"Mayan" watercolors: Daniel Smith / Greenleaf & Blueberry

Watercolor Painting & Sketching Group, Community, and Blog Forums Art Supply Reviews "Mayan" watercolors: Daniel Smith / Greenleaf & Blueberry

  • I finished my review of “Mayan” paints.  I lumped together two brands, Daniel Smith and Greenleaf & Blueberry, a handmade paint company.

    Disclosure, I am not a person who enjoys opaque paints often — I use them sparingly.  I love the brilliance of transparent watercolors.  Still, I’m not a fan and part of this is that, in my opinion, the whole “Mayan” thing is a bit of a gimmick unless these were made as the historical paints — which they are not.   Many opaque paints react in much the same way.  French Ochre, Iron Oxide, Vermilion, WN Caput Mortem — all are very claylike watercolors.  The difference is, while I may prefer transparent watercolors for their brilliance, I can manipulate these paints easier than the “Mayan” paints.

    To use them to their fullest capacity it is best to use them out of the tube as a thick mixture… almost like an acrylic.  With acrylic paints, you have to learn to use them in ways that creates washes by using additives — otherwise, they are a thick matte or glossy paint out of the tub.  Watercolors, on the other hand, are rarely used in a thick manner, such as shown in the image below, in the lips (Mayan Red) and the necklace (Mayan Orange.)

    “Mayan” watercolors are very hard to move, unlike the primateks.  They don’t suspend in a wash and drop in a lovely manner on the paper even if you don’t try to manipulate them (shown in the image below, the sky, Lapis Primatek, and the earth, Minnesota Pipestone Primatek, above.)  With no tricks, the two Primateks fail into a pleasing pattern on the rippling wet paper.  The “Mayan” paints, on the other hands, take a lot of manipulation if you don’t use them thick out of the tube… note the streaky Mayan Violet mountains, and her Mayan Orange pants.

    IF I wanted the thick colors, I would go back to acrylics.

    I welcome others to disagree with me, enlighten me, teach me about these paints, which I find diffiult (read my review to see why

    I’ve only tried the DS Mayan Blue and wasn’t moved to try the other colors.  Mayan Blue is also one of the colors that dries out in my palette to a tiny pebble.  Definitely one you have to use fresh from the tube.


    I enjoyed the full review on your blog – especially appreciated the photos of the plants from which the dyes are derived. My question is: Who is the manufacturer of each of the swatches in this post?

    Ah I meant to put that in!

    Daniel Smith made the Mayan Violet (very pinkish), Orange, Yellow, and Blue.

    Greenleaf & Blueberry made the bluer Mayan Violet and Mayan Red.

    Thanks for reminding me…

    BTW, I am willing to sell the Daniel Smith Mayans for $25 shipped.  Daniel Smith made the Mayan Violet (very pinkish), Orange, Yellow, and Blue.

    PM me if you are interested.

    Thank you so much for this review. Since I love transparent watercolours, I now know to steer clear of the Mayans.

    Susan, you are welcome!

    Now that I’ve read your review I understand why I don’t care for the Mayan colors either. I happen to have Greenleaf’s Mayan Blue and never use it. 😜

    Yes.  I love the color, but don’t love the flatness of Mayan… I don’t often encoutnre that with the Primateks.  I am doing some videos on using Primateks.

    I’m looking forward to watching those videos.  I’m finding that the Primateks really love the Hahnemühle paper!

    What an interesting post – and article.  I have never heard of these colours and at first glance I don’t think I would like to use them myself, being very much a lover of transparent and granulating colour (oops, sorry, I’m probably spelling color wrong for you good folk).

    I have grown to love some of the colors in my pallette which is now a mixture of W&N,  DS and Graham.  I looked the Greenleaf and Blueberry website but everything seemed to be out of stock – are they trying to work on the “scarcity” principle of marketing I wonder?  It all seems a bit of a hype when everyone has to go on the website at a particular time and date and then can then browse for an hour before the shop opens!  When there are so many beautiful colours available from manufacturers like those I list above, and many others, I’m not sure I see the point!  (cries of anguish from G&B’s fans!).

    Anyway, I don’t want to be negative – I kind of guess that having painted all these years and now being in the last quarter of my life (fifth, sixth, tenth, hundredth?) I’ve got to understand the paints I use and much as I love the vibrancy of pzazz of these Mayan colors I think I’ll probably pass on them for now.

    Thanks for the review Kate!  A lot over very good and helpful information.

    Tom I think G&B is not posting pigments lately — very odd.  I do know that small hand-made paints come in rounds.  I was not impressed with their paints, particularly, but someone asked about the brands.  I do like MatteoGrilliart (etsy) and have ordered more than one round from him.

    Kate – when you think how much time and money the big companies put into sourcing pigments its bound to be difficult for smaller companies to keep up.  When you think of all the industrial use of pigments, even the big artists paint companies find it difficult to compete against car manufactures, building companies and so on.  The only way an independent can survive is by finding local or rare pigments that the bigger companies don’t bother with. Having said that , G&B seem to have found some great uses for well-known pigments which other companies have stopped using – eg PR102 (natural red iron oxide) which occurs in their Violet Hematite and Purple Ochre.  However, Daniel Smith use this pigment in Roasted French Ochre and Burgundy Red Ochre – which are both rather like the G&B colors.

    Yes.  In fact, I bought MatteoGrilliart paints because he had some odd pigments.

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