Finetec and Coliro Watercolor Review Lightfast Testing Mica Metallic + Standard Transparent and Opaque Paint Sets
Finetec and Coliro were previously one company, but split into two brands with different distribution areas. Both of which carry some overlapping colors from their original line up, and each began add unique colors to their respective brands in recent years. They both make some of the most sparkly metallic mica based watercolors on the market. Often shown off by hand-lettering artists focusing on fancy calligraphy, they are increasingly also used as accents in illustration. Many colors from both ranges are lightfast, but be cautious about the new 2020-2021 sets that say "neon" "fluorescent" "glow in the dark" or "vibrant" which are very likely fugitive.
*** UPDATE *** Over the course of 2020-2021 a lot of changes have happened with Finetec's brand. Finetec is now owned by Royal Talens (the makers of Van Gogh and Rembrandt). They still share some of the original colors and names for those colors with Coliro brand, but they are also making an increasingly unique range. The cooperation (or lack of) between these two companies is unclear, as Finetec is labeling their items as still made in Germany and using many of the original overlapping colors. Coliro however seems to want nothing to do with being related to Finetec as a name or the square/rectangle pan shape, as they are very clear on their site that Coliro Pearlcolors are round pans only. This is causing unnecessary confusion for both artists new to the brand and those who have been using both brands since before their split around 2016-2018. I have seen people concerned that the paints they bought were not genuine, being worried about supporting imposters or fake products.
Finetec is now offering "premium" sets on Blick USA here which are very expensive, but contain some unique real-metal (not mica) colors and some high end chameleon/shifting/two-tone colors they call "flip flop". The price is definitely too high and the competition is increasing, especially in the handmade watercolor market (such as Etsy shops called Iuile or Hydracolour). Handmade mica watercolor options are now including the latest cosmetic mica powders from China. These pigments were designed for makeup and have FAR surpassed the shimmer, reflectivity and color-shifting properties of the ingredients Finetec or Coliro use. If you've tried Iuile or Hydracolour, you're likely to be disappointed with Finetec or Coliro - despiite them being some of the best mass-produced metallic watercolors distributed worldwide.
I will be making a thorough comparison of Finetec vs Coliro in the future. In the meantime, the older review video below is outdated but gives a good idea of the type of product these are.
The video above covers the 2020 special limited edition featuring Peggy Dean brush lettering art, Legion Stonehenge Aqua black watercolor paper (100% cotton). You can find Finetec paints for sale at Blick here.
Some colors reflect a second color at certain angles. They describe this as two-tone or flip flop, but other brands call these types of paints color shifting or chameleon colors.
Finetec has rectangle pans, Coliro has round pans. It is how they initially distinguished one brand from the other since they split into two brands from one company. (Previously "Finetec" as the only company had round pans.) It's good to know, since there are overlapping colors between them, and if you have for instance "arabic gold" in a round pan, it's the same as the "arabic gold" in the rectangle pan. At this time I do not own the entire Coliro range to know how many from this Finetec set may be duplicates. I did not see matching color names for some of these, but until I am able to swatch them side by side I can't be sure if Coliro has similar colors under different names.
You might hear artists say that mica paints are lightfast. You will also see paint manufacturers only label the paint ingredient as mica (PW20 a reflective clear-white silicate mineral). Both are generalizations as mica is just the sparkly base ingredient and the color you see is actually a second pigment coating natural or synthetic mica particles.
The standard gold, bronze and copper mica based paints are almost always lightfast because red iron oxide, one of the most stable earth brown pigments is used to coat it. Pearl white is often pure lightfast mica. For silver and gunmetal, the trusty lamp black is mixed in for the gray color over the sparkle. It's when you get into colorful mica that the trouble starts. Pink and green color shimmer paints often use fugitive pigment mixtures or neon dyes.
After 6 months with the right side of the strip in window lighting, and the other side in a shady drawer, I'm happy to report that none of the colors faded. The very minor lighter color shine on the right side of the "ocean" set strip (colors 5 and 6) is likely light reflection. I am not seeing any fading on the test strips in person, just on this photo. I will update this page if further developments occur in the future. This test is one of several I am running for this brand and other mica based paints. This is a very stable sample in contrast to some of my other sets that faded in as little as 3 weeks in the same conditions.
My Paul Rubens, cosmic shimmer, pearl-ex powders, Kuretake and other gansai colorful mica have all failed lightfast tests. Unlike the competition, the Finetec and Coliro have been UV stable. They must have chosen to coat their mica with higher quality stable pigments. Bravo, a fun glittering paint suitable for professional art!
These paints work best over other watercolors, or on black papers. For practice and crafts, the Shizen paper from Blick here is affordable, vegan and made from 100% post consumer waste (recycled cotton from the clothing industry).
For professional projects, Legion Stonehenge Aqua Black is a more reliable paper available here.
They make one of the most amazingly reflective golds you can paint with. So much easier than metal gilding foils or gluing gold leaf onto your art. My favorite of their gold colors is called "Arabic Gold". You can see how I used it in the second painting of the egret in this video:
Nearly all of their colors show up well on dark papers. The most opaque pearlescent colors, such as metallic gold, silver, copper and bronze look so elegant when used for calligraphy. Using a wet brush to transfer the paint onto the tip of a dip pen allows for easy writing using these watercolors.
Where to buy? Links below.
Finetec is a bit easier to find in the USA, but Coliro is within our reach too thanks to imports sellers on Amazon and stores that ship worldwide like Jackson's Art. This page contains affiliate links. As an Amazon associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. These paints come in a variety of palette types and color selections. Check them out below:Coliro round style pans:
Finetec rectangle style pans:
While not as economical, they are also available in single pan colors instead of sets:
-------------------- In progress - standard color sets --------------------------
I have not gotten a chance to play with them yet, but I was surprised to see that they do also make standard, non-mica, transparent and opaque pan sets. These are an odd chalky style tablet compared to normal half-pan watercolor sets. I'll be sure to share my experience as soon as possible!
Looking for something in specific? Have a set you want to suggest that I review? Feel free to send me a comment on the contact form! Happy painting:)
Note: this page contains affiliate links. All product opinions are my own. I am committed to honest reviews showcasing both the pros and cons of each product. I have not received payment from any brand for a review. I earn a commission from sales made through this web page's clickable banners or links to Amazon, Arteza, Scrapbook, Jackson's or Blick Art Materials websites.