Watercolours: Holbein Watercolours (review)

Not far from where my Dad works is the warehouse for The Art Shop (one of my favourite local art supply stores), and since their prices are generally about the best for local art supplies, I sometimes either order from them online or send my old man in with some money and a list of items I want. Having seen the cheap Holbein watercolours on the site, I got Dad to pick some up for me on the way home from work one night.

Holbein Watercolours

Here is my colour chart for the colours I have (silver is separate as I’d misplaced it when I did the original charts).

Holbein WC chart

Holbein WC Silver

When I originally bought these, they were only available in 5ml tubes, and were mostly quite cheap aside from some cadmium and cobalt colours, which are usually more expensive regardless of brand (most tubes cost me between $4 and $8 from memory). It seems they now only stock 15ml tubes for $10-25, but the 5ml tubes and half pans are still available from overseas suppliers.

There are around 108 colours in the Holbein watercolour range, though a lot of these are of course convenience mixtures of multiple pigments (it’s always important to watch these in case one of the pigments used is fugitive, but that being said, sometimes multiple-pigment paints can be very useful; the skin tones of the two Jaune Brilliant colours I have have come in handy for my manga drawings as mixing a skin tone usually takes me ages). Also, though the tubes list the pigments used, this information did not seem to be available on Holbein’s website at the time of this review. The paints generally seem to set up and rewet well if you put them into a pan or palette to dry.

Holbein paints generally have a decent pigment load, allowing for bold, bright colours. They also seem to be less ‘active’ (for lack of a better word) when used wet in wet than a lot of other brands, ie. when you drop some paint into another area of wet paint, the colour doesn’t seem to spread and disperse as much. Though my paints had been sitting around for a few years by the time I wrote this review, none of them had hardened in the tubes; they were still the same, buttery consistency. Speaking of the tubes, many 5ml tubes have very small necks or openings, making it even harder to get paint out if it has started to harden. Holbein tubes have slightly wider necks, which I think is a bonus (the lids were easier to take off, as well).

I sold Leaf Green and Verditer Blue since I can mix them from other colours I have, so my colour palette was limited for this little painting. I ended up adding Winsor and Newton Transparent Yellow and Quinacridone Magenta to give me a better range, since all the Holbeins I had were soft, pale sort of colours. I’m not too happy with the painting, but I’ve had no sleep for the last two nights, and since I can’t concentrate on my uni work, I decided I’d play with art supplies instead ^_^ (also, the photos of my silver swatch and flower painting were taken at night under my desk lamp, so the lighting is a bit rubbish; the paper is a cream-white in reality)

Holbein Flowers

Overall, I think Holbein are a solid brand; not particularly stand-out-ish, but good value for money and good quality. Provided you check the lightfastness ratings of each colour’s pigments, you won’t go too far wrong with these paints, and the price means they’re pretty good for a student artist who is looking to start upgrading to artist grade paints.

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