Review: Daniel Smith Watercolor tube paint

I've been using Daniel Smith Watercolor since 2013. Daniel Smith is the brand that I use most often because the quality is good and here in Singapore (sold by Straits Art), the pricing is actually very competitive compared to other brands.

These are many reviews I've written for the various DS watercolour products over the years:


At the time of this video, Daniel Smith has 260 colours in their entire range. And these colours are split into the Extra Fine (classic colours), Primatek (minerals) and Luminescent (reflective) series. My review covers the Extra Fine and Primatek series. The full colour chart (PDF) is available for download.


The paint is available in 5 and 15ml tubes, half pans, watercolour sticks, sold individually as well as in sets. This review focuses on the tube paint.

Price of the paint can vary significantly depending on where it's sold. And pricing also depends on the series the colour is in. E.g. Ultramarine Blue from series 1 will be from the low price tier whereas Lapis Lazuli from series 5 will be most expensive.

From Dick Blick Art Materials, price is from US $10.34 to US$19.52. From Jackson's Art UK, price is from £11.30 to £23.00. Price difference is huge. And price will vary depending on sales of course. Price from Straits Art in Singapore is S$12.50 onwards.


Daniel Smith watercolours are richly pigmented and vibrant. They also have a huge variety of colours. Those are the main selling points.


There are many transparent colours so these are great to use on top of pen and ink sketches. DS Cadmium colours are not made with cadmium but a mix of pigments to reproduce the original cadmium colours. For example, Cadmium Lemon is supposed to be PY35 but Daniel Smith's formula is PY53, PY138, PY3.


The Primatek series are supposedly made with minerals. The main characteristics of Primatek paint is they have very obvious granulation. These colours aren't as vibrant compared to the classic pigments though. Downside to Primatek is certain paints can dry hard and become difficult to rewet, e.g. Sodalite Genuine. Many of these minerals are heavy and can separate easily from the gum arabic binder, so sometimes the paint has to be stirred before use. If you store the paint with cap downwards, then this is not a problem. Lapis Lazuli is very pale so I don't recommend that colour.

There is a controversy with the Primatek colours though. A geologist shared an Instagram post which said he/she found that Amazonite Genuine actually contained 90% Phthalocyanine Green. Daniel Smith's reply was that there are minerals but not 100% mineral because of various reasons that you can read in this reply to the geologist. Does it matter? If you expect more minerals from the Genuine label then I guess you may be disappointed because some of these paints are not cheap.


Most DS paint dry nicely when squeezed into half pans. I recommend squeezing the paint in three separate session. Certain paint will dry with cracks, so you squeeze paint into the cracks in subsequent sessions. Most dried paint will re-wet or re-activate nicely with water. Viridian PG18 will dry into a rock so don't squeeze that into pan. If you know of other colours that will dry extremely hard, let me know in the comments section below.


You can certainly use DS colours together with other brands. Shown above is a sketch where I used Schmincke Cobalt Blue Deep PB74 with DS colours.


Since Daniel Smith has so many colours, it might be better to just get dot cards rather than getting a 5 or 15ml tube to test the colours. Daniel Smith is good with marketing. They will often release sets, colours under other artist's names can call them Signature series.


My overall experience with Daniel Smith has been very positive. I enjoy using their paint for the consistent quality and vibrant colours. Those who love colours will love their wide variety of colours. The tube paints are great but I don't recommend the pans because they are significantly more expensive and you can save money just by getting tubes to squeeze into pans. I also don't recommend the DS watercolour sticks because the binder may escape from the stick, and certain sticks will become soft, mushy and sticky with time, especially in humid climate.


Is Daniel Smith worth the money? It really depends on the price. DS quality is comparable to Da Vinci, Schmincke, Winsor & Newton or other well known brands. Between all the good brands, I'll choose based on the price, colour variety and whether the dried paint can work well in pans because I use watercolour outdoors quite often. So far, DS is working well for me. WN in Singapore is way too expensive, and Schmincke is more expensive too.

For other opinions on DS watercolour, check out these reviews from Jane Blundell, Mind of Watercolor, M.D. Campbell

Availability

You can find Daniel Smith Watercolour on Dick Blick Art Materials (US) and Jackson's Art (UK). If you buy through these are affiliate links, I earn some commission at no extra cost to you.

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