Lightfastness Tests: Royal Talens Van Gogh

Hi everybody who’s reading this! This is another one of my comebacks (settling in another country takes quite a lot of time and attention), this time with some lightfastness tests results.

My tests were rather simple. On a piece of watercolor paper, I drew some samples of all the paints that have (I tried to get both tints and mass tones in there) as uniformly as I could. Then I cut the paper in three pieces, and stuck one to my southern window (tests were conducted in the north-east of Ukraine, during the sunniest period of the Ukrainian year, from mid-May to mid-September), and another one to my northern window (no direct sun light). The third one (a reference) went into my notebook, and the notebook went into my desk drawer. Nothing fancy, as you see.


In this post, I will show you the results of my very own test of the Van Gogh paints. I own a set of 10 tubes; here are the colors and pigments in the order they appear on my test swatches (from top to bottom):

108 Chinese White, PW4
708 Payne’s Gray, PBk6+PV19
411 Burnt Sienna, PR101+PBk11
616 Viridian, PG7
535 Cerulean Blue (Phtalo), PB15+PW6
506 Ultramarine Deep, PB29
331 Madder Lake Deep, PR264
370 Permanent Red Light, PR254
269 Azo Yellow Medium, PY154+PO62
254 Permanent Lemon Yellow, PY184

All the colors are marked with “+++” (which means “excellent lightfastness”) by the manufacturer. If memory serves correctly, all the individual pigments indeed have an excellent rating by ASTM. The white paint is virtually absent from my swatches, as I rarely use it. This particular test started on 21 May, and ended on 15 September, both 2015.

So, without a further ado, TA-DA:


The left strip had hung on my southern window; I placed the reference in the center for your convenience; and on the right, you will note the northern window strip.

As you can see, all the paints are indeed quite lightfast, with the only striking exception of “cerulean”, which is phtalo blue for the reasons unknown mixed with titanium white. I’m not sure how on good Earth they managed to create such a fugitive paint out of two such lightfast pigments, but the fact remains: notable discoloration appeared within less than a month through the test in both the samples.

Considering the presence of a white pigment (which technically makes it a gouache, and it does look and behave like a gouache paint) and the money you pay for it, I’d say this one is not truly good for anything. Royal Talens offers another flavor of the same dish: it supposed to imitate another expensive pigment, cobalt blue. I never tried that one, but after this test, I wouldn’t even bother to. One of these imitations is usually present in all the Van Gogh sets (both pans and tubes), so beware.

3 thoughts on “Lightfastness Tests: Royal Talens Van Gogh

  1. Hi, reason for “cerulean” poor lightfastness is most likely titanium white incorporated in it. If my memories from university dont fail me titanium white is another name for titanium dioxide which is comonly used photocatalytic substance, meaning upon exposure to UV light produce highly reactive molecules which are responsible for decoloration of many dyes.

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