Watercolour Tube or Pan Paints?

Watercolour Tube or Pan Paints which is the best to use

Watercolour tube or pan paints which is the best to use? As many of you 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 Tube or Pan Paints which is the best to use
Watercolour Pan Paints

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 have lasted over a year. They become like old friends and you become really familiar with how the pigment works. As a result it is hard to tear yourself away from the familiar and go with a different colour altogether!

Blue watercolour paint illustrating a blog about which is best to use pans or tubes

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 as each takes up very little room in your palette. There is always space to try again with more/ less water or a different combination of colours. Limiting the amount of paint will also ensure that you are not going to overload your brush.
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.

Watercolour Tube or Pan Paints which is the best to use
Watercolour Tube Paints

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.
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 the tube has been used there may still be a slow run of paint but not a fountain. Lightly squeezing the sides of the tube will sometimes encourage the paint to sink back inside where it belongs. 🤓

Blue background wash created with tubes of watercolour paint

Tube paints are certainly ideal for large areas. They enable you to work quickly with a good amount of paint mixed ready to go. For instance on 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.

Watercolour Tube or Pan Paints which is the best to use
Paint Descriptions

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. Even if you can’t remember their name you will know how they work and how they mix with 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’! 🤓

Re-wetting watercolour paint

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.
Incidentally when your paints have dried in your palette it is a really good time to look carefully at them. You will 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! 😉)

Which do you prefer watercolour tube or pan paints? Or, like me 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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