Easy and fun to blend
Colors are super-rich
Tubes contain a lot of paint
Fewer colors than other sets
Easy to use too much pigment
We purchased the M. Graham Basic 5-Color Watercolor Set so our reviewer could put it to the test. Keep reading for our full product review.
A table teeming with paints, brushes, and watercolor paper isn’t an uncommon scene in my household, even if I wasn’t reviewing palettes. My partner, Joe, studied fine art in college, and I happen to love painting tote bags and other textiles. Watercolors are not necessarily our medium of choice, but that makes us the perfect candidates for trying out a few different watercolor sets like M. Graham’s Basic 5-Color option and determining whether or not they’re good for beginners.
M. Graham watercolors are intriguing because they have a secret ingredient that improves the performance and color, or so the manufacturer promises: natural blackberry honey. The M. Graham website explains that including honey in the formula helps infuse more color while avoiding artificial humectants and preservatives and making them easier to dilute—the latter is something I certainly would agree with. Read on to find about more about the quality, quantity, blending, color richness, and performance of the M. Graham Basic 5-Color Watercolor Set compared to similar items on the market.
Quality: These will last a long time
It really doesn’t take much pigment to get a lot on the paper. So much so that it can be easy to use too much paint, especially if you plan on adding any significant amount of water to the already-wet pigment.
Again, these watercolors are made with natural blackberry honey, which helps give them the ultra-rich texture and color. Apparently, this also helps with paint absorb moisture from the air and prevent hardening both inside the tube and on your palette. If you don’t plan to paint with these very often, that last part is important.
Quantity: A lot goes a long way
You only get five colors with this set—Azo Yellow, Permanent Alizarin Crimson, Ultramarine Blue, Sap Green, and Burnt Sienna—but the tubes are relatively large (.5 ounces, or 14.8 milliliters) compared to others like the Daniel Smith Extra Fine Essentials Introductory Watercolor (a six-pack of 5-milliliter tubes). You do need a bit of color theory knowledge if you plan on using a larger palette of hues, so keep that in mind. Given that Joe studied fine art in college, he found these watercolors to be an exciting experiment.
Blending: It’s going to take some practice
The nice thing about watercolors in tubes is that you can blend them with a palette knife to make your own colors—you can get your ideal hue before even touching the paint with a brush. With solid pigment watercolors like the Cotman Water Colours Half Pan Studio Set from Winsor & Newton, you have to blend them as you go, and it’s easy to get a color differentiation.
If you aren’t an experienced blender—like, ahem, myself—the M. Graham option is great for experimenting because you get a hefty amount of paint in each tube. The colors are rich, but possible to blend even without an expert touch. There are other similar sets out there, like the essentials set from Daniel Smith, that require a lot more know-how to get the right colors.
Performance: Be judicious about how much water you’re adding
You only need a little bit of pigment from the bottle to put a lot of color on your paper. If you lay down pigment too thick on the paper and break it up with water, the pigment breaks down kind of strangely.
The pigment responded well to water being added, mixing evenly for a smooth finish on the paper. It took a little muscle to get all of the color out of the brush and the palette—there was still a thin layer of paint that stained the palette, but that is bound to happen to any new paint palette. If you’re using a brush with white bristles, expect some staining given the richness of the color.
Color Richness: Thick, vibrant, and easy to dilute
“You can really lay down the color with these,” Joe said after a few minutes of painting. These watercolors have binding, meaning they already have water added to them. This binding makes it possible to paint without adding any additional water. When you do add water, it’s easy to see the change a little liquid brings to the pigment.
These watercolors are made with natural blackberry honey, which helps give them the ultra-rich texture and color.
Price: A good deal for the amount of paint you get
There are other similarly priced watercolor sets, specifically tube pigments, in the same price range that come with less paint. That in mind, this is a good price for the size of tubes you’re getting. The pigment itself is easier to break up with water than competitors like the essentials introductory watercolor set from Daniel Smith, so you may need a bit more paint to get the opacity you’re looking for.
Competition: Comparable to other options on the market
The smooth, thick, and vibrant qualities of these paints make the kit a great buy if you want to experiment with liquid watercolors over solid pigment blocks. You will find similar paint quality with the set from Daniel Smith, but the tubes are smaller and there’s less room for error. You can find more color offerings in solid pigment block sets like the Winsor & Newton Cotman Water Colours Half Pan Studio Set, which is great for beginners who have no interest in color blending—it’s just a different approach to take.
- Product Name Basic 5-Color Watercolor Set
- Product Brand M. Graham
- MPN 33-SET
- Price $33.00
- Colors Included Azo Yellow, Permanent Alizarin Crimson, Ultramarine Blue, Sap Green, and Burnt Sienna