Daniel Smith Blues Watercolor Half Pan Set Dramatic to Serene Review

Daniel Smith half pan set BLUES serene to dramatic plastic travel slim half pan case set

This set is all blues. While it should not be considered a stand-alone set (they expect you to fill in the blank spaces with other colors you own) it is possible to use just blue for a painting. This is a nice sampling of what Daniel Smith has to offer in the way of blue colors that are not usually included in a set. Typically pan sets come with Phthalo Blue, Ultramarine, and sometimes the terribly fugitive Prussian Blue, which I am thankful are not in this set. While any one color could create a monochromatic painting, this selection definitely covers more than just one shade of blue. Three of the dark blues may appear similar at first glance, especially in masstone (full strength) but they perform differently from each other when used in wet washes. Four of six colors granulate. All lift well (erase). Lunar Blue and Sodalite are capable of extreme texture and color separation effects in wet washes (especially when using a lot of water on cold or rough press textured papers). I find this set really helpful for painting underwater scenes, mermaids, night time and winter landscapes. For those who paint abstractly, they can be used for great contrast and texture effects that only Daniel Smith as a brand can provide. Several of these colors are not available by any other paint manufacturer, as the pigment ingredient is a D.S. exclusive. All are lightfast, re-wet easily with a damp brush, and only cerulean seems weaker than the other colors (but that is pretty normal for this pigment in dry pan form).
Mermaid watercolor painting blue underwater Daniel Smith sodalite sleeping beauty turquoise
If you're looking for a non-toxic alternative to Cobalt Teal, the Sleeping Beauty Turquoise genuine is a similar but slightly softer blue-green. For a single tube of that color alone you may spend a large portion of the cost of this set. This is really worth it if you are just really wanting to TRY a color. I don't need 6 tubes of non-primary blue paints, nor was I sure which one of them I would like the most. After I use these for a few months, I'll see what colors I continue to reach for over time. If I use up a pan of paint, then it is time to consider buying a tube of that color. While they cost more up front, tubes will always be better price-wise per ml (15ml tubes can fill a half pan tray about 7 times). I'm trying to not hoard too many supplies I won't use, so I appreciate this little sampler until I know I'll use a color often enough to warrant a whole tube. Overall because of the specialty pigments used in this set, I think the value was better than the other sets they put together (especially compared to their "ultimate mixing set" that contained mostly common cheap colors).
Daniel Smith color chart swatch Sleeping Beauty Turquoise Cerulean Lunar Blue

(This set includes the colors Sleeping Beauty Turquoise Genuine, Cerulean Blue, Lunar Blue, Sodalite Genuine, Indigo and Payne's Blue-Gray.)

Daniel Smith Watercolor Indigo Paynes Blue Gray Sodalite Genuine color chart swatch card

The case is very simple, without any mixing areas. This disappointed quite a few people who wanted a travel-ready case that would not leak (the lid does not seal on the bending side, so paint will spill out). The lid does not open flat, so it can be difficult to mix large pools of paint without them running down the lid and onto the table. I paint small and did not have a problem with that, but you could decide to use a couple of the empty pan spaces for mixing to make it work for larger washes. Using a waterbrush, or mixing your colors directly on the paper, along with painting in a sketchbook/small format make working with this case A LOT easier. There is one very nice perk to this case - it is absolutely tiny. The most compact case I've ever seen for watercolors, measuring just 3"x4" and 3/4" thick. This will easily slide into a pocket. You can fit several sets into a purse. If you use a water brush, or you mix your colors on paper instead of in a palette, this case can work out quite well for you. Because it is made from plastic, not a metal tin that may have sharp edges, there won't be any rusting over time or accidental cuts. It also has a beautifully embossed metallic logo on the front of it, giving it an elegant appearance. 

 The pans pop out, allowing you to reorder the colors if you wish. With the empty space below the pans you are free to decide to move the inserts into another case or altoids tin, then use this case without inserts for tube colors. As is, it is not ideal for shaky hands or laps, as you can dump the paints out. I found the lid to close securely, but it is easy to open if you lift from the edges (not the center). I've seen a few reviews saying they handled this roughly and spilled the pans out on the floor, but if you know ahead of time what to expect this should not be an issue. For those new to watercolor, almost all commonly available pan (dry) sets are in a small size format called "half pans". The tiny 18x11x10mm rectangles of paint should last through dozens of small paintings. I do not recommend half pan sets at all for people who like to paint large (over 8x10"). If you paint large, tube watercolors and a dedicated palette are better for cost, mixing, and allowing large brushes the room they need to pick up color without damaging them. These small sets are good for artwork in the ATC to 5"x7" range using round brushes up to size 8, or roughly 1/4" flats. Knowing these things ahead of time helped me make an informed purchase, and be happy with what I received.

Materials used in this video: Daniel Smith blues pan watercolor set, Princeton Herirage paint brushes, bee paper 140# cold press, waterproof Rohrer & Klingner Sketch-Ink, Rotring Isograph technical pen, Uni-Ball signo gel pen. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

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  • Michelle - January 19, 2023

    Have you choose other colors to fill in the extra empty slots..?? If so, what are they?? Love your page

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