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Daniel Smith Half Pan Sketcher Watercolors by Urban Sketch Artist Liz Steel
Review, color swatch cards, demo painting and video:
While you can mix some greens and purples with this set, the blues are more muted than a Phthalo would be, resulting in olive to spring green (no deep emeralds) and a muted floral purple (no deep royal purple). Both blues are granulating, an important note because all colors you mix with them will have a texture effect. There is a lot of potential for realistic skies and landscapes. Create neutral grays to blue-grays with the ultramarine/transparent red oxide mixes, which is great for shadows or darkening other colors. I think it works well for buildings, and vague landscape details, as intended by urban-sketcher artist Liz Steel that picked the selection. Overall it is a versatile set for color mixing, though I prefer the cleaner vibrant color mixes of the floral set instead of this sketcher set. All paints re-wet easily, the only 2 that are very staining are quin rose and hansa yellow, while the other 4 lift pretty well (erase).
Color swatch cards showing the salt reaction, masstone, diluted, transparency and lift (erase) ability of the six colors in this set. Includes Ultramarine Blue, Cerulean Blue Chromium, Quinacridone Rose, Hansa Yellow Medium, Monte Amiata Natural Sienna, Transparent Red Oxide.
Unfortunately for a set with an urban sketching theme, the case makes it difficult to work with the paints outside the house. 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 drip 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" x 4" 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 it comes, 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 in controlled environments. However, for this particular set aimed at outdoor sketching, I can see fumbling with these paints outside to be very problematic.
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. I hope that you found this review helpful :)
If you do a lot of ink drawing, find yourself going through a lot of pens, and want your art to be lightfast - I highly recommend Rohrer's SketchINK in a technical pen (I use Rotring Isograph 0.20mm tip for fine detail, but these also work in fountain pens for a flexible width stroke). They are totally waterproof, easy to refill and won't fade (unlike expensive micron pens).
Materials used in this video: Daniel Smith Sketcher watercolor set, Princeton Herirage paint brushes, ceramic cat brush rest, bee paper cold press, multiple colors of lightfast and waterproof Rohrer & Klingner SketchInk, Rotring Isograph technical pen, Uni-Ball signo gel pen. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.