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Review: Schmincke 12 half-pan watercolour box set

This is the Schmincke 12 half-pan box set that I've been using for the past few months. I've been alternating between this and Daniel Smith and Winsor and Newton.

The colours come in the familiar metal watercolour box except this one is stamped with Schmincke.


The colours included in the set are

  • 215 - Lemon Yellow (PY 3): ST, SS, 3/5
  • 224 - Cadmium Yellow Light (PY35): SO, S, 4/5
  • 349 - Cadmium Red Light (PR 108): O, SS, 4/5
  • 353 - Permanent Carmine (PV 19): SO, SS, 4/5
  • 494 - Ultramarine Finest (PB 29): T, SS, 4/5
  • 492 - Prussian Blue (PB 27): SO, S, 4/5
  • 519 - Phthalo Green (PG 7): T, NS, 4/5
  • 534 - Permanent Green Olive (PO 62 + PG7): SO, SS, 4/5
  • 655 - Yellow Ochre (PY 42): SO, S, 5/5
  • 649 - English Venetian Red (PR 101): O, S, 5/5
  • 663 - Sepia Brown (PB15:1 + PBr 7 + Pbk 9): SO, ST, 4/5
  • 780 - Ivory Black (PBk 9): SO, SS, 5/5

Here's what the abbreviations means:
215: Schmincke colour number
T: Transparent
ST: Semi-transparent
SO: Semi-opaque
O: Opaque
NS: Non-staining
SS: Semi-staining
S: Staining
5/5: Five out of five stars, extremely lightfast, excellent.


I want to point out the lightfast quality of the Lemon Yellow. It's rated 3/5 which just average, but gave it a 100-300 days rating which is not too bad.

The only transparent colours listed are Ultramarine finest and Phthalo Green. The rest are mostly opaque and semi opaque.

In my basic test, I've found the primary colours and the greens are still transparent enough, and hence good enough for sketches. For glazing purposes, it might not be that easy.

The four earth colours Yellow Ochre, Venetian Red, Sepia Brown and Ivory Black and opaque. You'll lose the transparency of other colours when mixing with them. Sepia Brown is my often used colours for mixing with blue to form grays. I tend to avoid the rest because they are opaque. My least favourite colour is Venetian Red because it's too opaque.

Most of the colours have good tinting strength. Be careful with Venetian Red because it's has very strong tinting strength, and it's opaque. Phthalo Blue has weak tinting strength and takes more effort to get a intense mixture out of it.

Note that Sepia Brown has three pigments, and Permanent Olive Green has two.


Schmincke uses the same formula for their tube and pan colours. The same watercolour paint from the tube is poured into the pans, left to dry, and poured again until it's filled.

Other watercolour manufacturers do not do this. So sometimes, I do find that the colours inside pans from other manufacturers to be more difficult to extract because of the hardened pigment.

Schmincke pigment appears to be finely grounded. They also dry and re-wet well, characteristics typically associated with tube colours squeezed into pans.

Simple colour wheel

Two simple secondary mixes from warm and cool primary colours.

Yellows and Reds

Cadmium Red Light with yellows give a warm orange.

Permanent Carmine with yellows produce a more peach, pink, flesh tone. For a nice warm orange, it would be of course Cad Red plus Cad Yellow.

Yellows and Blues

These mix to brighter greens that the ones included, namely Phthalo Green and Permanent Olive Green.

When Lemon Yellow and Prussian Blue are mixed, you get a nice green that looks just like Sap Green. Mixing Cadmium Yellow and Ultramarine will give a warmer alternative to Sap Green.

Reds and Greens

From top to bottom, cool green + warm and cool red, warm green + warm and cool red

Cadmium Red with greens will give a warm gray that still has undertones of red.

Permanent Carmine with greens is more interesting and gives a neutralised colour that goes towards violet and pink.

The red and green mixtures can go very dark, but not reaching black.

Reds and Blues

From top to bottom, Ultramarine + warm and cool red, Prussian Blue + warm and cool red

Cadmium Red tends to produced more toned down purple, mauve, while Permanent Carmine goes towards purple and violet.

Blues and earth colours

Ultramarine Finest with Venentian Red gives a nice granulating almost warm mauve colour.

Ultramarine with Yellow Ochre produces a warm low intensity almost olive green.

Prussian Blue with Venetian Red gives a nice gray when toned down makes for a nice wash. Same thing when mixed with Sepia Brown, which reminds me of the typical French Ultramarine and Burnt Sienna mixes, one of my favourite mixes.

These mixtures are good for creating grays.

Ultramarine for many manufacturers are granulating but Schmincke's Ultramarine Finest is much less so.

Colour chart

With the 12-colour set, you can get a good range of colours. There are nice violets, greens and grays.


Below are the sketches coloured with Schmincke watercolours. Note that some of the scans have been adjusted in Photoshop. Those not adjusted have grain texture from the white uncoloured areas.

Daler Rowney Aquafine cold press watercolour paper 300 GSM

Daler Rowney Aquafine cold press watercolour paper 300 GSM

Saunders Waterford cold press watercolour paper 300 GSM

Saunders Waterford paper dulls down the colour quite a bit. The Ultramarine Finest and Sepia Brown is not as granulating compared to Winsor Newton or Daniel Smith's French Ultramarine and Burnt Sienna. Much of the granulation and texture will come from the paper.

Saunders Waterford cold press watercolour paper 300 GSM

Saunders Waterford cold press watercolour paper 300 GSM


The Schmincke 12 half-pan box set performs quite well. I feel that the colours are slightly more subdued that the Winsor Newton set I'm using. The colours mix with relative ease when you know what you're doing. I noticed that I use a lot of the two blues, Phthalo Green and Sepia Brown. I tend to avoid the earth colours except Sepia Brown.

But seriously, it would be quite difficult for me to tell the difference between the Schmincke and Winston Newton 12 pan sets. In terms of range that can be mixed from the included colour, it will depend on the colours included of course. On the physical aspect, it is easier to wet Schmincke pans because they are essentially tube colours in the first place.

I'm quite satisfied with this 12 half pan watercolour set. Just be aware of the opaque colours and the questionable lightfast quality of Lemon Yellow.

Find more reviews at Dick Blick Art Materials (US) | Jackson's Art (UK)