Review: Van Gogh 12-Pan Watercolor Set

I've finally gotten around to reviewing the Van Gogh 12 half-pan watercolour set that I bought a long time ago.

Van Gogh watercolours are made by Royal Talens from Netherlands. They are also the same company that makes the Rembrandt watercolours. Although it's not mentioned on their website, I read somewhere that the Van Gogh watercolours are student grade paints.

They are sold in various box sets. They are commonly sold in white plastic boxes with 12, 18 and 24 half pans.

The total range consists of 40 colours. That's enough but not as many compared to other brands. You can also get the colours as tubes.

The set that I bought from Amazon Japan came with a metal box. It came with a small size 4 collapsible brush which is just too small to be used in any satisfactory manner. Also, the brush does not close well because the opening is quite loose.

The metal box is those ubiquitous metal watercolour boxes. There's space between the rows of colours to put a collapsible brush such as a Da Vinci Maestro travel brush or Rosemary travel brush.

The price is quite comparable to Winsor & Newton Cotman, the student grade watercolour. Depending on where you're buying it from, it may be more or less expensive than Cotman. A reader told me it's cheaper if you buy it in Netherlands.

Each pan has a product code stamped onto the side. You can use that to compare with the colour chart on Royal Talens website to get information like the pigments used.

These are the colours included in this set

  • Chinese White PW4
  • Perm Lemon Yellow PY184
  • Azo Yellow Medium PY154 + PO62
  • Perm Red Light PR254
  • Madder Lake Deep PR264
  • Cobalt Blue (Ultramarine) PB29 + PW6
  • Ultramarine Deep PB29
  • Hooker Green Light PG7 + PY154
  • Phthalo Green PG7
  • Yellow Ochre PY42
  • Burnt Sienna PR101 + PBK11
  • Payne's Grey Pbk6 + PV19

Colour selection in this set is quite good with the exception of Chinese White. You might want to replace that with a cool blue such as Phthalo Blue or Cerulean.

The two blues included are Cobalt Blue (Ultramarine) and Ultramarine Deep. Interestingly, this version of Cobalt Blue is listed as using PB29, the pigment used to make Ultramarine and also has PW4 which is a white added. Overall, it looks too similar to Ultramarine Deep that is included. Both are warm blues, hence my recommendation of adding a cool blue earlier.

In this sketch, the sky was coloured with Ultramarine Deep and the bike with Cobalt Blue (Ultramarine). The difference is not obvious enough if you use them in heavy concentration.

Most of the colours are relatively transparent except for Yellow Ochre which looks semi-opaque.

There are 7 single pigment colours out of the 12, and one of them is Chinese White.

The colours look vibrant when painted off from their pans.

This is the colour chart created from the set. I skipped Chinese White because I don't really use that.

Overall, the resulting mixtures are quite vibrant and I like what I see. They compare well against artist grade watercolours such as Daniel Smith or Schmincke. I would say Van Gogh colour mixtures appear to be less granular even though there are granulating paints such as Cobalt Blue, Ultramarine Deep, Burnt Sienna and Hooker's Green.

For warm bright orange, you can mix Azo Yellow Medium with Perm Red Light. For bright purples, you can mix either Cobalt Blue or Ultramarine Deep with Madder Lake Deep. For greys, you get nice shades with either Cobalt Blue or Ultramarine Deep with Burnt Sienna, or Phthalo Green with Madder Lake. The two greens are quite convenient too.

To me, the colours feel slightly more vibrant compared to Winsor & Newton Cotman.

While I've said that they are comparable to Daniel Smith and Schmincke, in actual use I find that the colours are definitely not as vibrant. They are slightly more muted. You can say that it's pastel like but it's not too pastel like.

In this sketch I used a lot of Hooker's Green, Phthalo Green and Madder Lake. For the clouds, I used Chinese White. Be careful when using Chinese White because it's more prone to producing bubbles. When you paint over your work, those bubbles will be left on the paper and when it's dry and the bubbles burst, they will leave unwanted marks behind. You may be able to see some big bubble marks on the left page.

Pastel-like or muted, I still like how the colours mix. It's a personal preference, some people prefer really bright colours while others prefer a more subtle colour palette. I use whatever I have with me. For the sketch above, I thought the colours work well together. Most importantly, many of the colours are transparent so it's a great set to be used for pen and ink watercolour artworks or for watercolour sketching.

One thing I noticed about the Van Gogh paints is, I tend to use them up quite quickly. You can get vibrant colours with them, but you also need to use more paint. This is unlike other artist quality paint where you don't have to use as much paint to get the same level of intensity. So the more expensive artist quality paints are still worth the higher price they are sold at.


For the price, I would say it's quite worth the money. I do feel that this is slightly better than Winsor & Newton Cotman. They are of the same price range so if you have a bit more budget, maybe you can consider Van Gogh Watercolor.

Whether you get the white plastic box or the metal box I don't think there's too much difference. Do take a look at the colour selection because sometimes they might differ from what I've listed above.


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

Search Jackson's Art Supplies (UK) too.

Thank you very much for this review. Just bought the plastic box one and was gifted a Remebrandt 24 pan one; so this really helps, as do your many other reviews.

This review is amazing. I was considering which brand to buy myself, and even though for student grade, it's kind of pricey here. Did you went to Tegalalang? That's like 40-50 min from my home!

Hi! your reviews are great and so helpful! I am not a beginner in Watercolours, but I wish to buy a student grade watercolor set (half pans preferably ) I am confused between Van Gogh and Prima? Could you please recommend any? Thank you! :)

Hola, great review! Decided to get Van Gogh instead of Rembrandt, but one question. What kind of paper did you paint on? Is it the same paper with the motocycle and panaramic view? Did you wash it as well? Because I really like that full on colour effect which looks like flat colour, how did you manage that especially?

I have been deciding upon buying either Van Gogh pocket watercolor set or Mungyo tarvel set. Which one would you suggst me? The Mungyo one is slightly cheaper. But Van Gogh is offering 12+3 colors.

In reply to by yusra (not verified)

I've not used Mungyo before so I can't say much about its quality. Van Gogh is student grade paint. So I'm guessing Mungyo is too. For beginners, it should be fine. After you finish using up the colours, you can get better quality paints. But either brand is fine.
When you mention VanGogh having 12+3 colours, does that mean the box is much bigger? If you want a portable box, a 12-half pan box is more compact and easier to bring around.

Hi Teoh. I'm a watercolor beginner and I've been reading your blog for quite a while. I currently have prang 16 color pan set, and i'm looking to venture on some higher quality watercolors (that I can afford). I'm choosing between Van Gogh, White Nights and Holbein. If I can only buy two brands of watercolors, which would you recommend? I'm leaning on painting landscapes, sceneries and galaxies. I hope you can advice me. Thank you

Hi Teoh, I've been re-watching your reviews on this and the Prima Marketing Tropicals set for awhile now and wondering which one I should go for. These two seem to be a good range in terms of the price here in India and color saturation, opaqueness, etc. But I was wondering if I could pick your brain a little and tell me which would you pick out of the two and why? Thanks!

In reply to by Mang (not verified)

Perhaps Prima Marketing is more worth the money. I find that I use up Van Gogh paints too quickly.

Hi I have bought these ones, absolutely love them. The colours I love more than the Cotman. The cerulean blue I absolutely love, but I haven't found one that is equivalent to the artist grade? Thank you!

I have been using Van Gogh watercolors for quite a while and I find them excellent. The rate at which they are used is primarily connected to the absorption rate of the paper you use. They are powerful colors and I find that not much paint is required to achieve coverage. To lighten the colors I simply add water rather than use Chinese white. i am not a beginner.

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