Roman Szmal Aquarius Watercolor Review Color Chart 140 + 16 NEW 2020 COLORS, Swatch Card Lightfast Test
Roman Szmal runs a watercolor company based in Poland. He calls his professional watercolors "Aquarius" and has mentioned this part of the name indicates professional quality, as they may expand to include a second name in the future for a student grade line. I'm excited to see what happens with this company, as they have had the most incredible success in 2019 to 2020, gaining popularity with artists worldwide.
These affordable colors come in dry full-size pans (no tubes at this time) and are available in over 140 colors. (NEW AUTUMN 2020 COLORS BELOW) My first purchase to test the brand was their set of 5 basic starter colors:
The following colors are included in this set:
Here's my video review and painting demo using it!
Roman Szmal has created a few paints that are similar to Daniel Smith (imitating Imperial Purple, Moonglow and Shadow Violet colors). These dupes are close, but not exact, so it's personal preference if it's worthwhile to own both company's mixtures.
In September 2020 the 16 new colors (shown in the video above or swatch cards below) were added to the 140+ color catalog including more convenience mixtures similar to Daniel Smith's Moonglow and Shadow Violet as well as genuine mineral paints that were otherwise only available in Daniel Smith's line. There are also some nice new cobalt blues (an alternate to the original pg50 teal, now a brighter more blue leaning cobalt PB28) as well as a lovely PBk32 perylene green DEEP which I haven't seen anywhere else. More and more this brand is appearing to be an alternative to Daniel Smith, with a specialization in full size pan form (no tubes at this time) with easier, affordable distribution throughout Europe.
Roman Szmal now has a couple rare minerals that Daniel Smith used to make, but were discontinued years ago including Malachite and Vivianite. These pigments are both technically lightfast, but unfortunately it's not just UV you have to worry about. Malachite and Vivianite are both chemically unstable and when exposed to common chemicals, air pollution, humidity, variable ph, nickel and other pigments in your pallete they will turn yellow and harden over time. There is a reason these paints were discontinued by Daniel Smith and that the only real way to get them is handmade DIY paint makers who use pigment powders.
One of the great benefits of watercolor is that they typically have no expiration date. I have dry pans from many years ago, and have collected antique watercolor sets that are over 70 years old, that still re-wet with a touch of a damp brush and have remained their original color. Three times from three separate manufacturers I have bought Malachite (I love the color) and all of them were stored differently hoping to find a way to preserve them for longer. One was sealed in a ziplock, the other in a tube, the other in a palette next to other paints. All have turned into yellowish chunky gritty messes within 6 months to a year. If you're going to buy Malachite or Vivianite, use it up fast.
Another problem is Lapis Lazuli. Weak. It's always a gentle, hard to re-wet pigment, but I had hoped maybe it was as strong or stronger than the pale diluted ultramarine blue appearance of Daniel Smith's Lapis Lazuli. Nope, half the strength maybe. Also a much more dull, desaturated gray-ish blue indicating cheaper mineral (it's more expensive the more deep blue and pure it is). I would pass on this one since it's so easily replicated with a diluted ultramarine blue with some dirty palette water.
There were many colors that were near identical to Daniel Smith paints. Goethite (same name in daniel smith) was just a touch more yellow than brown. The aquarius brown (lunar brown), aquarius grey (gray titanium), potters pink (a touch more pale than DS version) and Hematite Violet Shade is beautiful and similar in hue but with far less color separation and dramatic black granulation than DS version. In general I found the Roman Szmal versions to be slightly weaker and paler than the DS equivalent, with the exception of the very lovely and useful Goethite.
Where to buy?
Roman Szmal Aquarius Watercolors available here.
NEW COLORS ADDED IN FALL 2020:
See how each color compares to other brands in the pigment database. See my swatch cards side by side with other paints made from the same pigments, organized by color here.
I recommend buying Roman Szmal's Aquarius watercolors from Jackson's below: