Review: Winsor & Newton Desert Collection Watercolour

According to Winsor & Newton, this set was "inspired by deserts around the world, from the Sahara, to the Australian outback and the American southwest". Hence it's called the Desert Collection. Actually, to me, I might call it the Cafe Collection since most of the cafes I've sketched in feature mostly yellow, brown and warm interior colours.

Yellow Titanate (PBr24): Opaque, granulating and staining, permanence AA (Extremely Permanent)
Transparent Orange (PO107): Transparent, non granulating or staining, permanence A (Permanent)
Indian Red Deep (PBr25): Transparent, non granulating or staining, permanence A
Gold Brown (PBk12): Opaque, staining, non granulating, permanence AA
Dark Brown (PY164): Opaque, staining and non granulating, permanence AA
Phthalo Sapphire (PB15:6): Transparent not granulating or staining, permanence A

Here's the colour chart from the six colours:

The resulting colour mixtures and combination results in a rather warm palette. What's lacking in the mixtures are yellow, purple, greens and their nearby hue. So the mixing flexibility of this set is rather limited.

From what I can see, since there's no bright yellow, the mixtures are mainly orange, red, dark browns, and dull greens.

The limited ability to mix green definitely makes this set not suited for painting sort of foliage or flora.

Actually, it is not accurate to call this a set. You would be better served to buy the colours separately. These colours come in small 5ml tubes which makes them rather expensive.

But let's go through the colours one by one.

Yellow Titanate (PBr24)
This is an opaque colour which to me is quite similar to Naples Yellow, but this is warmer.

Transparent Orange (PO107)
This is quite an intense colour and looks more red than orange. It's highly transparent. I've used something similar before and that's the Daniel Smith Pyrrol Orange (PO73). This is a nice strong red that's a good pick for a primary red.

Indian Red Deep (PBr25)
This feels like Venetian Red from other manufacturers but W&N's version is transparent and redder, more maroon. Interesting, it mixes with Pthalo Sapphire to a gray.

Gold Brown (PBk12)
I like this yellow more than the Yellow Titanate. Its shade is almost like Raw Sienna but it's still a yellow. It can dull down Transparent Orange and useful for creating flesh tones.

Dark Brown (PY164)
It's opaque but if you use it for light washes, it's still quite transparent. Since the colour itself is dark, it's going to cover whatever that's beneath anyway. It can mix with Phthalo Sapphire for a darker gray, almost like Payne's Grey but more neutral, less cool, and you lose the transparency. I find that when mixing, this colour will push away other colours until you mix it completely.

Phthalo Sapphire
This is the only blue. Interestingly, it does not mix with the reds to give purple or marvue. Instead, you get brown and greys. And guess what, Winsor Blue (Red Shade) is PB15 also. So does Phthalo Sapphire contain Red Shade as well?

Anyway, why would you want to buy this over Winsor Blue (Red Shade)? Because the name sounds cooler? And you should go for Winsor Blue because it's more economical in bigger tubes.

Below are some lighter washes.

Yellow Titanate (PBr24), Transparent Orange (PO107) and Gold Brown (PBk12) on cold pressed paper.

Dark Brown (PY164), Indian Red Deep (PBr25) and Phthalo Sapphire (PB15:6).

It's a set well suited for sketching cafes.

The palette is a bit too restricted for other scenes, basically scenes that are not dry and warm.

The clouds are mixed with French Ultramarine and Dark Brown. It's quite uninteresting as both those colours are almost similar in value, and they mix together to form a dark mass. The red roofs are coloured with Transparent Orange. Buildings are coloured with a pale wash of Gold Brown. Greens are from Phthalo Green mixed with Transparent Orange.

I used Transparent Orange and Indian Red for the reds, Phthalo Sapphire for the blue. My usual choice of blue is Ultramarine which comes with granulation.

That's the granulation of Ultramarine that I'm talking about. It's mixed with Burnt Sienna. It's more exciting with the extra textures. The building was coloured with Gold Brown which I feel is less opaque than Yellow Titanate.

I still prefer Ultramarine and Burnt Sienna. As you can see, you get two colours that are quite different and they mix playfully together to form grey. The combination is visually more interesting.

Used Transparent Orange mixed with Burnt Sienna for the roofs. The rest of the colours are not from the Desert Collection.


Of the six colours, I'm probably more excited by Transparent Orange.

As for the others colours, you can pretty much mix them yourself with the exception of Phthalo Sapphire which is very bright.

I prefer alternatives like Hansa Yellow, Burnt Sienna, Raw Sienna, Ultramarine. Call me boring or old fashion when it comes to choosing my colours. Or maybe I expected more from these six colours.


You can find these new colours at Jackson's Art Supplies (UK) and Dick Blick Art Materials (US)

On Amazon

  • Yellow Titanate: US | UK
  • Transparent Orange: US | UK
  • Indian Red Deep: US | UK
  • Gold Brown: US | UK
  • Dark Brown: US | UK
  • Phthalo Sapphire: US | UK


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