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review by: Jan Irving

There are currently a good number of companies producing watercolour paints, in tubes, and sometimes as pans. Some are really old names like Winsor and Newton, some new commercial names like Eraldo di Paolo. When determined to get back into painting I researched a number of things including colour, mixing, lightfastness, ease of use, availability, and reliability. School of Colour 

I came across The School of Colour and purchased a number of titles, but The Artist's Guide to Selecting Colours was the real eye opener. Until then I had assumed a paint from a well known company would be durable and reliable - not so!

This took me to their The Wilcox Guide to the Finest Watercolours, and boy was that an eye opener. Anyway, been a bargain hunter, I checked out Ebay and got a big colour lot of Winsor and Newton for a reasonable price, Wilcox is right, many of their colours are very poor paints - now I won't buy Winsor and Newton, but I do realize they must be the world's most famous and sought after brand. Most botanical artists and many others in their books use and recommend them. Susan Harrison-Tustain 

Susan Harrison-Tustain (DVDs and book) introduced me to German's Schmincke paints, I bought a tube from a local supplier, it was very nice paint and easy to use, and you could reclaim from the palette even after it had been sitting there for a few days.

The Wilcox Guide to the Finest Watercolours gave me more options, particularly when I ploughed through the whole 408 pages and assessed which company produced the best quality paints across their whole range - that was M Graham. So I bought a couple of cheap tubes via Ebay, and I was impressed! Cheap Joes (USA) 

The Art Shop (Australia) 

The M Graham website at that stage was fairly basic, and initially I could not find a local supplier, so my first half dozen or so basic primary colours came from Cheap Joes, a good and fast shipper but with a a bit of an attitude in sending say 80% of the order then just ignoring rather than waiting for restocking on a crucial colour, but overall the service was good.

Then I found The Art Shop, in fact it is only about 20 minutes drive from me, at this stage they are soul Australian stockists, but even so, they are cheaper to buy from than Cheap Joes because of freight - and they seem to have the full gamut of colours most of the time. M Graham superb watercolours 

M Graham's watercolour paint intrigued me as it is handcrafted and uses honey to keep the product usable over several days. I was certainly impressed with the colour, texture, and adherence of the the two paint tubes I bought from Ebay, and the follow up colours have been equally fabulous. For contrast, consider some of the Winsor and Newton range that had more filler than pigment!

I can't say more than refer you to M Grahams' website, which stated (Dec 2008) Formulations taken from a time when artists relied on natural materials; we created a watercolor with exceptional amounts of pigment in an old fashioned binding medium of pure gum arabic and natural blackberry honey. The result is watercolor of extraordinary strength that is easily diluted for smooth, controlled washes and deeper "darks". Alive with strength and intensity, watercolor made with honey absorbs moisture from the air, preventing hardening on the palette or in the tube.

Another super plus I noted was that if a colour was based on a pigment that wasn't lightfast, and so named in The Wilcox Guide to the Finest Watercolours, then between editions M Grahams had reformulated the colour and based it on lightfast pigments! Of course, the perennial alizarin crimson has not been so upgraded, but the tube and information clears points out its poor lightfast rating, so it is not even in my collection.

Just to round of this short article, why did I choose to go with tubes rather than pan colours? There are many more companies producing tube watercolours so that gives a better choice, and also The Wilcox Guide to the Finest Watercolours generally found issues with a significant portion of any one company's range of pans. Pans require quite a bit of water work up to make them yield enough colour to allow mixing, hard on the brush, and also of course leaving the pans prone to contamination. So essentially, pans vs tubes was an easy decision.

And let me answer one question which I found the answer too rather late in my research - can you sue, successfully, paints from more than one company. Well, yes, of course; and generally I believe they mix well, but I have chosen to stick with just the one manufacturer for more than 95% of my paints because I can be confident that the bases of any two or more colours are likely to be the same or just so close that there is minimal chances of chemical reactions, good or bad, that may affect how the paint adheres to the paper or the actual colour changing over time.

Happy Painting!

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