend to be messy. And cheap. The palette ID a thin plastic that flexes which kind of bugs me. I suppose I need to learn finesse. LOL

    1. Hi Teresa, I’m glad you liked the review and tips! I have a few favorites by W&N and I was painting with them this morning. Thank you for commenting!

  14. Great review, loved the presentation, seeing a bamboo travel palette was fun, and love the sample color grids you created. Long time fan of M.Graham’s watercolors, they play well with other brands on my palette. An additional reason many local artists here in the islands love the brand is the honey not only keeps the paint moist, but also prevents mold, with our humidity the paint in palette wells are easily susceptible to mold which can pop up in as short a time as a week of non-use. Looking forward to more reviews, always something to be learned. Thanks for sharing.

  15. Thank you for you comment. I live in the desert, so things dry out quick. I’m glad to hear you haven’t had problems with mold with this brand. Happy painting!

  16. Nine people!? MGraham only has nine people?! How can they make such a huge volume of awesome with so few folks!?

    (I’m nearby, geographically. I’m tempted to go over there and scratch at the walls until they let me in to see the magical paint factory full of unicorns and NINE PEOPLE OMG.)

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