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What are the best watercolor brands? This is my personal top 5.

If you’re anything like me, you probably love art supplies and you love a lot of ‘em. But there are always a few favorites that keep coming back. One of them definitely being watercolors (or you might say ‘watercolours’ or something like ‘aquarelle’, depending on which side of the world you’re from). There are so many brands and I surely haven’t tried them all, but in this blog I’ll take you on a tour around a few of my personal favorites!

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As always the answer to ‘which brand should I buy’ highly depends on your budget and the level of the person using it. Is it for your 3 year old nephew? Buy any set at the toy store ;-) Want to step it up, but aren’t a professional watercolorist (yet)? I’ve got you covered in this blog as well. Although I’m not an expert watercolorist, I’ll share my personal experience as a self-proclaimed art supplies nerd!

And if you’re wondering what makes a watercolor of higher quality? In the artist grade paint you’ll find more pigments and less binder, so colors are more vibrant (even after mixing) and colors have a better lightfastness.

Perfect for beginners: Sakura Koi Watercolors

This is one of the first sets I got when I got a bit more serious about my creative adventures. I think these sets are great value for money! Sakura falls under the Royal Talens family, so you know the quality will be good.

The sets come with a water brush included, plus a few sponges next to the palette to clean your brush on. The colors are nice and bright, although they might dull down a bit with mixing. But overall this is just great quality for beginners. I don’t believe the paint is lightfast, so be aware when you hang your artwork on your wall that colors might fade over time.

All time favorite: Winsor & Newton Cotman

By now I actually own several Cotman sets. I got the biggest set of 45 colors years ago as a souvenir in a cute tiny art store in Edinburgh, Scotland. And I still use this set to this day! I also have several of their smaller pockets sets, which are perfect for urban sketching and on-the-go sketchjournaling. I did a collaboration on these pocket sets with Winsor & Newton (watch some yummy swatching content in this blog), so I think it’s safe to say I’m a fan. 

Although officially this is more student than professional quality, I find the W&N Cotman watercolors are great watercolor paints for a relatively affordable price. If you want to upgrade, you could go for the Winsor & Newton professional range. I haven’t tried these myself, because of the amount of Cotman colors I already have.


  • The Winsor&Newton Cotman set of 45 colors goes for € 79,99 on Splendith

  • The Winsor&Newton Professional set of 24 color is € 140,- on Splendith

Kuretake Gansai Tambi Watercolor set
Foto credits @splendith

League of its own: Kuretake Gansai Tambi

I’m still debating if I fell mostly for the packaging. Because to be honest I just haven’t painted enough with this set yet to do a proper comparison review.

But the boxes the Gansai Tambi come in are just pure eye candy. Since this sparks joy every time I grab it, I had to include it in this blog. Also because this paint is so unique. It’s almost a hybrid between gouache and watercolor. It’s more opaque than regular watercolors and the colors are lightfast to top it off.

Pssst, the hoarder in me has been secretly eying this limited edition gorgeous wooden set since I spotted it last year. But I forbid myself to buy it, cause I REALLY don’t need it and have so many watercolor paints in my studio it’ll last me a lifetime 😅.

Price: the set of 48 colors goes for € 72,75 on Splendith

Pigment galore: Artist’s watercolours by Paul Rubens

The newest addition to the list! I’d seen Paul Rubens watercolors on the world wide web (YouTube mostly) and previously tried their super buttery oil pastels. So when they reached out last year if I wanted to try their new artist grade watercolours, I couldn’t resist. Due to a busy schedule I only just started trying them recently, but they didn’t fail to impress me!

Already when swatching the colors I noticed how pigmented these are. When I started painting with them, this got confirmed. I only needed a little paint to get a vibrant color onto the paper! The brand itself stated that these have the highest quality pigments of any watercolors that Paul Rubens produced so far.The set I got contains 36 tubes of 5 ml, but I can already tell even the small tubes will last you a long time. The only 2 colors I missed in the set are a white and a Payne’s Grey. But other favorites were included, such as a gorgeous Burnt Sienna and a nice Venetian Red (which I like to use for skin tones). Plus a Cobalt blue light and French blue I’m in love with right away. I’m itching to paint more with these! Price: the 36 set goes for € 79,99 on EU Amazon

Professional : Daniel Smith I do notice this is the third male name in the list of watercolors brands, but we’ll blame the patriarchy for that ;-) Because when it comes to artist quality watercolors: Daniel Smith has earned its spot on this list. Within the professional watercolor artists world this brand is often mentioned as one of the best. They are packed with high quality pigment and come with lightfastness.

I recently visited the Daniel Smith booth at the Creative World fair in Frankfurt and they had a beautiful display of their granulating watercolors and the gemstones they originate from. They just added new colors to their Extra Fine collection, bringing the total to 266 different colors!

I got gifted the 24 color half pan set last year (yes, I’m a lucky gal). I truly enjoy painting with these every time I use the set. The colors are beautiful and stay vibrant, even after drying (proof of the amount of pigment in there). I am curious to compare the painting experience from the pans to the tubes, so I might get a few colors in the future for that. The only downside? This quality ain’t cheap - it is the most expensive set I own.

Price: the 24 pan set goes for about € 145,- at Splendith

I hope this blog was helpful for you! Want more creative inspiration? Consider following one of my online courses or join my Patreon community. You can read more about it in this blog.

PS Buying new materials?

This blog isn't sponsored, but most of the links in this blog are affiliates of my favorite independent-owned Dutch webshops, such as and Be Creative Shop. When shopping, you can help me by ordering through these links (or with the code 'NienkeVletter' for 5% discount at Be Creative). It won't costs you anything extra! I do earn a small percentage of the sales - which I use to review more materials and write these blogs. So thank you 💙

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