Tubes v Pans?

As many of you will know I use mostly half pan blocks of paint. These are almost always Winsor & Newton and both student and professional quality. The latter have particularly good pigmentation, light fastness, transparency and colour! As the old saying goes, “you get what you pay for” – and in this case it is true.

Watercolour pan paints are made up from concentrated pigment and do last quite some time. Bearing in mind that I paint virtually every day, some of my pans are still the same blocks of paint from over a year ago! They become like old friends, you become really familiar with how the pigment works and its hard to tear yourself away from that familiar place and go with a different colour altogether!

What I particularly like about half pans is that you can really control your small washes of colour. You are able to fine tune the mix; each takes up very little room in your palette, so there is always space to try again with more or less water or a different combination of colours. Limiting the amount of paint in your mix will also ensure that when you come to painting you are not going to overload your brush with a well half full of colour.
Half pans are great for my detailed art, I have complete control of the colour and the loading of my brush before I even head to the paper!

Alongside my pan paints I also have plenty of tube paints, these are from a wider range of manufacturers; Winsor & Newton, SAA, Sennelier  and Daler Rowney.
You do have to be careful with tube paints when you first open them, they can sometimes have a mind of their own! The tubes are obviously full and opening a new one can result in a long fountain of colour! Once you have used your tube a couple of times there should no longer be a fountain but you may still get that slow run of paint coming out of the top. Lightly squeezing the sides of the tube will sometimes encourage the paint to sink back inside where it belongs. 🤓

Tube paints are certainly ideal for large areas where you need to be able to work quickly and have a good amount of paint mixed ready to go – a background or a large area of fur. For my backgrounds I tend to use no more than four colours, sometime three for a mottled background. I find using lots of colours can start to look a little muddy – but try yourself and see how you get on. Be careful though, using tubes can also be a way to easily waste a lot of paint. Try not to overdo your mixes and end up with way too much paint in your wells.

You will find that some manufacturers will give their popular colours their own name. Watch out for names like Intense Blue and Phthalo Blue, you may think you are buying two different shades of blue but they are actually the same colour! Like me, you will find your favourites and even if you can’t remember their name you will know how they work on your paper and how they mix with your other colours. But, it is really important to try out new colours and new brands – you never know when you will come across one that becomes your ‘new favourite’! 🤓

Do remember that all watercolour paints can be re-wet once the palette has dried up, even a few months later! Just add a drop of water and carry on using your paint; so if you have over squeezed a tube, don’t worry you can save it for another day!
It is worth noting here, that when your paints have tried in your palette it is a really good time to look at them and see the different tones that can be created with the one colour. The pooled area at the bottom of the well, shows the depth of colour you would be able to achieve with lots and lots of layers, where as the thinner layer of paint at the top replicates less layers on your paper. (This doesn’t work so well in plastic palettes and your palette also needs to be white! 😉)

Do you have half pans or tubes, or do you have both and if so what make do you prefer to use?

Until next time, keep those brushes wet (especially if you have dried up paint to use 😉.

Paul 🤓

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