Earth Watercolours

Pigments in this group owe their name to the fact that most of them are made (or were made historically) of clay and earth minerals. The most common designation for these pigments is “PBrXX“, meaning “Pigment Brown”, but there are some yellow and red pigments in this group too. The Xs in the designation are digits which correspond to a certain chemical substance (or range of similar substances).

Naples Yellow usually ends up in this group, but I refuse to include it here, because it was a synthetic pigment originally (in fact, it’s one of the oldest synthetic pigments, as it dates back to 17th century; the real deal is no longer being made because it is toxic). I also don’t include sepia here, because it was historically made out of ink of some oceanic cephalopods (like squids or cuttlefish). Quinacridones are also absent, obviously.

Below, you will find the swatches of all the various earths that I have or had in my possession, imitations included. Swatches have two areas, the upper one to demonstrate the range of tints (diluted paint), and the lower one to show the mass-tone (the paint taken straight from the tube without diluting or, in case of the pans, the thickest concentration I could get). On each swatch you will notice a black line – I made it to give the idea about the transparency of the paint.

Single Pigment Paints

Mixed Pigment Paints

Daniel Smith Dot Color Charts

My moving to Canada got me exposed to American watercolor brands, and I’ve always been curious about Daniel Smith. They have ginormous color chart with many unique pigments. Besides, this paint happens to be the cheapest here in Vancouver (the company is based just a couple of hours drive from here, in Seattle), which makes it my future brand of choice in case I lose easy access to my beloved White Nights.


The other day I decided to amuse myself with Daniel Smith dot color charts. What a marvelous idea, these charts are! Some paints I had craved for turned out to be uninteresting, so here I saved myself some disappointment; I’ve also found several wonderful colors, which hadn’t appealed to me before I actually tried them. I’m dying to do some mixing now!

However, I think these charts are pretty expensive for the amount of paint you get (I would guess rather 12 bucks for these charts, really), because some dots are so freaking small that I barely was able to swatch the colors, let alone to do any mixing. I was particularly upset about Quinacridone Gold, because Daniel Smith is the only manufacturer who got the real thing, PO49. I was so curious about it 😦 Oh well.

Rich color chart and unique pigments aside, I’m not jumping out of my pants over this brand. This is a good quality paint, but I don’t notice any sharp contrast with White Nights, to be honest. So far, that is. I will hold my final judgement until I actually get my hands on a tube or two of Daniel Smith.

So, I have added Daniel Smith swatches to my collection, and you will see them when I post earth colors and blacks/whites. Primateks will get a separate post. I also will update my old posts with greens, blues, yellows and reds (I will leave the links). Hope it will be of interest and of help!

Lightfastness Tests: Nevskaya Palitra White Nights

Here is the second report from my lightfastness tests conducted during the summer of 2015 in Ukraine. This time we will look at White Nights, artist’s grade watercolor from Saint-Petersburg manufacturer Nevskaya Palitra.

The tests were run in precisely the same manner as described here in this post. Nevskaya Palitra makes 57 colors, of which I own 46 and a half. 🙂 A “half” is one color which was recently reformulated: in ye olde times, Ivory Black used to be made with a genuine ivory black pigment PBk9, and that is the one that I own and tested here. Now their Ivory Black is a cheaper hue composed of a red earth pigment PR102 mixed with lamp black PBk7 (lamp black is basically burnt wood, while ivory black is burnt bones, so they differ in price, color and texture). I never tried the new version, but theoretically I don’t see why it should present any problems as far as lightfastness goes.


The rest of Nevskaya Palitra’s repertoire are either mixtures of the pigments tested here, or are so glaringly fugitive that require no tests or, indeed, purchasing (such as PY1 or PB1).

As a general comment before I start: in 9 cases out of 47, the manufacturer’s ratings turned to be inaccurate. These paints are very worth using, but if you do use them, make sure you run your own tests. (It’s a good practice with any brand, in fact.)

OK, so let’s look how really lightfast is this cheap watercolor! Continue reading “Lightfastness Tests: Nevskaya Palitra White Nights”

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.

White Nights Watercolor Review


White Nights is an inexpensive Russian brand of watercolor produced by Nevskaya Palitra, Saint-Petersburg. In Russia, only three manufacturers make watercolors for professional use (the other two being Aqua-Color, Saint-Petersburg, and Gamma, Moscow).

I can assure you that you will never find a single artist in any former USSR country who learned the art of watercolor without using this brand. During the USSR era, every art student dreamed of having a set of this paint. Even today, with so many other brands available on the market, this line retains its leading position in Russia and neighboring countries, and it’s easy to see why.
Continue reading “White Nights Watercolor Review”