Jackson's Art Watercolor Review (store brand watercolour paint made by Sennelier)

Jackson's is an art store in the UK that ships worldwide. They have a large online retail shop with a ton of art supplies ranging from watercolor, acrylic, oil, gouache, tempera, inks, pastels, papers, brushes and more. Their affordable store brand professional watercolor paints are made for them by Sennelier (OEM, France). They proudly claim that these paints are made to the "same high standards as the best professional paints {at} a fraction of the price". You can find Jackson's watercolor here.

Jackson's watercolors come in half pans, full pans, sets, 10ml or 21ml tubes. I did not experience any binder separation in my new Jackson's tubes, but honey based paints can be prone to significant binder separation over years in storage. I have to use a toothpick to re-stir my Sennelier tubes periodically. The dry pans varied in how easy they were to re-wet depending on the color. Some colors seemed weaker/less pigmented than others. The dry pan formula is slightly different from their binder ratio for tube paints. My Sennelier tubes stay sticky in the pan when poured to dry, not great for travel, but they re-wet much better because of that. I did see different flow rates between them, but it seemed random if the tube or pan would flow more or less than the other. Flow rate can also vary by pigment, but this is hard to predict - Q.Purple was less in pan than tube and P.Grey was a faster disperse in pan (but there were other pigment factors, see image further down).

sennelier helios purple magenta pr122 watercolor cool red primary

Several artists have mentioned that these paints felt "gummy" - a complaint I've also heard regarding Sennelier, but it seems to be a real problem for just a few colors. There are certain problem pigments in any brand, such as cerulean or viridian, which may be more prone to feeling weak or gummy. Sennelier is notorious for lacking granulation texture and offering very pale earth browns (umbers/sienna/PBr7). Both Jackson's and Sennelier watercolors are not ideal for color separating mixtures, granulation texture or strong browns for animal/landscape art. I find myself reaching for other brands with less limitations instead.

Keep in mind when comparing to Sennelier: Because of Sennelier's hand in the production of Jackson's paints, many artists have compared these brands. There's some things to be aware of when looking at anyone's comparisons. First, despite being made for them in the Sennelier factory (+ sharing some packaging and signature pigment combinations), Jackson's paints are not exactly the same as Sennelier's l'Aquarelle professional watercolors. Jackson's seems to be more carelessly thrown together with cosmetic and labeling issues. As of June 2020 Jackson's has 43 colors, Sennelier offers 98. In my opinion, many of Sennelier's best performing, useful or uniquely smooth colors are not even available in the Jackson's brand. Every brand does something well and... less so. It looks like Jackson's starts with the less-so selection of Sennelier's catalog. Some color names that do overlap both catalogs do not match the Sennelier counterpart when swatched.

Sennelier paynes grey watercolor compare jacksons art uk paint

In Sennelier's brand it appears that over the years there have been significant batch to batch differences, which I also expect to be the case for Jackson's. With this unreliability, direct comparisons are difficult. It appears as if some corners were cut to provide Jackson's with a cheaper retail price. This may include varying pigment ingredient sources, pigment grinding or mulling techniques, pigment load vs binder amount and the way they are seemingly carelessly extruded and cut for inserting into pans. 

Sometimes Sennelier's high-honey content can be a perk, especially regarding re-wettability in dry climates. The way Sennelier manufactures their pro watercolor can also be helpful to delicate botanical art techniques, such as aiding in layering/glazing and smoothly blending colors (gradients). Sennelier slow-mixes/mulls their pigments into honey, sometimes resulting in softer smoother colors that behave differently than other brands. This doesn't work well for all pigments, but for certain colors it results in superior blending of gradients and clean glazing. This is particularly positive in regards to Sennelier's Quin Red PR209 (which can look gritty in other brands) as well as amazingly smooth gradients of botanical greens mixed with their Nickel Azo Yellow PY150 as demonstrated in the video on Sennelier's review page. Sennelier also makes a superb Caput Mortum PR101 and Cobalt Teal "Turquoise Green" PG50. Unfortunately those great Sennelier colors are not part of Jackson's store brand selection, so it's hard to directly compare the "best" of Sennelier's offerings to Jackson's. I would especially keep this in mind in case you do not like Jackson's watercolors, as they are not an ideal or complete representation of what Sennelier is capable of producing.

Jackson's art watercolour paint store brand watercolor by sennelier

While definitely above most student grade paints in pigment load and performance, they are not the highest quality compared to other pro grade watercolors. Some parts of production seem to have been rushed, with little attention to details or a well-made quality appearance. There's an unusually random feeling regarding pigment loads between colors as well as texture issues, reminding me of the variable paint performance of another low cost brand called "Turner". Each one of my Jackson's pans came with different amounts of paint.(some being thinner, others looking like 1/4 of the pan was cut off with a blade at one end!). Jackson's is not a good brand for travel palettes, as the extruded and sloppily cut nuggets easily fall out of the plastic pans. Some had air pocket bubbles and some are so loose they annoyingly rattle around in the pan when I brush the color. 

opera rose sennelier watercolor botanical pink neon

pr209 pigment jacksons watercolour sennelier l'aquarelle professional paint

There were many typos/misleading pigment errors on both Jackson's website and their printed paint labels. Because their labels are different from Sennelier's, it's possible they are printed by Jacksons. Regardless of where the errors originated, this was very frustrating to me as a buyer who shops for paints via pigment codes (by ingredient, not made-up color names). It also made it hard to catalog my swatch cards to compare to other brands of paint made with the same pigment ingredients. Some were easy to figure out (such as PR209 being mislabeled as PR208 across multiple colors on their website) but others left me guessing. Some colors might (typos?) include different ingredients between brands (such as "Opera Rose" being advertised as PV19 with fluorescent dye on Jackson's instead of PR81:1 with dye in Sennelier).

sennelier quin gold watercolor

The complicated case of Cobalt Violet Deep Hue: I've skipped adding this Jackson's color to the pigment database because the only overlapping pigment stated by both brands is PR122. Jackson's mistakenly wrote PV23 on my tube's label, but PB29/PR122 was listed on Jackson's site and PV16/PR122 was listed (instead of PB29) by Sennelier. If I had to guess it's a mixture of all 3 (PR122 Magenta, PB29 Ultramarine and PV16 Manganese Violet) due to the minor color separation of pink and blue in the very textural (and gritty) purple base. Both the Jackson's and Sennelier versions swatch exactly the same, so I highly doubt they are actually made from different pigments as advertised.

sennelier cobalt violet deep hue watercolor jacksons art

Mixing limitations: Like Sennelier, Jackson's has smoother particle paints with very little texture (though unfortunately Quin. Purple PR122 and Cobalt Vio. Dp. Hue both had an unpleasant gritty texture). Jackson's watercolors do not work well for replicating other brands popular color separating mixtures (if for instance you want to dupe popular mixtures like Daniel Smith's Moonglow or Cascade Green which require a much heavier granulating ultramarine, viridian and raw umber than Jack/Senn offers). Cobalt Teal heavy mixtures like Misty Morning from Roman Szmal or Schmincke's super-granulating colors are also a no-go with Jackson's - but you could get "Turquoise Green" PG50 in Sennelier's main catalog instead.

cascade green watercolor mixtures pbr7 pb15 phthalo blue raw umber

Viridian is a mixture of PG7/PG18 (phthalo green and viridian) which means that it can not be used for granulating effects the same way as a pure PG18 Viridian could (PG7 is staining and does not perform the same way in mixtures). As seen in the swatch cards below, the Ultramarine Deep, Viridian and Raw Umber produce a notable salt reaction and very little granulation texture. This is unlike the normally granulating, heavy or thick particle, non-salt reactive versions found in other brands (see my top lightfast pigments list for recommendations).

sennelier jacksons watercolor replica moonglow rose of ultramarine substitute

If you decide to try putting a small limited palette together with Jackson's colors, this is what I chose:

jacksons watercolor lightfast test primary mixing colors limited palette watercolor selection pigment choices

Lightfastness: Most of the 43 colors are made with reliable pigments and I do not expect much fading. There are a some fugitive pigments to avoid (which fade in any brand) including Aureolin PY40, Prussian Blue PB27 and Opera Pink's fluorescent dye. Because PY83 can start to fade in very diluted tints, I prefer cadmium (Jackson's has a decent option) or nickel azo yellow (Sennelier has a great PY150) for serious work. Like Sennelier, PR122 is quoted as "fair" or LFIII, but is actually self-rated as *** (3 of 3 stars) by Sennelier and passes as LFI-II in my tests. The LFIII label is because of an older outdated ASTM rating for Magenta (see "Helios Purple" in Sennelier brand). In a 1 year window test, there was no notable fading in the colors I own. 

Conclusion: While Jackson's has a better price point than Sennelier for a small portion of overlapping colors, they aren't really the best colors to start with. The pans don't seem as pigmented as the tubes (after left to dry for a fair re-wet comparison)... which left me wondering if the pigment load may overall be less in the Jackson's pans. I made quite a lot of dents in my half pans just from swatching and trying to get a saturated color comparable to Sennelier's sample (felt like student paints where binder/less pigment was used). I generally recommend White Nights instead, which is also a honey based watercolor at a similar low price point. White nights offers more variety of both smooth and granulating pigment choices, better flow, earth browns, cobalt turquoise, more textural ultramarines for color separating mixtures, as well as an overall higher pigment load. I have also had less texture issues with White Nights compared to other honey brands (including MGraham, Sennelier, Jackson's) though all honey paints perform better when pre-mixed with water. Honey paints are less direct brush-to-paper friendly (as well as being very sticky in humid weather, another con as a travel set). You will get a smoother texture with these paints if you pick up color with your brush then touch your mixing palette to stir in more water first.

Paper: Jackson's also offers their own store brand watercolor paper here. This is a cellulose mixed plant/bark (no cotton) content paper. Its surface sizing is vegan (normally the coating is gelatin) and it allows for fairly easy lifting. It's not as ideal for multiple layers/glazing because I was able to disturb the dry layers too easily. I found that it accepted technical pens and fineliner quite well without causing paper damage. Cold press surface was less textured than Arches or Winsor & Newton's papers, so there was no major skipping for pens or dry media like pencils.

Swatch cards:

-PY35 Jackson's Store Brand Cadmium Yellow Light gritty stain pigment database sennelier art color swatch card PR101 PY150 PR206 Jackson's Store Brand Quinacridone Gold gritty stain pigment database sennelier art color swatch card PR122 Jackson's Store Brand Quinacridone Purple smooth pigment database sennelier art color swatch card PV16 PR122 Jackson's Store Brand Cobalt Violet Deep Hue gritty stain pigment database sennelier art color swatch card PB29 Jackson's Store Brand Ultramarine Deep gritty stain pigment database sennelier art color swatch card PB15 Jackson's Store Brand Phthalo Blue gritty stain pigment database sennelier art color swatch card PG18 PG7 Jackson's store brand Viridian smooth pigment database sennelier art color swatch card Pbr7 Jackson's Store Brand Raw Sienna smooth pigment database sennelier art color swatch card PR206 Jackson's store brand Permanent Alizarin Crimson Deep smooth pigment database sennelier art color swatch card PBk7 PB15 PV19 Jackson's Store Brand Payne's Grey smooth pigment database sennelier art color swatch card

See how these colors compare to other brands on the pigment database pages, or return to the art supply reviews page here.

 

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