Daniel Smith Colors of Inspiration Watercolor Set Half Pans Review

Five colors in this set are granulating. Four of those having multiple colors that separate in very wet washes, on top of creating texture. To me, this is the major reason you spend more for Daniel Smith paints as a brand, because that is a very unique thing in the watercolor world. With dozens of manufacturers who make very high quality watercolors, you could get common colors that don't do anything unusual for cheaper. Other brands won't separate out into lovely blues, purples and reds like Rose of Ultramarine, Shadow Violet and Moonglow do, or give you the leafy brown-green texture that serpentine genuine does. Wisteria and Lavender are less exciting to me, as they are pretty ordinary colors mixed with white making them a milky semi-opaque color not ideal for layering.
daniel smith colors of inspiration half pan watercolor set travel case
At first, I wasn't sure what I was going to paint with this set outside of florals. With 5 shades of purple and one green, I thought it would be very limited. I was pleasantly surprised to find that Rose of Ultramarine and Serpentine Genuine not only pair beautifully together for flowers, but when mixed make a range of browns. I was even able to make a suitable skin tone.
Daniel Smith portrait watercolor painting colors of inspiration example art butterfly woman

Considering this set had a couple colors I wanted to try, BUT did not think I'd use often enough to warrant having a whole tube of it, I decided NOT to spend the extra money to buy all of these colors in tubes. If you know you want ALL of these, AND plan to paint frequently with these colors, it would be better to spend 2x as much and get 7x the paint with 15ml tubes. This purchase introduced me to playing with colors together that I may not have paired had I purchased them separately. At this point, Rose of Ultramarine + Serpentine have made it to my favorites to be used together. This resulted in me having some really fun painting sessions I may not have otherwise had.
daniel smith shadow violet moonglow serpentine genuine watercolor swatch card color chart
(This set includes the colors Moonglow, Shadow Violet, Serpentine Genuine, Rose of Ultramarine, Wisteria and Lavender)
Wisteria Lavender Rose of Ultramarine watercolor Daniel smith color swatch card chart

On the down side, there are some lightfast issues with this set. While most of the colors claim to be lightfast, two in particular are noted as LF1/NA in the enclosed chart (Moonglow and Shadow Violet). What this means is that they used pigments that are typically lightfast for ingredients, but there has been no official testing for these mixes. Therefore they have guessed it should be LF1 (best rating). Unfortunately my tubes of these colors have proven to be fugitive. Between 6 months to 1 year receiving window lighting they begin to fade. (This is comparable to most fugitive paints like opera rose, aureolin yellow and alizarin crimson.) Typically LF1 paints remain stable for several years or more in light before any fading appears. Moonglow was worse than Shadow violet, and both lost their warm hue. Some pigments normally considered lightfast in masstone (full strength) are not when extremely diluted down (such as with water or when only a small percent of that pigment is mixed with white). The loss of color warmth leads me to believe the PR 177 in Moonglow and PO 73  in Shadow Violet faded due to being watered down too much, as they are a small part of the 3-pigment mix for those colors. In the end, they are still amazingly beautiful paints that can be used in sketchbooks or works that you plan to make prints from, or even sell with a note to the buyer that all art should be stored away from direct light (including where it shines onto a wall from a window).
Moonglow vs Shadow Violet lightfast test fading in the sun fugitive colors Daniel Smith watercolor paints

The case is very simple, without any mixing areas, and not made to be a stand-alone palette. This disappointed quite a few people who wanted a travel-ready case that would not leak (the lid does not seal on the opening side, so paint will spill out), however 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 them you are free to decide to move them into another case, and use this case for your own custom 15 tube colors. 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 sketchbooks and preferably artwork in the ATC to 5"x7" range using round brushes up to size 8, or roughly 1/4" flats. ​
Knowing those things ahead of time helped me make an informed purchase, and be happy with what I received, so I sincerely hope that this was helpful. Materials used in this video: Daniel Smith pan watercolor set, Princeton Herirage paint brushes, ceramic cat brush rest, bee paper cold press, waterproof Rohrer & Klingner Sketch Ink, Rotring Isograph technical pen, Uni-Ball signo gel pen, gold Kuretake calligraphy ink. I felt the best colors were Serpentine and Rose of Ultramarine, which are a better deal in tubes, so I have linked them below. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.
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  • Trish - January 25, 2024

    Thank you for this review :) I adore the skin tones you achieved. And how you used this pallette in general. Very inspiring.

  • Kimberly Crick - February 27, 2019

    Until everything is moved over from the old site, you can find more lightfast test results at the old site here: https://theenchantedgallery.com/lightfast

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