Daniel Smith Watercolor Lightfast Testing Reviews and Demo Painting Videos

Daniel Smith watercolor review and lightfast testing for all 260 colors. See my 1 year window test results to find out which colors are fugitive (fade with UV sun light exposure). I'll also share painting videos, color mixing ideas as well as scans of my masstone (fullstrength) and diluted (about 50% water) swatch stripes labeled with names and pigment codes to serve as a condensed color chart. Full detail swatch cards at the bottom of the page that elaborate on lightfast ratings, staining, opacity, salt reaction, granulation etc. 

Before you get lost in the sea of 260 colors Daniel Smith makes, please note that there are several colors I would avoid. While this is one of my favorite brands of paint, there are a couple misleading LFI ratings that caused me a lot of problems as someone who has made paintings for wall display. MOONGLOW AND SHADOW VIOLET ARE NOT UV STABLE, DESPITE THEIR LFI RATING. Moonglow's fading is severe, as bad as LFIII to LFIV fugitive colors such as Opera Pink and Alizarin Crimson (it's the PR177 that fades when diluted). Shadow Violet contains an orange that is also stable in masstone, but fades when diluted or in small % tints/mixtures. Results are about LFII to LFIII depending on the duration of repeat sun exposure (such as being displayed where light shines in a window briefly each morning at dawn for a month or more). Good news is that you don't need a convenience mixture to achieve this beautiful color separating and granulating appearance. I highly recommend mixing your own.

This video shows you how easy it is to mix your own lightfast alternative to color separating convenience mixtures, such as Moonglow, using single pigment ingredients.

I will also caution you that sometimes LFI or LFII rated paints fade more than expected (I'll cover some brand specific issues on this page, but there's also a multi-brand fugitive pigments list here). There are times where two paints both rated LFII don't actually fade at the same rate either, such as the increased fading seen here in Mayan Blue:

Manganese Blue Hue Mayan Blue daniel smith lightfast test results fading fugitive primatek

--- 06-2021 update --- Here's a video covering the 6 month results (the halfway point of a complete test). This list should give you a good idea of which colors are the most fragile (I would avoid roughly 25 of 260+ colors offered).

Before buying random colors from Daniel Smith, I highly recommend investing in their dot card sampler offering an affordable way to try 238 of their colors. You can find this on Blick Art Materials store here or on Amazon below. As an Amazon associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. Thank you :) 

The following colors are on the 238 dot card, but be aware that they have released more colors in recent years and as of Jan 2021 are up to 260 colors. Blick also carries a dot set called "mineral marvels" which has a few of the newer colors to try more affordably than investing in their tubes. I have separated out the new colors in the images below.

Daniel Smith watercolor color chart lightfast test pigment code names swatch

Daniel Smith watercolor color chart lightfast test pigment code names swatch database

Daniel Smith watercolor color chart lightfast test pigment code names swatch fugitive

Daniel Smith watercolor color chart lightfast test pigment code names swatch masstone

My favorite color not present on the main 238 dot card is Purpurite. This is a natural form of Manganese Violet PV16. These minerals have not been purified to isolate Manganese Violet, so they include trace minerals and plenty of Iron particles which create a deeper value and near-black speckling throughout. Active granulation. Capable of unique color separating mixtures when combined with lighter weight pigments.

Daniel Smith watercolor color chart lightfast test pigment code names swatch purpurite genuine

Daniel Smith watercolor review recommendation for beginner artists and granulating paint basics

This painting of a Florida Panther with foliage is a good example of how I love to use Daniel Smith's granulating watercolors. I used Undersea Green for background texture and the animal's eyes:

 Daniel Smith Undersea Green Watercolor Paint texture Granulating foliage botanical art animal eyes

 Hematite and Hematite Burnt Scarlet Genuine for the fur: Daniel Smith Hematite Genuine Watercolor Primatek Granulating Animal Painting portrait art

You can find the colors I used for this painting below. I am not affiliated with Daniel Smith or sell their products directly, and my opinions are my own. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

 

Daniel Smith color chart 238 dot card LIGHTFAST TEST fugitive colors results 1 year in sun

Many years ago I had tested the full range from the dot card in masstone strips only. Recently I have redone this testing to include diluted strips (some colors fade quicker when diluted). The following results are from my initial testing round.

 

These colors are fugitive with signs of fading starting within one month. Lightfast colors last for a year or more of daily light exposure, and I will expand on which colors faded by the 1 year mark below.

Daniel Smith watercolor fugitive prussian blue green fading lightfast test interference sapphire

The small 5ml tube kits are ideal for beginners and artists on a budget, allowing you to get a good mixing color set at a lower cost than their larger 15ml tubes. The primatek set is a wonderful way to try out their granulating colors, especially for those who haven't decided if they enjoy texture in their artwork yet. The 5ml tubes can fill a half pan (standard tray size for travel palettes) more than a couple times, giving you plenty of paint to create dozens of small paintings (like artist trading cards or 5x7s) or a few larger pieces.

 

 

One year lightfast test results Daniel Smith Watercolors Moonglow Shadow Violet Aureolin Sickerlite fading fugitive colors

 This was one of the first lightfast tests I ever did, before I realized the importance of testing both masstone and diluted ranges. I have since discovered the PR177 Anthra Red is extremely fugitive, which was very difficult to tell in it's full-strength masstone. It is easily damaged by UV when diluted. Because watercolorists rarely use their paints at full strength with barely any water, this is a real problem for PR177 and mixtures containing it such as Moonglow. I have since started running all tests to include diluted ranges and will update as new information is available (such as the video about Moonglow at the top of this page). 

 

 

One of the most beautiful color separating paints I own is Cascade Green. You can replicate this dramatic mixture using any heavy particle, granulating light brown. Ideally use a PBr7 such as "raw sienna" or "raw umber" from any brand combined with Phthalo Blue (Green Shade) PB15. You can also try any textural yellow ochre or Goethite as the brown. Similar beautiful mixtures can be made with dramatic granulating red-browns like Lunar Earth and similar Phthalo Blues like PB16 Phthalo Turquoise. For the most accurate replica, mix PBr7 Raw Umber and the common normal version of PB15 Phthalo Blue (Green Shade) with a touch of Daniel Smith's Manganese Blue Hue which is an uncommon, special, lighter valued and granulating version of Phthalo Blue PB15. It behaves and flows differently than normal PB15. I can tell it was part of Daniel Smith's Cascade Green due to Manganese Blue Hue's unique Fluorescent chemical signature. While PB15/PBr7 are listed as the ingredients in Cascade Green, it would be more accurate to have listed them as PB15, PB15:3 and PBr7 due to different types of PB15 being combined. 

 

Daniel Smith Cascade Green Watercolor Swatch Card Color Chart

 

PROBLEM PIGMENTS:

In addition to the fugitive colors incorrectly marked as lightfast (Anthra Red, Moonglow, Shadow Violet, Sicklerite, Prussian, Iridescent Sapphire, Aureolin, Rhodonite, Mayan colors etc.) there are other types of problems to be aware of. I have heard reports of an unusually intense bad smell coming from Garnet Genuine, which did not resolve once dried in a pan. Daniel Smith says that this is normal for that pigment, that it may be bothersome but it is "not toxic".

Some pigments are hard to rewet if you plan to make your own dry pan set from tubes. Some of these are common problems in any brand, such as the notoriously difficult Viridian Green PG18, Cerulean Blue PB35 and Potters Pink PR233. You may find that adding a drop of vegetable glycerin or honey to the pan as you fill it with tube paint (stir up with a toothpick) can help keep these paints more moist and workable.

There is also a problem with some pigments separating or having reactions in the tubes when stored for long periods of time. Moonglow will separate into layers of PR177, a lighter thinner particle pigment, away from the heavier sediment of Viridian and Ultramarine Blue. This can easily cause your next pan refill to be different in color in addition to being much more fugitive (containing more of the pigment that fades). It's not always enough to squish the tube. A long needle tool/skewer can be useful to give it the thorough mixing it likely needs.

Moonglow Daniel Smith watercolor color separation changing tube granulation lightfast fugitive

Cobalt Green Pale PG19 and Manganese Violet PV16 reacts with it's binder. This appears to be due to a minor acidity change (reaction with the gum arabic binder) causing the binder itself to abnormally darken. This dark brown binder can stain all remaining pigment in the tube. This seems less severe if your fresh tube is promptly stored in a dry pan (rather than remaining wet in the tube) as was the case with PG19 swatches shown below. However, I have had this issue cause PV16 to become a hardened brown lump even in the pan in other brands (Da Vinci brand, over the course of 3 years). Most watercolor paints will remain stable for decades or more (even antique watercolor sets from the late 1800s have proven to still be usable). This is a pretty significant issue to happen within just 1 to 5 years (depending on your climate humidity/air pollution/acidity).

PG19 Daniel Smith DRY PAN Watercolor Cobalt Green Pale Art Pigment Database PG19 Daniel Smith TUBE Watercolor Cobalt Green Pale Art Pigment Database

Tigers Eye Genuine: This lightfast, granulating brown is made from a natural mineral rarely used in paint making. It can be hard to rewet, requiring extra scrubbing when dried in a pan. Tigers Eye Genuine is capable of subtle color separation, it has a lighter pale brown element that separates out from speckles of darker brown in wet washes. When dried in a pan these different colors can separate out into sedimentary layers, like shells of varying browns. This can result in getting a different color each time you scrub a dry layer with a wet brush.

Tigers eye genuine watercolor daniel smith hard to rewet scrubbing activate wet brush tube pan

Below you can see that the heat treated variant, "Burnt Tigers Eye Genuine" is very dark. Some layers of standard "Tigers Eye Genuine" can also appear very dark, but when used fresh from the tube this paint normally appears to be a notably lighter brown than the burnt version:

Burnt Tigers Eye Genuine daniel smith watercolor granulating brown paint mineral primatek Tigers Eye genuine mineral watercolor daniel smith extra fine color chart Daniel smith tigers eye genuine watercolor mineral pigment brown paint swatch card color chart primatek 

Sodalite Genuine: It pains me to say something bad about this lovely color. It's been a favorite of mine for many years, but because I've owned it since 2016 I've seen some unfortunate color changes over time. This color is lightfast, but the unused paint may change hue (desaturate/gray) during long term storage. This is unusual and all 31 remaining samples of other colors dried into the same palette 4-5 years ago have not changed at all. Typically indoor storage of watercolors (in a normal temperature controlled room environment, away from light or moisture) results in stable colors indefinitely.

Mineral Daniel Smith Sodalite Genuine STICK Watercolor sparkle glitter gemstone rare color swatch database pigment Mineral Daniel Smith Sodalite Genuine PAN Watercolor sparkle glitter gemstone rare color swatch database pigment

When making the swatches above, I had originally thought there were just batch to batch variations. Perhaps it was just differences each time they mined this mineral? Which is also possible in addition to this issue, BUT my original swatch on this palette color chart shows that Sodalite has changed in the stick itself, but NOT after painted on paper, over time. Sometimes certain minerals have chemical changes aided by humidity. That is why a color might be stable on the dry page but not when it's in a big chunk inside a pan or inside a tube. This can be due to humidity in your location (like Florida), your environment including air pollution, or other paints in your palette (ie off-gassing of nearby metals/tubes, Nickel Azo, Cobalts, Cadmiums, Ultramarine's Sulfur or even minor acidity present in gum arabic). This is a common thing to happen to other mineral paints like Malachite and Vivianite, but seemed to happen much more subtly and slowly to Sodalite. The paint still re-wet well and reached a dark masstone.

Below shows how the remainder of my watercolor stick appears as of 2020 vs how it looked when it was new in 2016. (Daniel Smith has offered "sticks" as a cheaper alternative to tubes since before they started selling half-pans. For anyone who hasn't seen them before, you can get them on Blick here.) When this stick was new it looked just like the half-pan I purchased in 2018... No changes yet in the half pan sample, but this is definitely an indicator that changes may happen over time. Unlike the layers problem with Tiger's Eye Genuine, this color change has completely gone through the stick to the center, with no change in hue by cutting the outer layers off.

Daniel Smith Sodalite Genuine watercolor pigment mineral primatek color change problem lightfast 

-

 

Daniel Smith watercolor swatch card color chart:

PY53 Daniel Smith Watercolor Nickel Titanate Yellow swatch card pigment database test masstone lightfast fugitive PY184 Daniel Smith Watercolor Bismuth Vandate Pigment Database Color Chart PY151 Daniel Smith Watercolor Azo Yellow Pigment Database Color Chart PY175 Daniel Smith Watercolor Lemon Yellow Pigment Database Color Chart PY43 Daniel Smith Watercolor Verona Gold Ochre Color Pigment Granulating Swatch Database Card PY42 Daniel Smith Watercolor Raw Sienna Light pigment dip pen swatch card color colour database PY43 Daniel Smith Watercolor Burgundy Yellow Ochre pigment dip pen swatch card color colour database PY43 Daniel Smith Watercolor Yellow Ochre pigment dip pen swatch card color colour database PY43 Daniel Smith Watercolor Italian Deep Ochre pigment dip pen swatch card color colour database PY43 Daniel Smith Watercolor French Ochre pigment dip pen swatch card color colour database PY42 Daniel Smith Watercolor Transparent Yellow Oxide pigment dip pen swatch card color colour database PY42 Daniel Smith Watercolor Mars Yellow pigment dip pen swatch card color colour database PY150 Daniel Smith Watercolor Nickel Azo Yellow Art Pigment Database  PO48 PY150 Daniel Smith Watercolor Quinacridone Gold Art Pigment Database PY139 Daniel Smith Watercolor isoindoline Yellow swatch card pigment database test masstone lightfast fugitive PO48 PY150 Daniel Smith Watercolor Quinacridone Deep Gold Art Pigment Database PO48 Daniel Smith Watercolor Quinacridone Burnt Orange Art Pigment Database PO48 PY150 PR209 Daniel Smith Watercolor Quinacridone Sienna Art Pigment Database PR209 Daniel Smith Quinacridone Coral Watercolor Lightfast Pigment List Database PR122 Daniel Smith Opera Pink Watercolor color flourescent vibrant fugitive dye swatch database pigment pr122 daniel smith quin lilac watercolor primary magenta pigment database swatch PV19 Daniel Smith Watercolor Quinacridone Rose Pigment Swatch Database Card PV19 Daniel Smith Watercolor Quinacridone Red Pigment Swatch Database Card PR177 Daniel Smith Anthraquinoid Red water color pigment database swatch test card light fast PR254 Daniel Smith Watercolor Pyrrol Red Watercolour swatch color chart card pigment PR83 Daniel Smith Alizarin Crimson Fugitive Pigment Rose Red UV Lightfast Test Fading Art pv19 daniel smith watercolor quin violet pigment database art paint swatch pr202 pb29 daniel smith permanent violet watercolor color separating pigment swatch card Daniel Smith Purpurite Genuine Granulate Mineral Gem Stone Pigment Database Swatch Card PB15 Daniel Smith Watercolor Manganese Blue Hue Art Pigment Database Mineral Daniel Smith Sugalite Genuine Watercolor sparkle glitter gemstone rare color swatch database pigment Mineral Daniel Smith Kyanite Genuine Watercolor gemstone rare color swatch database pigment  PB27 Daniel Smith Watercolor Prussian Blue Swatch Card PBk11 PB15 Daniel Smith Lunar Blue Watercolor color separating granulating swatch database pigment Mineral Daniel Smith Blue Apatite Genuine Watercolor sparkle glitter gemstone rare color swatch database pigment  Mineral Daniel Smith Sodalite Genuine PAN Watercolor sparkle glitter gemstone rare color swatch database pigment PG50 Daniel Smith Watercolor Cobalt Teal Blue PG50 Pigment Database Swatch Card Mineral Daniel Smith Fuchsite Genuine Watercolor gemstone rare color swatch database pigment Daniel Smith Kingman Green Turquoise Granulate Mineral Gem Stone Pigment Database Swatch Card PG19 Daniel Smith DRY PAN Watercolor Cobalt Green Pale Art Pigment Database  PG18 Daniel Smith Viridian Pigment Database Green Paint Swatch Mineral Daniel Smith Amazonite Genuine Watercolor gemstone rare color swatch database pigment PY150 PO48 PG36 PY3 Daniel Smith Watercolor Hooker's Green Art Pigment Database Mineral Daniel Smith Diopside Genuine Watercolor gemstone rare color swatch database pigment Mineral Daniel Smith Jadeite Genuine Watercolor gemstone rare color swatch database pigment Mineral Daniel Smith Green Apatite Genuine Watercolor sparkle glitter gemstone rare color swatch database pigment Mineral Daniel Smith Serpentine Genuine Watercolor gemstone rare color swatch database pigment PY129 Daniel Smith Watercolor Rich Green Gold Color Pigment Granulating Swatch Database Card PG36 PY3 PY150 Daniel Smith Watercolor Green Gold Art Pigment Database PO48 PG7 PY150 Daniel Smith Watercolor Sap Green Art Pigment Database PBr7 PB29 PY53 Daniel Smith Watercolor Olive Green Color Pigment Granulating Swatch Database Card PY150 PO48 PB29 Daniel Smith Watercolor Undersea Green Art Pigment Database PB27 daniel smith deep sap green watercolor swatch prussian blue lightfast test Rare Mineral Daniel Smith Watercolor Zoisite Genuine Color Pigment Granulating Swatch Database Card PBr7 Daniel Smith Watercolor Monte Amiata Natural Sienna Color Pigment Granulating Swatch Database Card  PBr7 Daniel Smith Watercolor Raw Sienna Color Pigment Granulating Swatch Database Card PR101 Daniel Smith Watercolor English Red Earth pigment granulating awesome swatch card color colour database Primate K PR101 Daniel Smith Watercolor Sedona Genuine Natural Red Iron Oxide Pigment Swatch Database Card PR101 Daniel Smith Watercolor Italian Venetian Red Pigment Swatch Database Card PBr7 Daniel Smith Watercolor Pompeii Red pigment dip pen swatch card color colour database  PR102 Daniel Smith Watercolor Fired Gold Ochre Pigment Swatch Database Card  PBr7 Daniel Smith Watercolor Italian Burnt Sienna Pigment Swatch Database Card PR102 Daniel Smith Watercolor Burgundy Red Ochre Pigment Swatch Database Card PR175 Daniel Smith Watercolor Deep Scarlet swatch pigment granulating vibrant PR206 Daniel Smith Watercolor Quinacridone Burnt Scarlet swatch pigment granulating vibrant PR101 PO48 Daniel Smith Watercolor Burnt Sienna Light swatch pigment granulating vibrant PR101 Daniel Smith Watercolor Transparent Red Oxide swatch pigment granulating vibrant Mineral Daniel Smith Watercolor Minnesota Pipestone swatch pigment granulating vibrant PBr25 Daniel Smith Watercolor Permanent Brown swatch pigment granulating vibrant PBr7 Daniel Smith Watercolor Mummy Bauxite swatch pigment granulating vibrant PBr7 Daniel Smith Watercolor German Ground Raw Umber swatch pigment granulating vibrant Mineral Daniel Smith Watercolor Piemontite Genuine swatch pigment granulating vibrant PR101 Daniel Smith Watercolor Transparent Brown Oxide swatch pigment granulating vibrant PBr25 Daniel Smith Watercolor Permanent Brown swatch pigment granulating vibrant PBr7 PV19 Daniel Smith Watercolor Raw Umber Violet swatch pigment granulating vibrant PR102 Daniel Smith Watercolor Burnt Yellow Ochre Pigment Swatch Database Card  PR101 Daniel Smith Watercolor Venetian Red pigment dip pen swatch card color colour database Mineral Daniel Smith Garnet Genuine pigment dip pen swatch card color colour database PR102 Daniel Smith Watercolor Roasted French Ochre Pigment Swatch Database Card Mineral Daniel Smith Red Fuchsite Genuine sparkle glitter watercolor color colour pigment database swatch card Mineral Daniel Smith Burnt Bronzite Genuine Watercolor gemstone rare color swatch database pigment Mineral Daniel Smith Bronzite Genuine sparkle glitter watercolor color colour pigment database swatch card PBr11 Daniel Smith Watercolor Lunar Earth Color Pigment Granulating Swatch Database Card PR101 Daniel Smith Watercolor Indian Red pigment granulating awesome swatch card color colour database  pr171 daniel smith naphthamide maroon watercolor pigment database swatch card PR101 Daniel Smith Watercolor Lunar Red Rock Color Pigment Granulating Swatch Database Card Daniel Smith Red Jasper Genuine Granulate Mineral Gem Stone Pigment Database Swatch Card PY43 Daniel Smith Watercolor Goethite Color Pigment Granulating Swatch Database Card PBr6 Daniel Smith Watercolor Enviro-Friendly Yellow Iron Oxide Color Pigment Granulating Swatch Database Card Daniel Smith Yavapai Genuine Granulate Mineral Gem Stone Pigment Database Swatch Card Mineral Daniel Smith Watercolor Hematite Burnt Scarlet Genuine Color Granulating Art Pigment Database Swatch Card Mineral Daniel Smith Sicklerite Genuine pigment dip pen swatch card color colour database  PBr7 Daniel Smith Watercolor Raw Umber Color Pigment Granulating Swatch Database Card PBr6 Daniel Smith Watercolor E-F Brown Iron Oxide pigment dip pen swatch card color colour database  Daniel smith tigers eye genuine watercolor mineral pigment brown paint swatch card color chart primatek PBr7 PBk9 Daniel Smith Watercolor Sepia pigment dip pen swatch card color colour database PBr7 Daniel Smith Watercolor Van Dyck Brown pigment dip pen swatch card color colour database  Burnt Tigers Eye Genuine daniel smith watercolor granulating brown paint mineral primatek PV15 PBk11 Daniel Smith Watercolor Lunar Violet pigment dip pen swatch card color colour database  PB29 PG18 PR177 Daniel Smith Moonglow Watercolor Lightfast Fugitive Pigment Database PB29 PG18 PR177 Daniel Smith Moonglow Watercolor PAN versus Tube masstone PB60 PBk6 Daniel Smith Watercolor Payne's Blue Gray pigment dip pen swatch card color colour database PB29 PY42 PBk9 Daniel Smith Watercolor Payne's Gray pigment dip pen swatch card color colour database PV19 PR101 PBk6 Daniel Smith Watercolor Neutral Tint pigment dip pen swatch card color colour database  PB29 PBr7 Daniel Smith Jane's Grey Watercolor Mixture Granulating Art Pigment Database Swatch Card Mineral Daniel Smith Watercolor Hematite Violet Genuine Color Granulating Art Pigment Database Swatch Card Mineral Daniel Smith Watercolor Bloodstone Genuine Color Granulating Art Pigment Database Swatch Card PBk10 Daniel Smith Watercolor Graphite Gray pigment dip pen swatch card color colour database PBk9 Daniel Smith Watercolor Ivory Black pigment dip pen swatch card color colour database Mineral Daniel Smith Watercolor Hematite Genuine Color Granulating Art Pigment Database Swatch Card Mineral Daniel Smith Watercolor Black Tourmaline Genuine Color Granulating Art Pigment Database Swatch Card PBk11 Daniel Smith Watercolor Lunar Black Color Granulating Art Pigment Database Swatch Card PBk6 Daniel Smith Watercolor Lamp Black Color Granulating Art Pigment Database Swatch Card PW6-1 Daniel Smith Watercolor Buff Titanium Color Pigment Granulating Swatch Database Card

-------------------------------In progress. As these are completed, I will be copying them into the pigment database, where you can compare each color side by side with other brands. --------------------

 

Until then, you can see more video reviews and demonstration paintings for Daniel Smith and other watercolor paints on my YouTube channel at https://www.youtube.com/kimberlycrick