September 23, 2014

Watercolors for the Scrapbooker- Comparison- Part 1

Hi everyone!
I thought I would share my thoughts and experience with different watercolors, especially considering it's such a huge trend in scrapbooking and card making lately. I hope this trend stays for awhile, cause I just LOVE watercolors. I might make a video that contains most of what I'm gonna write here, but for now, here's the written version. I own lots of watercolors and other water soluble media, and, as always, every product has its advantages and disadvantages. Watercolors can be very cheap and very expensive. I hope this guide helps you decide which ones are suitable for your needs. Needless to say there are many many more products out there that will not be covered here, but I can only attest to the ones I've personally tried.
I am going to focus on watercolors for the scrapbooker, since that is what I use mine the most.
So let's start!

Loew Cornell Simply Art Watercolor Cakes- 

This set costs less than 5$ on Amazon if you're in the US. That's where I ordered mine. There's a very similar version (that I haven't used) called Artist's Loft watercolor

Both sets contain 36 colors.  If you're in Germany or Austria, you can find this set at Scrapbook-Werkstatt for 8.90 euros.
I will be talking about the Simply Art set, cause that's the one I tried:)

Advantages- Price. This is definitely a budget friendly set, and I would say this is the greatest advantage. Yes, this is a great deal for someone who wants to try watercolors out without spending a lot of money.  The color choice is great, and the colors are very pretty. The lid has 36 little tubs where you can mix your own colors.

Disadvantages- These watercolors are chalky and opaque (the more water you add the less opaque they will be).   That could be the look you want, just know what to expect. BUT, and this is a big but, in my opinion, this set will not give you the best results, if you're after that luminous transparent vibrant watercolor look.
There is not a lot of pigment here compared to higher quality watercolors, so you will need to use more paint to get stronger brighter color. Because of the chalky consistency, if you use a lot of paint on your page, it will sit on top of the paper, and not sink into it, which can cause it to simply fall off once dry. That has happened to me several times. So when I do use this palette, it's for a very soft subtle look, with a light coat of paint.

There are some amazing scrapbookers that use this palette with really beautiful results, like the wonderful Wilna Furstenberg. So you can totally create beautiful watercolor looks also with this palette. With my style and the look I want when I use watercolor, I admit I rarely reach for this set.
Here's a link to a good review video of the Artist's Loft set- Prairie Paper & Ink.

Studio Calico Mr. Huey's Watercolor Set-
Studio Calico came out with this set at the beginning of the year, it contains 18 colors and costs about 4$. 

Great price, very affordable. The colors are pretty vibrant, definitely more than I expected for the price, color choice is nice with some trendy options (line green, almost fluorescent pink, warm radiant-orchid-like purple). Most colors are semi opaque. This is a really good choice for starting out with some watercolors, in my opinion, better than the Simply Art set, when it comes to color vibrancy.
Size. This palette is very small. So besides not getting a lot of product, I find it hard to use. If you use watercolor for small details with small brushes, then it won't affect you much. But I use a lot of water and bigger brushes, and I find this set inconvenient.

Peerless Watercolors... the self blending colors-
These are unique in their form. From the official website-
"The color sheet is a heavy film of highly concentrated pure color of intense strength and absolute solubility. The color is coated on one side of a special paper fabric that readily discharges when it comes into contact with water or any soluble mixture."

There are several packages.The Complete Edition contains 15 color sheets in a cool booklet with all kinds of interesting information about the colors and the product. The text has not been edited or changed since its first publication in 1902. These watercolors are hand made using the same process since the company was founded in 1885. This is a good package for those who want a basic color range. It costs about 15$ in the US.
The bonus pack contains 40 additional colors. It comes in a 2'' by 6'' size or a smaller size of 2'' by 2''. 

There are a lot of colors here. If you use these a lot, than this could be a good way to see which colors you like the most. These are very pigmented, and will last you awhile if you don't use them to color big areas. However, if you tend to use only bright colors, like me, there are a lot of colors here that will remain unused.

It's worth to check out two more options for these colors. There's the Joanne palette-

This package contains 15 colors, and I think this is a great choice for a set if you love bright colors. There's a good selection of yellows, pinks and blues, as well as some greens. I use this set often.
The bonus pack contains all the colors in the Joanne palette.
If you're a pink lover like me, there's also this set, called Pretty in Pink-
Which contains 6 fun pinks and purples. These shades are exclusive to this set and cannot be found in the other sets.
You can find more details and prices on the Peerless website. I got mine on Etsy, but they are sold also at Simon Says Stamp and Scrapbook Werkstatt.
There are also lots of videos on YouTube with reviews and tips on how to organize these.
The colors are vibrant, also when you use very small amounts. They are wonderfully transparent, and the color selection is great. They are also really easy to use, especially if you use a waterbrush, very mess-free. These are probably the 'cleanest' option:) A great option for traveling or water coloring on the go, which is probably not that relevant for scrapbookers, but if you're lucky enough to attend crops or retreats, then this is a good option.
I find it is difficult to mix colors with these, compared to watercolors that come in a tube or a pan. I am getting more and more into water coloring, and not just for backgrounds on my scrapbook layouts. And for that I feel I need the ability to mix my own colors. Also, these need a good organization system, to be able to access them easily, as well as color samples, since the pigment looks nothing like the actual color (the other side of the paper shows the color, but I recommend creating your own swatches.) If you love organizing than this might be a plus for you, but I really don't enjoy it, so this is a minus in my book:)
I think Peerless watercolors offer the scrapbooker (or card maker) a great affordable high quality watercolor experience. If you want bright clear transparent watercolor, that already comes in beautiful colors so you don't have to worry about mixing your own, this is a great yet still affordable option. Because of the strong pigment (which in general is always a sign of high quality paint, also in other media, pigment is usually the costly ingredient), you only need very small amounts of color. Considering that scrapbookers tend to use patterned paper and cardstock on most of their layouts (that don't handle lots of water as well as watercolor paper), this is a big advantage.
Here are some good video reviews-
Prairie Paper & Ink
Darlene DeVries
And here are some examples of these watercolors in action in my videos-

Zig Kuretake Gansai Tambi Japanese Watercolors-
There watercolors come in a beautiful box, and in different sized sets of 12, 18, 24, 36.
I couldn't resist and got the 36 set, because the colors are gorgeous, and it comes with gold! The pans in the set can be removed from the box, so you can pull out just the colors you need.  I'll be talking about the big set, but of course the details about the quality should apply to all sizes.
The colors are very pigmented and have a lovely creamy buttery consistency. Very fun to play with, and a little color will go a long way. On the lid of the box there's a color chart you can fill out, super easy and handy. Big plus for me (hate organizing!).
In the big set there are obviously more colors, but these are also the 'right' colors, and what I mean is, that you have an excellent variety, that lets you create basically every other color, should you need more:) You have primary colors (yellow, red, blue) with some cool and warm variations, as well as lovely secondary (orange, green, violet) and some tertiary colors (most of them actually). And then there are the 'specialty colors' sort of speak, that are harder to find in watercolors, like pearlescent white and gold. Some of the colors are opaque, some semi-opaque and some translucent, but they are all really pretty.

Price. These are, especially the big sets, very very pricey. The 36 colors set will set you back 55$. They are probably cheaper than artist quality full sized pans or tubes, especially if you want 36 colors, but they are still expensive, especially for the scrapbooker who likes to dabble in other media and wants a wide variety of products without breaking the bank. You could of course buy a smaller set, but if you want to be able to mix more colors, I would consider checking out other options of creating your own watercolor palette, something I intend to touch (in a very unprofessional-intended-for-the-scrapbooker way) later in part 2 of this comparison.
Here's a great video review of these by one of my greatest enablers, Jennifer McGuire.
I hope you found this comparison useful, stay tuned for part 2 where I'll be talking about Twinkling H2O's, artist grade watercolor, Ecoline fluid watercolors, creating your own palette, and more things watercolor as well as my summary on the best options for the scrapbooker who wants to play with watercolors, in my humble opinion, of course.
Thanks for visiting!


  1. I'm a newer card maker started off with Derwent watercolor and Inktense pencils but now just got into watercoloring and really wanted to get some paints. I'm interested in Kuretake Gansai Tambi and Peerless thank you so much for your review! Very very helpful!

  2. I know it's been over a year since this post, but I just got the Kuretake set of 36 on Amazon for $35, and I think that makes them pretty affordable. I've only played with them a bit but so far I love them. I also tried the Artist's Loft set from Michaels, and they're so chalky, I hate them. I'm itching to try the Peerless ones, but for now I'm restraining myself!