• Irit Landgraf

Best Watercolor of 2020!

Hey everyone! Today's post is the first in a series summarizing my favorite supplies of 2020.

These are supplies I used repeatedly this year and loved. They fit my taste and style of painting.

I will try to explain why I enjoyed each one and how I like to use it.

I would love to read about your favorite watercolors this year and which new discoveries you made!

watercolor palette daniel smith rembrandt holbein shinhan van gogh
Favorite watercolors of 2020

**Almost everything I bought this past year was vegan, as I am transitioning to art supplies that do not include animal derived materials. That doesn't mean I don't think paints with honey, for example, are not good, and I still use what I have in my collection even if it is not vegan until it runs out.

Prefer to watch a video and see these lovelies in action? Here you go!

Today's post is dedicated to my most used and loved watercolors. The following posts will focus on other supplies, such as paper, brushes and mixed media.

I will mention the brand, as well as the color, but please check online for swatches to see if your preferred brand (one that is local and affordable to you in your part of the world) has a version of it. I have a lot more information about that in my shopping guide.

I usually buy my watercolor at Jackson's Art Supplies (based in the UK but they ship worldwide usually for free once you reach a certain amount).

Here are my picks, read about each color, starting top row on the left:

watercolor palette daniel smith holbein rembrandt shinhan
2020 in Watercolors

Let's start with yellows:

Daniel Smith Nickle Azo yellow (PY150) is a lovely bright transparent yellow that still has some earthiness to it. It is one of my go to yellows. It creates beautiful oranges and corals when mixed with any of my pinks and earthy greens when mixed with blues or even very blue purples.

Naples yellow has been very loved here this year. I enjoy the Schmincke version (PW6, PY 53, PBr 24) as it is the most pastel I have found, but I will be switching to a vegan alternative by Maimeri blu (they have a couple of version, I like 104). If you prefer Daniel Smith, their Nickel Titanite yellow is similar although a tad cooler.

I will make an honorable mention of Quinacridone Gold (PO 49), as it has come back into my palette recently, after I replaced it with Nickel Azo yellow. It is more orangy, but just as lovely. It is a great yellow (orange?) for nature, flowers and landscapes as it makes natural earthy greens when mixed with french ultramarine or lunar blue.

I really prefer mixing my own oranges and hardly ever use a bright orange (or red) from a tube, but this orange worked wonders for me and was one of 2020's happy discoveries-

Lukas Naples yellow red (PR176 PBR24) has captured my heart. It is a muted semi-opaque orange that is lovely on its own, but wonderful for mixing corals and peachy colors with any pink. I haven't seen anything similar by other brands, and I will be purchasing a tube (thankfully Lukas is very affordable in Europe and comes in big 24ml tubes) once my full pan is empty.

holbein bright rose watercolor abstract floral
Loose floral using Lukas Naples Yellow Red

2020 also marked a much heavier use of opaque color in my artwork, as my style developed and I found they worked well with my older transparent faves.

I've had Jaune Brilliant in my collection for a few years but fell in love with it only in 2020. I have the Shinhan PWC version (PO20 PW6). It is a warm pastel peacy color that is unique and pretty.

I have used it less since introducing Lukas Naples yellow red.

Let's move on to pinks.

My precious pinks.

Pinks have always been essential for my artwork, I mostly paint loose abstract florals and my favorite color of flowers to paint is variations of pink. I'll go by order of the color wheel, from reddish pinks to bluish ones.

Shell Pink is a flesh toned pink that is opaque. I have the Shinhan Pass version (PR43:3 PO16 PW6), which is marketed as a gouache watercolor hybrid paint. Unlike some gouache it doesn't crumble and fall out of the pan or palette once dry and is extremely affordable.

Quinacridone Rose is a staple in my palette, although I have been neglecting it a little now that I have discovered Van Gogh's Carmine (not shown in video). It is still a beautiful pink and a great primary to include in a limited palette. I am sad to say not all quinacridone roses were created equal, and some versions are not as lively as others. My current favorite is Daniel Smith (PV19) and I have yet to find one I love as much. It makes beautiful oranges, corals, peaches with any of my yellows and neutralizes my greens.

My most loved and disappointing pink is Holbein's Bright Rose (BV11 AB83) (other brands make similar versions, check out my favorite pinks video). It is a bluish pink that is luminous and perfect. It makes the most gorgeous mixes with any of my yellows and oranges. It is however not only fugitive, but also doesn't scan and print well (probably due to the fluorescent pigments). As I intend to use my artwork more in print, I will have to look for better alternatives.

However, for original artwork, videos or digital images (not used for printing), it is perfection. If you're budget is tight you can try Shinhan PWC's version of this color.

colorful watercolor flowers pink and violet
Loose Floral featuring Holbein's Bright Rose

Violet, the color of my dreams.

M. Graham's Ultramarine Pink (PR259) was a joy to use in the spring, although since then I have neglected it a little. It is an earthy violet pink with gorgeous granulation. I haven't tried other brands versions of this color, but will likely do so in the future as M. Graham is made with honey and in general too gooey for my taste, especially in travel palette.

Cobalt violet is probably my signature color, and of course it has to be expensive and hard to formulate. It also comes in many versions, some lean more pink, which I prefer, others blue, which I skip.

The best I have found is Winsor & Newton's. The color and formula are perfect, but it's not vegan so I tried Qor, which disappointed, and Rembrandt (PV14) which was better, but still contains more binder than I would like. Once I run out I will buy the Rembrandt pan version, as with problematic colors pans are a safer choice sometimes with a more stable formula. If you squeeze your tube paints into pans and rewet them (as opposed to using freshly squeezed paint), avoid the Daniel Smith version which is lovely in tone but useless once dry.

Cobalt violet is beautiful in mixes as its strong granulation shines, I am particularly enchanted by the colors created when it is mixed with Naples yellow.

I don't use any bright/saturated purples out of the tube, but prefer either to mix my own or use darker more muted options, stay tuned for those.

Lavender is a gorgeous color that more brands are offering now. I enjoy all the versions I have tried, the Daniel Smith one (PW6 PV15 PB29) is probably the most transparent one (marked as semi transparent by the brand), as it is a color always formulated with white, and can get very opaque. If you are in Europe it's worth trying Van Gogh's very affordable version, Rembrandt sell 20ml tubes that are also very affordable this side of the Atlantic.

I also want to mention that it is very easy mixing your own lavender if you have ultramarine blue and white in your palette. I have those two but still use lavender often as a convenience color.


I don't got the blues!! I honestly tried this year to get better use out of the blues in my collection and failed. I have 2 I adore and cannot say I need more at the moment...

French Ultramarine is a classic and I have fallen in love with it deeply this year. The granulation makes it perfect when you want interesting texture and mixes. It is perfect for natural greens, especially when mixed with orangy yellows like the ones I mentioned. My favorite version right now is by Rembrandt (PB29).

Second and last in this category is Daniel Smith Lunar Blue (PBk11 PB15). This color can be easily mixed if you have Mars/oxide black and phthalo blue but I usually don't use phthalo blue, so this formula works well for me. It granulated heavily and created gorgeous mixes. I have a dedicated video to it if you want to see how it mixes with other colors.

colorful flower watercolor zoisite daniel smith
Loose floral featuring teal and turquoise

I love teal and turquoises but the one I used most this year was Lukas Cobalt Turquoise as I had a full pan of it. I haven't met a version of this bright teal I didn't like, it is named differently in every brand so make sure you check swatches online before purchasing. Most brands use PG50 for it, but Lukas uses PB28 (also used for Cobalt Blue) and it is the most affordable version I have found in Europe, a tube of 24ml costs less than 9 euros.

The second half of 2020 was the year of the greens!! I generally dislike traditional greens that come in basic sets, but I finally found some staples to include in my palette.

Daniel Smith Cascade green (Pbr7 PB15) is a beautiful blue green that separated to brown granulation and turquoise, it is quite intense, re-wets beautifully and just works well with all my other faves.

Daniel Smith Undersea green (PB29 PO48 PY150) is another winner, earthy granulating and interesting green, that I admit I neglected as the next 2 greens came into my life.

Daniel Smith Olive Green (PY97 PB29 Pbr 7) is my new green gold. It has a depth and earthiness to it that I haven't found in green gold and I enjoy it a lot more.

Van Gogh Dusk Yellow (PBk11 PY128) is a green to me. Again, you can probably mix this color yourself, but I love it as is and so enjoy having it as a convenience color in my palette. It is dark and earthy, works wonderfully for foliage and shadows alone or mixed with my other darks.

daniel smith watercolor
Loose Floral feauturing moonglow and cascade green

Which leads me to my favorite darks!

2020 was also the year of the darks! I discovered some beautiful deeper darker colors that I love using.

Rembrandt Dusk Pink (PR122 PBk11) or Van Gogh's version (PBk11 PV19) have been heavily used, I went through at least 4 half pans and finally bought a big 20ml tube of it. Dark, granulating, separating but still transparent it is a joy to use in paintings focused on a pink and green color scheme.

Daniel Smith Moonglow came back with a vengence to my palette (PG18 PB29 PR177). I know there was a very popular video made about some lightfastness issues, I have seen other tests where it did not fade, so make your own choice. There are other versions by other brands out there, and you can also mix your own. I love DS's version and for now enjoy using it.

Moonglow is the perfect moody violet blue, just lovely for shadows and created great darks when mixed with any other dark colors, or deep violets when mixed with pinks.

Daniel Smith Zoisite was another 2020 discovery. It is a heavily granulating version of Perylene green, deep, dark, bluish muted green that is perfect for foliage and flowers. I adore it and once I run out of my pan I will but a big tube.

Daniel Smith Bloodstone Genuine is another new favorite. This is a granulating black that is transparent, which helps avoid dead flat darks. It is similar to Lunar black for has a very slight undertone that I struggle to characterise.

I will mention Daniel Smith's Lunar black (PBk11)because I have loved several colors that contain it this year, and so I acknowledge it is a great color to have in your palette, although the reality is I have been using all the other darks mentioned more than this one. I think all brands offer a version of this color, usually named Mars or Oxide black. The Daniel Smith one is my favorite.

daniel smith watercolor palette
Watercolor Wheel featuring Lunar Earth and Moonglow

Last but not least my favorite neutrals. 2020 was kind to them in my world. Previously a bright rainbow girl, I have fallen in love with some neutrals this year that have really enriched my color stories and palettes.

I included white in my palettes for the first time ever! Many artists squeeze a bit of fresh white gouache when they want to use white, as it normally more opaque than white watercolor, but I have found Rembrandt's Opaque White (PW6) rewets wonderfully and doesn't dry and crumble like gouache, so I include a large pan of it in my palettes these days. White paint easily contaminates, so having a large pan and keeping at least one area clean is a good idea.

Daniel Smith Buff Titanium (PW 6:1) is another favorite. A gorgeous color for making your colors a little less bright, a little muddy in the best way. Most brands offer this color.

Two more Daniel Smith Lunar colors, Lunar Earth and Lunar Red Rock were introduced to my palettes. I mostly use these for mixing for their incredible granulation. Lunar earth is a muted earthy orange and Lunar Red Rock is more red. It can be an interesting replacement to Venetian red as it is not as opaque and heavy. I have dedicated videos to these two, but since making those videos I have enjoyed them more.

Last but not least is a color I admit I have not used so much but it is so unique I had to mention it. Daniel Smith Hematite Violet Genuine is hard to describe. It has a muted brown purple granulation and a soft almost pinkish base color. Just gorgeous. I am excited to explore it more with my other faves.

That is it for this years winners, I hope you enjoyed! I will see you soon in the next video, focusing on papers, sketchbooks and brushes. Take care stay safe and go paint!

Want more videos? Here are some great ones about watercolors!

Next week I will share with you my favorite papers and sketchbooks of 2020. Thanks for stopping by!

Have a great day, take care


Recent Posts

See All