Old Holland Professional Watercolor Review Lightfast Testing and Color Chart Swatch Cards

Old Holland Classic Watercolours began making paints in the 1700s. They were heavily influenced by the hide-glue, honey and sugar binders used in China's traditional paint making methods. Due to this influence, despite being made in Holland, these paints perform more like Asian watercolor brands and Gansai. For a while they carried many toxic pigments available at the time through the Dutch East India company (1600-1800 was a period of extensive trade between the Dutch and Asia). In recent years they have expanded to include modern pigments with less toxicity or better lightfastness.


They have made the claim that all 168 colors are lightfast, which should never be assumed for so many colors. They carry more than a few unreliable pigments known to be fugitive. PY120 Scheveningen Yellow Medium (PV Fast Yellow H2G a form of Benzimidazolone) fades and darkens to a brown color similar to the behavior of Aureolin PY40. Their Madder (crimson) Lake Deep Extra is PR83:1 (synthetic Alizarin Crimson) which fades as badly as LFIV-V. PO34 Scheveningen Red Scarlet is not a commonly used pigment in other brands and an old version from Lukas was fugitive. Not fully evaluated by ASTM, Scheveningen Purple Brown (PR175-Benzimidazolone Red) is a rarely used pigment. It's likely acceptable regardless of not being well tested in watercolors, since Daniel Smith does offer it more affordably as "Deep Scarlet" (self-rated as LFI). This causes further problems for artists attempting to check the ingredients and UV stability of Old Holland watercolors. The tubes and pans are not labeled properly. They give no indication of pigment code number or ASTM ratings. They do give the chemical name (in a very uncommon format) so they technically meet the general requirement of disclosing ingredients that most artists demand of a "professional" quality paint. Overall, this is not very convenient for the professional artist.


In recent years they've discontinued some old toxic ingredients that they had taken pride in offering in the past (referring to old master artists using them in their work). Sadly Vermillion (contained mercury) and Manganese Blue (an extremely granulating bright sky blue that rivaled the texture and toxicity of any Cobalt) have been discontinued due to how hazardous they were. These colors have never quite been reproduced accurately in replica hues. Paul Rubens still offers Realgar and Oripment, toxic mercury based pigments gathered near lava formations - but I have not found a non-toxic look-alike for granulating orange colors. Regarding Manganese Blue, I do actually like Daniel Smith's oddball Manganese Blue Hue made with a custom fluorescent variant of PB15 - the hue was very close, but the granulation is not quite as impressive. Kremer Pigment's Zirconium Cerulean PB71 is a very actively granulating dusty sky blue, but it is considerably more opaque and has a chalky appearance. Neither quite capture the beauty of the original PB33 pigment, which is slightly more bright blue leaning than the duller cerulean blues (PB35/36) or teal-leaning cobalt turquoises (PG50). 


PB33 Old Holland Watercolor Manganese Blue Genuine Art Pigment Database


As one of the most expensive brands in the world, that also happens to also be very quirky, they are not a popular choice. Many of their paints are about double the cost of most pro-grade brands (about $10/6ml vs a more common $10/15ml). As a downright crazy example of price point for their most expensive colors, I recently saw a tube of Cobalt Violet going for $30 (sale from $40) for a tiny 6ml tube. The pan sets can go for over $300 or more for up to 36 half-pans.


They do a few odd, non-standard, things in this paint line. They lack proper lightfast ratings or pigment codes. The labels often have vague chemical names written on them (ie. "Barium Manganate" instead of PB33). They do however have a nice updated website, where you can find further info about each paint in their extensive 168 color catalog at https://www.oldholland.com/watercolours/


They have previously mentioned that the "pigments are ground in stone". This supposedly helps with chemical color changes that sometimes result from processing pigments on metal surfaces. However, they use traditional metal rolling machines and packaging tubes, so I am unconvinced this truly makes a difference.


They openly claim to use gum arabic and glycerine, but if you dig for further information you can find mention of rabbit animal-hide glue, honey and sugar syrups. This is pretty common in antique Asian paints, which Old Holland appears to have been influenced by, as this formula mirrors traditional Chinese and Japanese gansai. I have heard that these types of binders may yellow over time. Some artists have reported a gummy, thick texture as well as poor re-wettability from tubes that were dried. They also offer pans, which seem to be better formulated to re-wet from a dry state (similarly to Winsor and Newton's way of doing different formulas for tubes vs pans).


It's odd to see that their transparent colors are indicated by the word "lake" in the name. In other watercolor lines, "lake" is a dye that requires an extra vehicle in its binder. Here it only appears to be mentioned so you know which colors are ideal for layering / glazing.


Old Holland swatch cards:
 PB33 Old Holland Watercolor Manganese Blue Art Pigment Database


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.


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