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Daniel Smith Ultimate Mixing Set Watercolor Half Pan Review

This 15 color half pan selection was picked by artist Jane Blundell. If you are a fan of hers and like her color mixing charts or book, then this set was made for you. Unfortunately I do not believe there is a one size fits all "ultimate mixing" selection for all artists, especially if you like bright and unique colors. This set contains too many browns for graphic design, abstract art and vibrant non photo-realism artwork. The price is high for being filled with cheap pigments. D.S. tube paints vary from about $11-$20 a tube, and these colors are all in the $11-$14 range. To put this in perspective, each pan is costing you about $5 when you can get a whole 15ml tube for about $11 that would fill that roughly 2ml half-pan tray about 7 times.

Daniel Smith color swatch Goethite Buff Titanium Ultimate Mixing Set Jane Blundell

You may think this is a great way to try Daniel Smith paints without having to invest in a lot of tube colors, resulting in a higher upfront investment. However, I would take a very close look at the color selection and decide if you think it is worth this price. They are not unique outside of Goethite brown. You can get sets from other companies with these basic colors for a lot cheaper. If you want to see what makes Daniel Smith so special, I highly recommend the primatek granulating mineral color tubes or the 6-half pan sets instead that contain some hidden gems. Such as the Blues set on Amazon full of granulating minerals and the very expensive "sleepy beauty turquoise" which would run you $20 just for that color if you bought it in tube form).

Daniel Smith Ultimate mixing set half pan color swatch cerulean blue chromium jane blundell

The case is compact - that is the best thing to say about it. You can fit many in your purse, a couple in your pocket. The lid does not lay flat and there is a gap so colors can just run out of the case if you try to mix on the lid. I fixed this for myself using Elmers white school glue or a glue gun to create a grid (see picture).

Ultimate mixing set Daniel Smith watercolors palette case glue fix

 

The paints are high quality, but the price and case were disappointing. Many people assumed this set was ready for travel, then learned the hard way that the paint will end up all over your table (or worse, all over your work) if you use the lid as a palette. Landscape painters seemed to approve of the color selection, while people who love bright or hard to mix colors (looking at you Cobalt Turquoise) were confused by all the browns and a convenience gray (an easily mixed color in a set designed for mixing colors?) While I love Daniel Smith paints, this set just didn't add up in value for me.

 

 

Materials used or mentioned in this review: Daniel Smith Ultimate Mixing Set, Primatek Watercolors Set, Blues Half Pan Set, Bee Cold Press 140# Cotton Paper, Princeton Neptune Paint Brush, Rotring Isograph Technical Pen filled with waterproof Rohrer & Klingner sketchINK, Uni-Ball Signo UM-153 white gel pen. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

 

Daniel Smith Half Pan Sketcher Watercolors by Urban Sketch Artist Liz Steel

Review, color swatch cards, demo painting and video:

Daniel Smith Sketcher set color chart pigment color code transparent opaque granulate

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).
Daniel Smith watercolor cerulean blue chrome ultramarine quin rose swatch card paint sample
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.
Watercolor paint swatch chart color monte amiata natural sienna, transparent red oxide, hansa yellow medium daniel smtih paints
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 :)

Daniel Smith watercolor painting Sketcher set floral fairy artwork by Kimberly Crick art

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.

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.

 

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.

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.

Daniel Smith Floral Half Pan Set Review + Color Swatch Card Template

Swatch color chart, example painting, video demo and free custom template for swatch cards including spaces for details like how the paint lifts (erases) while wet or after drying, gradient wash, full or diluted color range, salt effect reaction and more!

Daniel Smith Floral half pan watercolor set review

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 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 are no safety concerns for young people.

This set (of the 6 sets released late 2018) is the most versatile, affordable, and contains unique pigments that show off what Daniel Smith as a brand does best - provide special effects or unique granulating mineral paints. This is a great way to try their paints for the first time, while having all the mixing colors you need, and not investing more money up front for tube paints.

Floral portrait example art Daniel Smith half pan watercolor set review

When it comes to Daniel Smith, there is very little question about paint quality. This set is no different, using the same formula as their tube paints. The pans easily re-wet with a touch of a damp brush. The high pigment load can create a broad range of dark to light as you dilute it with water.

Cadmium Yellow Medium hue, Quin Gold, Quinacridone Rose Daniel Smith color chart swatch

Phthalo Blue, Cascade Green, Green Apatite color swatch card chart for half pan floral set Daniel Smith

Phthalo Blue mixed with Quin Gold results in deep floral greens, mixed with Cadmium Yellow Medium Hue you can get light springtime yellow-greens. Phthalo Blue and Quin Rose make vibrant purples, while Quin Rose and the yellows make reds to oranges. The real fun starts when you mix in Cascade Green, a green-blue with brown undertones that separate out into granulation heaven. Green Apatite, a genuine mineral, creates incredibly realistic textures when painting leaves. While this set is overall aimed at painting florals, you can really mix nearly any color to fit any theme.

I designed a custom swatch card, created to be standard business card size so it would fit into a 3-ring binder with card storage sheets. You can print them any size you wish, but I print mine at 2x3.5". Here is the template I used in this review:

 Custom swatch card template for watercolor painting detailed Lift Salt Wash Glaze spaces

Video demonstration using this paint set:

 

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 Floral Cottage Gardens to Botanicals half pan watercolor set, bee cold press paper, waterproof SketchInk, Princeton Heritage paint brushes, Rotring Isograph, Uni-Ball signo white gel pen. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.