Review: Winsor & Newton Cotman Watercolors Sketchers' Box

Winsor & Newton Cotman Watercolors Sketchers' Box

This review was originally written in 2011. Over the past three years, I've used many more sets of watercolour so I've decided to update this review with what I've learned so far.

This review is for those looking for a starter box set of watercolours, or those who wonder whether to Cotman (student) or Artist grade from Winsor & Newton. I'll cover those topics.

Cotman vs Artist grade

Cotman is the range of student grade watercolours from Winsor & Newton. The professional grade is called the Artists' Watercolour or the Professional Artists' Watercolour.

Watercolour paint is made of pigment and binder. The amount of pigment controls the intensity of the colours. Binder holds the pigment (typically power) together. The more binder there are, the less intense or saturated the colour is. You can make a colour less intense by mixing or adding water, but you can't make a colour more intense than it is initially. So what you want is to start out with an intense colour.

Well, the Cotman colours are less intense then the Artists grade. I feel that they are slightly chalkier too. When the watercolour is dry, the result is still quite respectable as you can see in the colour chart further below, just that it takes more effort to use them. When you compare side by side with Artist grade watercolours, the difference is clearer.

Why get Cotman then?

The price of the Cotman range is extremely affordable. For example, the plastic Sketchers' Pocket 12 Pan Box Set (Cotman range) cost less than two 14ml tubes of WN Artist grade watercolour.

If you're low on budget, then you probably have to go with the student grade watercolours.

Pan vs tubes

Many say that paint from pans are less intense than those that come from tube. Well, I find it difficult to tell the different if they are same grade.

The main difference is the pans are more difficult to dissolve since they are compressed hardened cakes of watercolour pigment. Even dried paint from tubes dissolve more easily. Usually before using the pans, I would add a drop or two of water to moisten the pans. However pan sets are more convenient because you can just use the pigments straightaway.

The box sets

Winsor & Newton probably has more box sets than other manufacturers. The box can be made of metal or plastic. There are palette boxes that hold up to 48 colours (not recommended unless you're a professional but if you're a professional you'll probably know you won't need so many colours).

Here are the common ones.

They are all pan sets. Additionally, Winsor & Newton also offers tube sets! And these are just for the Cotman series. Their Artist watercolours uses the same boxes but they also offer the heavyweight enamelled box sets.

It is important to make sure you know whether you're buying Cotman or Artist because both use the same box designs.


Winsor & Newton Sketchers' Pocket Box

The Sketchers' Pocket Box is my favourite box set because it's the most compact watercolour box set available. It's small enough to fit into a shirt pocket, and so light and easy to carry around.

It's even smaller than the Daler Rowney Aquafine Watercolor Pocket Set because the half pans are arranged vertically here.

The set comes with 12 half pans and a collapsible brush. You'll want to get a separate pocket watercolour brush because the one provided is too small.

The 12 colours included are:

  • Lemon Yellow Hue
  • Cadmium Yellow Hue
  • Cadmium Red Pale Hue
  • Alizarin Crimson Hue
  • Ultramarine
  • Intense Blue (Phthalo Blue)
  • Viridian Hue
  • Sap Green
  • Yellow Ochre
  • Burnt Sienna
  • Burnt Umber
  • Chinese White

It has a good selection of commonly used colours. Other larger box sets adds more colours to this list.

There are the warm and cool version for yellow, red and blue which are the three primary colours. Then there are 5 convenient mixtures of two greens and three earth colours. It's quite a complete set in terms of colour selection.

The Chinese White included isn't quite useful here. Chinese White when mixed is used to tint brighter colours, basically make a lighter version of the colour. Remember than the Cotman colours aren't as intense so Chinese White is not going to be as useful. However, it's opaque so you can use it in concentrated form to cover up mistakes or for special uses such as dotting the eyes.

The box is made of tough white plastic. The lid has three partitions for mixing colours. It's easy to open and close with the clipping.

Initially the pans would be loose in the housing. After using, with paint getting into the gaps beside, the pans will stick inside the housing and won't come out even if the box is upside down.

Mixing space while small is still ample, especially when compared to the WN Bijou box which also holds 12 pans. And it's not metal so it will never rust.


After using up all the paint, I've since replaced all the colours inside and continue to use the box.

Below are some of my sketches.

Here's the colour mixing chart. I left out Chinese White.

You can click for a larger view. Depending on your web browsers, the colour might be more saturated. I suggest viewing the chart in Safari to get a more accurate view as Safari is a colour corrected browser.

Some of the colours do feel chalky.

When you look at the colour list, you'll notice a lot of hues. What this means is instead of the original pigment used to create the colour, some other pigments are used to imitate the colours of the actual pigments. This helps cut down the cost significantly.

Winsor & Newton Cotman Pocket Box is available on Amazon (US | CA | UK | DE | FR | IT | ES | JP)


Winsor & Newton Watercolor Field Box Set

The colour selection of the Field Box Set is similar to the Pocket Set.

This set cost twice as more than the Pocket Set. The difference is this set comes with a removable flat water bottle, a removable water tray and a small piece of sponge.

Personally, I think it's not worth twice the amount of the Pocket Set. But it's extremely convenient because of the water bottle. However, this whole set has a larger bulk, twice the size of the Pocket Set.

Winsor & Newton Cotman Field Box Set is available on Amazon (US | CA | UK | DE | FR | IT | ES)


Pocket Plus Set

The Pocket Plus Sets are slightly larger than the Pocket Set. It cost a bit more and they have twice the mixing space than the Pocket Set.

The Pocket Plus Sets come with either 12 or 24 pans.

They are also available on Amazon (US | CA | UK | DE | FR | IT | ES)


Winsor & Newton Deluxe Sketchers' Pocket Box

The Deluxe Sketchers' Pocket Box is a 16 half pan set and the colours are:

  • Cadmium Yellow Pale Hue
  • Cadmium Yellow Hue
  • Cadmium Red Pale Hue
  • Cadmium Red Deep Hue
  • Alizarin Crimson Hue
  • Purple Lake
  • Ultramarine
  • Cobalt Blue Hue
  • Cerulean Blue Hue
  • Viridian Hue
  • Sap Green
  • Yellow Ochre
  • Burnt Sienna
  • Burnt Umber
  • Payne's Gray
  • Chinese White

It is much larger than the Pocket Box (12 half pans).

The box itself is made of tough white plastic. There are 6 partitions on the lid for mixing colours. It also comes with a medium kneaded (soft) putty rubber, a pencil and a collapsible brush. There's a thumb ring beneath the box. The collapsible brush is too small though and holds too little water. There's a bit of empty space in the box even all those items, which is big enough for more pans and small brushes.

The rows of half pans are held together by a piece of long white plastic beneath. The plastic doesn't secure the top row completely and the pans can come out of their housing during transport, and if wet will stick to the lid. It's a bit irritating but you can stick some blu-tack underneath.

I like this box set because it's larger but I hate that the pans are not totally secure in their housing.

Winsor & Newton Deluxe Sketchers' Pocket Box is available on Amazon (US | CA | UK | DE | FR | IT | ES | JP)


Winsor & Newton Metal Sketchers' Box

This is the

Winsor & Newton Metal Sketchers' Box

. The lid has four partition, in addition to another hinged flap, that can be used as a palette. There is a thumb ring beneath the box.

Right in the middle between the rows of watercolour pans is enough space for putting some brushes.

24 colour set

  • Lemon Yellow Hue
  • Cadmium Yellow Pale Hue
  • Cadmium Yellow Hue
  • Cadmium Orange Hue
  • Cadmium Red Pale Hue
  • Cadmium Red Deep Hue
  • Alizarin Crimson Hue
  • Purple Lake
  • Ultramarine
  • Intense Blue (Phthalo Blue)
  • Cobalt Blue Hue
  • Cerulean Blue Hue
  • Viridian Hue
  • Hooker's Green Dark
  • Sap Green
  • Emerald
  • Yellow Ochre
  • Burnt Sienna
  • Indian Red
  • Burnt Umber
  • Raw Umber
  • Payne's Gray
  • Lamp Black
  • Chinese White

24 colours might be a bit too much for beginners. It can get confusing to learn all the possible mixtures.

I recommend getting the 12 colour pocket set for beginners. 12 colours are plenty to start with.

To check characteristics such as permanence rating, transparency, etc, check out the Winsor Newton Cotman Colour Chart or download the pdf (right click download)

Winsor & Newton Metal Sketchers' Box is available on Amazon (Amazon.com | CA | UK | DE | FR | IT | ES

Conclusion

Too many to choose from?

For beginners, I recommend getting 12-pan Pocket Box. It makes for a very good gift set as well.

I would advise getting the 24-pan sets because using so many colour can get confusing. But I can't stop you of course. LOL.

Other places that sell them

You should also be able to find these Winsor & Newton Cotman watercolour boxes at Dick Blick Art Materials (USA) and Jackson's Art Supplies (UK).

Tags: 

17 Comments

I used the student-grate

I used the student-grate Cotman paints for a long time before switching to Holbein watercolors and the difference is huge. You have to fuss at Cotmans quite a bit to work up a pigment concentration in your paint that you can do anything with, and I really don't recommend to anyone who wants to fool around with watercolor that they spend any time (or money) on student-grade paints. If you want to save money, just pick out three primaries (or a warm and cool of each primary) from a brand that does decent artist-grade pigments, like Holbein, Winsor and Newton, or Da Vinci.

100% agree with the above

100% agree with the above post. The artist quality ones are a lot more saturated and really watercolour is hard enough as it is without all that . The artists Windsor and Newton ones are actually not a bad price in the discount art stores. Also plastic palettes make mixing paint a pain.

Ah, I posted too soon. I see

Ah, I posted too soon. I see that they do sell them. But they're so expensive! $6-9 for a half pan? You end up being better off just buying a new set. What a shame. Does anyone have any advice about this?

You mentioned that you could

You mentioned that you could add more pans to the Winsor & Newton Deluxe Sketchers' Pocket Box, how many more pans could be added to it? I like the 24 set but I'm not pleased with the amount of yellows added.

Hi there, thanks for all the

Hi there, thanks for all the reviews, very helpful for a newbie like me! Could I ask if you know whether the W&N artist half-pans fit in the Daler Rowney Aquafine pocket set? I have it but am not really enjoying the DR paints and am thinking of replacing them. Thanks alot!

Thanks for the reply! Was

Thanks for the reply! Was wondering because I saw a post on a forum saying the WN half pans measure 15.5 x 18.5mm, which seems close to the DR pans. I guess filling them with tube paints is a safer way to go though. Thanks for the advice! :)

Comment


comments powered by Disqus