Great color options
Will last a long time
Colors could be richer
Easy to contaminate colors
We purchased the Winsor & Newton Cotman Water Colours Half Pan Studio Set so our expert reviewer could test it out while painting. Keep reading for our full product review.
My partner studied fine art in college, while I paint more for fun. On a particularly sunny Sunday, we set up a watercolor painting studio on our dining room table to test the Winsor & Newton Cotman Water Colours Half Pan Studio Set. Winsor & Newton is a UK-based brand that can be found in most art stores in the United States. It offers a wide variety of products that are great for beginners, including tubes of paint, but I’ve found its built-in plastic sets to be wonderful for traveling since they come with a built-in palette. Ahead, learn everything there is to know about the quality, quantity, blending, performance, and color richness of this 45-pan kit.
Quality: Long-lasting palette
The Winsor & Newton set is a simple solid pigment block style of watercolor, so we grabbed a cup of water and some CraftSmart brushes and went to town on some watercolor paper. As we discovered, the paints tend to get watered down quite fast, so we used the water sparingly to keep the colors bright. If you plan on mixing your own colors, you’ll want to look for a high-quality watercolor in a tube.
Quantity: Tons of color options
My favorite part about this set is the sheer number of pigment blocks—45—because it means we’ll have it for a really long time, and we don’t have to spend too much time blending to find that perfect hue. However, favorite shades will be gone a bit quicker, of course. Along with primaries—red, blue, and yellow—there are also colors like emerald, mauve, cerulean, and more (for a total of 40 unique shades and a few repeats for more popular hues). I would purchase this set for this fact alone.
Blending: Simple, but the colors lose their vibrancy quick
I found the lighter colors to be much more even when applied to watercolor paper, but that’s a common occurrence across the board for most watercolors, no matter the manufacturer. When painting with the ultramarine blue, I did have to work a bit harder to get the same even appearance the yellow had in the color swatch I created.
You can create your own hues using a palette knife, but it’s not as easy as working with pigments that already have water added. To do so, I watered down the pigment block and cut into it with a palette knife. You have to do that a few times to get enough paint to blend, which could be annoying.
Blending with these colors is easy, but the effect is a little simple. Unlike with richer liquid watercolors that come in a tube, the blending is subtle and, well, watered down. I couldn’t achieve a good vibrant blend with this palette. The effect does end up being a bit one-dimensional.
Performance: Easy and uncomplicated
This Winsor & Newton set is great for beginners, as you don’t have to worry too much about blending and it’s easy to keep an eye on how much water you’re adding to the pigment, given these colors come in a solid form. (With liquid watercolors, there’s already so much water in the pigment, it can be easy to add too much fluid.)
The Winsor & Newton colors were easy to wash off of my paintbrush as well. This is most likely because the pigments weren’t as strong given that they come in solid blocks, but not having to spend a long time getting rid of the color in my white brush tips was a bonus.
This is a great set for beginners who want to learn how watercolors react to water and different types of paper. I liked the way this paint looked on paper the best out of all the sets we tested. I do wish the ridges on the built-in palette were a bit taller—I found it easy to cross-contaminate with the color in the next spot if I was blending in water. On the topic of color contamination, I had to keep changing out my water, as once it took on too much pigment, it would contaminate whichever block I was switching over to. It was helpful to have a paper towel on hand to make sure my recently dipped brush wasn’t hiding some pigment.
Color Richness: Subtle and watered down
You’re going to achieve richer colors more quickly with a liquid set of watercolors. Getting an even, rich color swatch took a lot of water control for me, and it took me a few pieces of paper before I got close to getting a similar “richness” for each color used.
If you’re looking for near-opaque colors, this might not be the set for you.
Price: Great deal for the variety of colors
While the MSRP is $94.99, this product can be found for much less (around $50) at other retailers. This is still more expensive than other sets you’d find for beginners, but I say it’s worth the cost if you find yourself using watercolors on a frequent basis. Not having to blend your own colors is really convenient, and the built-in palette is a wonderful touch.
Competition: A good price for casual painters who want to paint more often
Think of this as a (big) step up from the watercolors you used in elementary school. I found them to be quite watery and subtle, but there is a texture to them that you won’t find in the school supplies aisle. I wouldn’t classify these as serious watercolors, to be honest. For a professional project, you’ll find more depth in a set from Daniel Smith or M Graham that offers liquid paint in a tube.
That being said, I found the colors to be delightful and inspiring. Keep in mind that more experienced painters may find the option of blending their own colors more appealing than having set blocks of pigment ready to go.
- Product Name Cotman Water Colours Half Pan Studio Set
- Product Brand Winsor & Newton
- MPN 0390471
- Price $48.94
- Colors Included 40