Watercolor Pigments: Which to Keep and Which to Throw Out…


Quin Magenta photoOne of the biggest frustrations as a watercolor artist is how to select from the hundreds of pigments! We have so many to choose from – and from some impressive manufacturers, world wide.

So how does a watercolor artist decide which paint is the best to buy?  What if I want to find the best magenta?


Very few art stores are helpful in that they, like the manufacturers would love to see you buy that new tube of paint named Simply the Best Magenta or some other enticing name. It is helpful if the manufacturer sticks to the pigment chemical name so you can compare apples to apples instead of Quinacridone Magenta to Rose Violet or Purple Magenta or Verzino Violet, all of which have the very same generic pigment chemical name of Qunacridone magenta or PR 122.

To get to know your pigments, it is really important to read the label on your paint tubes and know what the chemical name and the pigment number is.   Somewhere on the label you should find the information. I would not use any paint that does not have the information on the tube.

Since 1925, each pigment has a generic index number that identifies it chemically, regardless of proprietary and historic name.s

Example:  Pigment: Quinacridone Magenta PR 122

  • P = pigment
  • R = Red color group
  • 122 = Chemical Index number

If your palette contains Daniel Smith’s or Winsor Newton’s Quinacridone Magenta as well as MaimeriBlu’s Verzino Violet and Schmincke’s Purple Magenta and Holbein’s Rose Violet you have four tubes of the same thing. PR122

swatchWhere did I get my information? My preferred GO TO website is www.handprint.com where you will find Bruce MacEvoy’s exhaustive compilation of all the watercolor pigments. He compares them based upon testing for lightfastness, drying shift, ease of handling and more. He even includes fascinating historical information on the pigments.

So – whenever I head out the door to Artisan’s or another art store or online to Cheap Joe’s or Dick Blick to buy a new paint, I first check in with Bruce MacEvoy where I know I’ll get the tested truth – before I buy.

Note. His website is huge so you can take a shortcut via his Color Map.

Shortcut Color Map


Click on this link and it’ll take you directly to Bruce MacEvoy’s Color Map where you can click on a color to get the latest info on the Manufacturers who make the pigments as well as Bruce’s testing…

Happy Painting!

Now – do you need four tubes of PR 122?

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