Review: Holbein Artists' Watercolor

This review is written by Erwin Lian (website | Instagram), an artist from Singapore

I am fan of Holbein Artists watercolors and was first introduced to the HWC 12 color set few years back.

Since then, I have became a fan of their pigments, mainly for their intensity and mix.

According to the manufacturer, no Ox-Gall was used, so dried pigment won’t get all crusty when re-liquefied. Because of this, you can “lift” easier. Personally, I like how ‘smooth’ Holbein pigments dries.

Holbein pride itself for its high pigment load and no usage of Ox-Gall. That means that you can re-liquefy your dried pigment and they won't be crusty. The pigment do remain brilliant.

The HWC 12 color set comes in small tiny weeny tubes of 5ml.

Compared to other professional pigments that I have used (I haven’t used every brand), their pigments held on to intensity well but dry “smoother”. Having said that, there is a major drawback to this brand. Holbein don’t offer many granulating choices. If granulation is what you are after, you will need to introduce other brands into your mix.

Here’s a review of the HWC 12 color sets (tiny baby tubes)

There are 12 colors in this set. Actually, I would consider it more like 10 colors since black and white aren’t really colors. Out of the 10 colors, you have the warm and cool variant to each hue. For the reds, you get Crimson Lake & Vermilion. For the blues, you get Cobalt Blue and Prussian Blue. For the greens, you get Permanent Green and Viridian. For the yellow, you get Permanent Yellow Light and Yellow Ochre. Lastly, you get Burnt Umber and Burnt Sienna for the earth tones. Though not my personal choices of colors, it’s a wonderful starter set for anyone venturing into watercolors. For experts? You may want to pick your own colors.

Graded wash of the 12 colors. (I skipped white here) The colors are vibrant and they painted themselves smoothly.

Wet-on-Dry. Flat wash dries smoothly. (Color used: Cobalt Blue and Crimson Lake)

I recommend including the trusty Ultramarine and Cerulean blue in your collection. As with all pigments, light fastness, staining quality and transparency all varies. Do remember to check the vendor’s paint chart for more information. Personally, I love the way Holbein pigments respond to water. It disperses color smoothly and paints itself beautifully when it dries. Wet-on-dry layers dry smoothly and the same can be concluded about wet-on-wet layers.

Wet-on-Wet paints itself smoothly with varies concentration of pigment.

Here’s my personal colors years after my first set.

A while ago, through a friend’s recommendation, I stumbled over a store that held Holbein stocks from the 80s (with price stuck in the 80s as well). It was a no brainer for me = I ended up hoarding a bunch of Holbein pigments.....

Holbein offers a total of 108 colors to their transparent watercolor family. Here are some few unique colors that some Artists swore by for this brand:

Opera (note that this color is only Moderately Durable), Royal Blue (Absolutely Permanent), Peacock Blue (Permanent)

I do have other brands in my colors set and time and time again, I love trying out different pigments. Holbein just happen to be a dominant brand I use. All artist grade pigments are great and its just a matter of personal preferences and experiences when it comes to these.

Here is a painting done predominantly with Holbein pigment with a little granulating blue mixed in from Daniel Smith.

Here's a Holbein watercolour chart provided by Rebecca Nelson. Colours from top to bottom are

  • Crimson Lake
  • Vermilion
  • Yellow Ochre
  • Perm. Yellow Light
  • Perm. Green
  • Viridian
  • Cobalt Blue Hue
  • Prussian Blue
  • Burnt Sienna
  • Burnt Umber
  • Black


You can find Holbein Artists' Watercolor on Dick Blick Art Materials (US) and Jackson's Art Supplies (UK) and...

Holbein Watercolors are available at these links below: | | | | | | |



the website has a color chart

the website has a color chart that indicates whether a color is transparent,opaque or semitransparent. or you can draw a thick black line with a permanent marker and paint your paints over the line,if the line is obscured then the paint is opaque if it is still seen then they are transparent.the series is like their 'set' in regards to the price point of their pigments,the series A being the cheapest lot and F for their more/most expensive pigments such as their cobalt violet light.

Greetings. I'm considering

Greetings. I'm considering buying a 12 tube to try and after reading your article I have a few questions if you don't mind. How easily do these re-wet/reactivate after drying on a palette?How well do these layer for multiple layers and glazing? Any problems when layering or glazing or problems with previousl layers lifting? And finally, after looking at your painting above it looks like there are a lot of hard edge blooms & blossoms. Was that intentional? Accidental? Or is that the holbein paint? Thank you.



Hi , im new in watercolour.

Hi , im new in watercolour. When you mentioned if people preferred granulating, This Holbein set may not be a good choice. Why granulating is more preferred for watercolour painting and what make it differences on the outcome of the painting?

I'm looking to buy holbein

I'm looking to buy holbein paints as my second artist grade watercolor set (I already have white nights after reading the review here!). I would prefer to buy single tubes instead of a whole set... what colors (maybe 12 or 18 colors)do you recommend?

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