Watercolours: Schmincke Pearl Metallic Watercolours (review)

While bumming around on Instagram one day, I saw a post from Jackson’s in the UK saying they had a hefty discount on watercolour paints, and since I can never resist art supply sales, I decided to see if there was anything on their site I wanted. One of the products on sale was a set of Pearl Metallic watercolours from Schmincke, and since I had some extra money from assignment marking that week, I decided I might as well splurge.

Basically, I felt like wasting money, and sparkly watercolours were a good excuse to do that.

This is the colour chart for the Schmincke Pearl Metallic watercolours, as well as the Gold and Silver pearlescent pigment watercolours that are available in Schmincke’s regular Horadam line. I bought those separately. The colours are actually a little more vivid than they appear in the photo, but I had to photograph them at an angle against the sunny window so I could show their pearlescent effect, which in turn made the colours look a little washed out.

These Pearl Metallic watercolour sets are limited edition and come in the 12 half pan set that I have and an 18 half pan set, in the same sort of box I got my original Schmincke watercolours in. By the time I learned of these sets, the 18-colour boxes (which apparently contained a few varieties of gold and silver in addition to the colours included in the 12 set) were no longer available, so I bought the 12-colour set from Jackson’s for about $90 AUD. At the time of writing this post, Jackson’s site indicates they only have one of these sets left in stock.

Unlike some metallic or pearlescent paints I’ve come across, which only contain mica as the pigment, Schmincke’s Pearl Metallics are made with regular watercolour pigments as well as the mica. This means the colours are denser and more vibrant. However, this only applies if you use the Pearl Metallics in a single layer. I found that if I tried to build up multiple layers of the paint, the coloured pigment sank to the bottom, while the mica built up over the top, creating a denser layer of light-reflecting particles that made the colours look washed out. The way to get around this is to mix up a thick puddle of it in your palette before applying it to the paper, so you can get the concentration you want on the first layer. Alternatively, lay down the base colours in regular watercolours before applying the Pearl Metallic watercolours over the top.

Given the hoops you have to jump through to achieve a rich colour with these paints, is it worth spending the money on them? To answer this, it might help to look at the available alternatives for those who want iridescent watercolour. A number of brands (including Kuretake and Coliro) produce palette sets of various sizes of coloured iridescent paints, and all of them are a fraction of the price of this Schmincke set, though I’m not sure what pigments are included in those paints aside from the mica pigments (and all of them will likely have the same issue with multiple layers building up a light-reflecting layer that makes the colours look washed out). In that regard, Schmincke Pearl Metallics are probably better, because aside from one or two colours, all the colours in this set have a good lightfastness rating.

However, the Schmincke Pearl Metallics colours are only available in these sets; you can’t buy the colours separately, whereas you can buy separate pans of Coliro Pearlcolours, or individual tubes of Daniel Smith Luminescent watercolours (the latter are not cheap, but you can get Duochrome ones that change colour). Many art supply manufacturers also sell an iridescent watercolour medium, so you could just paint with normal watercolours and then add some iridescent medium over the top (these are generally just silver-white, though, so if you wanted coloured sparkles or duochrome colours, the medium won’t be enough). Using a medium over regular watercolours also removes the problem of pearlescent watercolours not being lightfast. Also, if you only want gold and/or silver, quite a few manufacturers of artist grade watercolours actually include these in their regular line anyway, and they’re generally inexpensive.

In terms of performance, the Schmincke Pearl Metallic watercolours rewet fairly easily in the pans, though not quite as easily as non-metallic colours. They were a lot easier to rewet than the Kuretake Gansai Tambi metallic watercolours, which I had to scrub the bejesus out of to even get a small amount of glittery paint in my brush, but the pans you get in those Kuretake sets are so big (and cheap) it’s hard to feel that worried about wasting them. I have also found that most metallic or pearlescent paints resist being lifted once they’ve been applied to the paper, and the Schmincke Pearl Metallics were no exception (you can get some of the colour off by wetting and scrubbing but you’re basically just going to smear sparkles everywhere, so you’re probably better off leaving it alone).

On a side note, if you do use pearlescent or metallic paints with regular watercolours, make sure you use a different jar of water and different brushes for your metallic watercolours. Otherwise it doesn’t matter how careful you are, all your brushes will be full of glitter, and then all your paint will be full of glitter, and then your house will be full of glitter. You will be full of glitter. Everything will be glitter.

You also need to consider how often and for what purpose you want the pearlescent or metallic paints. While they would be quite fun to use for crafting or scrapbooking projects, fine artists are unlikely to have much use for them unless you paint a lot of fantasy-themed art. I like to paint dragons, fairies and other magical things, but if I didn’t, I suspect I would probably not bother getting any metallic paints, and certainly not a $90 set of them. That being said, I will enjoy using these to paint an upcoming dragon series I’m working on.

Here’s a sea dragon I painted using the Schmincke Pearl Metallics watercolours over some traditional Schmincke watercolours.

Schmincke Pearl Metallic watercolours are fun to play with, but there are better and cheaper alternatives out there for those who want to add some shimmer and sparkle to their paintings. Though they’re nice to use, the price and the fact they’re now nearly impossible to find online (aside from potentially overpriced used sets on eBay) and can’t be replaced once you use up the colours makes it hard to recommend them. If you’re on a tight budget, I’d suggest going for the Coliro or Kuretake pearlescent paints or a bottle of iridescent medium, or if you’re happy to spend a bit more for the specific colours you want, just get a couple of Daniel Smith Luminescent tubes.

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