Review: Daniel Smith Watercolor Pan Sets

I'm a big of Daniel Smith Watercolor and I've been using them for several years. So when I read that they are coming out with box sets, I was kinda excited. The high quality of their paint is well known so I was more interested in the design of the palette box. I hate to say it, but Daniel Smith totally missed the mark with the design of the box. More on that later.

These are the various pan sets available:


  1. Quinacridone Gold (PO 48, PY 150)
  2. Cascade Green (PBr 7, PB 15)
  3. Green Apatine Genuine
  4. Cadmium Yellow Med Hue (PY 53, PY 151, PY 83)
  5. Phthalo Blue GS (PB15:3)
  6. Quinacridone Rose (PV 19)

Colors of Inspiration

  1. Lavender (PW 6, PV 15, PB 29)
  2. Moonglow (PG 18, PB 29, PR 177)
  3. Rose of Ultramarine (PB 29, PV 19)
  4. Serpentine Genuine
  5. Shadow Violet (PO 73, PB 29, PG 18)
  6. Wisteria (PW 6, PR 122)


  1. Bronzite Genuine
  2. Buff Titanium (PW 6:1)
  3. Burnt Sienna Light (PR 101, PO 48)
  4. Lunar Black (PBk 11)
  5. Raw Sienna Light (PY 42)
  6. Venetian Red (PR 101)


  1. Quinacridone Rose (PV 19)
  2. Cerulean Blue Chromium (PB 36)
  3. Hansa Yellow Medium (PY 97)
  4. Monte Amiata Natural Sienna (PBr 7)
  5. Transparent Red Oxide (PR 101)
  6. Ultramarine Blue (PB 29)


  1. Cerulean Blue (PB 35)
  2. Blue Apatite Genuine
  3. Indigo (PB 60, PBk 6)
  4. Lunar Blue (PBk 11, PB 15)
  5. Payne's Blue Gray (PB 60, PBk 6)
  6. Sodalite Genuine

Ultimate Mixing Set

  1. Phthalo Blue GS (PB15:3)
  2. Quin Rose (PV 19)
  3. Buff Titanium (PW 6:1)
  4. Raw Umber (PBr 7)
  5. Cerulean Blue Chromium (PB 36)
  6. Hansa Yellow Medium (PY 97)
  7. Ultramarine Blue (PB 29)
  8. Burnt Sienna (PBr 7)
  9. Goethite Brown Ochre (PY 43)
  10. Indian Red (PR 101)
  11. Jane's Grey (PB 29, Pbr 7)
  12. Phthalo Green BS (PG 7)
  13. Permanent Alizarin Crimson (PR 177, PV 19, PR 149)
  14. Pyrrol Scarlet (PR255)
  15. Quinacridone Gold (PO 48 PY 150)
  16. An additional box with 15 empty half pans

For the sets with six colours, nine empty pans are included in the box. For the Ultimate Mixing Set, there's an additional palette box with 15 empty pans included.

All the colours were picked by artists, namely Julie Ann Karlsson (Blues), Jane Blundell (Ultimate Mixing Set), Brenda Swenson (Earth) and Liz Steel (Sketcher).

The set that I have is the Ultimate Mixing Set. I've first heard of the Ultimate Mixing Set from Jane Blundell's blog. As the name suggest, it's a set for mixing colours.

I like the selection of two yellow, three reds, three blues and four earths. Then there's Phthalo Green which is a good addition because it's difficult to mix such an intense colour. You could probably mix with Lemon Yellow and Phthalo Blue (GS) but it's more convenient to have a pre-mixed colour. As for Buff Titanium I don't really know what's it's good for. According to Jane Blundell, it's "a creamy colour rather than a white and wonderful for landscapes."

Jane Blundell's original Ultimate Mixing Palette has Pyrrol Crimson (PR 264) listed. But Daniel Smith's set came with Permanent Alizarin Crimson, which is a three-pigment paint.

Another interesting colour is called Jane's Grey, which is a mixture of Ultramarine and Burnt Sienna. Mixing Ultramarine and Burnt Sienna is one of the most common mixtures so I don't know what to say about naming that mixture under your own name. Anyway, it's better to mix your own grey because you'll get a grey that's visually more interesting, as in you can see the Ultramarine and Burnt Sienna in your grey.

The formula of the paint in the pan is similar to the tube paint. In fact, these are hand-pouring paint. They are poured three times to fill in the gaps when the paint shrinks, and topped up to the brim.

It can be difficult to judge the colour from observation, so it's best to swatch them out. You can click the image above for a larger view.

This is a versatile palette. The only colour I would swap out would be Buff Titanium and Jane's Grey. I would replace them with Sap Green and Raw Sienna.

This is the extra palette and pans that come with the Ultimate Mixing Set.

The design of the box could be better. First thing I don't like is the lid does not open flat.

The lid doesn't have any mixing wells. And the lid is not enclosed at the bottom side.

Whether the palette is on an even surface, or when you're holding it, if you mix paint on the lid, it's going to flow out from the bottom of the lid. It's an unfortunate design.

It's also very difficult to open the lid from the middle even though there's an opening there for your finger.

To open the box easily, you have to open it from the side.

One thing I do like about the box is, it is compact and can hold 15 pans.

In terms of value for money, the pricing of this box set is not as competitive to other watercolour sets.

The sets with six colours are around US $36. The 15-colour set is around US $75. If you look at the capacity, you're paying $36 for 12ml of paint, or $75 for 30ml of paint.

Just for comparison purposes, here are other sets I would consider at the price Daniel Smith is charging.

For US $80, you can get a 14-pan Kremer Pigments Set 1. You'll get almost twice the amount of paint (56ml) and a more usable metal palette box.

Or, you can get a 12 tube Mission Gold Watercolor set for US $36, an empty 12-pan metal box (US $6) and empty pans ($2) for a total of $44. Each tube in this set has 7ml capacity which means you'll get 84ml of paint. $44 for that amount of paint and a more usable box? This deal is even better than the Kremer Pigments deal.

Third option is to get the 10-tube M Graham set for $65, empty box and pans ($8) for a total of $73 which is still cheaper than Daniel Smiths' Ultimate Mixing Set. Each M Graham tube as 15ml capacity so you'll get a total of 150ml paint. This deal is comparable to the Mission Gold set above.

Even Daniel Smith's own 10-tube Alvaro Castagnet set at US $83 is more worth the money compared to the pan sets. You'll still get way more paint compared to the Ultimate Mixing Set.

Yes, Daniel Smith watercolour paint is high quality, but at the price they are charging for the new pan sets, it's not worth the money. And for the high price you pay, you don't even get a decent and usable palette box.

My recommendation... Get your own tubes, empty box and pans and build your own set. You'll save money and have more satisfaction that way.


Find more reviews at Dick Blick Art Materials | Jackson's Art Supplies (UK)

Very useful and objective review! I think in this case you are not paying just for the paints; you are also paying for the names of the artists who selected the colors. The sets are "curated." ;-)

Thanks for the review, I am almost buying it but lucky to check out the reviews first.

The box design is definitely a big disappointment.
Will definitely not getting it for that price.

Thank you for your honesty, Teoh. I love Daniel Smith watercolors. I have to agree with you about that lid business. Major fail. I did not buy the DS set as I do not care for half pans. Too small for me. Best wishes to you and your family.

Agree, the paint is a nice as ever, not too much better than other artist quality paint to warrant the price IMO. But! The palette is an absolutely atrocious design. Terrible, it’s almost like the brief was to design the worst, most unusable palette ever. Hilariously garbage. Mine went in the bin and the paint moved into another palette.

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