Blockx is a long established brand originated in Belgian in 1865, and has a good reputation in Europe.
For watercolour, Blockx includes ½ pans, and giant pans in product range, that consists of watercolours tubes in 15ml and 35ml. According to their manufacturing specifications, tough and rare pigments are slowly and thoroughly ground, then coated in gum arabic and honey to ensure quality, stability and permanence.
The Blockx watercolours that are reviewed here is the convenient half pan travel set, with 12 half pans of Blockx watercolours.
There is a smaller set that comes with 6 half pans (Blockx Yellow, Blockx Red, Blockx Blue, Blockx Green, Yellow Ochre, and Ivory Black) – which is a great introductory set to anyone who is beginning to paint in watercolours and who has never used Blocks watercolours before. The 12 pans travel set costs about USD78 on Amazon. The pans are arranged in a compact travel case with enough mixing areas for small sketches and wash; it is light weight and durable, thus it will resist a fair bit of abuse. The paints are arranged in such a way there is an empty slot for an addition of up to 4-5 half pans of watercolours.
Set of 12 Half Pans — This set contains 12 half pans of Blockx Watercolors, including
- Blockx Yellow
- Pyrrolo Vermillion
- Cadmium Red-Orange
- Crimson Lake
- Ultramarine Violet
- Primary Blue
- Payne's Gray
- Blockx Green
- Phthalo Green
- Yellow Ochre
- Ivory Black
The set also includes 2 mixing areas which provide enough mixing space for small sketches and wash.
It is quite hard to discern the hues of the palettes from the physical appearance of the cakes, especially for hues between Primary Blue, Payne’s Gray, Blockx Green and Phthalo Green. There are similar hues too, especially between Vermillion and Cad. Red-Orange; Blockx Green and Phtalo Green. There is probably a reason behind putting these hues together within a set despite their similarity even on paper, but for now, I am not certain of that special reason. The set could replace these smilar colours with other earthly hues and browns.
The appearance of the hues on the palette look quite dark.
I tested the colours on Daler Rowney’s “The Langton” watercolour block. It actually takes a tat longer time to coax the paints from the cakes, in particular to the following colours: Payne’s Gray, Yellow Ochre and Ivory Black. From the colour chart that I have created, I find Violet Ultramarine granulates more than the rest. Other colours that granulate slightly are Blockx Green and Pthalo Green, most likely due to the larger particle size of the pigment. All the paints retain their brilliance when dry. Blockx Yellow and Gamboge are slightly opaque (lines created by a thick marker are covered).
Blockx Yellow mixed with Vermillion produces a bright, brilliant range of orange. With the right amount of Vermillion and Primary Blue mixed together, you may get a range of rich earthly grays, tending towards violet when more Primary Blue is added. Gamboge and Crimson Lake produces a cooler but transparent orange and earthly tones. Cadmium Red Orange produces a good range of warm greens and grays when mixed with Pthalo Green. Whereas Cadmium Red Orange produces a cool neutral gray when mixed with Primary Blue. Primary Blue is quite over powering so it is important to add it incrementally to see how the colour changes.
Greens are a lot more fun to mix. A bright yellowish green is obtained when mix between Blockx Yellow and Blockx Green. Blockx Yellow and Primary Blue gives a rich saturated transparent green. The range of greens can be obtained by adjusting the amount of Primary Blue incrementally until you see a change in the colour. With good control, you are able to mix a wide gamut of green with just a few colours.
My favorite combination is between Gamboge and Primary Blue. Crimson Lake and Blockx green produces a cool gray that granulates slightly. This set was painted on Daler Rowney aquafine watercolour paper.
Finally I subject all the colours to a staining test by lifting with water when the paints are dried. All colours are not staining except Phtalo Green.
Colour chart and sketch done on Muji sketchbook with white cartridge paper. The brilliance of some hues faded after the paints are dried. This is most likely affected by the quality of the paper in terms of retaining the brilliance of the paints; or I may have mixed the colours with too much water. I love to paint with grays as you can see from the sample sketch above. Localised spots of saturated pure colours are later added to create ascents (areas of interest) within a grayed composition, and the brilliance of the Blockx colours is effective for this purpose.
The sketch above used plenty of grays creating almost a monochromatic painting. Payne’s gray provided in the palette is very useful for this. You may use it as it is to provide a gray wash over your inked or penciled sketch, or you may add a tint of Primary Blue and Crimson Lake to give your monochromatic study a slight colour too.
The grays in this sketch are obtained by adding Primary Blue to Crimson Lake, and Violet Ultramarine to Crimson Lake; variation to the grays can be obtained by adding different amount of Ivory Black or Payne’s Grey and even Gamboge. The green and red (tinted down) are used as a complementary to create interest and focal point on the lady’s vest, while a brighter and more Cadmium Red Orange on the sign to balance the colour composition.
Did I mention that it is pretty easy to mix skin tones with Gamboge and Cadmium Red Orange? All you need to do is tint down with different portion of water to get the light and shade of the skin tone. The sketch was done with stark blacks on the chair that might be too over powering for the entire composition. I added blue colour pencils to add light to the darks. The ‘blue light’ serves as a colour balance for the large portion of Cadmium Red Orange as background., over which I added some white coloured pencil marks to soften the colour, blue coloured pencils to blur or soften the edge of the hair with the background. I left the table white to draw viewers’ attention into the drawing and the girl’s face.
Above: Laying a flat but graded wash of 2 colors.
Above right: Using different mix of green to add interest and variations to the changing colours of foliage.