A few weeks ago I received an exciting package from Maria at Art Toolkit: the new Explore Palette!
The palette contains 6 Van Gogh® by Royal Talens watercolors: Transparent Yellow Medium, Permanent Red Light, Phthalo Blue, Yellow Ochre, Quinacridone Rose, and Payne’s Grey, 2 large mixing pans, plus 6 extra pans to fill with colors of your choice.
I had never used Van Gogh watercolors before and I have to say that I’m impressed! These are the best student-grade paints I’ve ever used.
I did some research on Van Gogh watercolors since I didn’t know much about them. From the company website:
Van Gogh water colours are a student and artist level range of paints featuring brilliant, transparent, and intense colours with high tinting strength. Most colours are rated with the highest degree of lightfastness +++ (100+ years under museum conditions) with a few colours rated just one step below at ++ (25-100 years under museum conditions). Thanks to the purity and uniform viscosity, these water colours are easy to work with and easy to mix. Proudly produced in Holland with stringent quality control for a consistent experience with every purchase.
Note: I noticed some fading on swatches that I’ve had sitting on my desk for a week — it’s been hot as the blazes here in Texas and my desk gets full afternoon sun, so not exactly “museum conditions”! I don’t see any fading on the paintings that I did in my sketchbook though. I’ll do some more testing on this and report back.
Getting to Know Van Gogh
Here’s an Instagram reel that I put together for Art Toolkit of how I put the palette through its paces:
Here’s more on that thumbnail sketch — it goes by super fast in the first video!
Van Gogh vs Cotman
I have a set of Cotman watercolors, Winsor and Newton’s student grade line, that I purchased many years ago when I was first getting into painting. I dug it out of the drawer and did some comparisons and I have to say that Van Gogh is the winner here, hands down.
- Van Gogh rewets so much easier than Cotman — we’re talking lots easier! I really have to scrub with my brush to get Cotmans to reactivate, even after misting them with water. Not so with Van Gogh.
- Van Gogh seems to have a higher pigment load — it might be related to the rewetting problem?
- The 6 VG colors in the Explore palette are all great mixers — all but the Payne’s Grey are transparent and can give you glowing washes of color, while the Payne’s Grey is so nice to have.
- They come in at a great price point, so you can feel free to explore color without wasting paint. (Not that I think exploring color is ever a waste of time or money, but I know some people who feel that way!)
- If you’re a teacher like me, this would be a great palette for workshops.
I wish I would have known about Van Gogh watercolors when I was just getting started!
Van Gogh vs Daniel Smith
Guess which of these cloudscapes was painted with Daniel Smith and which was painted with Van Gogh…
If you said Daniel Smith was the top, you’d be right!
They’re so hard to tell apart — I almost didn’t believe it.
I used the 6 colors in the Explore Palette for the VG cloudscape, and I tried to pick similar ones for DS, so I used phthalo blue green shade, quinacridone rose, organic vermillion, Hansa yellow medium and indigo here.
I have to say that VG quin rose is weaker than DS’s, and overall the VG paints are less pigmented than DS, overall but they’re really good! They handle very similarly, so if you learn to paint with VG you can easily transition to pro grade paints in the future.
If you already have pro-level paints such as Daniel Smith, Winsor & Newton, Schminke etc then you don’t really need these unless you want to have an extra palette to play with — or have kids/grandkids/friends/family that you’re trying to entice into painting along with you! :)
If you decide to pick up an Explore Palette, use code LISAFAN10 for 10% off your purchase! The code also applies to an ArtToolkit, other palettes, or mixing pans. I’ll receive a small commission at no charge to you — thank you!
Full disclosure: I’m a Brand Ambassador for Art Toolkit and was gifted this palette but the views here are all my own.
Happy painting and let me know if you have any questions!