My Favorite Watercolor Paints by Brand

It’s all very well for me to do Color Spotlights identifying my favorite version of each color, but it can be hard to collate and use information when you’re standing in the watercolor aisle at the art store. Every shop seems to carry different brands. I’ll find myself with a rare chance to stock up on, say, Holbein loose tubes, unable to remember which colors I actually preferred from Holbein. So I’ve made a list of my favorites by brand; and I thought I’d share it with you!

A few caveats:

  1. This list is subjective, my preferred colors per brand, which may or may not be yours. Click through to see the Color Spotlights comparing other brands and explaining my reasoning. 
  2. I haven’t tried every color in these brands, so there could be missing options. 
  3. I haven’t tried every brand. Some big ones are notably absent. Sometimes this is due to location, availability, cost, format (I prefer tubes to pans), or ingredients (I have tended to avoid honey-based paints because they don’t stay hard on my travel palette.)
  4. The brand lists are roughly in standard order, yellow to red to blue to green to neutrals, not in order of preference.
  5. There are more colors listed than you need. The fact that, say, Viridian is listed under Winsor & Newton merely means that I think WN’s is the best Viridian I’ve tried, not that Viridian is necessarily a color you must have. There are a lot of palette-slot duplicates — colors that are so similar that you don’t need both.

Favorite Colors By Brand

Any Brand

I have no preference or my preferences are very mild. Your favorite brand, or whatever brand is easiest/cheapest for you to get, is probably fine here.

Da Vinci Artists’ Watercolor

Especially beautiful earth tones and granulating blues; good all-around basic brand for most colors. This is also my default brand for a lot of “good in any brand” colors.

Daniel Smith Extra Fine Watercolor

Originally my go-to brand, still my favorite for several colors that (I believe) are especially good in this brand (or maybe I’m just used to them).


Holbein Artists’ Watercolor

Holbein Gouache

My favorite gouache brand, smooth & opaque

  • Primary White (PW6)
  • Lemon Yellow (PY3)
  • Primary Yellow (PY3, PY74)
  • Marigold (PY83)
  • Primary Magenta (PR122)
  • Primary Cyan (PB15)
  • Turquoise Green (PG7, PW6)
  • Permanent Green Deep (PG7, PY3)

MaimeriBlu Artists’ Watercolor

  • Potter’s Pink (PR233)

Mijello Mission Gold Watercolor

Rembrandt Artists’ Watercolor


Schmincke Horadam Aquarell (Watercolor)

Schmincke Horadam Gouache

A favorite brand for gouache. Great consistency and dries matte.

  • Titanium White (PW6) – best for use in the pan (doesn’t flake as much as most gouache)
  • Vermilion Hue (PR255)


  • Yellow Sophie (PY93) – unusual pigment; hue between hansa light & medium
  • Prussian Blue (PB27) – a bit brighter than most

Winsor & Newton 

WN Professional Watercolor

WN Cotman Watercolor (Student Grade)

If you want student grade watercolor (e.g. because it’s cheaper), this is a good brand and a good way to try various colors. They are all going to be less intense (more binder/filler, less pigment per ounce) than a professional artist grade, but that may just mean you have to use more paint. When working with student grade paint, I find painting from the tube more satisfying than using dry paint.

Here are my picks for favorite Cotman colors that I still have affection for after moving to artist grade.

  • Lemon Yellow (PY175) – if you can afford to go for artist grade for yellows, I would, as they can be weak/watery in student grade, but I like the hue of this one which is the same as my pick Winsor Lemon.
  • Permanent Rose (PV19) – same hue as WN Pro Permanent Rose; weaker than pro grade but still good from the tube.
  • Purple Lake (PV19) – still my favorite hue for a quin violet, with no equivalent in the pro line. (WN Permanent Magenta is much bluer)
  • Intense Phthalo Blue (PB15:3) – Phthalo/Winsor Blue is so strong that it’s just fine in student grade; if anything being a bit weaker makes it easier to handle.
  • Prussian Blue (PB27) – Pleasant deep/muted hue. I like this hue better than the pro version for some reason, but this is just aesthetic preference. Noticeably weaker compared to pro – definitely one to paint from the tube.
  • Viridian Hue (PG7) – this is Phthalo/Winsor Green Blue Shade, see note above on phthalo blue.
  • Intense Phthalo Green (PG36) – an economical way to try Phthalo/Winsor Green Yellow Shade.
  • Earth tones (Yellow Ochre, Burnt Sienna, Burnt Umber etc) – these seem about equivalent to the WN pro versions. I don’t really like these in WN generally – my preference is for the Da Vinci – but I don’t think you lose anything by going student grade over pro here, especially just to try them out.

WN Designers’ Gouache

WN is a favorite for gouache; they tend to have a nice consistency. This is my default gouache brand.

  • Titanium White (PW6)
  • Permanent Alizarin Crimson (PR176)
  • Permanent Rose (PV19)
  • Ultramarine Blue (PB29) – I find UB if anything even more useful in gouache; makes wonderful sky colors with white
  • Cobalt Turquoise Light (PG50) – brighter/stronger than the watercolor version
  • Burnt Sienna (PR101, PY43) – a nice bright earth orange
  • Perylene Black (PBk31) – equivalent to Perylene Green, idk why the naming difference