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.  

Lightfast artist pigments watercolor palette set up recommended split primary trio

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, never find yourself tempted by a pre-made brand mix again!

Fugitive pigments list art supply lightfast tests watercolor paint uv fading sun light

List of the most fugitive pigment ingredients commonly used in professional watercolor paints and other art supplies. These colors 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.

--- 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.

neon watercolor paints fluorescent uv black light glow art supplies invisible ink acrylic paint

Neon and fluorescent paints, including rare lightfast watercolors that glow (reflect) under UV Black light. Explore vibrant, special effect dyes, pigment products and distinguish which are fugitive (fade).

watercolor supplies list paper pens waterproof ink paint brushes

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!

watercolor and gouache painting demonstration art supply reviews

Prefer to see all brand's color swatches side by side for comparison? You can find the swatch cards organized by pigment color instead of brand on the pigment database here. Acrylic, ink, pencils, pens, markers and mediums other than watercolor/gouache are sorted by brand further down this page.

altenew watercolor review and lightfast test metallic mica pearlescent glitter paint pan set

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) which was lovely and turned out to be very lightfast.

--- In progress --- 

American Journey watercolor is the name of Cheap Joe's store brand. This online retailer is fairly small but similar to other general art supply stores such as Jackson's, Jerry's Artarama or Blick Art Materials. These stores carry a large variety of art supplies while also offering paints labeled with their own brand name, yet are made by other manufacturers. American Journey paint is made for them by Da Vinci, a high quality American company also reviewed independently in a different section below. Cheap Joe's has asked them to create some interesting custom mixtures (which are exclusive, not found in Da Vinci's own catalog).

 

Aquafine watercolor review daler rowney student grade water colour chart lightfast test

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 review jelly cup miya himi pigment info color chart

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.

Prima art philosophy watercolor tubes review professional artist grade paint color chart pigment lightfast info

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 watercolor review confections confetti pan set lightfast test color chart video painting

Prima Marketing student (now Art Philosophy) watercolor sets. These student grade 12 half pan sets are called "confections" and one larger 25 color "confetti" set. While 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 by offering budget friendly art supplies for crafts like card making and rubber stamping.

arteza watercolor review lightfast test metallic glitter mica gouache paint

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 ---

Blick Artists' Watercolor AND Grumbacher Finest (same paints, Blick's store brand is made for them by Grumbacher and simply re-labeled for them). I've had a lot of trouble with these.

 

Boku Undo e-sumi watercolor review gansai lightfast test sumi ink japanese shadow black aurora set

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 Finetec watercolor review light fast lightfastness color cart uv sun test

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.

--- 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 lightfast test product review painting demonstration art

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---

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.

---In progress---

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.

---In progress---

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.

---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 watercolor review lightfast test fugitive fading color chart

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

 

--- 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. 

 

MaimeriBlu superior watercolor review maimeri blu italian professional paint

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.

 

MISSION GOLD watercolor review brand tube paint best for beginner economy affordable cheap set

Mission Gold Watercolors - incredibly easy to re-wet, vibrant, highly pigmented watercolors, that can be found at an amazingly low bargain price in tube sets. From Mijello in South Korea, now distributed to the USA by the Chartpak company.

 

Miya Himi WATERCOLOR brand banner lightfast testing and art supply review

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.

 

old holland classic watercolor review portrait painting po65 golden barok red rare exclusive brand pigment paint

Old Holland professional watercolor review. A unique company that carries some unusual pigments that contain unusual gansai-like binders. This older company is quirky and not commonly used, partly due to it being one of the most expensive paints on the market aside from Qor by Golden.

 

Paul Rubens watercolor review and lightfast test pan sets 48 mica glitter and tubes 24

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. The company offers a variety of cotton and cotton blend watercolor papers.

 Pretty excellent watercolor review paul rubens caroline student lightfast tets

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.

 

-- In progress -- 

Qor watercolor review - in progress

 

Rembrandt professional watercolor review

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 Watercolor Paints

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 watercolor review lightfast test fugitive pigment info color chart

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 Aquarelle color chart lightfast test uv fugitive review

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 ---

Schmincke GOUACHE compare Horadam and Designers lines. This matte, opaque watercolor comes in tubes and each line has its own focus between lightfast, single pigment colors vs multi-pigment mixtures and fugitive bright colors.

 

--- In Progress ---
Schmincke Liquid Charcoal - All natural fruit seed paint that is gouache-like and can be used like watercolor paints. They are all black, made from the pigment PBk8, but have slight variations in color temperature (cool blue grape seeds, neutral black peach stones or warm brownish cherry pits). Compare to Nitram liquid charcoal and Roman Szmal's Vine Black.

 

 --- Sennelier pro-grade 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 review art 12 half pan color chart

Sennelier La Petite Aquarelle (student grade) watercolor pan set review, video demo.

ShinHan watercolor review PASS Korean Color PWC SWC professional paint

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.

Superior watercolor review made in china paint supplies artsy artify

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 ---

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---

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 ---

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 review best affordable lightfast student grade

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 watercolor review lightfast test Yarka St Petersburg Ultimate 36 full pan set

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 lightfast fugitive color chart

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 water colour aquarelle

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 --- 

------------------------------------

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:

 Schmincke Aqua Drop liquid watercolor review lightfast test liner tutorial how to fill empty marker

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 lightfast test ranger tim holtz brand uv fading sun fugitive colors

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, india ink, shellac or acrylic based paints, liquids and paint markers:

acrylic paint markers lightfast and fugitive fading test explore brands liquitex amsterdam sharpie montana uni posca

Acrylic paint markers - Which brands are lightfast? Learn about Liquitex, Amsterdam, Sharpie, Montana and Uni Posca.

---In Progress---

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.

dr ph martins bombay india ink review and lightfast test color chart

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 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.

--- 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:

Derwent Inktense Pencil and Pan Sets.

 

faber castell gelatos chapstick pigment watersoluble crayon wax pastel

Faber Castell Gelatos - Watersoluble crayon (wax pastel) primarily marketed to crafters for watercoloring techniques, card making, rubber stamping. Chapstick container style pigment sticks.

 

---In Progress---

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 pencil review color chart lightfast test

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.

Try the watercolor supplies guide page for a list of my favorite pens, pencils, paper, brushes and more.

MICRON - RED fineliner pens (marketed to artists as fade resistant and archival) fade dramatically. 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.

 

LIGHTFAST FAQ -

Sharpie metallic gold paint marker lightfast test fugitive fading UV light art supply reviews

HOW MY LIGHTFAST TESTS ARE DONE:

*Current tests include masstone (full strength paint) and diluted (about 50% water) color stripes. You may see older tests with only masstone color results from previous years around this site. Many of those brands have current diluted tests being repeated at this time (which also identify if the paint would be problematic in tints/mixtures). Over time I have seen many colors be stable in masstone, but show signs of fading when diluted. There are also colors that fade either way, but show obvious signs of fading sooner allowing for quicker test results.

All tests are done in a careful controlled manner to avoid dramatic secondary causes of color changes (such as being wet, directly against the glass or unusually hot). My control color strip is put away in a room temperature drawer hidden from light, while the fade test strip is placed behind a condensation-free glass window facing NE. You can also mount the strips to a board and place a spacer between it and the glass to avoid window fog issues. This provides general daylight UV without the excessive heat of prolonged mid-day to sunset direct sunlight. This should give a comparable time estimate for how quick artwork would fade on a wall in a room that receives general window lighting (it would be faster within direct beams of direct light). I also run secondary tests in a northern climate as well as in direct sunlight, but only publish results concerning high heat environments when a pigment has been flagged for being heat, chemical, humidity or PH sensitive. (Such as PV14 Cobalt Violet as well as some natural minerals like Malachite and Vivianite, that are UV light stable but still fade over time from other causes.) I use acid-free, 100% cotton, archival quality watercolor papers.

Because I do my tests the same way for all supplies used, it can be really useful to compare these lengths of time in fading results between brands. I'm able to determine if a company's colors fade abnormally fast compared to a different company's colors along with determining which pigments are the most stable across all brands. I give all tests 1 year to fully complete so that sun exposure over all seasons are relatively fair. These are time based tests instead of solar exposure limit tests (like Blue Wool Scale).

If you are doing home tests be aware that northern locations do not receive the same UV intensity as southern or equator areas. My tests are done in FL, where we have official lightfast testing centers in addition to in AZ. The colors fade faster in this environment mainly because southern sunlight exposure completed between Oct-May is a fairly reliable way to reach a total solar irradiance of 1260 MJ/m² - which gives consistent results at about 3 months of roof testing. There are times where a color will not fade in short duration tests, requiring 6+ months of repeat daily sun exposure to fade. Due to this issue I do not follow ASTM quick tests, but rather full 1 year duration tests which have proven to be more consistent with their results.

 ---

HOW LONG DOES A LIGHTFAST TEST TAKE? /  HOW FAST DO FUGITIVE COLORS FADE?

In general, fugitive colors fade in as little as several weeks up to several months of daily light exposure, while lightfast colors remain stable past the 1 year mark. This is especially good to know if you will be selling your artwork, displaying it in an office or a gallery that may have many glass windows. It also means that doing your own lightfast testing is very time consuming. Be aware that the amount of time someone says they tested their colors is very important. I've seen lightfast tests where the artist put something outside for several days or even a week before claiming there is no fading issues. Anything less than 3 weeks is not enough time to test most pigments, and only the very most fugitive dyes might start to fade in that time. Many colors that will fade over the course of a year will start to show signs of slight fading at about 3 months in southern states (6 months if you live in a northern state, further from the equator with less sunny days/less intensity of sunlight).

WANT TO DO YOUR OWN TESTING?

I recommend to start checking for fading at 3 months. In sunny southern states, 3 months should reveal fugitive LFIV-V pigments if they are diluted with at least 50% water to pigment. This may take at least 6 months in northern/cloudy environments (ideally summer). This my suggested minimum amount of time for window tests. A year is ideal for professional artists who want to be confident in selling their work to collectors, or having their pieces hung in galleries, office buildings, shops etc.. If you have windows that experience condensation / fog (especially common in places where the indoor and outdoor temp is dramatically different, or you have a lot of snow in winter) you may want to place your lightfast test strips on a board with spacers (such as a domino game tile, or a thick piece of cardboard) around the edges to avoid getting the paint strips damp.

---

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 are not very 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 gallery with a lot of glass 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).

What about UV glass frames? It's an expensive and hard to find gamble which should be compared to the expense of just buying a nice lightfast paint set instead. Most UV glass has just a thin coat of the UV spray on normal glass. This does not work for long term protection. The effectiveness of UV blocking glass frames vary by manufacturer and I do not have any testing data for that. Judging by the fact that most serious applications of UV glass are thick, dark tinted windows for cars or homes, I would assume that thin clear glass offers little to no protection.

 ---

LIGHTFAST RATING SYSTEMS AND WHY YOU SHOULDN'T ASSUME THEY ARE RIGHT.

In the USA it is common to see lightfast ratings go I-IV (1 - 5) with the idea that #1 is the best (stable) to #5 being the worst (fade). Brands like Daniel Smith and M. Graham use this scale. Other countries follow a 1-8 blue-wool scale where 8 is the best, 1 is the worst. European brands like Derwent and Daler Rowney use this scale. If that were not opposite enough, there are also star rating systems that vary between having 3 stars or 5 stars which work similarly to amazon reviews (1 of 3 stars is fugitive, 3 stars being lightfast). Brands like Royal Talens/Van Gogh and Arteza use this scale. When you see a star system from other companies, you can't be immediately sure if it's out of 3 or 5 stars until you see if any of their products have more than 3 stars or have a disclaimer. When the information is available, I include the manufacturer's lightfast rating along with any note about the amount of stars:

 PG50 Schmincke Horadam Cobalt Turquoise Watercolor Swatch Card Color Chart

If that wasn't bad enough, companies can simply make up their own rating (though the larger, and older, reputable companies tend to be more trustworthy). Some companies don't do their own testing, but rather trust their ingredient to be a pre-determined rating. For example, if 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. 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):

Faber Castell lightfast test gelatos fading sun fugitive results Albrecht Durer Polychromos 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). It's often better to go by pigment ingredients if you learn which ones tend to be stable across all brands. Though even that can be unreliable due to the masstone vs diluted fading problem (looking at you Daniel Smith Moonglow and Shadow Violet).

Daniel Smith watercolor moonglow fugitive lightfast test shadow violet and prussian blue green

 ---

WHY "ARTIST QUALITY" OR TYPE OF PAINT IS NOT ALWAYS A GOOD INDICATOR OF VALUE OR LIGHTFASTNESS:

"Artist quality" is a general term for supplies that can 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 quckly) fade, and a great many artists have been sad to find that their very expensive "ecoline", "PH Martin Radiant" "Viva" (and other color sheets that are dye-soaked papers that can be rewet with a brush) will often disappear in room lighting within weeks to months. Sometimes these types of re-branding schemes also come with a huge price increase (such as the dye inks being called liquid watercolors or fountain pen inks, when they are exactly the same type of product as craft sprays like dylusions/scrapbook color misters that come in much larger containers).

 ---

SPECIFIC COLORS MADE BY ANY COMPANY WILL BE FUGITIVE:

Almost every "neon", "Fluorescent", "Opera Pink" or highlighter-like bright color can fade within weeks of even indirect minor sun exposure. Many dye inks like copic markers, fountain pen inks and alcohol inks that were man-made to be very vibrant will fade. This fading can even happen indoors if your art is placed where light hits the wall at sunrise/sunset from a nearby window.

All "Prussian" blue (and colors mixed with PB27) will fade with light exposure, but do a very odd thing in shade - recover. Prussian pigment was a chemistry accident that resulted in a very nice blue, but the colors react very oddly to light. Prussian will fade in the sun, but later the color can restore itself to the original state if left in shade for several weeks or more. Because Prussian colors (due to a bleaching effect chemical reaction of iron salt + UV light) recover when removed from light, many manufacturer's will tell you that it is a permanent and totally lightfast color. I don't use Prussian for art to sell. Who really wants to worry about moving their painting off the wall and into a closet to wait for the colors to recover?

JUST BECAUSE IT FADES, DOESN'T MEAN IT IS 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 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 or ease of blending etc.). Copic markers and Alcohol Inks are good examples of quality 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:

I hope that this project will be found useful by many artists. I would love to be able to continue to provide thorough, helpful information on this topic in the future. If you have found any of this information valuable, please consider leaving a donation of any size to help me cover the costs of supplies. This donation button uses PayPal to safely process cards worldwide for any amount you wish to contribute. Every dollar is greatly appreciated!

 

 

There are also indirect, at no cost to you, ways to help! Sharing links to this website on your social media, adding watch-time, commenting, liking or subscribing to my YouTube channel are all great ways to keep this content available and growing.

Thank you,

Kimberly Crick

Lightfast testing window method watercolor strips for UV fading fugitive color pigment research

Cookie, who oversees all lightfast testing, also hopes you found our research helpful :)

----------------------------------------------- 

Where do I shop for art supplies?

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. This page contains affiliate links. 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!