Craft Crush: Watercolors- Peerless, Jane Davenport and Daniel Smith

Craft Crush: Watercolors

Did you notice I changed the tagline for the blog?  You’ll note that it now announces that I am an ‘erratic’ blogger. As much as I wish it weren’t true, it is.  I haven’t been able to post here since before Christmas! I could give you a lot of excuses, running my online tech and website creation business, lack of a really decent camera and recording setup for videos, the flu, snowstorms…. the list could go on forever.  They are all true.  Plus, the fact that I love blogging about my art/papercrafting and it always makes me feel guilty when I sit down to write a post.  A wee, little voice whispers that this is for fun, and I must have ‘real’ work to do. So please forgive me when my posting gets erratic. I’m going to try to hush that wee, little voice and get back on track.

I thought I’d start simply with one of my current Craft Crushes.

Watercolors.  I know, I know, everyone is into watercolors now.  There must be a reason right? 

I think for me it has a lot to do with moving past the Artist Loft cheap set and seeing how different other options, particularly professional grade watercolors, are. That’s not to say that when you’re just starting out that Artist Loft isn’t a valid choice. However, if you’re feeling a bit bewildered about just why everyone is so nuts about watercolors right now, do yourself a favor and try something at a higher level.

Below is my own progression, and three great options at three different price points, for you to try.

Peerless Watercolors:  These were the first watercolors I purchased when I became frustrated with the chalky nature of the Artist Loft set.  I purchased both the Complete Edition of 15 colors and the small Bonus Pack of 40 colors because…well because I wanted as many colors as possible.  One of the reasons I chose Peerless is because they come on what is called a dry sheet.  Intense, concentrated watercolor is loaded onto a special fabric paper and dried.  Originally invented in 1855 for hand-coloring photographs, they are packaged in leaflets for easy transport. In fact, they are so concentrated that looking at the dry sheet really doesn’t tell you what color it may be. Touch the color loaded paper with a wet brush and watch the magic happen.  An orange might end up being a soft flesh tone. An eggplant purple ends up being a soft beautiful jade.

The biggest reason I invested in Peerless first was their portability.  I created a palette with heavy watercolor paper, dividing it into a grid and gluing a small 1“ square of the larger dry sheet into each square. Beneath each square I did a small swatch of what the color actually looked like and numbered them all. On the front of this super flat 9” x 6” booklet palette I have the numbers with the actual color name next to them for reference.  These are the watercolors that stay in my travel art kit because they take up so little space but provide such vibrant and transparent color that blends wonderfully.  When I use up a square I simply snip a new one from the original sheet and replace it in my palette.

The cost isn’t bad at $15.00 for the 15 color Complete Edition.  If you’re like me and need more colors, the small Bonus pack will cost you another $23.00. Still for 55 quality watercolors $48.00 isn’t bad at all.

Jane Davenport Watercolor Palettes:  I was so very excited when Jane Davenport announced that she was going to have her very own mixed media line at Michaels. I’ve been a huge fan of Jane for several years and was even lucky enough to take a class with her through the Ever After online course I took this past summer. Her amazing whimsical girls  have been an influence on my own art and her Beautiful Faces book is currently in my cart at Amazon.

I hoarded my Michael’s gift cards I received for Christmas and waited somewhat impatiently for the Jane Davenport collection to arrive at my local store.  The first day it was available I purchased both the Bright and Neutral watercolor palettes. Each comes in an adorable little tin (the neutral came in a GOLD one!) with 12 half pans of watercolor goodness. I love the colors like 70’s eyeshadow and Kiss Kiss. While these sets aren’t billed as  professional watercolors, they are perfect for art journaling, card making, and all kinds of papercrafting. The colors are rich, transparent and mix wonderfully to create new and wonderful colors.

If you’re someone who likes to know the details about your paints, Jane has all the info about lightfastness and pigment colors listed on her website.  I adore these watercolors and especially love the skin tones in the neutral palette, which means I don’t have to mix my own skin tones every time I paint a whimsical face.

At $29.99[1] a palette, these paints are a bit more expensive, but worth it.  Not to mention a great bargain when using a coupon for 40% or 50% off.

Daniel Smith Watercolors:  Daniel Smith Watercolors are high quality, professional watercolors. Yes, that means these are some super expensive paints.  Worth. Every. Penny. But probably not an investment everyone is going to want to make.  As I have become more serious about my artwork, I found myself drawn over and over again to these paints.  Other artists that I admire like Jane Davenport have sung their praises.  I’ve watched loads of YouTube videos of artists swatching them and exclaiming over the incredible color and quality.  I’ve been lusting after them for almost a year, but at what seems to be an average of $8[2] for a tiny 5ml tube and $15[3] for a slightly larger 15ml tube, my dreams of a huge colorful palette of Daniel Smith watercolors seemed pretty doomed on my budget.

Then I discovered Artistic Katt on Etsy. Shandra, the owner of the shop, hand pours Daniel Smith watercolors into half pans and sells them in this more affordable format.  I send out a thousand thanks as she makes it a bit easier to build a Daniel Smith palette, learn what colors we love and then simply purchase a tube when our half pan runs low.  I purchased the 8 new colors that Daniel Smith recently released and the Perfect Transparent sets. And while the $120.85 that I spent combined can still be considered expensive, it was much, much cheaper than it would have been buying tubes of all 18 colors. That said, if the colors you love are available in 5ml tubes, they may be just as inexpensive on a website like Dick Blick. For example, I did a price check on seven of  the  colors I want and it was a little cheaper to purchase the 5ml tubes at Blick, so sometimes it pays to price check.

Why are they so expensive?  It will take one dip of the brush into the half pan and you’ll notice the difference immediately. Luscious, transparent and buttery can all be used to describe the experience. The pigments are so rich that a little bit goes a long, long way.  These paints are made for professional artists and longevity of their artwork. I haven’t had a moment of buyers remorse at all. In fact, I already have about 10 more colors favorited for another order from Artistic Katt.

I should note that I use all three of these watercolors in my art and papercrafting. I haven’t abandoned any of them.  I have however given my Artist Loft set to my granddaughter.

If you’re ready to explore watercolors, I can wholeheartedly recommend all three. If you’re short on space or like creating on the go, the Peerless are perfect.  If you want something that works for stamping, cardmaking, mixed media as well as your artwork- the Jane Davenport palettes are great.  And if you’re ready to get serious about watercolors do yourself a favor and try some Daniel Smith.

If you’d like to see the colors from all three brands swatched, you can watch my YouTube video below where briefly explain how I made a simple swatch book and do a flip through.

[1] This is the cost in the US. JaneDavenport.com also sells them Internationally where they are priced in AUD, as she is in Australia.

[2] The lowest price I saw for 5ml was $6.86 the highest appeared to be $10.33 for some of the Primatek colors made from genuine stones.

[3] The lowest price for 15ml I saw was $11.71, the highest $22.11 for genuine Lapis Lazuli or Kingman Turquoise.

About The Artful Geek Girl

Mixed Media Artist, Geek Girl and Proud Granmama.

3 Comments

  1. Carrie on May 23, 2017 at 1:54 pm

    Great comparisons! Curious, have you tried any of the Prima “Confections” watercolors? I was trying to decide between those and the Jane Davenports for my “next step up” from the Artist’s Loft set. I have noticed how “chalky” the finish is, and want to take a step up. Thanks again for the great post!



  2. The Artful Geek Girl on May 23, 2017 at 2:16 pm

    Hi Carrie, thank you! I haven’t tried any of the Prima watercolors, however I have heard good things about them. I’ve also heard a few people say they are pretty comparable to the Jane Davenport sets. I’d say go with the ones that speak to you the most with their color choices, etc. From what I understand, both are a great ‘next step up’. Let me know what you go with! If you end up with the Prima I’d love to know what you think of them.



    • Carrie on May 23, 2017 at 3:50 pm

      Thanks! I certainly will! My birthday is next month, so I’m hoping to maybe get a couple Prima sets to try!