Dr Ph Martin's Liquid Watercolors Review Bottles Product Shot

REVIEW: Dr. Ph. Martin’s Liquid Watercolors

Dr Ph Martin’s Liquid Watercolors are the most other-worldly, whimsical, airy and light-catching, phantasmagoric liquid watercolors I have found. And, they should definitely not be confused with Dr Martens, making equally trendy shoes which are however characterised by almost opposite properties to those listed above.

Swatch Tests Yellows Reds Pinks Dr Ph Martin's Liquid Watercolors

These beautiful, precious little glass bottles containing pure, vibrant, modern-looking hues of liquid watercolours are generally not for the outdoorsy or Urban Sketcher: too heavy and dangerous, unless used to fill watercolour pens. Nor really are they for the someone often working on the fly. No, these luxury-feeling items are rather for the home watercolorist. One who can make leisurely use of their time, a rare and exotic character in our rushed modern world, and is seeking to pack a punch in their colour palette.

One should also own one or several enamel or porcelain palettes as these products are so concentrated they will stain plastic ones permanently even on first use. Finally, liquid watercolours are probably not a beginner’s item because of their cost and especially because they require confident brush strokes and acceptance of unplanned colour effects. Indeed they are, unlike traditional watercolours, permanent from the instant they hit the paper. So permanent in fact that they dry much closer to their wet colour than traditional watercolours and fade very slowly to not at all (depending on the line used) upon exposure to daylight.

Dr Ph Martin’s Hydrus Fine Art Liquid Watercolors

Swatch Tests Blues Greens Dr Ph Martin's Liquid Watercolors

Koi Fish with Dr Ph Martin's Liquid WatercolorsThis being said though, in researching this piece online, I found many links to parent/teacher training in how to guide children, even very young ones, on how to mess about with cheaper versions of them. I bought my first set of 12 Hydrus Fine Art Watercolor, 0.5 OZ, SET 1 having been told they were the world’s best liquid watercolours. There are three sets in this range which specifically carries smaller bottles, hence nearly halving the initial cash outlay. I was certainly not disappointed, but initially I used them rarely, mostly because I wasn’t sure how to use them.

That changed when I took a course by Camilla Damsbo on Skillshare, during which I painted the Koi fish picture shown here. I discovered they are spectacular for wet-on-wet painting and for mixed media work, here juxtaposed against pan Payne’s Gray and also combined with metallic watercolours. 

Dr Ph Martin’s Radiant Concentrated Liquid Watercolors

However, I truly fell head over heals over my Hydrus set when I took another Skillshare tutorial, this time by Amarilys Henderson on loose florals. Check out that tulip, dahlia and anemone taken from it (below). They illustrate how great they are for on page wet-on-wet mixing and layering. That’s when I decided to complement my Hydrus set with a few bottles in the yellow-orange-red-pink Radiant range since I so love painting flowers.

I can’t honestly see the difference between the Hydrus and Radiant ranges (and there’s little information provided on the Dr Ph Martin website), other than the latter being slightly less concentrated and hence often having a smaller dynamic range, as per the pictures above.

Dr Ph Martin’s Bombay Inks

I think the Bombay Ink range is probably much the same, except even more concentrated. I haven’t personally tried their Bombay Ink range but I am told it otherwise behaves very similarly to the other two ranges.

The Art Of Mixing

Finally, when I discovered the loose florals work and online lessons of Kris Keys (orchid below), I learnt they are really powerful when combined with traditional watercolours, when they generate long, homogenous gradient washes showing great depth upon dilution.

Pink Flower Liquid Watercolors Doc Martins

The mixing of liquid colours with conventional tube watercolors is shown immediately below. The lines are pure Hydrus watercolors. The rectangles on the right are tube watercolor gradient washes. Arrows indicates how colours were mixed, approximately 1:1. The middle row displays gradient washes resulting from those mixes. Note how the two top ones are longer and more homogeneous than the tube alone gradients on the right and how in the bottom one a sort of perspective effect is obtained by the dyes separating through diffusing at slightly different rates.

Liquid Watercolors Swatch Test Dr Ph Martin

What’s more, they come in a huge diversity of hues (56 in the Radiant range including 12 metallic/iridescent/fluorescent ones, 36 for the Hydrus and 24 for Bombay Ink with preselected sets and individual bottles always available) each slightly different to the next and imminently miscible. Thanks to the eye drop dosers incorporated in each lid, such mixes are then are quite reproducibly obtained if one simply remembers to take note the initial mixes one made.

Since then, I’m totally hooked on this form of alchemy! I even downloaded the convenient Dr Ph Martin App (I kid you not!) on my phone so I can check out their colour ranges and order more anywhere, anytime. Equally convenient, their website offers a system to select your bottles according to their many positive characteristics. Happy painting!

Disclaimer: I bought the liquid watercolors in this review. I received no consideration, though this post contains affiliate links which help support Doodlewash community features. All opinions expressed are my own.

Recommended4 recommendationsPublished in Art Supply Reviews

13 thoughts on “REVIEW: Dr. Ph. Martin’s Liquid Watercolors

  1. I think, if you look closely, you’ll find there’s a big difference between the Radiant series and their Hydrus and Bombay series. The former is dye-based while the later two are pigment-based. It’s likely that the Radiant inks are not nearly as light-fast as the Hydrus and Bombay inks. While I have never used the Radiant inks, I suspect they will also act different from the others.

  2. Actually, Radiant and Hydrus are very different. Radiant is dye-based while Hydrus is pigment-based. Radiant not lightfast. See product descriptions on Amazon and probably on product website.

  3. Years ago when I worked in a commercial art studio, I used a different brand of liquid watercolors, no longer available. They were designed for reproductive purposes and many of the colors not lightfast.They were however quite permanent staining my hands and I’d spend much of my weekend with hands dyed deep teal – no matter what colors I used, my hands were nearly always deep teal. It had taken a bit for me to learn how to use the liquid watercolors, and when I left the position, it took a while to relearn regular watercolors. Thank you for a detailed report and lots of examples about your experience, Ariel.

  4. My understanding of the difference between the Hydrus and the Radiant lines is that the Hydrus line uses lightfast pigments. I love your koi, and can’t wait to play with my new Hydrus watercolors.

  5. Just wanted to clarify that the radiant watercolors are fugitive – they fade when exposed to light. They are meant for commercial reproduction where the original will not be displayed. They are fine to use if you are keeping them only in a sketchbook, but that makes it an expensive choice for that purpose. I’d used them first decades ago in art school training in advertising and illustration and always wished that I could use them in my work for sale, but alas, no, and there is nothing else like them that I know of.

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