Beginner Tip #2: What Else Do OJ & Watercolor Have In Common?

Some Brands Are Better Than Others

I”m not talking about personal choice preferences among professional grade paints. Love them all 🙂

I’m talking about:

Student Grade VS Professional Grade

Don’t get me wrong, I started out with my Grumbacher Academy kit and still treasure that little palette because of the memories it holds. But those little tubes of student grade paint are long gone and I would never choose to go back.


Student grade paints have more binder (gum arabic)

and less pigment.

This is why they are less expensive than professional grade and why they aren’t as vibrant. I also think they are more difficult to handle, which can be unnecessarily discouraging to the astute, adult beginner watercolorist 😦

Since I had never used professional grade pigments, I didn’t know the difference, but when I did buy my first tubes of professional grade paint, I felt just like one of my students who sent me this e-mail, yesterday:

June, just to let you know I visited Cheap Joes on Monday !!! I was like a kid in candy shop! The folks there were most friendly , kind and helpful. I bought some really nice brushes {per your suggestion} and professional grade paint and was amazed at the difference! I cannot believe how much I am enjoying this. Thanks for your seeds of inspiration,  John W.

If you have student grade watercolors, I encourage you to use them up. Or, give them to your children or grandchildren to introduce them to watercolor…especially, if they are clamoring to paint alongside you 😐

And if you’re a discouraged beginner using student grade paints, it might not be you. Before giving up, try professional grade. Like John and me, I think you will be amazed.


Tip# 2 – Use Professional Grade Paints


You’re Worth It!


Let’s Enjoy The Journey Together!


4 thoughts on “Beginner Tip #2: What Else Do OJ & Watercolor Have In Common?

  1. That’s totally true. I also found that the Winsor Newton paints (not the Cotman) that are made in China are not professional grade — they were very cheap on eBay and I was tempted, and I checked the words on the set cover to make sure they are professional grade, only made in China. However, I found that the earth colors are less brilliant, Cobalt blue has less carrying power, and Payne’s Grey is truly grey without the blue tinge! So I guess the lesson here is you get what you paid for…

    I also find even in professional brands there are subtle quality differences — for example, Da Vinci paints are cheaper than a lot of other brands, but their earth colors also have much less brilliance. I really like Daniel Smith and Holbein, and I’ve been using Winsor Newton for the longest of time, but I have not found there are significance differences among the three.

    Any one else with their favorites (and dislikes) to share?

  2. I just did some color patches of W&N, Cotman, Academy and (gasp!) Reeves to see if it was true that when handled in exactly the same way the three student grade paints, painted strongly came out less brilliant and did not spread as far. I found that with minor differences there was not less brilliance and spread just as far! Of course this does not apply across the board, and you wouldn’t expect it to, but for the standard paints there was NO ESSENTIAL DIFFERENCE. I think there is a tremendous amount of baloney out there. I am disappointed in particular about June’s blanket depreciation of Grumbacher Academy paints. Wilcox even years ago rated many of them with
    full circle color wheels (you know what that means). June apparently never looked into what she used to use to see the difference. I don’t mean by this to be negative about her otherwise very helpful comments and site.

  3. Bob, thank you for your comments. You are right, I have not revisited Academy pigments in 12 years. And I am curious to look closer into Wilcox findings as I respect their research. Again, thank you. I encourage others to share from their experiences too.

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