Maimeri Blu Watercolor Review, Lightfast Testing, Color Chart Swatch Cards
This brand reformulated their line in 2018 and now offers more single pigment, lightfast, rare or brand exclusive options than before. Maimeri Blu "Superior" artist watercolors are a professional grade paint line made in Italy. When I first tried them in 2016 the catalog was full of repetitive convenience mixtures, fugitive colors prone to fading and sometimes even had manufacturing errors. They seem to have fixed most issues, but the binder ratio still varies (resulting in a shiny residue on certain colors) and the paper wrapping gets stuck to their pans causing some paint loss. The tube size was reduced from 15ml, down to 12ml, with some colors only having gone up in price. Keep that in mind when comparing tube prices online. Most brands are 15ml, but there are brands that offer even smaller 5 to 10ml tubes. For those who paint large, I've seen some very good deals on common pigments from W&N or Da Vinci in bulk tubes up to 37ml. Maimeri's half pans are a bit expensive, so for those who don't need big tubes, full pans from Roman Szmal or White Nights may be better options. If this brand is "worth it" is best considered on a per-color basis.
There are a few colors I highly recommend getting from this brand. Overall I'm impressed with their new catalog, but do not recommend broad, nonspecific collecting or purchasing the half pan assortment tins. Some colors are better than others and some are simply available cheaper in other brands. In 2016 I picked up a handful of basic mixing colors (see image below) and noticed that their overall catalog wasn't very interesting so I didn't even look at MaimeriBlu again for a few years. I was really happy to see the changes to both pigments offered and the professional look to their new tube design:
As a fan of setting up mixed multi-brand palettes, I believe each company has something they do particularly well. I'll go over my top picks, personal favorite colors, rare or unique colors from this brand below. I purchase Maimeri Blue watercolors within the USA at Blick here
, or Worldwide through Jackson's here
MaimeriBlu offers some very nice rare and brand exclusive pigments such as PY139, PY164, PY183 and PY227 (varying between yellow, orange and brown despite all being classified as yellow pigments). PY139 is also available in Daniel Smith or Roman Szmal, both of which are a touch more vibrant orange than MaimeriBlu's desaturated yellow-leaning version. It appears that PY227 Perm Yell. Deep and PY164 Sepia may be exclusive to this brand. They are both muted, semi opaque colors, that seem to really be well suited for many female song birds. If you don't mind the opacity, they are some of the best quality paints Maimeri offers.
MaimeriBlu is one of only two brands I could find offering the smooth ink-like black PBk26
(MaimeriBlu calls it Neutral Tint, while Rembrandt
calls it Spinel Grey). It is a gouache-like pitch black ideal for illustration, monochromatic studies, or to mix with bright colors to desaturate them. As someone who likes to layer and doesn't really want to reactivate dry paint, I liked that it was slightly harder to lift MaimeriBlu's version. In practice it doesn't seem like MaimeriBlu's Neutral Tint has a high of a pigment load as Rembrandt's Spinel Grey. While painting I noted greater wet to dry desaturation. There was excessive pan shrinkage when drying from the tube as well as needing to use more paint for a deep black coverage in comparison. PBk26 generally has no wet to dry shift in full strength masstone, but the diluted range is tricky to work with in both brands - drying lighter than expected
. MaimeriBlu's formula/binder amount seems to make that type of desaturation issue worse.
Both brands can appear nearly identical on paper, both are lovely in a very similar way once painted out, it just seems like the Rembrandt version lasts longer (little paint goes a longer way).
Maimeri Blu offers two rare blues - NB1 Indigo (natural plant based fermented dye from indigofera tinctoria leaves) and PB66 (Synthetic Indigo/Vat Blue 1) which they called "Payne's Grey". Unfortunately, the lightfast rating is definitely incorrect for them both. NB1 and PB66 both show extreme fading when diluted despite being rated by Maimeri as 3 of 3 star lightfastness. This is not surprising, as Indigo is generally known to be fugitive (this is the dye used on blue jeans). Additional info about these pigments and any alternative brands will be added to the pigment database.
After recently testing their Quin Red PR209 and Primary Magenta-Red PV19, I do NOT recommend these particular colors due to being weaker than competitors. They felt almost gummy or overly diluted with binder, though this could just be a characteristic of their particular pigment source. These two red pigments are often recommended as ideal mixing colors, particularly for florals. I would look for those in other brands (like Sennelier, White Nights or Roman Szmal) who offer stronger and more affordable primary red/magenta options. Sennelier makes one of the most lovely versions of PR209 I own, which is stronger, smoother, holds a gradient from dark to light well and provides cleaner layering/glazing than MaimeriBlu:
In 2020-2021 I collected about a dozen new colors after their catalog changes, NONE of which had any manufacturing errors (air pockets like my 2016 tubes). I have noticed that this brand has minor flow issues, being wildly variable per color (more than normal pigment variances) and sometimes resulting in colors appearing to disperse to the edges of the pool of water. This can give the appearance of your paints fully disappearing or fading more than you expected in the wet to dry shift. There is a learning curve to using these paints more so than I have noticed in other brands. Once I adjusted water ratios and applied wet in wet washes on colors vs clear water I was able to control them better. Keeping a controlled gradient (deep valued color to pale to clean water in a row) was harder than it should be with certain colors.
: these paints seem to have good shelf life. Even my old paints have stayed well mixed, without any binder separation after 5 years of storage. Other than those problem reds, the colors I used were highly pigmented, easy to rewet and comparable to other professional brands. I mostly appreciate their rare pigments and cobalt blues, turquoise and greens, but they also offer very strong examples of common colors like Primary Blue/Cyan, Phthalo PB15:3 and Violet PV23. Since I have not tried the entire catalog, I can only recommend the colors I have personally swatched. For brand-specific recommendations for each pigment, I have a page talking about my top lightfast choices for building your own versatile watercolor mixing palette here
Perm. Yellow Lemon PY175 is a very nice lightfast and transparent cool yellow alternative to Cadmium Lemon. PY175 can be a dull banana yellow (I avoid Daniel Smith and Schmincke's version) but it's a very nice bright lemon in Winsor & Newton or Holbein brand as well. This color can be used as a primary mixing yellow, but it really shines on its own as a color you can't mix with others - providing a canary/goldfinch, lemon or bright sunshine yelllow rare in lightfast pigments.
Mars Brown PR101 is a beautiful red-brown with speckles of black and dark brown. It can disperse into color separation (dark brown to red brown) in wet washes. It also has unique reactions to salt. It is one of the more textural PR101s on the market, being a bit more orange leaning than the brick-reddish "caput mortum" colors in other brands. I suspect that this is also includes PBk11 either undisclosed or due to a refined PR102 (natural red iron oxide) that included some naturally occurring black iron oxide (PBk11). If you own a PR101 and PBk11, try mixing them before deciding to invest in this color. I appreciate Mars Brown particularly when mixed with Phthalo Blue PB15:3. It instantly transforms that strong cyan into stormy blue-grays. I almost skipped right past Mars Brown when looking through their catalog and I'm glad I didn't. I thought I couldn't possibly need another PR101, because red iron oxide is super common in almost every paint brand - but this one feels special (performs similarly to DSmith's Hematite Primatek paints).
While not super rare (at least 5 pro brands carry it) I do recommend their strong version of the highly granulating color "Potter's Pink" PR233, which has intense texture ideal for color-separating mixtures. I like to mix it with Cobalt Turquoise (PB28, a teal, which is more blue leaning than the greenish Cobalt Teal from Winsor and Newton). Maimeri's PB28 version looks pretty similar to Schmincke's PG50 Cobalt Turq/Teal. It's possible to make mixtures in this brand that are nearly identical to Schmincke's watercolors (such as in their "Glacier Green" a PG50/PR233 combo). On dry the combination of Potter's Pink and Cobalt Turq. seem nearly identical in hue matching regardless of brand. In wet the difference starts to become a little more apparent, with Schmincke's mixture more eagerly dispersing/flowing across the wet paper:
While this version is deeper valued for PR233 as a pigment (far stronger reddish-brown than Roman Szmal's delicate pale pink version), it can still be overpowered by extremely strong or high chroma pigments like Phthalo Blues, but I did notice that this color really prefers to separate from other non-granulating pigments. Unlike using Mars Brown PR101, you will not get a smooth blue-gray mix when combining Potter's Pink PR233 with Phthalo Blue PB15:3.
Maimeri Blu watercolor swatch cards:
If you're interested in opaque watercolor, I highly recommend Maimeri gouache (review here)
. I prefer their performance over my other high end gouache paints, such as Winsor and Newton or Daler Rowney Designer's gouache. They carry some rare pigments, such as Sap Green PG8, which is beautiful but only marginally lightfast. They offer a good deal of lightfast pigments as well, competing with Schmincke's professional gouache. Maimeri seems cheaper to get through Blick within the USA, while Schmincke gouache can be easier to find and more affordable in other parts of the world.
If you'd like to see how any of these individual colors compare to the same pigment in another brand, check out the pigment database
Where to buy? Blick USA or Jackson's worldwide are my favorite places to shop.