Watercolours: Golden QoR Watercolours (review)

During an art supply sale a week or so ago, I stumbled across a line of watercolours I hadn’t seen before. QoR (pronounced ‘core’ and supposedly standing for ‘Quality of Results’) are the newest product from Golden, who are probably more well-known for their acrylic paints (I liked their Heavy Body and Fluid acrylics). Available in a range of 83 colours, these paints use a new binder called Aquazol, which Golden claims “gives greater intensity and clarity, while retaining the best qualities of traditional watercolours”. These seemed like pretty bold claims, so I decided to buy the six colour Introductory set to see what the fuss was about (I also just wanted the tin).


The lid folds out into a generous mixing area with a number of decent-sized wells to mix colours in (the other sets of 6 or 12 colours also come in the same tin). The plastic insert that holds the tubes has room at the bottom for a brush if you want to put one in there (I’m assuming the 12 colour tin doesn’t have this space), or you could just get rid of the plastic insert and put a bigger selection of colours and brushes in there. Even if you don’t like the paints themselves, the tin is well worth having.


Anyway, here’s the chart for the Introductory set. (Edited August 2017: The sets have been altered and this introductory set now comes with Hansa Yellow Light instead of Indian Yellow).


As you can see, the colours are vibrant and heavily pigmented, and with the exception of Indian Yellow, all the colours in this set are single-pigment mixtures. In terms of hues, the colours look more or less like their counterparts in other brands. The colours in this Introductory set give you a pretty wide range of colour mixing options; so far I haven’t had any issue mixing a particular colour I wanted to make. One thing I immediately noticed, however, was that they granulated far less than most of my other colours, even with pigments that typically are highly granulating like Ultramarine Blue. Depending on your painting style or subject, this might actually be a good thing, but many artists specifically choose colours for the beautiful granulating effects, so it’s a double-edged sword. QoR watercolours are very active wet-in-wet, but in saying that, the behaviour of some colours is a bit… weird.

With most watercolours, if you put down a wash and then drop some colour into it, the blobs of colour will spread and merge and blend with one another. When I did this with QoR watercolours, the blobs sort of pushed each other around rather than just merging. This was most noticeable if I dropped some QoR watercolour into a wash of my Daniel Smith (which were the standard watercolours I tested the QoR paints against). If I mixed the two brands on my palette before applying them to paper, they seemed to behave normally, but trying to apply one over the other produced some strange effects. This wasn’t necessarily a bad thing as some of the patterns looked pretty cool, but those who prefer more predictable responses from their watercolours may be put off by QoR. Personally, I will probably keep my QoR separate from my other brands and avoid mixing the brands in my paintings. Those who like to lift paint out of dried areas using water and a tissue will find that most QoR colours are a little more difficult to budge than regular watercolours; even typically non-staining pigments left a noticeable residue, though some colours did respond better to being scrubbed at with a wet brush.

In terms of letting the tube colour dry and using it as pan paints, this is doable with most of the QoR watercolours. I think they did lose a little of their intensity when used this way but not enough to be detrimental. I also only tested the six colours in my Introductory set, so it’s worth noting that some other colours may not rewet as easily (often colours like viridian and some earthy pigments dry like concrete and are very difficult to activate again). Even in my little set, some set as hard little blobs while others were still a bit sticky to the touch even a few days after use.

The six colour tins (containing 5ml tubes) are pretty reasonably priced, but the prices for the regular 11ml tubes sold individually start at $15 and go up to $25 for the cobalts and cadmiums and the like. This seems pretty steep when you can get a 15ml tube of series 1 colours in almost any other brand (aside from Winsor & Newton) for the same or less. Some could argue that the higher price might be justified if the QoR watercolours were as revolutionary as they claim… But they aren’t.

The cardboard thingy around the box says the Aquazol binder gives greater intensity and clarity. They are intense, clear colours, but not more so than other good artist grade watercolours, and in spite of Golden’s website stating that they retain their luminosity and brilliance even after drying, there was still a noticeable difference between wet and dry colours. The box also says QoR offers “a strength, range and versatility unmatched in the history of watercolours” and this just isn’t true; plenty of watercolours are just as good, if not better (and, as I said, cheaper). The QoR watercolours aren’t bad or worse than other paints; they’re different, but not necessarily better, either. Some may like the interesting effects the different binder produces, while others may find it difficult and unpredictable to work with. Another gripe I had with them was that some of the tubes contained a lot of air; I had to squeeze them a lot before any paint came out, making me suspect that at least one or two of my tubes might not have had the full 5ml of paint advertised. Maybe I was unlucky but it would not make me optimistic about purchasing any of the full sized tubes.

Here’s my sample painting done with the QoR watercolours. Click here for the demonstration of this painting.


Overall, I do like the Golden QoR watercolours and will continue to use the ones I have, but at the same time I feel like most of their claims are just fancy marketing wankery. If you’re starting out in watercolours and want a small, good quality set of paints in a useful tin or you just want to see what these new paints are like, it might be worth buying one of the 6 colour sets (go for the Introductory 6 colour set as this will give you more choice in colour mixing than the other sets). The QoR watercolours are perfectly usable, but I just don’t think they really do anything that other watercolours can’t do. Though the sets of 5ml tubes are well-priced, their full-sized tubes don’t offer the value for money that other brands do, so once you’ve used up the colours in your tin, you’d be better off replacing them with tubes from another brand.

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