Friday 24 November 2017

Product Review: Jackson's Studio and Icon Watercolour Brush Sets

STOP PRESS (again)! A little notice for my viewers based outside of the United Kingdom in particular! The brushes in this review are all sold by Jackson's, and they have FREE INTERNATIONAL SHIPPING on brush-only orders valued at £20 (US$27, CAN$34, AUS$35, €23) or over! That is a fantastic deal in my book and should mean you get things well in time for Christmas if you're planning to buy gifts! You can read more about their shipping policies, restrictions and information here.

Continuing from my review of Jackson's Artist Watercolours that I posted yesterday, I have also reviewed two sets of Jackson's Watercolour Brushes from two of their brush lines as follows - I've linked to all of the sets and open stock down below the jump in the "Buy These Products" section, and I've also linked to all the other products used in the video - the paints and paper etc.

The Studio line - intended for students, lower price point, cheaper handles, 100% synthetic, vegan-friendly and come in 4 different variety packs and come as Rounds, Flats, Riggers, Pointed Rounds and One-Strokes (Long Flats). They asked me to review their Set Of 3.

The Icon line - professional quality, higher price point, very nicely balanced satin-finish handles, synthetic-sable mix using a pitted synthetic that holds more water than a standard one. Sold as a Set of 3 (which I reviewed), which I guess is designed to give you a feel of the line and to be a useful set of sizes, but are mostly sold as open stock and come as Rounds, Flats, Quills (I would call them Pointed Mops or Pointed Washes, but some folk call them Quills!) and Mottlers.

I was highly impressed with both lines and I've summarised my views a little but down below in the "Buy These Products" section of this post - but you can watch the video to see how they compare with other brands - I compared them with - I've missed out the super-economy craft sable brushes that I tried out:
ProArte Polar White, Aquafine Goat Mops, Aquafine Sable, Winsor and Newton Series 7 Kolinsky, ProArte Prolene, ProArte ProlenePlus, ProArte Renaissance Squirrel and Daler and Rowney Graduate line in various fibres, plus probably some others I can't remember right now, but if you saw something in the video and want to buy it, leave a comment below! 

Bottom line - I felt both were great and that the Studio line was perfect for beginners and was more or less as good as Prolene, but as they don't hold a lot of water compared to Prolene or other brands, and they are very economical, they are really beginner-friendly. I do think a beginner should start with something that they can learn the basics with, without needing to worry about water-control too much just yet. The Icon line was comparable with 100% sable brushes or ProlenePlus brushes and the round and quill came to really sharp points. I could see a use for both lines in my own work and the Studio brushes would be great for me for lifting, for glazing when I want to work quite dry and when I just need a brush I don't need to worry too much about damaging as the cost is so low!

Buy These Products

Jackson's "Studio" Watercolour Brushes
These are excellent student-grade brushes and are perfect for beginners through to novices or just folk who want an extra set of cheaper brushes that they can brutalise without too much worry about replacement costs. They're 100% synthetic and have painted wooden handles with a gloss finish. THESE BRUSHES ARE VEGAN FRIENDLY. In the accompanying video, I reviewed the Set of 3.

Set of 3 - 8 Round, 10 Round, 1/2" Flat [Jackson's: £5.50 or US$7.32]
Set of 4 - 2 Round, 4 Round, 6 Round, 4 Rigger [Jackson's: £3.30 or US$4.39]
Set of 8 - 0 Round, 6 Round, 12 Round, 1 Rigger, 1/2" Flat, 1" Flat, 1 1/2" Flat and a black nylon brush case [Jackson's: £13.25 or US$17.63]
Set of 14 - 000 Round, 2 Round, 4 Round, 6 Round, 10 Round, 16 Round, 24 Round, 0 Rigger, 2 Rigger, 4 Rigger, 1/2" Flat, 1" Flat, 2" Flat and a black nylon brush case [Jackson's: £29.50 or US$39.24]
In open stock you can buy:
Pointed Rounds, One-Strokes (Long Flats) and Riggers, Flats and Rounds, starting at as little as £1.05 (US$1.40).

Jackson's "Icon" Watercolour Brushes
These are excellent professional-grade brushes and are very good value. They are a mix of synthetic and sable - the synthetic has been treated to cover it in microscopic pits so that it holds even more water/paint, and it has very good control and snap. They have handles with a satin finish. THESE BRUSHES ARE NOT SUITABLE FOR VEGANS. In the accompanying video, I reviewed the Set of 3.

Set of 3 - 8 Round, 2 Quill (Pointed Mop), 1/2" Flat [Jackson's: £13.20 or US$17.56]
In open stock you can buy:
Pointed Rounds - Size 2 to 12, starting at £2.28 or US$3.03.
One Strokes (Long Flats) - 3mm to 25mm, starting at £2.72 or US$3.62.
Quills (pointed mops) - Size 0000000000 (10/0) to 6, starting at £3.76 or US$5.00.
Mottlers - 25mm to 75mm, starting at £7.44 or US$9.90.

Other products that I used in this video:

Bockingford 140lb A4 (roughly 12"×8") Rough Watercolour Gummed Paper Pad. 12 sheets. [Jackson's: £8.00 or US$10.65] This is the paper I use in this video, and it's my go-to day-to-day paper. Bockingford is made by St Cuthbert's Mill - the same people who brought us Saunders Waterford and Millford watercolour papers - and it is a chemical pulp (wood) paper that is pretty hard wearing and you can do a lot worse than it - it's a great paper for a beginner wanting to step upwards but who's not ready for cotton papers just yet.

Winsor and Newton French Ultramarine Watercolour Paint - PB29 Ultramarine Blue.
The ceramic Large Pan that I was using in this video is from a line that has been discontinued, but you can buy the exact same paint in a range of sizes - it is one of my favourite Ultramarines - it has a huge pigment load and a pan or tube will last you a very long time.
Half-pan [Jackson's: £5.10 or US$6.79]
Full-pan [Jackson's: £6.40 or US$8.52]
5mL tube [Jackson's: £5.10 or US$6.79]
14mL tube [Jackson's: £10.10 or US$13.44]
37mL tube [Jackson's: £17.80 or US$23.69]

Daniel Smith Moonglow - PB29 Ultramarine Blue, PG17 Hydrated Chromic Oxide, PR177 Anthraquinone Red.
This is a lovely effects-paint that looks violet, grey or black depending on how much you use, but with plenty of water it splits into pink, green and blue to varying degrees. It comes in two tube sizes and as a Paint Stick, which can be used just like a pan or can be used dry on the paper somewhat like a pastel.
5mL [Jackson's: £6.80 or US$9.05]
15mL [Jackson's: £12.80 or US$17.03]
Watercolour Paint Stick [Jackson's: £10.90 or US$14.50]

ProArte Brushes - these are the main brush types that I use for comparison in this video - alongside Dalon, Series 007 and a myriad of cheaper brands - but these are the major ones.
Prolene - these are cheaper on the whole and hold less pigment than ProlenePlus and don't come to as sharp a point in terms of Rounds, but are really useful for wetting one's paper or for washes etcYou know which you have as the ferrule is always silver for Prolene. They come in Rounds, One-Strokes (long flats), Swords, Riggers and Fans. The bristles are soft and flexible, without much snap. You can buy the full Prolene line over at Jackson's, individually or in sets - brushes start at £1.52 for a Size 0000 Round (aka 4/0 Round). THESE BRUSHES ARE VEGAN-FRIENDLY.
ProlenePlus - these are higher quality and hold more pigment than Prolene and come to a sharper point. They also have beautiful faux-teak varnished handles. You know which you have as the ferrule is always gold for ProlenePlus. They come in Rounds, One-Strokes (long flats) and Filberts, including retractable travel brushes. The bristles are firm and have good snap. You can buy the full ProlenePlus line over at Jackson's individually or in sets - brushes start at £1.76 for a Size 0000 Round (aka 4/0 Round). THESE BRUSHES ARE VEGAN-FRIENDLY.
Renaissance Squirrel - these are 100% black squirrel hair and are thus not vegan-friendly! They reach a very sharp point and hold a lot of paint or water on the belly, so you can get a lot of mileage before you need to re-load. You can buy sizes 000 (aka 3/0) to 8 from Jackson's but the line does go up to a size 20. Brushes start at £5.04 for a Size 000 (3/0).

Thursday 23 November 2017

Product Review: Jackson's Artist Watercolour full pans and tubes

STOP PRESS! I should add that Jackson's could well have a Black Friday sale of some kind this very week - well, I'm assuming so, since most companies seem to have one, anyway, so I've front loaded this post with all of the procurement info so that you don't need to dig! These paints would make an amazing Christmas gift so don't forget to shop whilst the Black Friday sales are still on! You can buy the palette with 12 full-pans (£45.05) and/or pick up individual pans to use alone or with the palette. I do recommend adding a full pan of Phthalocyanine Blue as a better cool blue that the more mid-tone Cobalt Blue, and if you're anything like me, you'll want to get a Burnt Sienna whilst you're at it!

If you want to give this set to someone under 16 or so, or who is pregnant or breastfeeding, or you're just not confident painting with heavy-metal containing paints and want some options, I would recommend you just buy 3 extra paints as non-toxic alternatives:

Swap Cadmium Yellow Light for Jackson's Yellow Light (£2.81 - PY154 Benzimidazolone Yellow 154)
Swap Cadmium Red Light for Bright Red (£2.98 - PR254 Pyrrole Red and PO43 Perinone Orange)
Swap Cobalt Blue for Phthalocyanine Blue (£2.81 - PB15 Phthalocyanine Blue)

See the end of this post for sundries like Ox Gall pans you can add to your palette to give you stronger flow exactly where and when you need it!

This is an amazing set, but if you want to make it even better, you can add a few colours for not much money at all. In the video, I suggested some extra colours you might want to add - there is space for 2 more, but you can probably remove the black and fit 3 full pans or 6 half pans (you would have to pour the latter from tubes) in, and I would suggest adding:

Burnt Sienna Pan £2.81 Tube £4.85 (PBk7 Brown Iron Oxide)
Phthalocyanine Blue Pan £2.81  Tube £4.85 (PB15 Phthalocyanine Blue)
Cobalt Violet Deep Hue Pan £2.98 Tube £5.53  (PR122 Quinacridone Red PV16 Manganese Violet)

It's not very often that I'm genuinely bowled over by the quality of a product, but today is one of those days! A few weeks back I contacted Jackson's in the UK to see if they would let me review their Artist Watercolours. I explained that I really like to review a Cool Red, Warm Red, Cool Yellow, Warm Yellow, Cool Blue, Warm Blue, Yellow Ochre and Burnt Sienna, as those 8 colours are what I think all beginners should start out with, and I like to be able to recommend paints to beginners, of course.

Julie at Jackson's very kindly sent me one of their 12-full-pan palettes, and she noted it had a Venetian Red instead of my preferred Burnt Sienna, so she also sent me a 21mL tube of Burnt Sienna so I could see the colour and try out their tube paints at the same time - great plan. I have also been sent 3 types of brush but they will follow in later videos.

The palette contains full pans of:

Lemon Yellow (PY3 Hansa Yellow 10G)
Cadmium Yellow Light (PY35 Cadmium zinc sulfide)
Carmine (PV19 Quinacridone Violet)
Cadmium Red Light (PR108 Cadmium selenosulfide)
Cobalt Blue (PB28 Cobalt aluminium blue spinel)
French Ultramarine (PB29 Ultramarine Blue)
Phthalo Green Deep (PG7 Phthalocyanine Green BS + PB15 Phthalocyanine Blue)
Permanent Sap Green (PB29 Ultramarine Blue + PY153 Nickel Dioxime Yellow)
Yellow Ochre (PY43 Yellow Iron Oxide [Natural])
Venetian Red (PR101 Red Iron Oxide [Synthetic] + PY43 Yellow Iron Oxide [Natural])
Burnt Umber (PBr7 Brown Iron Oxide)
Ivory Black (PBk9 Bone Black)

And they also gave me a 21-mL tube of:
Burnt Sienna (PBr7 Brown Iron Oxide)

The price point for the palette set of 12 full-pans complete with a really high-quality metal palette (with mixing surfaces that don't make your paint bead up too much!) AND a tree planted in the Highlands of Scotland by Trees For Life is £53.00 [US$70.61] but they have been reduced to £45.05 [US$60.00] recently. Now given those palettes are £12 or so on Amazon UK, you're looking at a price per full-pan of somewhere around £3.40 [US$4.53] at full price or £2.75 [US$3.66] at the discounted price - pretty hard to beat for a professional watercolour, right?! Not many companies make a charitable donation on a purchase, and I really admire Jackson's for taking the lead with that.

Most "own brand" paints are not that great - very generic, very chalky or gloopy and not fun at all. Jackson's Artist Watercolours are the polar opposite - to look at, they resemble the extruded pans of Winsor and Newton, but in use they lift as easily from the pan as Schmincke and have very similar levels of flow as Schmincke Horadam and Daniel Smith - you can see for yourself in my YouTube review video, where I go into a lot of detail about them.

If you're interested in the adjunct products I used in this video, they are:

Daler and Rowney The Langton Watercolour Paper 140lb Rough Spiral Bound Pad. [Jackson's: £7.60] This is a good quality chemical pulp paper - I use it for videos and for warm-ups and sketches - it's well made and a good option particularly for beginners who want to experience a professional paper. If you prefer a cotton paper, Daler and Rowney sell that too, and it really is a very nice paper and quite economical.
Daler and Rowney The Langton Prestige Watercolour Paper 140lb Rough Spiral Bound Pad. [Jackson's: £9.60]

ProArte 12 Round Prolene Plus Watercolour Brush [Jackson's: £8.16] Prolene Plus is my favourite synthetic brush fibre that I have found. It is based on Prolene, a form of polypropylene used worldwide as a surgical suturing thread, with a mix of different fibre thicknesses and so on to make these brushes superior to the standard Prolene line also by ProArte - they are very economical and I could not recommend them more strongly if you want a good synthetic brush. They're also very pretty, which is never a bad thing, right?! You can view the full range here.

Winsor and Newton Ox Gall 75mL [Jackson's: £5.60] I used Daler and Rowney in the video but to be honest, I prefer the W&N one for both quality and price. Ox gall is a combination of bile salts from cattle bile obtained from abattoir waste - deoxycholate and so on - and they act as a surfactant to reduce the surface tension and promote better wetting of the pigment grains - just like soap would do when washing the dishes really. If you paint on some high-end papers such as Arches by Canson or Millford by St Cuthbert's Mill that have really very hard sizing, a touch of ox gall in your water can help to wet the paper without the water beading up - of all watercolour mediums, this and Gum Arabic (below) are the most useful. Ox gall is usually sold as a solution in a bottle which can be a bit inconvenient, but if you would prefer a solid ox gall that you can keep in your palette, you can also get that - I use it en plein air a lot and these Schmincke pans of it last AGES and smell of lavender, which is nice! 
Half-Pan Schmincke Onetz [Jackson's: £3.20]
Full-Pan Schmincke Onetz [Jackson's: £4.80]
If you would prefer a vegan alternative, there is one sold under the Qor brand by Golden [Jackson's: £9.60], which is particularly popular.

Winsor and Newton Gum Arabic 75mL [Jackson's: £5.60] This is really useful for making washes smoother and it makes the colours seem more vibrant. It's the vehicle used in most paint brands - some use Gum Senegal (aka Senegalese Gum Arabic or Kordofan Gum Arabic) instead, and Qor by Golden uses Aquazol, which I've explained previously. If you think about oil painting, adding extra linseed oil (the vehicle of oil paints) into your paints gives you longer drying times, more time to work the paint, a glossy finish and a more vibrant, transparent colour - Gum Arabic added to watercolours does exactly the same thing, and I found it worked beautifully with these watercolours by Jackson's - both the pans and the tubes.

Tuesday 21 November 2017

Product Review: Nevskaya Palitra's "White Nights" watercolours - full pans

I seem to be totally behind the rest of the world re: the White Nights line from Nevskaya Palitra ("the Neva palette", named for the Neva River which flows through St Petersburg, where they are based). A lot of you already love their paints and I've seen a lot of folk use them but I'd kind of never really thought they'd be very good quality. BOY WAS I WRONG! A little while ago, I saw that Jackson's in the UK sold them SUPERCHEAP and that tempted me to try them. 

Let me just give you a bit of an idea of how very economical they are:
For comparison - here are the RRPs of some major brands in full-pans of professional quality paint based on PR122 Quinacridone Red or PV19 Quinacridone Violet - both are similar in cost as raw pigments. Those indicated with "*" don't sell full pans, so I've doubled the price of a half-pan to give an approximation.

Winsor and Newton - Quinacridone Magenta [PR122] £9.25 [US$12.24]
Jackson's - Quinacridone Purple [PR122] £4.00 [US$5.29]
*Maimeriblu - Rose Lake [PV19] £16.54 [US$21.90]
*Old Holland - Magenta [PR122] £18.22 [US$24.12]
*Rembrandt - Quinacridone Rose [PV19] £12.10 [US$16.02]
Schmincke - Ruby Red [PV19] £9.79 [US$12.96]
Wallace-Seymour - Quinacridone Magenta [PV19] £7.55 [US$10.00]
White Nights - Quinacridone Rose [PR122] £2.55 [US$ 3.38]

See? Economical huh? Well, it gets better - Jackson's retail White Nights fullpans starting at just £1.70 [US$2.25] which is amazing value. I was fully prepared for something really chalky and low quality but to be honest, I was amazed. The quality is a lot like Schmincke but with a slightly more sticky texture in the pans, like Wallace-Seymour, as they are made with honey. Most of the White Nights line are single-pigment colours, and they are made with honey and Gum Arabic, just like the more expensive brands.

When selecting my colours, I went for a cool triad that was actually so cool it was technically in the CMY universe, which means beautiful bright and vivid mixes but a narrow gamut - this will make for challenges of the fun kind later. I also picked 2 random colours:

Lemon (PY3 Hansa Yellow G)
Rose (PR81 Rhodamine 6G)
Bright Blue (PB15:3 Phthalocyanine Blue BGS)
Blue Lake (PB1 Victoria Blue)
Voronezhskaya Black (PBk8 Vine Black)

I love them all very much and you can see my experiences over on my YouTube channel:

If you want to buy these paints, I highly recommend Jackson's as they have international shipping and the very low prices will probably mean the shipping breaks even.

Monday 20 November 2017

Product Review: Holbein Artists' Watercolour

The HK Holbein Watercolours brand are made in Osaka, Japan, and boast a number of special properties. I noticed in the Jackson's Art Supplies in the UK had listed them as higher quality than Daniel Smith or Winsor and Newton in their 2017 Watercolour Catalogue, so I was intrigued! I procured a Starter Set (aka Introductory Set), which contains Vermillion Hue, Carmine Lake, Viridian Hue, Permanent Yellow Deep, Burnt Sienna and Peacock Blue. I reviewed them in my recent video which you can watch here:

If you want to buy Holbein watercolours to try them for yourself, you can try the following vendors - personally, I think Jackson's have the best deals and shipping prices and they have a better range of stock as a rule:

Jackson's Art Supplies
UK based company with fantastic customer service and have international shipping options and a LOT of excellent discounts!

Amazon UK
They have a good selection and some good deals but if you want individual colours, Jackson's is probably better.

Amazon USA
Again, much like the UK site but a good selection of individual colours.

If you want the specific set that I tried out to see for yourself: