Daniel Smith Watercolor Half Pan EARTH Desert to Mountains Review

"That's a lot of browns. Are the colors different enough to be worth buying this set? I don't usually use black..." Those are the first thoughts I had debating this purchase. I'm glad I decided to buy this set, as it would have cost me just over double this price to just try these colors in tubes.

 Daniel Smith desert mountains earth half pan watercolor set travel case

If you paint desert scenes, animals, or particularly love the pigments in this set, the tube prices are better in the long run (a tube would fill a half pan about 7 times, but only be about 2 times the cost of one of these half pans). If you don't paint super often, or you don't always reach for the same supplies, and are discouraged by time consuming set up/clean up of using tubes/palette this was a nice convenience item. While I enjoy these paints, I am not prone to using pre-made browns often enough to have a whole tube sitting around. For me, it was worth satisfying my curiosity at a lower initial money investment. Especially for the unusual color "Bronzite" a glittering, mica-like, sparkly brown mineral that I may use only on special occasions. Lunar Black is a granulation delight, it will amaze you with the effortless texture you can create and it looks stunning mixed with other colors. I used Lunar Black to darken the Burnt Sienna to a deep brown, and to give a gritty textured look with Raw Sienna on the sparrow bird beak.

 Daniel Smith color chart swatch card burnt sienna indian red raw sienna light

(This set contains Burnt Sienna Light, Venetian Red, Raw Sienna Light, Lunar Black, Bronzite Genuine and Buff Titanium colors as shown in these swatch cards)

Daniel Smith Lunar Black Bronzite Genuine Buff Titanium watercolor swatch card color chart
This ended up being a really nice portrait set, as you can create lovely skin tones with the burnt sienna and buff titanium, blush and lips using venetian red, lovely blonde hair with the raw sienna.... and the colors are perfect for many common birds too (see my example painting in the images). Daniel Smith dry pans are the same formula as their tubes, and both formats are remarkably pigmented and re-wet easily.

Watercolor painting review example demo portrait earth half pan daniel smith

The case is very simple, without any mixing areas, and not made to be a stand-alone palette. The case could have been easier to use, and would not have cost them much more money to create. 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 accidental cuts or rust spots over time.

 animal art bird sparrow portrait woman lady watercolor painting daniel smith artist materials

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.


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


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