Lightfast Tests, Art Supply Reviews, Color Charts for Watercolor, Gouache, Acrylic, Alcohol Ink etc.
Are your art and craft supplies fugitive? Find out which colors fade in window sun light. I mainly review watercolor paints, gouache and inks. I also swatch and lightfast test acrylics, color pencils, fountain pen dye inks, markers, pens and craft supplies.
List of my favorite lightfast pigments! Set up a watercolor palette of useful primary colors and unique granulating pigments for maximum versatility. Color mixing recipes, swatch cards and example art. Easily replicate color separating convenience mixtures like Daniel Smith's Moonglow, Rose of Ultramarine, Shadow Violet, Cascade Green as well as Schmincke and Roman Szmall look-alikes. With a collection of single-pigment paints aimed at professionals and pigment enthusiasts, you may never find yourself tempted by a pre-made brand mix again!
Learn about lightfast rating systems (Blue Wool Scale, ASTM LFI-V and star systems) + a list of the most fugitive pigments commonly used in professional watercolor paints and other art supplies. These color ingredients are not lightfast, having faded from extended UV exposure (fluctuating day time / indirect northern window lighting) over time. This list shows a variety of brands who use these colors, which ones lied or misrepresented their ratings, and which pigment code to avoid when it's written as the ingredient on paint tubes.
Recommended books for artists - my favorite guides for drawing and painting as well as photography references for art inspiration. I'll be making some flip through book reviews and painting demonstrations showing how each book inspired me to create. I've collected books on many subjects including color theory, pigments, flowers, animals, portraits, landscapes, fantasy art, acrylic, gouache, mixed media and watercoloring!
Watercolor supplies - list of waterproof ink, pens, paint brushes, paper (both cellulose and cotton, affordable student to pro quality options), swatch card creation and storage, lighting, basics of top-down video making for artists and crafters including camera holders, free and low cost editing software and other tools!
Pigment Database - Any paint that comes with a listed ingredient code (a color index number that looks like PR101 or PB29) has been swatched for side by side comparison. Looking for a good brown watercolor? Check the browns page and find your ideal brand! You can also check out specific brand reviews below.
Multi brand pages: Fluorescent / Neon Watercolor, Inks, Acrylics and Powders. In progress topics - Recommended Watercolor Brands by Price, Quality, Student and Pro Grades (including which are the highest quality of the cheapest sets for kids/beginners). Color theory simplified, useful color basics, mixing charts, color combos. General overview of paint types: watercolor, Japanese Gansai, Korean and Chinese traditional animal glue paints, tempera, gouache, acrylic and oil paint binder differences, additives, DIY paint making supplies. The confusing topic of acrylic gouache - which brands are special hybrids vs just matte acrylic and how to mimic/mix your own. (Have a page topic or video brand/theme request? Let me know at firstname.lastname@example.org or drop a comment on YouTube.)
BRAND QUICK LINK LIST: The following have been reviewed (brands without links are in progress/being tested). Many reviews have art and swatch cards, but may still be pending lightfast results (each takes 1 year). Updates and lightfast test result announcements can be found at Patreon. Descriptions with art preview images are further down providing more info prior to selecting a review.
Watercolor, gansai, gouache and similar water-soluble paints: A.Gallo, Altenew, American Journey, Aquafine, Arrtx, Art Creation, Art Echo, Art Philosophy (pro tubes) or Prima Marketing student (pan sets), Arteza , Artgraf by Viarco , Blick watercolor or tempera, Blockx & Stephen Quiller, Boku-Undu, Camel/Camlin Kokuyo Watercolor or Poster Color, Coliro vs Finetec, Crayola, Da Vinci, Daniel Smith, Derwent Graphitint Metallic and Inktense , Etchr Watercolor/Palettes/Paper, Grumbacher, Holbein watercolor or Artist's and Irodori gouache, Hydracolour, Isaro, Iuile, Jack Richeson Imports , Jackson's watercolor or pigment powders, KingArt gouache & watercolor brushes, Kremer Pigments & Ready-Made Watercolors, Kuretake Gansai, Lefranc & Bourgeois watercolour or gouache, Lukas watercolor or studio gouache, Marie's, M.Graham watercolor or gouache, Maimeri Blu watercolor or Maimeri gouache, Michael Harding, Mijello Mission Gold, Miya (Himi), Old Holland, Ooly, Paul Rubens Pro or Student (Pretty Excellent, Caroline) or GUCAI, Pebeo, Phoenix, Prang, Prodigal Son's Rare & Historical Pigments, Qor, Rembrandt, Renesans, Roman Szmal, Rosa Gallery, Schmincke Horadam watercolor or gouache or liquid charcoal, Selah Paint Co., Sennelier pro or student, ShinHan Watercolors (PWC, SWC, Korean Color), ShinHan Professional Designers Gouache, Sonnet vs Rosa Studio, Super Vision, Superior (Art Whale/Tinge/Artsy/Meeden/China Replicas), Talens Extra Fine Gouache vs Art Creation, Turner watercolors or gouache, Utrecht watercolor or gouache, Van Gogh, White Nights, Yarka and Gamma, Winsor & Newton Pro or Cotman Student, Yasutomo & Niji.
Watercolor - Gouache HYBRID paints: Paul Rubens Opaque Watercolor vs ShinHan Pass vs Mission White Class Design Colors. These paints are made with unique formulas that break the standard rules for watercolor or gouache. They instead use a hybrid approach with binder ratios, opacity and matte additives to make a paint that flows like watercolor but is opaque like gouache.
Technical and Fountain Pen Inks: Both dye and pigment liquid inks specifically designed for use in pens. This section will include many color separating swatches, chromatography studies and my favorite inks with sheen, shimmer, shading and other special effects. I'll be featuring brands like Noodler's, Birmingham Pen Co., Platinum, Robert Oster, Rohrer & Klingner SketchInk, Diamine and more. I'll also be attempting to replicate unique inks with watercolor mixtures.
Waterproof mediums - acrylic polymer or vinyl based paint, acrylic gouache hybrids, India and shellac inks etc.: Acrylic paint markers, Aero Color fluid acrylic ink by Schmincke, Bombay India Inks PH Martins, Calli Calligraphy Ink by Daler Rowney, Holbein Acrylic Gouache (Previously "Acryla"), Holbein Acrylic Ink, Jo Sonja's matte fluid acrylic, Lascaux Acrylic Gouache, Lefranc & Bourgeois Flash Vinyl, Liquitex Acrylic Gouache, Liquitex Basics, Pebeo Mat Pub, Rohrer & Klingner Calligraphy and India Inks, Turner Acryl Gouache, Ziller Inks.
Don't see a specific brand? Have dot cards/samples you'd like to send me for review, lightfast testing or pigment database? Email email@example.com or use the contact form to let me know!
Wishlist: I do not own any Art Spectrum or Lutea plant-based watercolors. I'd be happy to feature handmade small businesses (such as etsy sellers). Also collecting acrylics (particularly fluid/airbrush/low viscosity paints by Holbein, Old Holland, Ara, Da Vinci etc.) Any brand or medium of discontinued, unique, rare pigments in paint form or pigment powders for use as historical pigment database samples. Inks (any, from plants, dyes, shellac, fountain, Rohrer & Klingner etc.). Other brands not mentioned (I love to discover new things!).
--- A.Gallo artwork in progress, currently testing 30+ colors ---
A. Gallo handmade watercolors from Italy. Professional grade offering some rare pigments, unique convenience mixtures, rosemary oil scented paints in half pans and lovely packaging ideal for gift giving.
Altenew is a paper craft company specializing in card making, die cutting, rubber stamping, inks and other coloring supplies. They offer several "artist quality" (crafter/student grade) watercolor sets. They have a higher end full pan metallic set (mica based pearlescent paints) with a more pro-level pigment load, it was very lightfast and similar to Coliro/Finetec.
American Journey watercolor is the name of Cheap Joe's (USA) art store brand, this paint is made for them by Da Vinci (a professional quality American company also reviewed independently below). Selection includes interesting and unique custom mixtures (exclusive, not in Da Vinci's own catalog).
Aquafine Watercolors by Daler Rowney. Student grade pan sets, tube paints and inks (liquid pigment based water colour). Quality paint paint ideal for serious beginners interested in lightfast-only pigments, similar to Van Gogh and Cotman.
Arrtx Gouache is a student "designer" opaque watercolor paint that comes in large 30ml jelly cup style containers. It dries matte and is ideal for print reproduction. An affordable option for those learning gouache painting techniques.
Art Philosophy professional artist grade watercolor tubes review. This company previously branded as Prima Marketing aimed at crafters and students, has branched out to artists offering 15ml tube paints with a higher pigment load. See a video painting demonstration, lightfast information and compare these to other brands.
Prima Marketing student (now also called Art Philosophy) pan watercolor sets. Many fugitive student/bargain/crafter grade 12 half pan sets called "confections" and one larger 25 color "confetti" set. Artists are in the habit of calling them Prima watercolors, they changed their branding to "Art Philosophy" a couple years ago after establishing a foothold in the painting world offering budget friendly art supplies for crafts (card making and rubber stamping).
Arteza is an American distributor of Chinese and Korean art supply products aimed at kids and students. They have a lot of large bargain priced paint sets of watercolors, gouache and acrylic as well as color pencils, pens, markers, sketchbooks, drawing paper and even cotton watercolor paper.
--- In Progress ---
--- In Progress ---
Boku-Undo has lovely large gansai-style pan sets with unique color schemes, such as an all near-black neutral set, or their "aurora" interference mica 6 pan set made in Japan.
Coliro and Finetec are best known for their metallic mica watercolor sets that are likely the highest quality, most lightfast and reflective sparkly glittering paints on the market.
--- Da Vinci artwork in progress ---
Da Vinci Paint Co. is an American paint manufacturer offering professional quality watercolor, gouache, acrylic and oil paints. They have reasonable prices for their high quality.
Daniel Smith Watercolors 250+ colors tested, tube and pan sets, example art and video reviews. There's no hiding I'm a big Daniel Smith fan. While all their paints are high quality, due to price I mainly recommend the unique granulating mineral selection they have, also known as Primatek.
--- In progress ---
Derwent watersoluble paints including Graphitint, Metallic and Inktense pan sets.
--- In progress ---
Etchr watercolor, porcelain palettes and cotton papers. This brand designs art supplies to be manufactured for them in China with varying degrees of quality. Some of their products come with a hefty price tag compared to the competition.
--- In Progress ---
Grumbacher Academy Watercolor Review. This brand is one of the few companies manufactured in the USA and the only major one offering a student grade line. They also may be involved in supplying pigments to Blick art supply store for their store brand watercolors, as they share some uncommon pigments and large particle textural characteristics.
--- In progress ---
Holbein professional watercolor from Japan. They offer tubes and pans, both being more reasonably priced near Japan but have severe price increases when imported to USA/Euro. Review, swatch cards, lightfast testing.
Holbein professional gouache. An opaque watercolor with a matte finish. Covers the primary mixing set as well as the 24 tube box set, swatch cards, lightfast testing.
Holbein professional acryla-gouache. A gouache-like matte acrylic paint with finely ground pigment particles and flow additives for smooth blending. A waterproof alternative to traditional gouache.
--- Isaro in progress ---
Isaro watercolors from Belgium, made by Isabelle Roelofs who comes from a long line of famous artists. There are some interesting personal touches in this paint line, including several unique convenience mixtures and the unusual addition of mica to some delicate and sparkly color options.
--- Iuile in progress ---
Iuile (eye-you-lee, a girl's name based on the Irish take on Julia) is a handmade watercolor small business operating on Etsy and shipping from the USA. This is a small family production using hand mulled cosmetic grade mica powders mainly imported from China. There are many high quality chameleon color shifting pigments offered, which were made primarily for use in eyeshadow and nail polish. Many are lightfast and I will share which colors I have noted as UV stable or fugitive.
Jackson's art store in the UK has a large online retail shop that ships worldwide. Their store-brand watercolor is made for them by Sennelier (OEM, France). They offer only a small portion of overlapping colors with Sennelier at a reduced price.
--- In Progress ---
Kremer Pigments - Professional ready-made watercolor paints in addition to dry pigments and paint making mediums. Carries a unique selection of rare pigments, of particular interest to handmade paint makers/Etsy sellers.
Kuretake Gansai Watercolors - A modern vegan twist on the Japanese traditional style animal-glue paint by the manufacturer Zig. Affordable, beginner friendly with a huge color variety in extra wide pans ideal for large brushes.
--- In progress ---
Lukas professional watercolor review in progress
M. Graham is an American paint company that manufactures professional watercolor, acrylic, gouache and oil paints. Their watercolors are made with a high honey content, which can be quirky but also offers the best re-wettability for difficult pigments such as Viridian PG18.
Maimeri Blu professional watercolor review. I had mixed feelings about these watercolors in the past, but they reformulated their line in 2018 to include more single pigments, lightfast and rare or brand exclusive colors. I am now much more impressed by these paints which are easily found worldwide.
--- In Progress ---
Maimeri Gouache - Artists professional extra-fine quality opaque watercolor paints with a super matte finish. Many colors are very opaque, highly pigmented and ideal for oil painting-like landscapes or flatte shine-proof design work on black or white paper. My favorite, easy flowing, streak-free gouache.
--- In Progress ---
Michael Harding Professional Watercolors - A new line of watercolors from a popular oil painter, available as of October 2022.
Mission Gold Pro Grade Watercolors, Mission White Class gouache hybrid designer paint review (similar to ShinHan Pass) and some notes about Silver Class student and general Mijello brand set differences. Mission Gold paints are incredibly easy to re-wet, vibrant, highly pigmented watercolors with low price 15ml tube sets.
Miya Himi Watercolors are premium bargain paints aimed at beginners and students. Like Pretty Excellent from the makers of Paul Rubens, they offer some of the highest quality sets available at an extremely low price point. Ideal for those who are using sketchbooks, who do not care about lightfastness, but want a high performance paint (not chalky, gritty or otherwise suffering from "cheap" set issues) that won't hinder your ability to learn, even on a budget.
Paul Rubens Professional Watercolors - 24 glitter, new 24 phosphorescent (hint-of-glitter edition) and the 48 standard (non-mica) pan colors have been lightfast tested. One of the lowest priced professional grade half-pan dry set options on the market. These paints also come in tubes, with the sets being easier to obtain in the USA than individual colors.
Pretty Excellent & Caroline (Paul Rubens Student) MeiLiang or Lightwish 36 watercolor pan set review, 1 year lightfast test results and video demo. Notes about Paul Ruben's other student grade paints, the tube set called "Caroline". These paints are also sometimes labeled as Shanghai OWIN.
--- Pebeo in progress ---
Pebeo products have limited availability and offer some lower end products including many "studio" watercolors, gouache and acrylics that contain fugitive pigments and low quality binders. They offer Colorex (fugitive dye inks similar to Talen's Ecoline) but they are very expensive and fade quickly. Their moon/fantasy prism acrylic paints are unique (a special effect paint that chemically bubbles and leaves unusual textures) but I have otherwise been disappointed with products I've tried from them.
Prodigal Sons Pigments is a small business offering handmade watercolors and pigment powders on Etsy. They offer some rare discontinued pigments, such as PB33 Manganese Blue, one of the most dramatically granulating bright sky blues ever to exist.
-- Qor in progress --
Qor watercolor by Golden, a paint company in the USA that also produces popular acrylic paints including high flow and fluid acrylics. Qor is a unique watercolor with a proprietary Aquazol binder (not traditional gum arabic). This thin binder promotes unusual flow/disperse properties and can allow for a greater pigment load in their paints.
Rembrandt professional watercolor is the pro line by Royal Talens (the same maker of the excellent student brand Van Gogh). An older, traditional painting company that has been making exciting and unusual recent additions to their line, including glass-based chameleon flip-flop and iridescent mica-based colors.
-- Renesans --
Renesans professional watercolors from Poland. This small company offers a catalog of 70 colors in tubes as well as 54 alternative mixtures in pans. This is one of the only brands that appears to change their pigment formula, but not always the color name, between tube and pan formulations. Overall a confusing brand on the consumer end.
Roman Szmal Aquarius professional watercolors A new brand from Poland, who has gained incredible popularity over the course of 2019-2020 due to their high quality paint, 140 color line up and low prices on full-size pans (no tubes or half pans, competing with White Nights).
Rosa Gallery professional watercolors made in the Ukraine. This brand has been around for several years but has yet to become well known or readily available worldwide, but it is definitely a beautiful and unique paint that I hope to see picked up by major retailers in the future.
Schmincke Horadam Professional Watercolors This world renowned German brand has a lot of fans for predictable high quality paint. With a large range that includes a couple of my favorite pigments that are hard to find, and rare granulating colors rivaled only by Daniel Smith (such as Potters Pink and Mahogany Brown).
--- In Progress ---
Sennelier l'Aquarelle professional watercolor 98 color chart, swatch cards, lightfast testing, brand overview, top selections for unique and favorite colors.
Sennelier La Petite Aquarelle (student grade) watercolor pan set review, video demo.
Shinhan Art Professional Watercolor tubes (includes many paint types such as PWC, SWC, PASS gouache hybrid, KOREAN COLOR traditional gansai-like glue-binder vs. their standard gum arabic western style paints etc.) A competitor of Mission Gold from South Korea.
---ShinHan Gouache review in progress---
ShinHan Professional Designers Gouache - A matte, opaque watercolor paint available in tubes or sets. Includes a variety of very affordable fugitive or lightfast pigment options.
Sonnet watercolors, a 24 full pan student grade set by Nevskaya Palitra the makers of White Nights. I'll compare these to very similar sets by Paul Rubens and Rosa Studio.
Super Vision watercolors focus on vibrant, plant, mineral and color separating effect paints. Fugitive warning - only some are being appropriately marketed to "designers" (bright colors prone to fading, suitable for print reproduction vs wall hung art). Similarly to brands like ShinHan they have a tendency to use fugitive pigments, but may still be worth checking out (at least for DIY mixing inspiration) since some colors are unusual.
Superior Watercolor + other sets made in China appearing to be re-branded knock offs of Paul Rubens, Kuretake and other big brands. Artsy and Artify also appear to have bought palettes from the same factory and slapped their own label on it.
--- In Progress ---
Talens Extra Fine Gouache vs Art Creation - Explore both the professional designers gouache by Royal Talens and compare it to their bargain/kids/beginner range of Art Creation.
--- In progress ---
Turner Artists Watercolour made by Turner Colour Works LTD. Japan. A quirky "professional" grade watercolor paint that I have had a lot of problems with. Offers an affordable mixed bag of lightfast, fugitive and rare pigments. Some colors have been completely acceptable, while others have texture issues, lack of flow or weak re-wettability.
--- In progress ---
Utrecht professional watercolor and gouache review. This company is now owned by Dick Blick, a USA chain art supply store. However, it's important to note that these paints are made at a separate factory with higher quality standards than Blick's store brand paints (Blick Artists' Watercolors which are made by Grumbacher). There are some unique pigments in this line.
Van Gogh Watercolor - an awesome student grade paint by Royal Talens (the makers of the "Rembrandt" pro line). Van Gogh is one of the most reliable and highly lightfast student grade paints on the market. Affordable single tube colors for refills or picking and choosing pigments, as well as a large selection of various color travel sets and a mica metallic and interference pocket-box.
White Nights budget friendly professional watercolors also includes the USA import version of the Russian paints called Yarka St. Petersburg (Professional "Ultimate" set of 36 full pans imported by the Jack Richeson company).
Winsor and Newton professional Watercolor review, Swatch card color chart for full range 109 color catalog, pigment information, lightfast testing and fugitive color reports. Video overview of my top 20 favorite and unique colors from this brand.
Winsor and Newton Cotman (student grade) Watercolor Review, Swatch Cards, Lightfast Testing. A common entry level student grade paint frequently picked up in brick and mortar art shops, but is struggling to stay relevant in the competitive online market. Both price and quality is no longer as good as it was years ago. --- Cotman review is in progress ---
Neon and fluorescent paints. Explore common fugitive dyes such as those added to "Opera" pink watercolors, optical brighteners and rare lightfast watercolors that also offer temporary "glow" effects (refracted UV Black light).
--- Coming soon, in Progress ---
Watercolor brand recommendations - Paint ranked by price and quality (including three "grades" = kids/bargain, student or professional). A list to help you make an informed decision based on your personal style, uses, budget and stage of watercolor journey. The pros and cons of buying pan sets vs individual tubes, resisting hoarding and the value of lightfastness.
LIQUID "Watercolor" and "Watercolor" Brush Markers or Pencils:
It's important to note that many water soluble art supplies have the word "watercolor" on the package. This typically only means that they can be used like watercolors, not that they are made from the same lightfast quality pigments that most watercolor paints. Here I'll split up these products based on lightfast pigments or fugitive dyes.
PIGMENT BASED LIQUID WATERCOLOR:
Aqua Drop by Schmincke - Liquid Pigment Watercolor + Liner, Brush Marker, Technical Pen and Water Brush Tutorial Currently the highest quality pigment based liquid watercolor on the market. Easily works in fineliner technical pens, empty markers, airbrush, spray bottles and other unique applications.
Daler Rowney Aquafine Ink (combined with Aquafine in tubes and pans review here). A lightfast student grade watercolor line that offers an "ink" (liquid format) for use with dip pens, empty markers, drip/pour/splatter/alternative painting techniques. They come in glass bottles and offer several rare pigments.
--- In Progress ---
PH Martins Hydrus pigment based watercolor has some quirks including limited re-wettability, fragile or leaky glass bottles, and an earth tone selection prone to sediment (permanent pigment separation and clumping in the bottle). --- coming soon ---
DYE BASED LIQUID WATERCOLOR:
Ecoline --- coming soon ---
PH Martins Radiant --- coming soon ---
Why bother getting an art supply that isn't lightfast? While dye-based products are almost always fugitive, the point of these products is to achieve effects not easily obtained by natural pigments. Bright, vibrant, neon, smooth blending in markers and certain special effects (see alcohol ink marbling below) can only be achieved by thin particle man made dyes. In watercolor painting, even respected professionals may use "opera rose", a color containing a fluorescent pink dye that allows botanical artists to closely replicate the color of bright flowers. These are ideally used in situations where you will be scanning your artwork for print reproduction, or for using in a sketchbook/personal use where fading will not be problematic.
Dye based inks, markers and stamp pads:
Alcohol Inks by Tim Holtz / Ranger - includes color charts, tutorial projects, and lightfast testing completed for 1 year.
Copic Markers are a high quality illustration and design tool made in Japan. They contain alcohol based dye ink, are available in huge variety of colors and perform incredibly smooth blending on paper.
Distress Inks by Tim Holtz / Ranger - dye inks available as rubber stamp ink pads, re-inkers and spray bottles. Like most dye based inks, they are not lightfast and are aimed at crafter and card makers.
Waterproof mediums such as waterproof inks to use with your watercolor paints, acrylic gouache hybrids, India ink, shellac, vinyl, acrylic paints including heavy body, fluid or liquid inks and paint markers:
Acrylic paint markers - Which brands are lightfast? Learn about Liquitex, Amsterdam, Sharpie, Montana and Uni Posca.
Aero Color fluid acrylic ink by Schmincke for airbrush and dip pen. Waterproof and lightfast, ideal for fine art projects. Can be used as a paint or drawing ink. Linework remains intact with no bleeding or blurring of lines under very wet watercolor painting techniques. Some uncommon pigments available, as well as metallics.
Bombay India Inks by Dr. Ph. Martins - a waterproof shellac and pigment based liquid in bottles ideal for dip pen or brush work. Can be used similarly to watercolor paints, but dries to a permanent non-lifting finish helpful to glazing and layering techniques.
--- In Progress ---
Calli by Daler Rowney. These acrylic calligraphy inks are smooth flowing for use with dip pens. Dries waterproof, an ideal ink for drawing before watercolor painting.)
--- In Progress ---
Holbein Acrylic Gouache (previously "Acryla Gouache") - A matte acrylic paint hybrid with a highly water resistant binder, high pigment load and a dispersing agent which allows it to be used like gouache or watercolor in wet washes.
--- In Progress ---
Holbein Acrylic Ink - An extremely high quality professional acrylic ink available in 30ml or 100ml bottles made in Japan. Similar to Golden's high flow acrylics and Amsterdam acrylic inks, using super fine pigments suitable for brush or dip pen. Mostly lightfast selection with a few rare pigments and many transparent colors capable of watercolor techniques, but dries waterproof which can be helpful for layering/glazing.
-- In Progress --
Jo Sonja's Matte Fluid Acrylic and Background Colors. These gouache-like acrylic paints can be used just like Acryla-gouache from Holbein and Turner, but are much more affordable. Made in Australia using mostly lightfast pigments.
-- In Progress --
Liquitex Basics Acrylic Set - 48 set of student grade acrylic paint in tubes. An affordable beginner option with a good shelf life. After five years in climate controlled storage this paint was still functional. Offers many lightfast colors and a lot of convenience mixtures to help students who just want to paint find the perfect color without the need for a lot of mixing.
Turner acryla-gouache. A professional gouache-like matte acrylic paint with finely ground pigment particles and flow additives for smooth blending. A waterproof alternative to traditional gouache. Similar to Holbein.
--- In Progress ---
Ziller Inks - A waterproof acrylic ink developed for dip pen calligraphy and drawing. Terribly fugitive selection wrongfully marketed as lightfast. I do NOT recommend this ink.
Pens, color pencils, crayons and other drawing supplies:
Faber Castell Gelatos - Watersoluble crayon (wax pastel) primarily marketed to crafters for watercoloring techniques, card making, rubber stamping. Chapstick container style pigment sticks.
Luminance colored pencils by Caran D'Ache - top quality, lightfast wax pencils with a high pigment load and price tag (but so worth it). The only pencil I trust after many other brands have proven fugitive.
Prismacolor Colored Pencils - A popular option for coloring books. This company has changed hands over the years with increasingly disgruntled reviews regarding pencil lead breakage and fading.
--- in progress --- MORE Drawing pens, microns, other fineliners, gel pens.
MICRON - RED fineliner pens fade dramatically (despite being marketed to artists as "fade resistant and archival"). Extremely fugitive, completely disappeared in about 6 months of lightfast testing. I do not recommend Sakura Micron pens for fine art despite their popularity. Tombo Mono offers superior (nearly instantly waterproof) pigment for using under watercolor paintings.
Most art supplies noted as "fade resistant" have a very poor standard regarding fading. This label should not be misinterpreted as meaning "lightfast".
LIGHTFAST FAQ -
HOW MY LIGHTFAST TESTS ARE DONE:
Over the course of 2020-2021 I've gotten much more serious about lightfast testing. I've put everything I've learned over the past decade of testing into this page: Learn about lightfast testing, rating scales and a fugitive pigment list.
All tests are now being done in both masstone and diluted ranges (pale watered down washes). Several thousand colors are currently being tested alongside a blue wool scale panel, but be aware that this antiquated standard does not meet my standards. Pigment powder suppliers / chemical manufacturers, brands and even ASTM (a large, now international, testing standards organization) that do testing have repeatedly missed problem colors due to testing too briefly or not properly diluted. Often colors are only tested for about 3 months (*varies by method, elaborated upon in the PO64 video) which can not predict colors that fade at different rates over time. Some pigments become weaker between 6 to 12 months. Some colors speed up the rate at which they fade over the course of slower, more repetitive combination of vertical window glass focused heat, fluctuating indoor humidity and uv absorption. Some colors are much weaker when very diluted making them much more fragile in practice (how a watercolorist might actually use them in a watered down wash) than initially appeared in an official test for masstone. Some manufacturers may test pigments in a different medium (acrylic/plastic/automotive coatings etc.) that are less comparable to the performance of fine art paints. When relevant and in conflict with established ratings I will note Blue Wool Scale ratings, but otherwise will be mentioning time in a window on test images. This is more simple to report and much more relatable and relevant to artists. A rating number or star system scale distorts info based on comparing your color to fugitive textile dyes, spanning "100 years of museum lighting" (not comparable to home lighting where big windows or living in Florida changes the time-table drastically) or test durations run "until alizarin crimson would fade". All of which means very little to the average artist, yet are common practice for lightfast ratings.
My tests are done in a careful controlled manner to avoid dramatic secondary causes of color changes. They are not allowed to get damp, there's spacers to avoid being directly against the glass. Test strips are not exposed to acidic papers and purified water is used. I test on arches cotton acid-free archival paper with no optical brighteners (won't yellow over time). My control color strip is put away in a room temperature drawer hidden from light/window heat. Older tests completed over the past decade for any brands showing masstone swatches only in their results are currently being redone. These new tests are performed behind window glass intensified SW direct sunlight UV in Florida, similar to how ASTM tests are done (they do this at AZ and FL sites). My tests need to run longer due to vertical windows (not skyward facing boxes that receive more light per day).
CAN'T I JUST PUT UV PROTECTOR SPRAY ON MY ART?
You can, but it's not likely to help much. Sadly every test I've done has only resulted in the colors fading slightly less, and in some cases has actually made the color change unexpectedly. UV blocking particles in sprays (like Krylon brand) are not efficient in thin layers. Thick applications help a little by bending the rays of light that hit your artwork. It may buy you some extra buffer time if your art is spending a couple days in a bright room, such as a set duration gallery show near big windows. On average Krylon's UV spray made my colors change about 1 week later than they would have without the spray. I've had a lot of alcohol ink customers tell me that they have had the most success with thick applications of resin (like "art resin" or "ice resin" brands). Golden paint co makes good products, but excess care must be taken not to reactivate watercolor paintings when using thick varnish or gel mediums. Instead I recommend painting with lightfast pigments and simply framing them for indoor wall hanging. Neon, fluorescents or colors that are impossible to find lightfast replacements for should be stored specifically away from window light (a note to customer's regarding the harm of sunrise/sunset light beams may be sufficient warning).
What about UV glass frames? It's an expensive and hard to find gamble if and to what extent they help. This should be compared to the expense of just buying a nice lightfast paint set if you're not working with neon/fluorescents. Most UV glass has just a thin coat of the UV spray on normal glass. This does not work for long term protection and in some cases picture frame glass actually magnifies the harmful effect of UV rays. The effectiveness of UV blocking glass frames varies greatly by manufacturer. Judging by the fact that most serious applications of UV glass are thick, like dark tinted windows for cars or homes, I would assume that thin clear glass offers little to no protection. Museums quality uv protection options are too expensive for the average artist.
You may see LF (lightfast) ratings written on my swatch cards from rating systems you're unfamiliar with. If it's a star system it will say out of how many total stars (5 of 5 being a perfect rating for Schmincke, 3 of 3 being a perfect rating for Rembrandt, Van Gogh or White Nights, while a single star means it's fugitive). ASTM, most common in USA brands, is written LFI (most lightfast) to LFV (least lightfast). Blue Wool Scale is common for most other parts of the world (BW1 fugtiive to BW8 lightfast) - further explained on the fugitive pigments list page. Unfortunately many brands simply copy existing ratings from other companies. That's a huge problem if for example 5 different manufacturers make an Ultramarine Blue color paint, but they all get the raw material from a different supplier - it may not all be the same quality. Yet all of these brands may label it lightfast, because it has been generally proven that Ultramarine Blue is a lightfast pigment. There is also the possibility the company will lie or mistakenly pass along misinformation. I'm unsure if that's the case with Faber Castell in the example below (in reference to Gelatos, a water soluble crayon similar to Neocolor II, from the company best known for pencils like Polychromos and Albrecht Durer watercolor pencils):
Some pigments also fade faster when highly diluted/watered down (vs being full strength, also known as masstone). So if a company adds just a tiny amount of this color to a paint mixture, it would be more prone to fading than if it was 100% that one color. I've gotten to the point where I do not trust manufacturer's lightfast ratings at all. One too many labels have said lightfast, just for me to find the colors fading within weeks (looking at you Faber Castell Gelatos and every Prussian paint ever made). All companies say Prussian Blue PB27 is lightfast, because it often reverts any fading that occurs if stored away from light (iron salts bleach in sun, and recharge in shade). Unfortunately this damage can be permanent and besides - no painting should need a nap to be considered lightfast.
WHY "ARTIST QUALITY" OR "PREMIUM" ON A LABEL IS NOT A GOOD INDICATOR OF QUALITY, VALUE OR LIGHTFASTNESS:
"Artist quality" is a general term for any supplies that company made to be used to make art. It does not mean that it is bargain, student or professional grade. When coupled with the word "premium" it is implied that the company feels they used quality ingredients and it contains a good amount of the main ingredient instead of binders/fillers. Not all products will disclose their ingredients, and some even intentionally try to be misleading. Without pigment code numbers listed (color index ingredient) you should assume the supplies are fugitive and I recommend you do NOT believe any lightfast statements made without testing them yourself. "Liquid watercolors" is a particularly bad label, because almost all of them are actually dye inks (often man-made, bright and thin liquids that stain) and not actually the quality pigments (often thick-powder particles mined from real minerals) found in professional watercolor paints. Dyes frequently (and quickly) fade, and a great many artists have been sad to find that their very expensive "ecoline", "PH Martin Radiant" "Viviva" and "Peerless" color sheets (that are dye-soaked papers that can be rewet with a brush) will often disappear near window light within several weeks to months.
A color faded... Does it mean it's a low quality product? There is a lot of demand for bright colors in the art and crafts industry. Even the highest quality paint manufacturers will offer fluorescent pink made with the same care and quality binders as their other paints. Often, bright dye based colors are brighter, more vibrant, than we can achieve with lightfast pigments. Many companies are supplying colors that people want to use for sketchbooks, indoor crafts and for art that will be photo-copied/scanned for book illustrations, magazines, prints or displaying online. Unfortunately, sometimes artists who want to use these products for art to hang on a wall find out later that all their hard work has faded away. These products should not be judged harshly for their poor lightfast results. They do what they were made to do (be vibrant, unique colors, fit a certain type of use, marbling effects, ease of blending etc.). Copic markers and Alcohol Inks are good examples of high quality dye based products that fade, but many artists still use them because they provide effects other art supplies can not.
HELPFUL? IF YOU'D LIKE TO HELP KEEP THIS PROJECT GOING:
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Cookie, who oversees all lightfast testing, also hopes you found our research helpful :)
Where do I shop for art supplies? 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 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 links to Amazon, Scrapbook, Arteza, Jackson's or Blick Art Materials websites.
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.
One of my favorite places to shop for a world-wide selection watercolor paint and brushes is Jackson's. They have affordable shipping to the USA and a lovely selection of items not easily found in American stores.
Amazon USA continues to offer more and more art and craft supplies that can be found no where else. They often have import sets, such as Chinese brands like Paul Rubens, that are not available in the more common art stores. As an Amazon associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.
For craft supplies, such as Art Philosophy and Prima Marketing watercolors, alcohol or dye inks, stamp pads, markers etc. I shop at:
Scrapbook.com: Thousands of scrapbooking supplies. HUGE daily discounts!