Holbein Artists Gouache + Irodori Review, Color Charts, Lightfast Test, Fugitive Pigments List.
Holbein Artists Gouache and the extended color selection called "Irodori" (traditional colors of Japan) is a professional quality paint which I highly recommend. The large amount of colors, including many time saving convenience mixtures, make this an excellent brand for designers. There are many vibrant fugitive colors that may be of use in commercial projects, web illustration or print reproduction. There are also many reliable lightfast and single pigment options throughout this line. When carefully choosing which colors to purchase, this gouache can be suitable for professional art needs (art to sell/long term wall art display). See color charts below to see which pigments are prone to fading.
- This is a new page in progress. Incoming comparison of opaque vs transparent pigment tubes (CAD COB/ MAG PTH) -
While many colors are opaque, Holbein gouache does not contain fillers (such as Chalk white PW18 often found in low quality gouache as a cheap filler as well as to add opacity). This means some Holbein gouache colors will be semi opaque depending on the pigment ingredient used. Very few colors are fully transparent due to the naturally matte powdery finish of gouache (high pigment load/low binder). If needed, opacity can be increased by adding a small touch of Titanium White PW6 to your semi transparent colors. Adding more white will result in pale pastel tints, which fully cover dark papers and provide streak-free coverage. They offer most of my favorite primary mixing basics - like transparent magenta, phthalo blue and green, as well as super opaque pigments like ochre, cadmiums, cobalts and titanium white.
If I could only paint with one brand of gouache for the rest of my life it would be Holbein. Holbein has the most firm tube formula (semi stiff paste), which has proven to be shelf stable for many years. Out of dozens of brands that I've tried over the past decade, Holbein has had the least binder separation. Some of my least used colors I got in sets are over 5 years old, yet still seem brand new. This means I can get straight to painting instead of tedious toothpick/needle tool stir/wipe/cleanup involved in most brands that have been left to sit for more than a few months at a time. Despite the firm formula, these paints mix well with water on the palette. The formula flows easily from a damp brush, effortlessly gliding across wet or dry paper. I generally experience less brush drag compared to most other brands. These have a silky smooth consistency when used with a touch of water. They are reliably high quality (never gotten a bad tube over the years). These are much nicer than budget designer gouache brands like ShinHan or Daler Rowney.
Price and availability: Holbein gouache offers a large variety of colors and is easy to find (Blick offers both Holbein standard line here and the Irodori line here). The price is reasonable - Jackson's has great prices on Holbein Gouache averaging $6 USD/15ml tube for many of the lower cost pigments, more for expensive pigments like Cobalts/Cadmiums. Jackson's also offers Holbein Irodori and standard line box sets here. Irodori often go on sale for less than $5/tube when purchased in sets, check Amazon USA for current pricing here. These are often cheaper than other comparable brands with such a high pigment load (such as MGraham, Schmincke, Maimeri, Winsor & Newton). Price may vary by region, check options in your part of the world (Schmincke tends to be the most expensive to the USA but cheaper around Germany).
Holbein's Titanium White PW6 gouache is very opaque. It comes in both 15ml and a more economical large 60ml tube. I like to have the big tube around for using with watercolors. It's a great white for replacing a gel pen for highlights over watercolor paintings. You can even mix it with your watercolors (both transparent or opaque pigments) to increase opacity and add a matte finish/reduce surface sheen:
Like most gouache (other than M.Graham which contains honey, a humectant), Holbein gouache will crack in dry pans. While it can be re-wet from dry, you may struggle to reconstitute it without losing some opacity. I generally only use gouache from dry when painting small details (like adding highlights to feathers on watercolor bird paintings).
Holbein Artists Gouache
- color chart coming soon -
The Irodori line expands upon the Holbein Artists Gouache catalog, adding new unique hues as well as some lightfast options the original standard line lacked (such as dye-less purple mixtures using PR122/PB29 or PV23/PW6). Irodori gouache is the same quality, but offers an extended palette based on the seasonal colors of Japan. I am very pleased that mid-warm red PR254 was added to this line, as Holbein Artists Gouache standard line only had a couple lightfast reds (cool Magenta PR122, warm Cadmium Red PR108).
- Irodori chart coming soon -
Other gouache brands I recommend? While Holbein is my favorite gouache, M.Graham, Schmincke, Maimeri and Winsor & Newton also make high quality gouache. M.Graham is my go-to for using from dry in a travel palette or for small details/highlights over watercolor (the honey in M.G. prevents it from cracking). Winsor & Newton is my least favorite to re-wet from dry, with many colors drying brittle in and out of the tube over time. Sometimes another brand will have a specific pigment code I'm looking for. For instance, Daniel Smith and Schmincke have my favorite warm red Vermilion Hue/Pyrrol Scarlet made from PR255 (a non toxic, highly lightfast alternative to Cadmium Red PR108). Holbein's closest match would be the slightly darker red PR254 (Irodori Scarlet). Schmincke has a nice PBr24, DS has Buff Titanium PW6:1, Maimeri has the rare PG8, W&N Designer gouache offers Perylene Maroon, Violet and Black (the ultra deep green PBk31). If you're looking for a deep violet, the PR122/PB29 mixture of Irodori "Edo Violet" is beautiful, but not as intense as Dioxazine. Schmincke and M.G. have pure deep Dioxazine violet PV23, while Holbein only offers a paler mixture containing white (Irodori Bellflower) etc. I will note my favorite or unique colors on each brand's review page.
Where to buy? You can find Holbein gouache in many online stores online including Amazon, Jacksons (UK/worldwide) or Blick (USA). 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 only recommend stores I have personally shopped with and had a positive experience. I earn a commission from sales made through this web page's clickable banners or other links to Amazon, Jackson's or Blick Art Materials.
My favorite American art supply chain store is Dick Blick. They have a massive catalog and competitive prices, with quick shipping options here in the USA. Check their site for Holbein products available individually or in sets at:
Jackson's has a great price for Holbein gouache at:
Amazon USA continues to offer more and more art and craft supplies, here's some links to what I've found there. As an Amazon associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.
Irodori extended palette sets by season:
Want to compare each swatch card to the same color in other brands of paint? See each pigment numbers side by side on the pigment database pages.