Winsor and Newton Cotman Student Grade Watercolor Review, Color Chart Swatch Cards, Painting Demonstration
Winsor and Newton Cotman is frequently chosen as a first step in upgrading from bargain / kids / craft grade watercolor paints. Part of this is is easy access, and brand name power. These sets have been available in art stores worldwide for decades. Over time the competition has gotten fierce, and online shopping has opened up options not previously available to intermediate students. You now have a ton of options for well behaved affordable watercolors on the market... so are Cotman still worthwhile?
Yes and no. While this is not a terrible brand by any means, it's not quite the best available. What it does have going for it is the use of reliable, lightfast pigments. Cotman is cheaper than the Winsor & Newton Professional grade paints for a couple reasons. First is the avoidance of all expensive pigments (including toxic ones, like Cobalts and Cadmiums, but also unique granulating colors). This makes this line a bit standard, boring, but safe as far as color choices. Secondly Cotman has a lower pigment load than the professional grade, so the color payoff is a little less and some have even called it a bit dull. I think that varies wildly by color, and there are some colors that I have greatly enjoyed in this brand.
In the video below, I use Cotman's Paynes Gray. Arguably one of the best and worst paints they make. How can it be the best and the worst? Well, most people hate it because of the easy separation of colors in this multi pigment mixture. Personally, I love interesting paints (after all, that's why I pay top dollar for granulating Daniel Smith watercolors). Often, beginners want predictable paints, no surprises. More than a few nasty reviews have been posted for this Payne's Gray after someone expected a smooth well behaved dark gray-blue, only to get speckled ultramarine blue separating from a separate black pigment. Over time, tastes may change as artists develop an appreciation for unique texture.
The main competitor to Cotman is Van Gogh, made by Royal Talens in the Netherlands. Van Gogh is the brand Cotman most resembles as far as price point, target audience (just getting serious, but not ready for a pro-grade investment) and also being reliably lightfast. Both brands have a remarkable commitment to being a paint that, while student grade, can also be used professionally due to the over 90% of their color selections using UV stable pigments. Van Gogh has put out a lot of new colors in recent years keeping their line fresh and exciting. The addition of a few granulating colors, as well as metallics and interference has overall made them the winner in this price point in my opinion. You can see more information about Van Gogh here.
Specific color notes: For some reason the Prussian Blue had a terrible texture. I'm not sure if it's a binder additive problem, or the pigment ingredient wasn't milled finely enough... but it has an unattractive granulation. I also want to warn you that Prussian Blue is one of the only fugitive colors in this line, though it is marked as lightfast in every brand. You can learn more about the Prussian Blue problem in the pigment database here.
Swatch Cards color chart (in progress) :
You can buy Cotman watercolors individually from the following art shops:USA - BLICK
UK / EURO - JACKSON'S
You can also find pan sets, and sometimes tubes, on Amazon. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases: