Watercolours: Lukas 1862 Watercolours (review)

One of the many purchases I made from Jerry’s Artarama back when the Australian dollar was high was the 48 half-pan set of German-made Lukas 1862 watercolours. Though they are artist grade, at the time they were significantly cheaper than other brand sets of similar size, and as they had a deal going at the time where you’d get 20% off your order if you spent over a certain amount and the watercolour set just nudged me over the line to qualify for the discount, I thought I’d treat myself.

Lukas 1862 Watercolour set

When they arrived, I happily sat down to unwrap all the little half pans, a process I quite enjoy (for some reason it reminds me of unwrapping lots of lollies). After I put them into the sturdy metal tin, I noticed that if you squeeze the pans along as far as they’ll go, you could probably fit another half pan in each row, bringing the total to 52 (but in all honesty, 48 colours is probably more than enough). Next thing to do was make my colour chart.

Lukas WC chart

The colour range is well-balanced (as it should be for a set this size), though disappointingly it didn’t include Cobalt Blue or Cerulean Blue (the closest they got to the latter was the Cyan Primary which was made from PB15:3 or Phthalo Blue; the Lukas Phthalo Blue paint is made from PB15:6 and isn’t as bright and vibrant as the real thing). Also, while Ultramarine Blue is typically a highly granulating colour, the Lukas Ultramarine Blue Deep only granulated slightly, and the Ultramarine Light didn’t granulate at all.

I felt that the pigment concentration was pretty good and comparable to other good artist grade brands. I noticed that the Lukas watercolours also didn’t move around much when used wet in wet, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but some artists like the effects caused by paint running and merging with other wet areas. With the exception of some staining pigments like the Phthalo colours, it was generally easy to lift the colour from the paper with little residue. The pan paints also wet easily and I was able to pick up a decent amount of colour without having to scrub at the paint.

One thing that bothered me about the Lukas 1862 watercolours was the abundance of multi-pigment mixtures, even in colours that are typically made from single pigments. This was particularly prevalent in the earths (Burnt Umber and Raw Umber are both made of three pigments!). Also, Lukas Alizarin Crimson proved to be extremely fugitive in my lightfastness tests (as expected) but it is actually made from PR176, not the genuine Alizarin Crimson pigment PR83, so some of the colour names are not really accurate. The dark earths mentioned above and also the Payne’s Grey included this PR176 in their mixtures, meaning that colours which should be lightfast actually showed noticeable fading. Given how cheap these colours usually are anyway, it makes no sense to replace part of their composition with an inferior, fugitive pigment.

Here’s a painting I did with the Lukas 1862 watercolours.

Lukas watercolour fruit still life

As far as I can tell, Lukas watercolours aren’t available in Australia, but if you live in America they seem to be among the cheapest artist grade paints available there, so they would definitely be a good choice for artists who are new to watercolour or who are on a tight budget but still want high pigment concentration. However, given the abundance of silly multiple pigment mixtures, I would advise choosing colours individually rather than buying a set and having to swap out a number of fugitive earths and shades. Though they are very well-priced for their quality, unfortunately the currency conversion rate and/or shipping costs from America to most other countries mean they are not really good value for money unless you can buy them locally.

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