ShinHan Professional Designers Gouache Review Color Chart + Compare to PASS
ShinHan Professional Designers Gouache paints are an affordable, matte (not shiny, even when painted thickly), opaque watercolor. They are available in sets or individual tubes, ranging from about $3 to $10 per color. There are only a couple pigments that are on the expensive side (Cadmium Reds) and otherwise this brand is extremely competitively priced - definitely worth the cost! This is a good quality beginner, student or designer gouache (for scanned web illustrations or prints). There are some lightfast colors in this range which would be suitable for art to sell or long term display. I've edited their chart (further down this page) to include helpful notes regarding which colors will fade.
How does it compare to other brands? ShinHan gouache is available in 72 colors, many of which are single pigment or dye. It lacks some of the lightfast options found in other brands (no PR122, PV19, PG18, PY154, PBk31 or other Perylenes). Similarly to Daler Rowney designers gouache, the selection is all over the place (fugitive, lightfast, single and multi pigment). Winsor & Newton or Holbein also offer a large selection of colors, but they have an increased number of helpful lightfast options for those who want to display original paintings. Brands that specialize in UV stable gouache for fine art have much smaller color selections (M.Graham, Da Vinci, Horadam). The paint performance is an upgrade from brands like Miya HIMI, Arrtx, Arteza, Daler Rowney or Royal Talens gouache. It's not quite as smooth as Winsor & Newton, but it does dry easier to re-wet. ShinHan offers a lot more color options than Schmincke's Designer line (mostly fugitive) or Akademie gouache (lower pigment load). ShinHan offers Cobalt Turquoise which is missing from most brands like Horadam (Schmincke's lightfast gouache line) and is about a third of the cost of W&N/Holbein's versions. Unfortunately ShinHan is a step down in quality (but also price) compared to top pro grade gouache brands. M.Graham, Schmincke Horadam, Maimeri or Holbein all have higher pigment loads and smoother streak free flow.
I bought ShinHan gouache at Jackson's (shipping worldwide) here.
As with most "designer" paint lines, it includes both fugitive and lightfast pigments with the main goal of offering a wide spectrum of color options. This includes your choice of bright vibrant colors including fluorescent pinks and purples, or the most stable of earth, cobalts and cadmiums. The Cadmium Red and Cobalt Turquoise are lightfast but nearly as bright as neon colors. The Cobalt Turquoise did seem slightly weak in pigment load and opacity compared to brands like Holbein or Winsor & Newton. Every single color was rated as opaque (solid square icon on chart) despite varying degrees of covering power by color. In general every brand has some less opaque colors based on pigment properties, but they are often labeled as semi-opaque. Cadmium Red seems more like a "light" or "vermilion" shade, as it was very orange leaning for a PR108. If you're in the USA, Utrecht brand gouache through Blick is very similar and you may be able to score a PR108 Cadmium Red for about half the price (Flame Red was around $5 when I bought ShinHan for $10). Opera pink was also less opaque than expected. Even after a thick second layer was applied after the first had dried (above the lift line, bottom right square of swatch card). I am still able to see a hint of the black background marker stripe. They are sufficiently opaque on lighter papers or on top of other colors instead of black surfaces:
Other than offering two versions of PR108 (the other should be a darker cadmium red) ShinHan has PR254 (another warm red) as the only other lightfast red in this line. There are many fugitive reds like PR112, PR17, Alizarin Crimson PR83 and Rhodamine dye based reds that are prone to fading within several months (more quickly when diluted or mixed in small amounts/tints). There is NO lightfast magenta/cool red primary mixing color (PV19 or PR122). This line has some mixing limitations for those who wish to create lightfast art for long term wall display. It has a lot of options for those wanting to do print reproductions/personal art/sketchbooks etc.
I love how gouache looks on colored papers like PaintOn toned mixed media paper by Clairfontaine - available at Jackson's here.
How do these compare to PASS (ShinHan's watercolor gouache hybrid paints)? The gouache line overall contains more fully opaque colors and they have a chalkier matte (no binder gloss) finish. The gouache seems slightly less suited for work as a watercolor regarding particle size and smooth transitions from thick to watered down paint. PASS seemed to make smoother gradients and flow very little (predictably) in wet washes. The gouache flow varied by color and because of gouache's thicker viscosity had a tendency to puddle/streak/be splotchy when doing watered down washes. Water management is an important skill to learn in watercolor and gouache painting, but it is critical with this and lesser quality gouache, as it can dry uneven/streaky/with bubbles or otherwise unattractively if not carefully applied.
Some pigment ingredients are not the same between ShinHan's gouache, PASS and PWC watercolor lines, even between colors of the same name. PASS and their PWC watercolor range have Sepia made with PBk11 and PR101, but the gouache is PBr8. PWC watercolor Raw Sienna is PR101, but their "Korean Color" (a glue based gansai type paint) as well as this gouache use an uncommon PY119 instead. The gouache line offers a darker shade of PY119 than the Korean version. PR17 is a rare pigment found in several ShinHan paint lines (fugitive and I already owned it in PASS, but mentioning it in case you collect rare pigments). BV11 the dye in Red Violet is by itself in this and PWC, but is mixed with PR81 in PASS. The Opera Pink is a different dye in each range and I prefer the PASS one for brightness, black light glow and smooth laydown. Shadow Green is not the typical perylene green PBk31, the gouache line offers a mixture made with PBk11, PG17 and PW18 (chalk) instead.
The binder separated in half the gouache tubes I bought (4 of 8, despite being newly acquired stock, which does not bode well for long term shelf life). I had to do a lot of stirring with a long needle tool/toothpick inside the tube, followed by more stirring in the pan since there were still runny clear binder liquids and more solid chunks coming out. Not a good first impression. In comparison, after well over a year in storage most of my PASS tubes remained a well mixed creamy consistency, ready to paint with the exception of Burnt, Raw Umber and Titanium White. I suspect that heavier pigments, such as granulating cobalts, cadmiums, earth browns and titanium tend to sink and settle away from their binder fluid more than other colors. Overall my PASS paints appear to suffer from less binder separation when brand new (as well as after 1 year of shelf storage) compared to the new ShinHan gouache paints. Just 3 of 48 PASS gave me trouble, while 4 of 8 gouache did (Cadmium Red, Raw Sienna, Cobalt Turquoise & Cobalt Green Pale). This could be due to hot/cold shipping temperatures, but could also be related to the fact that the PASS line does not have any cobalt or cadmiums. Regardless of which ShinHan paint line you choose, I advise being prepared with a long skewer/needle tool for stirring as this time consuming task can really disrupt your painting time.
Both lines will crack in the pan when dried, but can be easily re-wet from dry or reconstituted if dry shards were in a pile on a palette. It is overall best to use these paints straight from the tube. You can take the time to mix a drop of honey or glycerin into each pan if you want to experiment with reducing cracking. M.Graham gouache already has honey in the binder and performs really well in a pan, so I'm not inclined to try using cheaper brands this way - but many artists tell me adding it themselves works well. Because M.Graham and Maimeri gouache both have higher pigment loads and better flow characteristics, I did not personally choose to dilute ShinHan gouache further with added binders. If your goal is working on dark papers and maximum opacity is required, using gouache from the tube may be better.
Excess scrubbing of dry paint to hydrate it will cause bubbles on your brush. They will make little hole marks on your painting when they pop, so it's good to avoid having to work at re-wetting from the start. The tendency to crack in the pan also means that it would crack on the painting surface if applied too thickly (as with most gouache). A flat brush may be helpful for smooth filling of large areas. Both PASS and gouache perform well as watercolors when used on wet. They can be diluted to nearly transparent and even provide some granulation and salt reaction textures. They can be prone to streakiness and fast drying (similar to chalky student paints or Derwent's Inktense) when applied on dry. These paints can feel like you need to work harder at smoothing them out (brush drag).
Colors in both ranges are matte and opaque enough for dark to light layering effects (such as painting a dark brown background and going over it with light brown fur strokes and later white highlights). There is something different about the binders between these lines past their consistency issues. The gouache had a minor chemical smell, similar to acrylic paint when wet, but not as bad as Talens brand gouache. Based on the scent I suspect there are other additives in this paint not present in most other brands (in addition to pigment + gum arabic, this can include dextrin, glues, preservatives, opacity additives etc.). Both PASS and gouache have mostly opaque, heavy, low flow/stagnant disperse colors compared to lower viscosity transparent watercolor lines. Flow improves with excess water, but the results are more chaotic (randomly fast or stagnant) than with traditional watercolors.
Color chart with pigment codes and my notes regarding lightfastness: Some ratings on this color chart just don't make sense. I'd be VERY surprised if Phthalo Blue PB15:3, a highly lightfast pigment, was just as mediocre as Alizarin Crimson PR83. Same with Phthalo Green PG7 (which they called Viridian and should have been labeled as "hue" since it's a look-alike for PG18). It is also very unlikely that an ultramarine purple PV15 or Yellow Ochre PY42, even mixed with white, would be ** (as bad as the LFIV-V PO13 and pink dyes like those in Opera or Rose). Any time ShinHan surprised me with a low rating for a normally good pigment I've put a "?" in the middle of the color. If you choose to purchase it and LF is important to you, I recommend running your own test to verify their poor rating. I've added fugitive notes for the pigments well known to have fading issues. Otherwise the only thing that threw me off a bit was how orange leaning the Cadmium Red was compared to the color chart and any others I own. Hope this is helpful:
Summary: In general ShinHan gouache is not overwhelmingly awesome or terrible, just a solid budget option. A bit of a mixed bag depending on your needs. Some colors are bound to be mediocre but usable (fugitive, runny/ binder separated, less opaque) while others might be perfectly creamy and lightfast. A pick and choose brand that may be of interest for a few tubes more than entire sets. As expected due to the low price tag, this gouache has a higher pigment load than student grade, but less than other professional grade gouaches. I have a feeling that there will be varying opinions on this brand based on the other gouache lines each artist has tried, It's a step up from some, and down from others. Particularly suitable for matte art on white/lightly colored papers or when layered in thin to thick (watery layers first to thicker/solid strokes later to avoid reactivating this easy to re-wet paint). ShinHan is more expensive than MIYA HIMI/Arrtx gouache sets, but gives you the freedom to pick and choose individual colors with overall more lightfastness than those bargain sets. ShinHan gouache is not as nice as M.Graham, Maimeri or Schmincke regarding pigment load, ultra-matte streak-free lay down, but these are cheaper and do have some color options not available in those brands. The Cadmium Lemon PY35 and Cobalt Turquoise (a teal/sky blue version of PB28) are very low priced and fairly uncommon, making ShinHan gouache a good choice if others are too expensive. Considering the mixing limitations of so many fugitive reds/pinks/purples, I would not fully rely on this brand if selling original art.
Swatch scans - Direct light computer scanner bed images of my hand painted rubber stamped Arches watercolor paper swatch cards:
Jackson's online art store has a great price on the gouache line here, and I recommend checking out the PASS hybrid line too, particularly if you like to use watercolor techniques with opaque paints.
These swatch card images have been added to the pigment database, where you can compare each color side by side with the same pigment from other brands. Happy painting :)
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