Color Spree

Color Spree
My favorite color is "all of them." What's yours?

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Lukas 1862 Watercolors

Lukas 1862 watercolors are artist grade, pigment rich and lovely. They come in 12, 24 and 48 color half pan sets plus a 24 color full pans sets, available at Jerry's Artarama. The quality is excellent and the price remarkable compared to other artist grade brands. I'm not sure how Jerry's manages to price these as low as they do given the genuine Cadmiums, Chromiums and other expensive pigments involved.

The colors in the 24 color set I tested are well chosen and happily include several I consider essential. I get extremely frustrated if a watercolor set has no magenta or quinacridone red or permanent red, there has to be a bright cold red to make me happy. Fortunately, this set includes Magenta and also the Alizarin Crimson is brighter, more violet-cast and cleaner than most other brands' Alizarin Crimson. It looks more like Winsor & Newton's Permanent Alizarin Crimson than the sadly fugitive natural pigment we're all so used to in various paints.

Cyan is a good strong warm blue close to Cerulean, maybe a hair darker. I used the Cyan in my example for the sky color on the painting below. Payne's Grey is a color I find more useful and necessary than black, a cool darkener and a gorgeous monochrome color in its own right. For deep dark monochromes this set includes Raw Umber (nearly black), Paynes Grey and Ivory Black. If you're sketching in the field it can be very handy to have those darks. Deepening reds, blues, greens, it's easier to do that with a warm darkener or cool darkener - you can choose to mute them in darkening or not depending an which one you choose.

Dioxazine Violet is another essential color, especially for landscapes. Soft thin violet washes can push distant areas into the distance, deep violet accents under foliage can make greens less monochromatic and of course you may want to paint irises or other violet flowers.

These are moist pan watercolors that pick up easily with a wet brush. The sturdy enameled metal tin has a flip-out mixing area with ten slants, making color mixing easy even if you're painting in the car or out on a hike. For outdoor painting, the set also includes a handy thumb ring on the back. A generous gutter between the two rows of half pans gives plenty of room for a brush or two.

I tested it with my Niji medium tip water brush. Yep. The water brush fits neatly into the tin in that generous gutter. That can help a lot if you're using this outdoors and don't want to carry water with you.

One of the main reasons I prefer enameled metal watercolor cases to plastic is that the mixing areas wipe clean with less staining. Plastic is more porous and it's possible to leave patches of Pthalo Blue or strong red stains distorting the color of the mixtures you create in that area next time, or the value of the mixture you just did even if you're using the same color. So that personal little fine point is a big plus for the good strong metal tin.

The full range of 70 colors in Lukas 1862 watercolors are available in both pans and tubes, so as you use up the half pans it's possible to refill or replace them. The set is a great bargain for super quality. These are every bit as good as any other artist grade watercolors I've used, come in a great format and the price is extremely competitive. Any of the tin sets would make a good gift for an aspiring watercolorist.

Because these do use artist grade mineral pigments, some of them with known toxicity like the Cadmiums and Chromium Green, don't buy this set for a child. Get it for yourself and buy a Sakura Koi or Winsor & Newton Cotman set for anyone underage. When using Lukas 1862 watercolors, be sure not to point your brush with your mouth. Get used to the habit of pointing it with your fingers after rinsing and don't eat while painting.

Below is a landscape painted with 24 Lukas 1862 half pan watercolors in a large Moleskine watercolor journal. I loved how the color flowed, how strong and pigment-rich all of the colors were and how easy it was to mix on the palette as well as the paper. In a couple of areas I went stronger than I expected to because these paints are so good. Finer grinding and more pigment to binder ratio is what makes artist grade watercolor so much stronger than student grade watercolors.


  1. I'm with you about th Payne's Gray, is a color that I love, and I use it every time I can, and Dioxazine Purple too, but the only brand I use right now in watercolors is Van Gogh. Not very good but...So these pack seem to be perfect!!

  2. Hi,
    Your blog is really really helpful. The reviews you give about the product is always helpful. I had a query regarding the Lukas Watercolor pan set. Does this metal box has a container palette beneath the pans like the Schmincke metal box has?

    1. Sorry to answer so late, but no. Schminke metal boxes sound a bit more complex. The nice metal palette box only has the flap you see and the lid folding back to create another mixing area. Something with a water container palette would be great! I haven't tried Schminke yet, they are expensive but sometimes tempting.

  3. I think what you mean is the palette which becomes visible when you remove the metal which hold the colors. Then the answer is YES, Schmincke's and Lukas' boxes are almost the same (same original manufacturer as well)