Monday 24 May 2021


I've been painting again for about a year and during this time I've slowly been weaning myself off beginner art supplies,and investing in artist-grade materials, and I cannot believe what a difference it makes! I got some fancy watercolour paper from an art shop last Autumn, was a bit skeptical at first, but it blew my mind and I've not looked back. Having proper paper that lets the paint pool and blend and layer without buckling is a game-changer.

Painted using Paul Rubens watercolour and Opera paints
So I had nice paper, I got a nice new mechanical pencil, and lately I've been on the lookout for new paint! Up until now I've been using a Winsor and Newton student set, which I've had for years. It's been a great set to learn with and it was super affordable, but I hadn't even thought about the difference between beginner and professional paint until now. I learned that student/beginner sets tend to be cheaper as the paints contain less pigment and more filler, which means they can be trickier to blend, can get muddy, and it can be difficult to make vibrant colours. Artist grade paints are more pigmented, meaning they dilute and mix easily.

The problem was that professional paint sets can cost over £100, and the more I looked online, the more confused I got! I saw a lot of love for Schminke, Sennelier and Rembrandt paints, but as I tried to delve into the differences of these paints, I saw a lot of art reviewers/bloggers/youtubers highlight Paul Rubens watercolours, and remark on how Paul Rubens paints were much cheaper than the big European brands, but really held their own.

That was enough to convince me! It felt significantly less scary paying £60 for a new watercolour palette, than paying £120 (I also had a weird imposter feeling that I didn't 'deserve' the very pricey paint as I wasn't a real artist, but that is a weird insecurity for another day). 

Paul Rubens are a Hong-Kong based brand (which is possibly why I could only really find them on Amazon?), who boast that their watercolour paints are produced with high-purity and finely ground pigments, using natural gum arabic as the mixer. This means the colours are vibrant, easy to use, and easy to mix!

I ended up buying the 48 colour watercolour pan and LOOK how beautiful it is! It came packaged beautifully, and is a perfect pastel pink metal tin, with loads of space for mixing colours. All of the paints can be removed individually, so you can swap around the colours to suit yourself and add new colours in. The packaging is in Chinese, but that didn't bother me, and it includes all of the pigment numbers in English if you want to refer to them.

I also bought (because I'm a sucker) their bright neon Opera paints which were £20. I've been painting a lot of portraits lately, and I've really wanted to be able to capture bright make up in my paintings, and I thought this might do the trick!

I was quite nervous using them for the first time - what if they didn't live up to the hype and it was just a pretty tin? Pleased to say, they were a dream! The colours were rich and flowed beautifully - up until now I've thought my paintings often looked a bit pale or muddy, and I really noticed a difference with these. A little bit of colour went a long way too and they mixed really well together. I use a lot of yellows, reds and pinks, so it was nice to have a much bigger range to work with, and I'm excited to make my way through the palette and discover all the many colour possibilities it offers!

The neon Opera paints were amazing too - just look at them (first photo!). The photo barely captures how bright they are, it's like using highlighters on the paper. I found they blended well with the normal watercolours too, so I think they'll be quite useful when I want to add a bright pop to a painting, and it's just quite fun to have them in my art supplies!

Overall, I'm really pleased. I think I'll get loads of use out of them, and I'm happy to have found a product that's affordable, great to use, and looks super cute! Exactly my kind of thing.

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