Guide to Watercolour Products

Watercolour is a medium with a long history. Watercolour painting is basically painting with pigment suspended in water. The two most common way to paint with watercolour is from tubes and pans. Nowadays in the market, there are so many more types of watercolour products we can choose from.

This article looks at the pros and cons of each watercolour product.

Watercolour tubes

Using watercolour from tubes is one of the most common ways to paint with watercolour. The paint is basically pigment mixed with gum arabic and is easy to dissolve. This is great for painting large pieces because you can create large amount of washes quickly. The paint will always be fresh since it's kept inside the tube.

The most common capacity for tubes are 5ml and 15ml. There are also 7ml (Mission Gold), 10ml (White Nights), 12ml (MaimeriBlu), 14ml (Winsor & Newton) and even 37ml (Winsor and Newton).

Some brands, such as Sennelier and M Graham, would use honey, which attracts moisture, to keep their paint moist.

Gum arabic is the most common binder used in watercolour paint. The binder is what glues the pigment together. QoR watercolour uses Aquazol instead, claiming they could pack more pigment as the same amount of gum arabic. The binder with the pigment would dissolve when activated with water. Whether or not watercolour will be permanent when dry depends on the characteristics and product. For example, staining colours will be permanent since they are difficult to lift while certain colours can be scrubbed and lifted off the paper.

Watercolour pans

Watercolour pans are also very common. These are hardened watercolour paint that usually come in 2ml or 4ml pans. Some companies, such as Kremer Pigments, Blockx and Winsor & Newton also sell much larger pans.

The main advantage is pans are very portable and can be used outdoors. They are convenient to bring around and keep. The downside is mixing large amount of paint takes more time.. You could use larger pans to mix larger amount of paint but they won't be portable and there really isn't much advantage compared to using tubes in this way.

Pans are also more expensive when you consider how much paint you are getting for the price you pay.

Watercolour pencils

Watercolour pencils are also common.

The popular brands are Prismacolor, Caran d'ache and Faber Castell, Derwent and Koh-i-Noor.

The pencils could have wooden bodies or may just be a solid stick of pigment, such as the Derwent Aquatone.

Such pencils are convenient to bring around and use. You can use them like ordinary coloured pencils, but when water is applied the pigment would dissolve. Vibrancy of watercolour pencils can match that of tubes and pans. For example Derwent Inktense watersoluble pencils are incredibly vibrant that they can almost be called inks.

If you're looking for good quality watercolour pencils, check out the Faber Castell Albrecht Durer or Caran d'Ache Museum Aquarelle.

Watercolour sticks

Shown above are Winsor & Newton watercolour sticks in the circular tin, and the Daniel Smith ones broken up and squeeze into pans.

These watercolour sticks can be used just like crayons. They are made with pigment but I'm not sure what binder were used because there's no mention. They are convenient to bring around and easy to use. The downside is certain pigments can be difficult to dissolve when scrubbed with a brush. With Winsor & Newton watercolour sticks, I found the colours not as vibrant as their tubes. You would have to use a brush and scrub the stick to get more pigment to make the colours more vibrant. Daniel Smith watercolour sticks are very vibrant and no different from their tube paints.

Another downside to such sticks is over time, they may turn brittle and break into smaller pieces, OR in Daniel Smith's case the binder may escape and make the stick soft and sticky. That's the reason why I had the Daniel Smith watercolour sticks broken up and squeeze into pans. Also, when you're using them like crayons, prepare to get your hands dirty.

As with crayons, sometimes crumbs can be left behind while drawing.

There are even watersoluble oil pastels nowadays.

These are Caran d'Ache Neocolor II which are watersoluble wax pastels.

They are very vibrant and dissolve easily. By the way, Neocolor I is not watersoluble.

Derwent Inktense Blocks and Derwent Artbar are also stick format. Artbars are watersoluble wax-based.

Watercolour markers

Shown above are Winsor & Newton watercolour markers. These markers actually use pigments which is unlike many other markers which are mostly dye-based. They are not alcohol-based, do not smell, and do not bleed through paper unless it's very thin paper.

Since these are markers, they behave more like markers than watercolour. You apply them on paper and then dissolve them, just like watercolour pencils. They are convenient for filling in areas with specific colours. The downside is they aren't that great for painting large areas, and mixing colours is very difficult.

Here's a video of someone really using the watercolour markers to their potential.

This is what happens when the markers are sprayed with water.

There are other watersoluble markers as well and some are marketed as watercolour markers, but they actually use dye-based inks which means the colours are not lightfast and will fade in the future.

Watercolour sheets

Shown above are Viviva colorsheets. Another brand that makes this is Peerless watercolors. These are actually dye-based sheets and not pigment based, and hence not lightfast. The colours are incredibly vibrant, just like Derwent Inktense and other types of ink.

While they are portable, I don't think they are that convenient to use because you have to keep flipping the pages. And when it comes to mixing, you either need a palette or have the colours mix on paper which can be difficult to control because the colours are too intense.

Liquid watercolour

Dr Ph Martin's sell the Radiant and Hydrus liquid watercolour. Radiant uses dye inks and hence aren't lightfast. Hydrus uses pigments and are lightfast. Why have two product lines? Dye inks can make extremely vibrant, bright, colours that pigments can't.

Ecoline is another brand that makes liquid watercolour and they also use dye inks.


My medium of choice is watercolour pans because I like to paint outdoors. Pans are portable and the paint quality is no different from tubes. When I use up the pans, I can always refill them with tubes to save money.

I'm not familiar with using other watercolour products such as sticks, pencils or even markers. The different media will have their use. It's great to have so many options nowadays. One thing for sure is, it would be fun to mix and match all the different media.

I've reviews for many of the products listed on this page. To find them, visit



I generally love your videos

I generally love your videos and articles Teoh, but think you missed some important info here. 1. a notation should be made that the Derwent Inktense pencils and blocks are permanent after they dry. Regular watercolors and pencils and blocks are NOT permanent when dry and can be rewet. 2. I wish you had also added a section for the LIQUID watercolors that are now so prevalent. I've found that while many of those purport to be "watercolors", they are actually made with dye and are NOT lightfast. I worry that a lot of people are spending good money on them, but will be disappointed a couple of years from now when their work disappears or fades.

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