Tuesday, September 10, 2019

St. Petersburg White Nights Watercolors Review

I have been dormant for a week due to technical difficulties and life stuff, but that means I have more material for this week. And by material, I mean new cool stuff and my experiences with said cool stuff. In consideration of my hasty judgment of and subsequent apology post for the illo sketchbook, I have resolved to use new supplies for a few projects before reviewing them. As last month seemed to involve acrylic painting, I have decided to break out the water-based media for September, and after going through my supplies, I realized that I needed some new things, mainly fresh paints and papers.

Image of paint in a flower shaped pallet by Pumibel
Don't they look lovely in the mixing pallet?
(I bought this porcelain pallet at Hobby Lobby)

Affiliate Disclaimer: For full transparency, you should know that many of my links in my posts are affiliate links. As an Amazon affiliate, I receive a small commission when readers purchase items using my affiliate links. This helps me fund the blog domain costs, and you will not be charged extra if you buy anything using my links. 

My watercolor paints were student grade, and not even good student grade brands like Windsor and Newton Cotman or the well- reviewed Arteza paints that I see all over YouTube now. I have been contemplating buying a more professional set of pan watercolors (I prefer pans over tubes). Being a raggedy artist, of course, the prices of Windsor & Newton, M. Graham, and Sennelier gave me heart palpitations, but I have seen several YouTube artists using the St. Petersburg White Nights watercolor pans, and they have raved about these affordable watercolors. I could see the quality of these paints in the videos, so I decided to get a small set to try myself. I also took a few recommendations for papers from my favorite YT artists and purchased a pack of Bee Paper Company 140 lb cold pressed watercolor paper. I have been using these items for the past week, and I am really excited to share my observations and opinions!

Image of 12 piece White Nights Watercolor Set from Amazon.com
Product photo from Amazon.com

White Nights 12 Piece Full Pan Watercolor Set

That’s right, these are not half pans; you get 12 standard colors for under $20! (when I purchased them on August 31, they were $18.25, but the current price is about $23).  One initial caveat, however, is that you should go ahead and buy an empty watercolor pallet at the same time because the set comes in a very clunky plastic container that most of the Amazon reviewers absolutely hated. I can see why, too. The separate pallet/pan holder that I bought was only $13, so this is still a huge bargain if you want professional quality paints. I will include photos of the pallet shortly, but now for the paints!

The colors are as follows:

  • Cadmium yellow medium (warm yellow)
  • Cadmium lemon (cool yellow)
  • Yellow ochre (earthy yellow)
  • Carmine (cool red)
  • Cadmium red light (warm orange-red)
  • Burnt Umber 
  • Umber (a sepia tone)
  • Emerald (pthalo green)
  • Blue (pthalo blue)
  • Green (Hooker’s green)
  • Ultramarine
  • Neutral Black (did not include in my swatch photos)

I also bought single pans in the following colors: “Ceruleum” (a.k.a. Cerulean) blue, Rose, and Indian yellow. I wanted these for mixing skin tones according to my Color Mixing Recipes for Portraits book. Each additional color cost about $5 (again, for a full pan!).

A note about the color names: I compared the pigments used for each color (the White Nights website has a color chart) to the pigments listed on Handprint.com and provided the better known names for those colors in parentheses above. Some colors, such as black, are a mixture of pigments. White Nights has a blend of brown, red, and blue in their neutral black, and other top watercolor brands do not have the same mixture. While I didn't include the black in my swatch photos, I promise this is a lovely deep black. I don't use black often, so I decided to swap it out so I could fit all of the single colors I bought separately in the tin with the set. 

The Pros:

Besides the price point, White Nights watercolors are absolutely gorgeous and not at all chalky. I didn’t think my old Daler Rowney pans were chalky, but after comparing swatches, I understand what a difference there is between student and professional grade paints. I was able to activate the pans and mix colors easily. The pigment was just as brilliant and rich when I reactivated the diluted colors that had dried on my mixing tray, too (see the photo above). They layer beautifully and are perfect for glazing techniques.

The only high-end watercolor I own is a small tube of Windsor & Newton professional watercolor in ultramarine. I scored it as a freebie a few years ago, but it has remained unopened until now. I don’t think that comparing a single color is really adequate, but I can say that the ultramarine swatch from the White Nights pallet is just as pigmented and brilliant as the swatch from the W&N tube color. I cannot attest to light-fastness, however. I will need more time to test that with all of the colors. The company provides a color chart that includes pigment codes and lightfastness ratings (linked above), but it is always wise to perform your own test on the paper that you use for finished work. 

image of swatches of White Nights watercolors by Pumibel
White Nights watercolor swatches (black not included)

The Cons:

I already mentioned the case that these pans arrived in, and that is the main “con” for this set. I tried using the container for a day while waiting for my empty tin to be delivered, and I see why other people deemed it “unusable”. There is a plastic insert that holds the pans in place inside of the plastic box, and the steep lip it forms around each pan makes it difficult to get to the paint. Also, there is no space between color pans, so you are forced to contaminate colors even when you are careful. I don’t mind getting some cross-mix in my watercolor pans, but this was excessive. It is just too crowded in there!

The only other problem I found was that the umber and yellow ochre paints are slightly grainy when diluted. I also noticed that these two colors are more transparent than the others. This is not necessarily a “con” for everyone, but I noticed that other reviewers were unhappy with the transparency of these colors. While watercolors are supposed to be transparent to some extent, the yellow ochre and umber are noticeably weaker than the other shades, as you will see in my swatch photos below. The umber is worse than the yellow ochre in my opinion. 

image of Swatches of White Nights Burnt Umber and Umber shades by Pumibel
Yeah, that is watery poop color (someone had to say it!)

image of yellow paint swatches from White Nights watercolor set by Puibel
See how the yellow ochre compares to the other yellows?

Meeden Watercolor Pallet

Photo of Meeden watercolor tin filled with White Nights watercolor pans by Pumibel
You can take the pan holder out for more mixing space as well

The Meeden watercolor pallet is an empty watercolor tin that comes with 12 empty plastic watercolor pans. I only needed the tin, but the pans are very handy if you want to mix your own paints or transfer tube paints to a travel set. There is not much to say about it other than it has extra space to mix colors, has a thumb ring on the bottom, and it is compact and easy to handle. I took some photos of mine with my White Nights paints. I think I could fit a half pan on each side if I were to get any more colors, but this tin holds my fourteen full pans easily. 

Apparently, the empty pans included with the tin are slightly bigger than my White Nights pans. It is possible that Russian watercolor sizes vary from other European and North American brands. Maybe empty pans are just bigger than pre-filled pans. I really don't know why there is a difference, but if any readers are more knowledgeable, I would love for you to enlighten me!

Photo of Meeden watercolor tin by Pumibel
This comes in other colors and sizes, too

I wanted to include my review of the Bee watercolor paper, but this post is long enough already, and I can make a whole post about watercolor papers that will be more helpful than a quick blurb about one brand. I also have some gouache paints to review so check back soon!

Do you know why there is a difference between the full watercolor pan sizes as I mentioned above? It is a tiny difference, really, but I would love to know more about it, so please comment if you know!

1 comment:

  1. I LOVE the Umber color! White Nights is the only brand I've found that makes it. It's a beautiful earth tone, smokey grey brown with just a hint of green. It's beautiful in tree bark.