Review #2: Holbein Artists' Watercolor

This is more of my first impression with using Holbein Artists' Watercolour than a full detailed review. I'll continued to update this "review" after I use the Holbein watercolour paint more thorough to create art. My thoughts below are based on the colour chart that I've painted.

Holbein is a Japanese company based in Osaka, Japan. It was founded in 1900 and took the name of European artist Hans Holbein in the 1930s. They are one of the world's largest art supplies manufacturer.

The set that I've bought is the 12-tube 5ml set. Price for it on eBay is around US $25 with shipping included, or US $40 for the 18-tube set, or US $50 for the 24-tube set. The pricing is very competitive and attractive compared to western brands.

Holbein watercolour only comes in artist grade. There's no student grade. They are available in tubes and pans, individually and sets. They are easily available since you can get them on eBay with free shipping included.

The colours in this 12-tube set I have are:

  1. Ivory Black (PBk 9) - LF3
  2. Chinese White (PW 6) - LF3
  3. Permanent Yellow Light (PY74, PY83) - LF2
  4. Yellow Ochre (PY 42) - LF3
  5. Vermilion Hue (PO73, PR 254, PY 110) - LF3
  6. Crimson Lake (PR 177, PR 122, PV19) - LF3
  7. Cobalt Blue Hue (PB 29, PB 15) - LF3
  8. Prussian Blue (PB 27) - LF2
  9. Permanent Green No. 1 (PY 3, PY 53, PG 7) - LF2
  10. Viridian Hue (PG 7) - LF 3
  11. Burnt Sienna (PBr 7) - LF 3
  12. Burnt Umber (PBr 7) - LF3

Holbein uses a lightfast rating of 3 stars where 3 is excellent and 1 is fugitive. It's quite ironic that the so called Permanent colours actually have a lightfast rating of just 2.

Several colours are hue, which means they are substitute colours made with different pigments than the traditional pigments. This is either For example with Viridian, the original granulates while this Hue version does not.

This is the colour chart I've painted.

The colours definitely look vibrant. All the colours seems like they do not granulate which is surprising considering there are Burnt Sienna and Burnt Umber which should be granulating colours. Anyway, I read online that Holbein is recommended to those who prevent non-granulating colours.

The quality of the paint seems good enough to me. The only downside is, perhaps my set has been unused for too long, the binder has separated from the pigment in many tubes. But that doesn't affect how the paint mixes with water though -- the paint is still soft and dissolves easily.

If you want a second opinion on Holbein watercolour, check out this review my friend Erwin Lian wrote a few years ago.

For more art product reviews, visit

I can't have an opinion on the handling quality of Holbein watercolours as they are not available locally and are very expensive to import them. But the fact that their binder separates from the pigment is not a good sign. If it separates on the tube or in a blob of colour placed on a palette, it will separate in time on the painting, making the pigment fade as the particles of the paint pigment will start unstick from the surface of the paper.
The binder is there to hold the pigment together and stick it on the surface of the sizing of the paper, that in its turn is there to regulate the absorbency of the paper.

In reply to by Marialena Sarris (not verified)

@Marialena Sarris
I don't think it's that big of an issue here since it's the binder at the top. After that's removed, the paint is no different from other paint.

I did have an issue with Cerulean Blue Chromium from Daniel Smith. The binder always separates from the pigment every few days days/weeks when I did not use that colour.

This shouldn't happen. It is caused by faulty manufacturing.
Either by wrong ratio of the ingredients of the binding or wrong mixing/processing with the pigment. Or both!
In any case the colour that separates from the binder in the tube, sooner or a little bit later will separate from its binder on the paper. In order to get how this thing works think that the binder is some sort of glue for the pigment.

I can't wait to see the video review you do if you do one. I love these colors but bring in french ultramarine from Winsor and Newton for granulation and vibrancy. These are my favorite watercolors and I have a lot of sketchbooks filled with them. I love the color Opera too. It is a bright pink not very pleasant on its own but mixed with a red or yellow can be very beautiful.

Greetings Teoh. I have a few questions for you. First, what brand of paper are you using for your color charts? What size are your squares? And what size paper do you use for the larger color charts (12 or more colors)? Do you cut the larger charts from a single sheet of paper? I really enjoy your reviews and videos. Thank you.

I agree that these are non-granulating paints. My botanical art teacher and I always end up discussing pigments and paint brands when we see each other and have discovered that the Holbein French Ultramarine and French Ultramarine Light is the least granulating of commonly available Ultramarine Blues and French Ultramarines. This is essential in botanical work where we are trying to achieve accuracy.

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