Review: Winsor & Newton Cotman Brush Pen Set

Winsor & Newton has added a new palette box design to their Cotman watercolour sets. And it's a pretty nice box. This is the WN Cotman Brush Pen Set

Here's the packaging.

Cotman is the student grade watercolour paint from Winsor and Newton. Their artist grade paints is called Professional Water Colour.

What I like about this box is there are six mixing wells. This allows you to create more mixtures and separate them easily without contaminating other mixtures.

In the Sketchers' Pocket Box, there are only three wells and whenever I use that, I always felt constrained. When I need to mix a new mixture and there's no space, I have to clean up the used mixing well.

The mixing wells in the new box are also large enough for mixing a good amount of paint, and the mixture do not bead up on the surface.

When the pans are new, they will fall out of the pan holder. Even the hardened paint may fall out of the pans. After several painting sessions, after the paint get into the gaps, that should stop the pans from falling out anymore.

Winsor & Newton plastic half pans are slightly smaller than empty half pans found online.

Those empty half pans can fit inside the Sketchers' Pocket Box but they will protrude out slightly. The box can still close though.

With the new waterbrush box, those empty pans can now fit nicely in the pan holder. One concern is in the future, should you need to replace the pan, it may be difficult to get them out. It looks like the pan may get stuck tight.

The waterbrush included is a bit small. It's probably a size 4. Water capacity isn't a lot as well.

Note that there's no cap. You can reverse the bristle and store it inside the body. Or you can put the brush together and fit it in the brush holding section, but the waterbrush is likely to leak.

On the left are strokes from the waterbrush. On the right are strokes from the largest pocket brush I can fit into the box. Those larger strokes are about two times larger than the waterbrush strokes.

I don't really use waterbrushes nowadays as I prefer normal brushes. I'm happy that the brush holder in the box can fit many of the pocket brushes that I use. The largest brush I was able to fit is the Escoda Size 10.

Here's how the new box compares with the ubiquitous 12 half pan metal box and the Sketchers' Pocket Box.

The new box is slightly larger and thicker but is still very compact. The cover lid is not sealed just like the other boxes so it's important to always dry the box before keeping it in the bag.

Since Cotman is student grade paint, they are not as vibrant and intense compared to artist grade quality. When I created the colour swatches, I could definitely see and feel that there's more filler than actual paint. The colours still appear quite nice and are suitable and good enough for beginners. To achieve more intense colours with Cotman, you have to use more paint and this means you would use up the paints quite fast. The good thing is after you use up the paint, you can get your own tube paints, higher quality ones, to refill.

The colours in this set are:

  • Burnt Sienna
  • Yellow Ochre
  • Sap Green
  • Viridian Hue
  • Turquoise
  • Dioxazine Violet
  • Payne's Gray
  • Lamp Black
  • Chinese White
  • Lemon Yellow Hue
  • Alizarin Crimson Hue
  • Ultramarine

The colour selection is alright but could be better though. Lamp Black and Chinese White are not that useful. You can always mix your own blacks. And if you want lighter colours, you don't have to add white, you just add more water.

They could have added a warm red to the palette. Right now, it's difficult to mix a warm orange because the only red included is a "cool" red.

I went to Winsor & Newton's website to look for pigment information and there was none except for lightfast rating and transparency info.


The box set and colours cost around US$15, not including shipping, on Amazon and that's a really good price for beginners and those with a tight budget. The box design is a good one. Plastic does not rust and this will definitely last for years. It may be difficult to get rid of stains from plastic but all surfaces stain anyway.

For the price, it's really worth the money. Highly recommended.


You can find the new Winsor & Newton Cotman Waterbrush Set on Amazon through these affiliate product links | | | | | | | Jackson's Art (UK)

The peculiar hinge of the box makes the palette section lower than the pans section. While working on a table, the usual position of the palette, behind the pan section, hides partially the 3 lower sections of the palette
What is your impression of this? Do you find it more convenient to turn around the box, placing the palette in front of the pan section to ease the access?

the big question for someone who is looking to get a simple travel box set, and plan to refill with Daniel Smith watercolors after using up the Cotman student quality paint is:

which one to get in the W&N plastic travel box line:

Sketcher's pocket box or this newer Brush Pen set? (assuming replacing the Cotman colors and both brushes with own quality paint and actual watercolor brushes)...

I love this box set and have used the brush well to fit 6 more colours to make a perfect travel set. Easy to buy the paint trays and put in my favourite colours. I prefer not to use the brush they added so use my own and carry in my pencil case with other bits of travel essential art equipment.

Hi Teoh.
I was researching prices and stuff and just found this set in amazon Japan with a different color combination, mainly, the absence of Payne's Gray and Lamp Black that might make it more worthwhile (the white remains though). Do you have any info on why this happened or if it might be fake? I didn't find info anywhere.
The link is below

If this set is true, could be a better buy (of course, provided people can buy from Jp)

In reply to by Koji (not verified)

It's not uncommon for sets to contain different colours even if they are supposed to be the same set.

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