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Art Philosophy Professional Watercolor Review 15ml Tube Paints by Prima Compare to Shinhan
Art Philosophy (made by the company Prima Marketing who has been making craft / student grade watercolor pan sets for years) has decided to branch out into the world of professional quality "artist grade" tube paints. These watercolors can be bought individually, and at the time of product release, has 18 colors to choose from. The company has claimed these "professional paints" to be capable of professional results with smooth blending easy color mixing. The tubes provide "concentrated pigments with longevity and lightfastness"... and that last bit about them being lightfast should not have been so generally and broadly claimed.
I immediately noticed that a good portion of the colors are multi-pigment convenience mixtures and/or colors made from fugitive pigments. It's OK for a pro-grade brand to have colors that aren't lightfast. Though, it can be confusing to people who assume that "artist grade" (also commonly referred to as "professional quality") means lightfast. After all, since a "profession" is defined as a paid occupation not just a hobby, "professional quality" implies it's made for you to be able sell your art - though this is not limited to originals to hang on a wall. At this time, words like "professional artist grade" is just a label meant to imply that the company believes the paint is of a fine quality suitable for creating artwork. Technically there's no enforced standard or rule. Anyone can label their paints "professional" quality. Reputable companies tend to have a high pigment load, lack of fillers and use quality binders. It's common to find opera pink, neon dyes and fugitive pigments in professional watercolors... though it's usually a small percentage of their offerings. This is partially due to demand from graphic artists, such as those who do illustrations for prints or product packaging, and other professionals who want the freedom to use artificially bright colors.
That being said, I wasn't happy to see that such a large portion of their total colors available weren't made from reliable pigments. (It's not like they didn't have a huge selection to choose from. For example, over 200 stable lightfast pigments are part of Daniel Smith's catalog.) I assume that part of this was to find pigments that were less costly, to keep the price low. There were several tubes that had one lightfast ingredient, mixed with a fugitive one... as if maybe it was too expensive to do just a single pigment tube of PV19 for a permanent rose for instance?
After looking over the pigment selection, I picked out just four of the most reliably lightfast colors. There are 8 colors (of the 18 total) that I could have picked from, but I wasn't sure what the quality would be like and several of them were colors I rarely use in my art. I thought I would get the most use out of Ultramarine Blue Deep, Yellow Ochre, Greenish Yellow, and Permanent Brown. I also liked that these four colors could be mixed like a primary set, being muted earthy versions of red yellow and blue. The yellows and ultramarine mix to create leafy greens, the permanent brown and greenish yellow make beautiful warm skin tones, and the permanent brown plus ultramarine creates a mildly granulating neutral shadow color I'd describe as a deep grayish-purple.
Bright side - I was not disappointed by the performance of these watercolors in the least. They are gorgeous. The pigment load is high and they re-wet easily when used from dry. Perfect for making your own travel palette. They act just like professional paints should, particularly just like other Asian made paints such as ShinHan, Mission Gold and Holbein. Specifically, they lack flow, they do not disperse in wet washes in the way western watercolors do. Brands like Daniel Smith, Winsor and Newton or Da Vinci may travel across the paper with ease. These Art Philosophy / Prima tube paints stay put, which can be really nice for beginners who want their brush marks to be exactly where they expect. That's a personal choice as an artist, and as a fan of both styles of paint I was not displeased by that.
Problem - the lightfast rating system written on these paint tubes bothers me. It's not standard, neither as an ASTM LFI-IV Roman numerals style, nor as a star rating system (such as 3 star system, up to 5 stars depending on the brand, that work just like Amazon reviews). Instead they wrote "LF 2" (the number 2, not star symbols) on a tube, which will confuse those who think it means LFII... when in actuality it means **/*** (2 of 3 stars) Since the star symbols were not used, I had to do some digging on their website to verify that it is actually a 3 star system. Further verified by the fact that "lightfastness 3" on a tube was written for stable trusted pigment ingredients.
I believe that if you're going to sell professional grade paints, you should make it clear which colors can be used in art for sale / hung on a wall where lightfast ratings truly matter.There were several colors that a rating of just "2" was not an adequate description. This middle ground rating was assigned to colors known to fade much much faster than other colors also assigned a "2" rating. Notably, Ultramarine Blue PB29 was marked as "2", while Rose Madder (Alizarin) also = 2... though Ultramarine has superb lightfastness (stable in direct sunlight for years) while Alazarin PR83 is fugitive, fades when exposed to UV light within months.
Is this watercolor the same as Shinhan watercolor? (Specifically, compare to Shinhan's PWC / SWC their pro grade, not Shinhan's lesser grade confusingly called "professional watercolor" in a blue box.) Well, I can NOT say these are the same paints, but they sure are certainly close. There are too many similarities between these paints to dismiss the possibility that they paid Shinhan's factory to produce the paint line for them. First, they are made in Korea, where Shinhan (and Mission Gold) factory is. Secondly, they seemed to build their color selection mainly around fugitive pigments, with little regard for lightfast rating accuracy and the occasional typo. This is something common to Shinhan's brand as well (that doesn't happen as much with the other Korean brand, Mission Gold, which tends to use more lightfast pigments in comparison). Thirdly, the retail price per tube is similar, and much lower than the average for pro paints. Finally and most importantly, I checked the way these Art Philosophy tube paints perform, the masstone vs diluted (pigment load range of color), flow / disperse, as well as direct color matches. In my limited selection I was able to test, the paints were nearly identical.
While I personally can't verify that these are really Shinhan paints with an Art Philosophy label, I can tell you that they are similar enough that if you're considering these you might as well consider Shinhan brand as well. Shinhan has a massive catalog of colors in comparison, and are generally easier to find on fine art supply websites you may already shop with. If these aren't Shinhan, they may just be made with the same base ingredients that are easy to obtain in Korea. There are differences in some brands versions of colors throughout the world. Depending on where the original pigment was made or mined, certain countries have slightly different colors and textures to their paints. These paints appear to use the same pigment source as Shinhan if nothing else. I'll put all the links to both Art Philosophy and Shinhan watercolors at the bottom of this page.