Paul Rubens Watercolors Lightfast Test Art Supply Review Tubes, Half Pan Sets, Standard and Glitter Mica

Paul Rubens is a company in China that offers a variety of pro and student grade paints (watercolors, acrylics, oils, pastels), papers and mediums. This page focuses on their Paul Rubens line of professional watercolors. For those in the USA I recommend obtaining these paints on Amazon, as it's much more quick and reliable than the Paul Rubens store on Ali Express. Be cautious if using Ali Express, as there are also shady 3rd party vendors who may not ship the goods, steal credit card info, and if everything goes well it often takes over a month to ship to many areas of the world. 

kimberly crick art paul rubens hot press watercolor paper journal 100% cotton paint

Pros: Performance. They make lovely paint that is highly pigmented, easy to re-wet, has a low-flow that is easy to blend and stays where you put it (but it's not sludgy/dead in the water like chalky bargain paints or Turner brand). Best of all the price is considerably less than almost every other pro grade on the market (other than the Russian brand White Nights, who also competes in this price range). Both Paul Rubens and White Nights are amazing entry level pro grade paints. These are ideal for serious beginners who do not want to waste their time and effort on paint of poor quality - these will not hinder learning watercolor techniques. For anyone learning lifting/staining properties, be aware that granulating colors lift easier than smooth non-textural ones. Paper sizing is very important for lifting (the surface coating on some papers will cause colors to sink into the paper fibers and stain worse than others). Most small pan set assortments focus on smooth, staining colors (colors like cerulean and cobalts are typically found individually or in very large sets, like the 48 pan option).

Cons: Typos - incorrect pigment codes provided for roughly 5 to 8 of the 48 pan colors. That's probably the most annoying to someone like me, who is trying to organize paint swatches by pigment codes. There are a few colors that I've had to give up on trying to figure out (sadly I wasn't able to put a few of them into the pigment database, to be compared to other brands). This was a major problem in the greens such as tree green, olive green, malachite (the "hue" pan version, not the genuine mineral version available in individual tubes) hookers green and several others. All of them had questionable typos which are noted on the swatch cards towards the bottom of the page. Several colors that were fugitive are marked as lightfast, and oddly enough several marked as fugitive performed quite well. This set is not perfect (and several of the colors that fade are available in other pro grade sets too), but the majority of the colors are very stable (see tests below). Several colors were suprisingly honest in their ratings (BW5-6 was noted for borderline colors, such as Lemon Sienna that are about LFIII equivalent).

While some carelessness was involved in the labeling, if you can get past these issues and refer to color charts and lightfast tests below you may still enjoy these paints. As much as the errors bothered me, I am appreciative to have such a high quality paint that doesn't break the bank. This was a welcome financial relief after buying sets from Schmincke and Sennelier that were 3x the price and did not perform significantly better to justify the price gap. Paul Rubens is my go-to practice paint, because I do not worry so much about wasting it. I have noticed some batch to batch color variances in the tube offerings and generally more questionable pigments being offered in their individual tubes (only available from China direct). Because of the variable nature of their tubes and difficulty obtaining them, I only recommend the pan sets. This is not a brand I seek out for reordering individual colors, I like them as a good deal on a big set, traveling or gift giving.

 

I've been really impressed that at least 40 of 48 colors in the Paul Rubens pan set were LFI-II. With this set ranging from as low as a third of the cost, up to about half the price of a set of this size from other pro grade brands (Sennelier, Rembrandt, Holbein, Schmincke), I expected less of it. There are several notes on colors I would avoid and details about pigment code number issues (which apply to any brand) in this image:

Paul Rubens lightfast test 48 half pan set fugitive fading colors pigment code numbers

Past info/work with this brand can still be found below: 

The above video is an update regarding my initial review (you can see my first video on YouTube here if you'd like to see my first impressions. This also shows side by side swatches of Sennelier and Rembrandt paints, verifying they do indeed work the same as much more expensive pro-grade paints.

I was really happy to pull down the lightfast strips from the window to discover only minor fading in 6 of the 48 colors. I expected the Prussian Blue, and the other 5 had such a tiny amount of dulling that I had to look hard at them under a lamp to tell.

Lightfast test Paul Rubens watercolor 24 color chart set China watercolour aquarelle swatch pigment

For those who may have gotten the 24 color set in the past year, here is a separated fugitive list. Below you'll find the expanded list covering the colors in the 48 half pan set:

Paul Rubens 48 color watercolor paint set lightfast fugitive fading test pigment sunlight chart

If you are in the USA, Amazon carries this paint for purchase here:

 

The pearlescent / metallic "glitter" set is made with a sparkly mica mineral mixed with an underlying pigment. Most of these colors have an underlying tone (such as blue sparkle on top of blue watercolor) but several do not (such as royal gold, which washes out to clear, see color chart swatch below).

Color chart for the 48 pan mica-based glitter watercolor set:

Paul Rubens glitter watercolor 48 set color chart mica metallic shimmer paint

Paul Rubens Glitter Watercolor 48 color chart shimmer iridescent sparkle mica paint

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Previous information from 24 pan set review:

Paul Rubens watercolor palette tin half pan metallic mica pigment set swatch color chart

They offer high quality pan sets with standard (normal) OR glitter (metallic) colors. The standard sets use the same quality pigments found in professional brands like Daniel Smith, Schmincke, Rembrandt etc. and perform just as well at a fraction of the cost. The standard sets have a high degree of lightfastness, while the metallic ones do not.

 

 

Here is the color name list and swatch chart for both the 24 and 12 color half pan sets. These are the "glitter" sets which have metallic mica shimmer colors and do not provide specific pigment information (typically a pigment or dye is bonded with mica for the different colors). They do not claim these to be lightfast, and many crafters will find use for these in card making and scrapbooking as will artists in sketchbooks regardless of lightfastness.

Paul Rubens watercolor color chart swatch lightfast test fugitive fading sun light

 Here is how each color performed after 6 months of daily light exposure in a North facing window:Paul Rubens watercolor lightfast test mica glitter half pan swatch color chart 24

 

 

 

The tubes are harder to get in the USA, only sometimes being available in sets on Amazon. You can order directly from the Paul Rubens Ali Express store, but it will have lengthy shipping and import delays as it comes from China. 

 

 

New in 2020 pan set from Paul Rubens "phosphorescent" (with a hint of super fine glitter-like mica particles). This set was titled " Paul Rubens Professional Watercolor Paint, Set of 24 Colors Glitter Phosphorescent Solid Cakes Artist Grade Watercolor Painting Kit" however, it should be noted that "Phosphorescent" is misleading, as this paint doesn't glow, rather it's light reflective from the mica iridescent powder.

 

Hopefully in the future they will update the listing description for better clarity, but what it said at the time I purchased it is incorrect. The "trace of gold powder" they mention is actually a tiny touch of silvery pearl mica, which is a finely ground iridescent effect. It is reflective white, like stardust, not gold at all. The color selection is very close to the original 24 pan set they offer, just with a hint of sparkle, with a few colors swapped out to include their new color separating "moonlight purple" "royal purple" and "christmas green". They are pretty, but require some extra water and perhaps some salt texture to expose their unique qualities. I'll include a picture to show how these colors pigments separate in a really wet wash.

Typos on the color chart and the pan labels made me think there were 2 royal purples. This is not a duplicate, just one pan happens to be moonlight purple, the darker one, mislabeled. Aside from some other typos for pigments, they are nice paints. The tin is very durable, much deeper mixing areas, better enamel coating and some inserts to prevent pan wiggling. I just wish it had been more clear what I was buying. For those who like to keep swatch card records of their paints, I had to do some annoying fact checking for a few of these. It's a unique product, as most watercolors are either very metallic/glittery or just not at all, these are a new middle ground. Hopefully this helps clarify what, for me, was quite the mystery product!

 

Paul Rubens Glitter Set Butterfly Swatch

 

Paul Rubens Moonlight Purple Swatch Color Separation

 

The hint of glitter set has such tiny delicate particles that they do not appear on scans of artwork or swatch cards, unless blown up to a very large viewing size. Here's an example of the card showing the glitter particles:

 

Paul Rubens Phosphorescent Glitter Sea Blue

 

Please note that you will not be able to see the glitter in the normal size card gallery below. They are noted as "glitter edition" on the card when comparing colors on this page, as well as when you view them compared to other brands in the pigment database.

 

Phosphorescent / hint of glitter edition pan set lightfast test: One year lightfast test results with problem pigments noted below. Each color has two stripes, the top being masstone/full strength and the bottom being a notably diluted stripe which often fades at a different rate. Left has not been exposed to uv light, the right side has received 1 year of window light (several hours of direct daylight, such as the hours around sunset or sunrise):

 

Paul Rubens watercolor lightfast test phosphorescent glitter sparkle pan set fugitive

 

 

Paul Rubens swatch cards:

 

Here are all the detailed cards for every Paul Rubens color I own. You can see how these compare to other brands of the same color on the pigment database here.

 

From standard pan sets (48 colors offered, white PW6 swatch pending):

PY53 Paul Rubens Standard Pan set Naples Light lightfast pigment swatch test card art color lift cheap PY3 Paul Rubens Standard Pan Permanent Lemon Yellow swatch card pigment art set half full pan lightfast fugitive art PY65 Paul Rubens Standard Pan set Permanent Yellow Medium lightfast pigment swatch test card art color lift cheap PY35 Paul Rubens Standard Pan Cadmium Yellow Medium swatch card pigment art set half full pan lightfast fugitive art PY42 Paul Rubens Standard Pan set Lemon Sienna pigment art watercolor medium transparent color separation PY150 Paul Rubens Watercolor Nickel Yellow Art Pigment Database PO20 Paul Rubens Standard Pan set Cadmium Orange Yellow lightfast pigment swatch test card art color lift cheap PY83 Paul Rubens Standard Pan set Transparent Medium Yellow lightfast pigment swatch test card art color lift cheap PY83 Paul Rubens Standard Pan set Indian Yellow lightfast pigment swatch test card art color lift cheap PR108 Paul Rubens Standard Pan Cadmium Red Light swatch card pigment art set half full pan lightfast fugitive art PO73 Paul Rubens Standard Pan set Permanent Orange Red lightfast pigment swatch test card art color lift cheap PR108 Paul Rubens Standard Pan set Cadmium Red lightfast pigment swatch test card art color lift cheap PR123 Paul Rubens Standard Pan set Scarlet lightfast pigment swatch test card art color lift cheap PV19 Paul Rubens Standard Pan Rose Red swatch card pigment art set half full pan lightfast fugitive art PR254 Paul Rubens Standard Pan set Chinese Red lightfast pigment swatch test card art color lift cheap PR177 Paul Rubens Standard Pan set Madder Red fugitive pigment swatch test card art color lift cheap PR122 Paul Rubens Standard Pan set Magenta lightfast pigment swatch test card art color lift cheap PV19 Paul Rubens Standard Pan set Violet lightfast pigment swatch test card art color lift cheap PV23 Paul Rubens Standard Pan Permanent Violet swatch card pigment art set half full pan lightfast fugitive art PV19 PB29 Paul Rubens Standard Pan set Royal Purple art swatch card color pigment database stain test masstone diluted PB15 PB29 PBk9 Paul Rubens Standard Pan Payn's Grey swatch card pigment art set half full pan lightfast fugitive art PV19 PB15 PBk6 Paul Rubens Standard Pan set Indigo art swatch card color pigment database stain test masstone diluted PB27 Paul Rubens Watercolor Prussian Blue Swatch Card PB15:3 Paul Rubens Standard Pan set Sea Blue art swatch card color pigment database stain test masstone diluted PB29 Paul Rubens Standard Pan France Ultramarine swatch card pigment art set half full pan lightfast fugitive art PB28 Paul Rubens Standard Pan set Cobalt Blue art swatch card color pigment database stain test masstone diluted PB36 Paul Rubens Standard Pan set Sky Blue art swatch card color pigment database stain test masstone diluted PB17 Paul Rubens Standard Pan set Peacock Blue art swatch card color pigment database stain test masstone diluted PG26 Paul Rubens Standard Pan set Turquoise Deep pigment art watercolor medium transparent color separation PB36 Paul Rubens Standard Pan set Turquoise light pigment art watercolor medium transparent color separation PY101 PB19 Paul Rubens Standard Pan set Malachite Hue art swatch card color pigment database stain test masstone diluted PG7 Paul Rubens Standard Pan Emerald swatch card pigment art set half full pan lightfast fugitive art PG17 Paul Rubens Standard Pan set Hooker's Brillight art swatch card color pigment database stain test masstone diluted PG36 PY74 Paul Rubens Standard Pan set Yellow Green pigment art watercolor medium transparent color separation PG36 PY3 PY74 Paul Rubens Standard Pan set Permanent Green art swatch card color pigment database stain test masstone diluted PG3 Paul Rubens Standard Pan set Tree Green art swatch card color pigment database stain test masstone diluted PG36 Paul Rubens Standard Pan set Olive Green art swatch card color pigment database stain test masstone diluted PBr24 Paul Rubens Standard Pan set Naples Yellow pigment art watercolor medium transparent color separation PBr7 Paul Rubens Standard Pan set Raw Umber pigment art watercolor medium transparent color separation PY42 Paul Rubens Standard Pan Yellow Ochre swatch card pigment art set half full pan lightfast fugitive art PBr7 PR101 Paul Rubens Standard Pan Umber swatch card pigment art set half full pan lightfast fugitive art PR101 Paul Rubens Standard Pan set Pozzuoili Red Ochre pigment art watercolor medium transparent color separation PBr7 Paul Rubens Standard Pan set Burned Sienna pigment art watercolor medium transparent color separation PBr7 Paul Rubens Standard Pan set Van Dyke Brown pigment art watercolor medium transparent color separation PBr7 Paul Rubens Standard Pan Burned Brown swatch card pigment art set half full pan lightfast fugitive art PBk7 Paul Rubens Standard Pan Coal Black swatch card pigment art set half full pan lightfast fugitive art PBk9 Paul Rubens Standard Pan set Ivory Black pigment art watercolor medium transparent color separation 

From the "phosphorescent" hint-of-glitter pan set:

PY1 Paul Rubens Hint of Glitter Pan Set Watercolor Yellow Light Swatch Card Color Chart PY3 Paul Rubens Hint of Glitter Pan Set Watercolor Permanent Lemon Yellow Swatch Card Color Chart PY83 Paul Rubens Hint of Glitter Pan Set Watercolor Indian Yellow Swatch Card Color Chart PO73 Paul Rubens Hint of Glitter Pan Set Watercolor Permanent Orange Red Swatch Card Color Chart PR254 Paul Rubens Hint of Glitter Pan Set Watercolor China Red Swatch Card Color Chart PV19 Paul Rubens Hint of Glitter Pan Set Watercolor Rose Red Swatch Card Color Chart PR177 Paul Rubens Hint of Glitter Pan Set Watercolor Madder Red Swatch Card Color Chart PV19 PB29 Paul Rubens Hint of Glitter Pan Set Watercolor Royal Purple Swatch Card Color Chart PV23 Paul Rubens Hint of Glitter Pan Set Watercolor Permanent Violet Swatch Card Color Chart PB17 Paul Rubens Hint of Glitter Pan Set Watercolor Blue Peacock Swatch Card Color Chart PB28 Paul Rubens Hint of Glitter Pan Set Watercolor Cobalt Blue Swatch Card Color Chart PB15 Paul Rubens Hint of Glitter Pan Set Watercolor Phthalo Blue Swatch Card Color Chart PB29 Paul Rubens Hint of Glitter Pan Set Watercolor France Ultramarine Swatch Card Color Chart PB60 PB15 PBk6 Paul Rubens Hint of Glitter Pan Set Watercolor Sea Blue Swatch Card Color Chart PG36 PY74 Paul Rubens Hint of Glitter Pan Set Watercolor Yellow Green Swatch Card Color Chart PG7 Paul Rubens Hint of Glitter Pan Set Watercolor Emerald Green Deep Swatch Card Color Chart PG17 Paul Rubens Hint of Glitter Pan Set Watercolor Hooker's Green Swatch Card Color Chart PBr7 PB15 Paul Rubens Hint of Glitter Pan Set Watercolor Christmas Green Swatch Card Color Chart PY42 Paul Rubens Hint of Glitter Pan Set Watercolor Yellow Ochre Swatch Card Color Chart PR101 PBr7 Paul Rubens Hint of Glitter Pan Set Watercolor Umber Swatch Card Color Chart PBr7 Paul Rubens Hint of Glitter Pan Set Watercolor Burned Sienna Swatch Card Color Chart PBr7 Paul Rubens Hint of Glitter Pan Set Watercolor Burned Brown Swatch Card Color Chart PO73 PB29 PG18 Paul Rubens Hint of Glitter Pan Set Watercolor Moonlight Purple Swatch Card Color Chart PBk7 Paul Rubens Hint of Glitter Pan Set Watercolor Coal Black Swatch Card Color Chart

 

 

From individually purchased tube paints (Paul Rubens direct): These colors vary by batch (sometimes looking substantially different upon reordering.) The moonlight/shadow purples are not lightfast (just like Daniel Smith's moonglow). Because of these problems I can't really recommend the tube mixtures below.
PV19 PB29 Paul Rubens Tube Watercolor Royal Purple Swatch Card Color Chart PB15 PBr7 Paul Rubens Tube Watercolor Christmas Green Swatch Card Color Chart PO73 PB29 PG18 Paul Rubens Tube Watercolor Royal Purple Swatch Card Color Chart PB29 PG18 Paul Rubens Tube Watercolor Royal Purple Swatch Card Color Chart

 

Fun fact - This brand is named after the Flemish artist Peter Paul Rubens born in 1577 (not the actor Paul Reubens who played PeeWee Herman). 

*More sets on the STUDENT GRADE PAUL RUBENS PAGE* As this company continues to expand their offerings, they are getting more and more confusing to new buyers. They have several student grade sets, including the MeiLiang Pretty Excellent pan set, Caroline tube paints as well as the new Paul Rubens 24 FULL PAN tin set which does not clearly indicate that it is NOT the same pro grade as their other "Paul Rubens" named pan sets. There is also a neon/fluorescent set that has colors which "glow" under uv black light (review on the fluorescent paints page).

 

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Learn more about how my lightfast tests are done, or see other brand art supply reviews here: LIGHTFAST FAQ AND REVIEWS BY BRAND.