Color Spree

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

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Lyra Opaque Watercolors

I bought these at Dick Blick recently. I've wondered for a while whether they were as good as my Pelikan Opaque Watercolors. They looked like a very similar product - to the point that I wasn't sure which brand it was I first got at a Blick store in person decades ago, when the replacement pans were available in bins right next to the sets.

Well, I'm very happy to report that they're a very similar product at a lower price! Just as strong, the same kind of large removable (rearrangeable) pans, inside a slightly more convenient box. While I love my Pelikans, the box is a little inconvenient for stacking because it has this curved top so I can't put it in the middle of a stack with other sets of mediums. Just a small point of irritation that the Lyra set solved. It's also a little easier taking the top tray out - the top tray is entirely internal and nests. The Pelikan set has a lever button that needs to be pressed, a mechanism that can break under repeated wear and sometimes gets annoying.

This box has a pretty similar lid with fewer mixing pans in it, but still the same function. The brush they included is a 1/4" stiff bristle brush. I had never used a bristle brush with pan gouache, I'm used to round soft sables or synthetic sables for water mediums. So it was a little odd painting with it and I'm sad to say, like many bristle brushes the dang thing splayed out halfway through the painting. The hairs swelled and stuck out sideways, eliminating any sharp-edge flat brush tricks or tip created lines. This is annoying but it's a pretty cheap thing and the other brands didn't come with a brush, so big deal. I may or may not continue using it, the small bristle brush is good for its own effects. It'd be great for spattering or other rough techniques, it's just not a precision brush.

Also included, just like the Pelikan set, a little tube of white Deckweil. It didn't say "Chinese white" or watercolor, just Deckweil - Opaque White and repeats that in a couple of other languages. Good strong mixing white. I used a little of it in my example painting to lighten some color and it worked lovely. I've always wondered why they didn't just include a white pan with these sets, what I really would have liked would be two white pans so there's enough for mixing and lightening, maybe the second one a warm white like titanium buff sort of color. But the little tube of white is replaceable when used up. It will get used up faster than the pans themselves, I say this from long usage.

So here's the art I did with it, in my large Moleskine Watercolor journal:
Two pears, one yellow and one red, painted in Lyra opaque watercolor

The paint was easy to pick up enough for thick, opaque, creamy application. The white mixed well in the little mixing pans and the colors blended beautifully. The set includes Payne's Gray as well as black, so I've got my Cool Mixer. Fleischfarbe, the peach color that gets represented as flesh tone for German kids, is on the top tray rather than the bottom - the top tray is set up to function separately if you want a simple palette. Paynes Grau is on the top tray too, so your convenience colors are there without lifting trays if you're painting in a small area. Peach color portrait highlight is actually a useful color for all sorts of things, especially as a mixer if you want to warm the mix or highlights on browns and reddish colors.

The price break between the sets is quite a lot - $22 for the Pelikan set, $14 and change for the Lyra. That was surprising to me since the quality seems so similar. I don't know if there are differences in lightfastness, though gouache is one of those illustrator mediums where they don't always worry about lightfastness even in professional or artist grade products. But other than that, these are comparable in every way. 

Hm. The Pelikan pans may be just slightly larger, but it's a pretty minor difference. Nope, checked, same size of pans unless the Pelikan ones are a bit deeper by a grain. The box on the Pelikan set is much more involved, with the release tabs and the artistic curved domed lid, the strip of sticky lamination to cover writing your name on the box. I think the biggest difference is the fancy, art deco looking Pelikan box. There's also a little more space in the Pelikan box if you want to squeeze in dabs of silver and gold gouache for detailing in the second layer, under the tray that has the little tube of white.

The paints are very opaque and pigment rich. They mix well and blend easily. They handle a lot like pan gouache. They dissolve fast and are easy to pick up with any brush. The color range is very similar and the colors are marked with their names in German. Very familiar, reminded me of the set I had in my youth. Overall I'd recommend this set just as I'd recommend the Pelikan set - the most convenient form of gouache that I've ever used.

I recommend either of these over tube gouache and for convenience, like the Lyra box a little better. Which box you like is going to be a matter of personal taste. I prefer being able to stack it to having the extra space inside.

1 comment:

  1. Do you know about oil sticks (not pastels)? On paper it looks very promising - kind of pastel but made from oil paint, so it's like it should dry out in time. Guess also requires not leaving them opened. I see there is sample set at Jacksons Art (UK,, don't know about US.