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Schmincke Horadam Watercolor Review Color Chart, Lightfast Test + Super Granulating, Limited and Special Edition Swatch Cards
Schmincke Horadam Aquarell is a professional quality watercolor paint from Germany. They have a huge fan base as one of the leading manufacturers of watercolor, gouache, acrylic and oil paints as well as real metal powders and other mediums. All of the products I've tried by Schmincke have had a very high quality, but also a pretty hefty price tag. Part of this is location, as these paints are quite expensive after importing when compared to other brands here in the USA. I recommend shopping around for the best price (I often find the best deals at Jackson's UK which ships worldwide) as these are absolutely well made paints worth seeking out.
Schmincke also makes an "Akademie" student grade watercolor without ox gall, but it's very expensive for a student line so I have not invested in them. The Horadam pro line of watercolor is not vegan, it contains ox gall usually obtained from the gallbladder of cows. This is not super common with modern watercolors (some brands like Winsor & Newton and Roman Szmal also do this). It contains cholesterol which is mainly used to increase flow. Even with this additive, I find these paints to be very well behaved, sometimes surprisingly staying where you put them. Schmincke says there is just enough ox gall to make sure the pigment particles dissolve well in water. They have a high pigment load you'd expect from a pro grade watercolor and generally re-wet easily from tube or self-poured dry pan. There is a huge range of 140+ permanent catalog colors, as well as over 30+ limited/special edition colors which were released over the course of 2020-2021.
If any of the "super granulating" colors stop being made in the future, don't fret - they are easily replicated by combining the single pigments on the label (ie Glacier Green PR233, PG50 is simply Potters Pink PR233 mixed with Cobalt Turquoise PG50. You can stir a drop of each together in a pan if you'd like to recreate this convenience mixture). By combining multiple granulating colors, or a granulating color with a non-granulating (texture and no texture) pigment, a color-separating effect is created in wet washes.
They offer several unique colors, my personal favorite being the heavily granulating Mahogany Brown made with the rare pigment Pbr33. They have a strong deep version of Potter's Pink PR233, which I could only find from a few other major brands worldwide including Daniel Smith, Winsor & Newton and MaimeriBlu. The pale, lighter pinks from AGallo or Roman Szmal are not as granulating or strong for use in color separating mixtures. Like Viridian PG18 or Cerulean PB35/36, Potters Pink is a slightly difficult pigment that requires an extra moment of pre soak in a pan. If you live in a very dry climate, adding a drop of vegetable glycerin stirred into your pan before drying should help it retain moisture.
LIGHTFAST? Which colors are fugitive or will fade over time? Schmincke mostly offers lightfast paints, but there are a few colors that are intentionally fugitive (but still offered due to popular artist demand like opera pink or alizarin). There are a couple rating mistakes, including the fact that Magenta PR122 is more lightfast than advertised, but also that PO64 Saturn Red is very fugitive despite being rated highly.
---------------LF TEST RESULTS AND SWATCH CARD FLIP THROUGH VIDEO COMING SHORTLY------------------
Fugitive colors (LFIII-V / BW5to1 / *** of 5 stars or less). These low rated pigments typically fade within several weeks up to 3 months in roof/sky facing tests (roughly 6 months in sunset facing vertical windows that receive about 3-5 hours of daily direct sunlight depending on the season). Aside from PO64, most of these perform as expected and are properly advertised as prone to fading. As with most catalogs, red pigments will have the most fading, because the warm end of the color spectrum absorbs more UV than cool colors:
PR83:1 Alizarin Crimson
PR83:1, PR177 Madder Lake Deep
PR83:1, PR48:4 Rose Madder
PB66, PB15:1 Indigo (PB66 synthetic Indigo, just like the plant dye, is fugitive.) There is notable fading when diluted, but it has a fairly strong UV durability in masstone).
PG8, PB15 Olive Green has visible fading in the diluted range, as PG8 is particularly prone to fading when watered down or in tints.
PO64 Saturn Red is the most shockingly fugitive color in the entire Schmincke watercolor catalog. PO64 is advertised to be lightfast, yet starts to show signs of fading within just one month. By one year PO64's diluted range almost completely disappeared as if it were never painted. The same poor results have been replicated in other brands (Rembrandt's Brilliant Orange, White Nights Orange and Peach) in both direct sun and indirect general daylight tests (long term without direct sunbeam heat). I expect this color will fade even on indoor artwork from the natural light of nearby windows. I recommend avoiding this pigment if you sell, gift or display original artwork.
Brilliant - All four "Brilliant" titled colors include fluorescent dye/pigment additives which show signs of fading within the first few weeks of lightfast testing. Brilliant Red Vio. and Blue Vio. both only contain a tiny amount of the same fluorescent pink found in Opera Rose (so it would be economical to just buy opera to mix with your other colors if the vibrancy boost is desired). The underlying pigments in these mixtures are very lightfast - meaning the end result at one year is just a tiny amount of fading. Brilliant Blue Violet has barely perceptible fading after 1 year (thanks to the stable underlying PB29, PV23). The color is still considered fugitive because that tiny amount of fluorescent faded so early on (an incredibly minor vibrancy shift). This is a good example of why LF ratings can be very poor for a color that ends up outperforming higher rated colors. It's an interesting observation you'd only know through independent studies like this, as this type of information is discarded by ASTM or manufacturer Blue Wool Scale reports. Official ratings only communicate -when- a change was detected, not -how much total fading- occurred by the end of the test duration.
PB27Prussian Blue shows signs of fading while exposed to UV and gradually recovers over several days in shade. This is normal behavior for PB27, as the iron salts are bleached by sunlight and recharge in the absence of light. After 1 year of 3-5 hour daily sunlight exposure, Schmincke's PB27 has made a nearly complete recovery within 7 days of being removed from light. Barely perceptible signs of permanent fading have begun though. Due to studies in other brands, I can predict that the diluted range will unrecoverably begin to fade over the next year. Eventually even taking your painting off the wall for brief naps in the summer months will not save PB27 from its inevitably bleached fate. This slow degradation is less evident in "Paris Blue" which only uses a small percentage of PB27 in the mixture (mostly phthalo blue).
----- Minor fading ----- (LFII to marginally LFIII / fading not visible until 6-12 months of daily sun exposure). Schmincke correctly labels these between LFII-III (*** or 3 of 5 stars). While these colors should be stable for many years indoors (away from nearby windows), the fading may be of interest when comparing superior alternatives. Artists creating personal works may not need to be overly concerned with marginally lightfast colors, but you may want to skip these pigments when selling originals:
PY155, PY153 Chromium Yellow Hue Light has minor diluted range fading.
PO71 Transparent Orange has clearly visible fading in both the masstone and diluted range. Schmincke correctly labels this LFIII pigment at 3 of 5 stars.
PR188 Vermilion Light has visible fading in both the masstone and diluted range. Schmincke correctly labels this roughly LFIII pigment at 3 of 5 stars
PR242 Geranium Red has very little change in masstone, but this pigment suffers from fading when diluted which becomes much worse in tints/low percentage mixtures with white. This becomes apparent in convenience mixtures like White Nights "Coral" (a pale pastel color PR242, PW6) which completely disappeared after a year.
PR144 Transparent Red Deep has clearly visible fading in diluted range.
PR187 Bordeaux has a dulling of masstone in addition to fading in the diluted range.
PV42 Magenta has a hue shift, dulling / decreased vibrancy, but no significant fading. Marginally lightfast. This shift makes it less desirable than PV19 Ruby Red or PR122 Purple Magenta.
----- Subtle fading (LFI-LFII) -----The following colors had extremely minor hue shifts or barely perceptible fading that occured within the final months of testing. This falls within the standards of "lightfast" for artist use (50-100 years of museum lighting before fading). I will note these pigments below, only because other pigments without reported changes do offer superior long term lightfastness. The many colors that have not shown signs of fading by 1 year typically remain strong for several years or more in sunlight. There are pigments stronger than LFI/BW8 rating, but BW9 (would we call it LF0 for absolutely permanent?) is not typically tested for. For instance, earth brown pigments will continue to show zero signs of fading even after 3-5 years in a window far exceeding current testing scales. While PR254 Pyrrol (Scarlet) Red is one of the very best red pigments available (testing at blue wool scale 8 / LFI) it will still start to fade before even stronger pigments like PR108 Cadmium Red.
LFII:Subtle fading diluted from the PR242 in all of these mixtures:
PR242, PO62 mixtures "Permanent Red" and "Permanent Red Orange". PR242, PY42, PW6, PW4 mixture "Naples Yellow Reddish".
PV29 Perylene Violet had a minor hue shift, dulling / loss of vibrancy (shifts towards brown, slight loss of red undertone) with very subtle fading in every brand I've tested for 1 year. It has been given an LFI or 4 of 5 star rating, yet it has more of a shift than some colors rated LFII-III (such as PR264 or PR122).
LFI: Insignificant changes documented within LFI parameters (changes detected which were barely perceptible at the time of BW8 fade test strip fading). PR254 "Scarlet Red". PR207 "Quin Red Light". PR255, PB60, PO62 mixture in "Neutral Grey" has had a tiny loss of warmth. PV19 Quin Violet has minor fading in both masstone and diluted, it appears that the blue/purple leaning versions of PV19 are less UV durable than the warmer red leaning versions.
----- Stable ----- (likely under-rated / too low of an assigned rating).
PR264 Ruby Red Deep is a very lightfast pigment, despite being rated at *** (between LFII-LFIII). I will be testing this more since there are so few reds that perform this well. So far, Winsor and Newton's Winsor Red Deep also performed perfectly with no diluted range fading after 1 year of sun.
PR122 Purple Magenta is a very lightfast pigment with insignificant minor dulling after 1 full year of daily sun. The ingredient (powder form) varies in stability by chemical manufacturer. An older ASTM test was performed on a less UV durable sample, causing many companies to under-rate PR122 for the past decade, despite improvements in manufacturing. I concur with Handprint and the Color of Art Pigment Database websites on this, all of our studies of modern PR122 have proven to be BW7-8/LFI, not LFIII like the 1999 ASTM test result which could have contributed to Schmincke rating it ***.
PB60 Indanthrone Blue variant notes: Schmincke offers two forms of PB60, a warmer royal blue called "Delft Blue" rated at 4 stars and a less vibrant dull "Dark Blue" version rated at 3 of 5 stars. It is true that Dark Blue has a tiny bit of fading towards the end of this test, but both performed at BW8/ LFI. If you are debating between the two forms of Indanthrone Blue though, I would recommend Delft Blue for its superior depth of color and UV durability. Dark Blue could be hue matched by mixing a black, like PBk6 or 7 with Delft Blue.
As of 11-2021 all 30ish Super Granulating and Limited Edition colors use only stable, highly lightfast pigments. Notes about lightfastness can be found on the swatch cards below.
Schmincke puts out a lot of special holiday sets, limited edition wood box or metal tin collections such as this:
Amazon also carries their dot card for the permanent catalog
(the 140 color dot card does not contain limited/special edition/super granulating colors):
In early 2020 Schmincke released 15 special edition granulating colors with the themes: galaxy, deep sea and glacier. These are convenience mixtures of pigments prone to color separation and granulation texture. There was some general confusion online about the term "Super Granulating" (as marketed on websites like Jackson's art supplies) from the German description "supergranulierende" which Schmincke explained as meaning "normally granulating colors take on a new appearance when 2 or more are used at once". For example, in glacier green "super" is their way of saying you can see teal and pink, instead of normally only getting one color at once. Some expected this to mean abnormally strong granulation, but it's really normal granulation simply adding subtle color separation.
Jackson's should have clearly elaborated upon what Schmincke meant in English in a way that didn't set unrealistic expectations. To be fair, these ARE mixtures of Schmincke's most granulating pigments, exactly as if you had mixed them yourself. None of the paint tubes say "super" anywhere, and all of the swatch representations online appear to be accurate.
These are subtle and do not compare to the dramatic granulation or color separation of some of Daniel Smith or Roman Szmal's colors. I do not believe these are similar enough to be compared to Daniel Smith's mineral or primatek paints (made of completely different rare ingredients) or their color separating mixtures that contain non-granulating colors (which have strong masstones due to using phthalo blue in cascade green, or the pv19 violet in royal purple). These are different enough to be like comparing apples to oranges in this situation. Instead, appreciate these for what they are - mixtures of mostly opaque cobalts and earth browns. PG50 Cobalt Turquoise, PBr33 Mahogany Brown and PR233 Potters Pink being the real stars of this show. I do wish they hadn't made so many similar blue mixes with ultramarine pb29 though, because these were the most bland, least color separating ones of the bunch:
In December of 2020 Schmincke added 10 new special edition granulating colors. The two themes were Forest and Tundra, all being multi pigment convenience mixtures containing two or more of their normal granulating colors. For example, Tundra Green (below) is a mixture of Cobalt Green Pure (PG19) and Mars Brown (PBr6).
November 2021: "HAZE" theme set was added to Jackson's (here). These colors are meant for misty obscure landscapes with fog or transitioning light. I found this addition to be underwhelming. Most of what I loved about the initial releases was color separation in addition to granulation texture. These all have texture, but 3 of them have little to no color separation in wet wash or salt reactions. I will get the most use out of Haze Pink, but at this time the colors are not available individually or in 15ml tubes instead of tiny 5ml - so I'll be sticking to mixing my own using PB36 and PR233 in the future:
In "limited" or "special edition" sets, Schmincke often includes alternate mica based metallic colors that are not part of their permanent catalog. Some helpful convenience mixtures like Ocean Grey or Ice Blue have become available individually as 15ml tubes. There have also been several rare mineral releases in smaller 5ml tubes. I did not buy the opalite or green porphyry in 2017, but Lapis Lazuli (natural ultramarine blue) came back in 2021 as well as the recently discovered YnMin blue pigment PB86:
Swatch card color chart for their 140 permanent color catalog below:
These hand painted swatches on Arches cold press watercolor paper display details on how these paints perform, pigment ingredients, wet on wet wash, salt reaction, lifting, opacity, staining, lightfast ratings, masstone to diluted range under bright scanner bed (direct) light:
Where to buy?
You can find some of these paints on Amazon USA, but art shops like Jackson's are likely to have the best price. I use affiliate links and banners for all products. As an Amazon associate I earn from qualifying purchases. Thank you :)
If you'd like to see the swatch cards organized by color, to compare them to other brands check out the pigment database. I have separated each brand's paints to show them side by side with other examples of the same pigment.
Note: this page contains affiliate links. All product opinions are my own. I am committed to honest reviews showcasing both the pros and cons of each product. I have not received payment from any brand for a review. I earn a commission from sales made through this web page's clickable banners or links to Amazon, Arteza, Scrapbook, Jackson's or Blick Art Materials websites.