Wednesday 26 August 2015

4 - Mixing with Raw Umber

This is the 4th on my series of colour mixes using my Ultimate Mixing Palette

Raw Umber is a neutralised yellow. You could create this hue by mixing a purple and a yellow but that's quite a fiddle. The Daniel Smith and Da Vinci versions are wonderful and dark so they add a dark cool brown to the palette. I find Raw Umber really wonderful for shadow colours, skin tones and in landscapes. 

Tuesday 25 August 2015

3 - Mixing with Buff Titanium

Here is part 3 of my series on mixing with my Ultimate Mixing Palette colours, this time with Daniel Smith Buff Titanium. The granulating nature of this ecru colour adds a wonderful dimension to a number of watercolour mixes and creates pastel colours otherwise not possible. I especially like it for skin tones, and for the lovely sandy beach and sandstone rock effects it creates with Goethite.
All the possible mixes with buff titanium and my other 14 ultimate mixing colours are painted out in my book and eBook, but this gives a nice summary look :-)

Daniel Smith Buff Titanium mixed with other Ultimate Mixing Palette colours. Moleskine watercolour sketchbook A5.

Monday 24 August 2015

Mixing with Burnt Sienna options

Burnt Sienna mixed with most of my Ultimate Mixing Palette colours.
I have created a post about mixing with Daniel Smith Burnt Sienna PBr7, as part of a series on mixing my Ultimate Mixing Palette colours, which can be found here.

Burnt Sienna is one of my favourite basic palette colours. Here I'll show some of the other mixing options I explored.

The first shows Burnt Sienna mixed with a basic pair of yellows, reds and blues. Here I was still experimenting with a custom mixed magenta but I switched to Quinacridone Rose as a more useful basic cool red.
Burnt Sienna mixed with possible palette options, Moleskine watercolour sketchbook A5

I like Burnt Umber but it isn't as useful as a mixing colour as Burnt Sienna. I include it in my palette as a convenient warm brown even though it is easily mixed as you can see above - just a little Ultramarine mixed with Burnt Sienna creates a burnt umber hue. Here it is mixed with other possible palette colours.

Burnt Umber mixed with different palette colour options. Moleskine watercolour sketchbook, A5.

Here is the gorgeous Transparent Red Oxide mixed with other possible palette colours. It is slightly more orange than Burnt Sienna and can be wildly granulating, which I really love, but Burnt Sienna is a more useful basic palette colour as granulation is not always required. Another interesting Burnt Sienna option is the W&N PR101 Burnt Sienna, which is very much a burnt orange colour, but without the granulation you can see here.

Transparent Red Oxide mixed with possible palette colours. Moleskine watercolour sketchbook, A5

Sunday 23 August 2015

Colour mixing with a single pigment green

I recently wrote a post about mixing with Phthalo Green BS - a basic palette colour for me and one of my recommended Ultimate Mixing Palette colours. 

I love the strength of this pigment, but I thought I would add some other wheels I have done showing this pigment as well as some of the alternative single pigment greens, and demonstrating how they mix with some basic colours.

Here is another colour wheel created using Phthalo Green while I was exploring different palette colours to find the most useful basic set. Here I was experimenting with Transparent Red Oxide as a burnt sienna option, and with lovely DS Permanent Alizarin though I later switched to the very similar but single pigment Pyrrol Crimson as my crimson choice. I also decided on Quinacridone Rose rather than a magenta or violet.
Phthalo Green in a colour wheel, mixed with a range of palette colours. Moleskine watercolour sketchbook A5

Green Apatite Genuine is a little like the two great Daniel Smith convenience mixes Sap Green and Undersea Green - a remarkable paint. This is another colour I love as an 'extra' for when I want a more granulating effect in a painting or sketch.
Green Apatite Genuine Daniel Smith Primatek watercolour mixed with other possible palette colours.
Moleskine watercolour sketchbook A5

Below is wheel showing the Daniel Smith primatek watercolour Jadeite Genuine. It is a gorgeous granulating green that is similar in mixes to the phthalo green, though with granulation. In masstone it can be very dark, rather like a Perylene green. In this chart I was exploring mixes with a custom mixed Quinacridone Magenta that I made by mixing DS Quinacridone Rose with  DS Quinacridone Violet, both PV19. I was also exploring the very granulating Transparent Red Oxide as a burnt sienna option. I love Transparent Red Oxide and use it a lot in my paintings but it is an 'extra' as there are many times when I want the more sedately behaved Burnt Sienna (see that in mixes here.) Mixed with a crimson, in this case Permanent Alizarin, Jadeite will also create a rich black. I love the granulating turquoise hues Jadeite makes with Cerulean and Ultramarine.

Jadeite Genuine mixed with other possible palette colours. Moleskine watercolour sketchbook A5

Viridian is a much softer, granulating and less staining alternative to Phthalo Green BS. Made with PG18, here is Da Vinci Viridian mixed with a number of other possible palette colours. Once again I was exploring the granulating Transparent Red Oxide with the granulating Viridian.
Viridian, Da Vinci watercolour, mixed with a number of possible palette colours. Moleskine watercolour sketchbook.

I have created many charts and wheels in my colour explorations. You can see more here and by searching Sketchbook Pages in my Blog.

Friday 21 August 2015

2 - Mixing with Burnt Sienna

Part 2 of a series of posts about mixing with my Ultimate Mixing Palette colours. 

Burnt Sienna comes in a huge range of hues. I have posted about many of them here and more can be seen on my website in the Painted Watercolour swatches section here

Burnt Sienna is a neutralised orange. It is a wonderful colour to have in your palette as a mixing colour. It speeds up the creation of other colours, especially grey mixes with blues, as you would otherwise have to mix a yellow and a red and then to blue to create a grey. Even in a very limited palette of a single red, yellow and blue, Burnt Sienna is an excellent 4th colour addition.

While Burnt Sienna is available in a options from a burnt orange to a burnt umber hue and is made from a range of pigments and pigment mixes, I prefer the earthy PBr7 Burnt Sienna (Daniel Smith, though Da Vinci and M.Graham are very similar in colour) as I find it useful as a convenient skin colour when washed out with lots of water as well as being a great earthy warm brown in landscape work. It is also the perfect mixing partner with Ultramarine to make my Jane's Grey - a convenient dark shadow colour that also acts as a neutral tint for the other colours, without introducing a deadening black pigment. To see some of the alternative pigments I tried, have a look here.

Here is Daniel Smith Burnt Sienna mixed with 13 of my Ultimate Mixing Palette colours. It creates yellow ochre and raw sienna hues with the yellows, burnt scarlet and brown madder hues with the reds, wonderful greys and deep blues and browns with the blues and a range of other browns with Raw Umber and Goethite. With Phthalo Green it creates lovely pine greens and with Buff titanium create flesh-tones. 

To see more mixing charts with these and many more colours see the Watercolour Mixing Charts tab on my website. These charts are also available in book or eBook form.

For the full range of colour mixes that can be created with my Ultimate Mixing Set of colours, see my book The Ultimate Mixing Palette; a World of colours. Both books are available through as physical or eBooks here.

Thursday 20 August 2015

1 - Mixing with Phthalo Green (Blue Shade)

Part 1 of a series I'll do on mixing with my Ultimate Mixing Palette colours. 

To see the mixing range this palette can create, you can see the various versions of my book here and look at the previews.

Phthalo Green comes in Blue Shade and Yellow Shade. The blue shade is made with PG7 and is also called Winsor Green BS, Helio Green, Blockx green and so on. Its full name is phthalocyanine green and is a reliable lightfast, staining, transparent and very powerful colour. The yellow shade is made with PG36 and is, not surprisingly, more of a yellow-green. I prefer the blue shade.

I don't use Phthalo Green alone, and suggest you very rarely would as it simply doesn't look realistic, but I find it invaluable in my palette for mixing. Add a cool or mid yellow for bright spring-greens, add a warm yellow for wonderful Sap greens. Add a crimson for the most amazing range of plum, aubergine, deep green and black hues. Add burnt sienna for pine greens. Add a blue for turquoise hues. While some of these colours could be created using Phthalo Blue + a yellow and then mixing with the third colour, most people struggle with 3-colour mixes so having a green in the palette speeds up the mixing process and simplifies it to just a 2-colour process.

Here is a chart showing how it mixes with 12 of my Ultimate Mixing Palette colours to create bright spring greens, lovely sap greens, deep shadow greens, turquoise hues, and earthy greens. With Burnt Sienna and Indian Red it creates yet more pine greens and deep greens. The biggest surprise is the purples it makes with Quinacridone Rose and of course the wonderful black it makes with its opposite, Pyrrol Crimson. All colours shown are Daniel Smith.

Daniel Smith Phthalo Green BS mixed with 12 of my Ultimate Mixing Palette colours.

If you don't like the staining, non-granulating nature of this pigment, another option is Viridian, made with PG18, as seen on the left in this Da Vinci sample. This isn't as powerful, but is liftable and granulating. It varies considerably from different manufacturers, some of whom add PG7 to the mix.                   Another interesting option is the gorgeous Daniel Smith primatek Jadeite Genuine which is similar in hue though in masstone it is a very deep granulating colour. I love the special effects that this pigment creates, though in my regular palette I like the predictability of Phthalo Green BS (Daniel Smith). To see these painted out with other palette colours, see my post here.

Tuesday 18 August 2015

Daniel Smith watercolours in 5ml tubes

This is great news for those who want to try these great watercolours or just get some special pigments without having to invest too much money.

Here's the link to the 88 colours that are available.

Interestingly, in the UK watercolours are more often sold in 5ml tubes. According to the UK distributor, the smaller size will make DS more readily available from a greater number of stores.

Great for travel so you can top up your palette as you go sketching :-)

Tuesday 11 August 2015

San Francisco and Seattle here I come!

I am heading for San Francisco and Seattle next month and am looking forward to actually meeting up with some on-line sketching friends in both places. I'll be giving a demonstration at Artist & Craftsman on Sunday the 13th September, 2.30 - 4.30, and sketching with various sketching groups in the San Francisco area for a few days. I am looking forward to having some time in that city as it has been many years since I was there.

In Seattle I plan to meet up with the Seattle Urban Sketchers and am very excited to be visiting the massive Daniel Smith Seattle store and factory. I've been using Daniel Smith watercolours for about 20 years and will be giving two lecture/demonstrations at the Seattle store on Saturday 19th September, then running two workshops on Sketching with Watercolour en Plein Air on Sunday/Monday and Tuesday/Wednesday. Then I head north for some more rural sketching before returning to San Francisco then home.

Here are the links for more information though you can also see my website page for information on all my workshops and Demonstrations.

Demonstration/lecture Saturday 19th September 10.30 and 1.00 - more here
Workshop 1 - Sunday 20th & Monday 22nd September - more here
Workshop 2 - Tuesday 23rd & Wednesday 24th September - more here

I hope to see some of you there!

Monday 10 August 2015

Lamy Fountain Pens

I have had Lamy Safari fountain pens for such a long time that I am not sure when I bought my first one. The Safari design is also available in pencils, ballpoint pens and rollerball pens, but it is the fountain pens that I use the most. You can see them all here, along with a video. They have been in production since 1980 and are a great design. They are lightweight at approximately 15gms and very comfortable to hold for writing and drawing and the calligraphy nibs add another dimension. In Europe many children learn to write with a pencil with this very comfortable grip, then move on to a student fountain pen called an 'abc'.

For drawing, I choose the EF nib. They come in EF, F, M, B as well as 1.1, 1.5 and 1.9 calligraphy nibs. There are three models - the Safari, with its plastic body in a range of colours, available for just under US$30 from Goulet Pens; the slightly heavier (19gms) and slightly more expensive Al-Star with an aluminium body in a range of colours, and the Joy with the extra long tail, in black or white or silver or sometimes a mix of two-tones among other configurations. The Joy weighs approximately 17gms. This is usually only available as a calligraphy pen but the nibs are all easily interchangeable so you can put any nib of the nibs on any of the pens. (See a great Goulet Pens post here which shows how to change the nibs between many Lamy pens using a piece of sticky tape. There are loads of terrific videos on the Goulet site.)

As far as inks go, the Lamy ink that comes in a cartridge with each pen is not waterproof. It is fine for writing and it can be fun to use a non-waterproof ink for ink-and-wash effects. If you want to use watercolour and have the lines stay where you put them, I'd recommend getting a converter and using the De Atramentis Document Ink range. You can see the colours here. I love the Black and Brown, which I also mix with Blue to make a Grey. These are wonderful for drawing with an EF nib.

Below is my Al-star from 2006. It has a converter and I use it with my mixed grey Document Ink. Sometimes I switch it to the original Fog Grey regular ink, which is not waterproof, if I want a water-soluble line and wash effect. Working with a grey ink can be softer than a black and allows greater emphasis to be placed on the tones of the watercolour rather than just the line of the ink.

Next is the Copper Orange Al-Star with a metal EF nib. It is the special model for 2015, and was a birthday present. Each year a new colour is released and my daughter knows I adore burnt orange :-) It is very new and a particularly fine EF - quite lovely to use. I am using this with the MonteVerde cartridge ink in Brown, designed for use in Lamy pens. It is not waterproof but washes out to a lovely burnt sienna colour when wet. It is particularly good for quick pen and wash portraits or sketches.

Here is a close-up of the EF nib. These are easily removed and changed if desired. (Have a look at this video from Goulet Pens to see how easy this is.) Notice this is a metal one where the previous pen had a black nib.

The Lamy Joy model usually comes with a calligraphy nib but I changed it for the 14K gold nib for a little more flexibility. It is an unusual two-toned nib - you can see a closeup of the Broad model here. It has been well used and is lovely for writing and drawing but mine creates a thicker line than the newer nib above, even though they are both EF. Individual models do vary! This nib has some flex but if you go too fast pressing hard enough to flex it tends to railroad as you can see. I like the balance of this extra long tail though if you post the cap on the end of the other models you will have a similar length of pen. The Joy caps can also be posted but I never do. Without the cap, the joy is only 9gms, so very light in the hand for sketching, or writing of course.

I am not so interested in drawing with a calligraphy nib but they are great for writing, especially Italic and Gothic scripts. I use these pens for writing certificates.

I used to have a different coloured ink in each pen but as I am using them more and more for drawing rather than writing I have various black, grey and brown inks in most of them. I do have a blue Lamy with blue ink and an orange one with orange ink that I use in my journal (pen and ink match-ups are fun :-) and another Joy with water-soluble black ink. I've been a fan for a long time.

While the Lamy nibs are interchangeable between the various Safari models, they are also interchangeable with some of the other Lamy pen models, such as the Studio 2000 pictured here with a gold EF nib. This is a more expensive and heavier model at about 32gms (21gms without the cap) so may be too heavy for sketching for long periods of time.

To see my other favourite pens for drawing, see here. I have also added a photo of the blunt syringe I use to fill fountain pens completely.

Monday 3 August 2015

Fountain Pens for drawing - my favourites (updated)

I have posted a number of drawings and sketches done with pens over the years but I thought that perhaps a little about pens may be helpful. It's a rather long post that has been added to and updated and the layout has gone silly however much I try to tidy it up. There's a separate post about Lamy pens and I will produce another post about other pens I've tried that haven't made it into my sketching kit for whatever reason.

My love affair with fountain pens goes back over 40 years but here are a few favourites for drawing.

Platinum Carbon Pen

This is a lovely, inexpensive, and very fine pen available from Platinum - the Platinum Carbon Pen. It is a desk pen design with a long tapering handle, light-weight plastic case and an extra fine (superfine) or medium nib. Being from Japan the extra fine is finer than a European EF nib so it produces a very fine line. There is a very little flex in this nib though I would not call it a flexible nib. With pressure you may be able to double the width of the line but it is best to enjoy the ease of drawing with it without pressure.

It is designed to use the Platinum Carbon Ink, either in cartridges or refilled from a bottle into a converter. I haven't tried it with any other inks as I suspect they may flow too quickly but it is great with the carbon ink - it has an extra large feed to allow the ink to flow.

Platinum Carbon Ink is waterproof once dry.

This is not This is not an expensive pen at about US$13.50 or so. You will find it at, who stock a large range of Japanese pens and will ship internationally. Here is the link.

Here is is in a Platinum desk stand.

Pilot Desk Pen in Platinum pen stand

Pilot Desk Pens in black and red

Very similar looking is the Pilot Desk Pen. It is almost identical in look and feel though the nib is slightly different from the Platinum and it doesn't have the more generous feed so I use these with De Atramentis Document inks. I presume it might block with the carbon ink but haven't tried it.
It comes in black or red/maroon.

Both these pens have worked faultlessly for some months. They are inexpensive but a little fragile, simply due to their long tapering handle, which could break if they are not carried carefully.

Some choose to cut off the long tail so they can post the cap on the end. I rather like the balance of the pen with its long tail.

It is really lovely to use with a responsive nib and a smooth ink flow. They are a similar price to the Carbon pen though I would definitely buy a converter with this if you want to be able to use waterproof ink.

(Also available through

2019 update. A desk pen is also available from Sailor. Here is a link for Australia.

The sketches below were created using the pilot desk pen with black De Atramentis ink. This is an A4 Moleskine sketchbook and you can see how fine these lines are.

Sketching in the flower and cloud domes at the Bay Gardens, Singapore.

Sailor Fude nib 40º

Fude nibs are very interesting to use. Rather like the preference for a pointed brush or a dagger brush, the Fude nib and will appeal to some where a finer nib will appeal to others. I prefer pointed brushes and fine nibs, but I also like fine detail  :-)

Especially useful for writing Chinese or Japanese characters, these pens can give very expressive and creative lines to a drawing as the thickness of the line can be adjusted by changing the angle of the nib on the page.

The Blue Sailor model is shown here, with a 40º nib. The green model has a 55º nib. I always choose to buy the converter though the pens you buy may come with a cartridge. A converter allows you to fill the pen with your own ink and you may choose whether you use waterproof or non-waterproof inks depending what effects you are after. Alternatively, you can use a syringe and refill a cartridge yourself but it can be a messy process!

Here you can see the amazing range of pen widths possible with this pen - from very broad to quite fine. It is worth trying both models to see which nib angle suits you best.

Exploring the Sailor Fude pen with 40 degree nib.
Sailor Fude pen with 55º nib

They are rather long pens, especially with the caps posted on the end. They are not elegant but are fun to use and many artists are doing wonderful drawings with them.

With water-soluble ink and a water-brush they are lovely for quick sketches, especially with a brown ink, though do check what colours appear when you wet the brown ink. Some go very red/purple or otherwise strange!

I am using a Monteverde Brown ink when I want a water-soluble brown that doesn't go strange in wash. This ink comes in cartridges that fit into a Lamy pen. I haven't tested it for lightfastness so only use it in a sketchbook.

Below is the Hero 7032, with a nib at about the same angle as the green 55 degree Sailor. You can see the range of lines that can be created with the Fude style nib. I bought this one from Straights Art in Singapore for less than S$20.

Hero pen 
And here you can see the nibs close-up - that look as though they have been dropped! 
The left is the Hero, then the Green Sailor then the Blue Sailor.
Parka has created a great comparison of a number of Fude nibs that you can view here. If you do a search of his blog you can find more reviews of a huge range of art tools including pens, brushes and watercolours as well as hundreds of books.

Fude nibs - Hero, Sailor 55º and Sailor 40º nibs

Update 2019 - for a really large fude nib, look for the Duke 551 Confucious Fude nib. Many sketchers love this pen, though it isn't one I'd want to own as it is very large and quite heavy. Here's the link to Amazon.

Update - Next up is the Sailor 1911 EF. Being a Sailor, this is a very fine nib - as mentioned the Japanese EF nibs are super-fine. It has a little flex but is very good for drawing fine detail. However, as it is a 14K gold nib it is far more expensive than the Carbon Pen or the Desk Pen shown above, though it creates a similar line. I use it with a converter with either the Sailor Nano ink or the De Atramentis Black Document ink. I use it for sketching but also for fine writing, especially labelling colour charts!

Sailor 1911 pen with EF nib

Sailor 1911 pen - EF nib.
Here you can see the nib a little closer.
There are some fascinating nibs available from Sailor, including the King of Nibs, which is designed to create lines of all sorts of widths depending on how you hold it, music nibs, and many others. Finding the type of nib to suit your own purposes can take time, but is well worth the effort.

Pilot/Namiki Falcon/Elabo fountain pens.

The last pens for now are the Namiki/Pilot Falcon flex pens, also called Elabo, and available in resin or metal bodied versions. These are a pricier option at around US$144 at Goulet Pens as they have a 14K gold nib, but it is a wonderful flexible nib that will create thick or thin lines with ease. Available in Soft F and Soft M, and Soft Broad, they are a joy to use but interestingly the desk pens above create the finest lines. The black/rhodium model is also available in a Soft EF - I use this for black ink.

These interesting nibs can be used for fine lines, expressive lines and also turned upside-down for very broad (though erratic) lines, as the whole of the flat of the beak-shaped nib can be dragged along the page.

The grey lines of this sketch were created with the Falcon, with the deeper shadows produced by using the pen upside-down.

Cliffs sketched with the Pilot Falcon pen with my mixed grey document ink.

I use the Soft F models for grey and brown, with the De Atramentis document inks. I mix my own grey by mixing equal quantities of the Brown and the Blue and adding a few drops of thinner. There is a Fog Grey document Ink available but it is really just a dark blue so not worth getting sadly.

Writing with the Falcon -
F nib in Document Brown, EF nib in Document Black.
There is a gorgeous YouTube video that showcases this pen, though with a 'Spencerian modification' to make the nib finer and even more flexible for writing. It is mesmerising :-) Have a look here. I find the Soft Fine wonderful for drawing and writing without the modification but for Spencerian or Copperplate writing it would be gorgeous. I love these pens. As mentioned, they are also available with a metal body though mine are resin and I like the light-weight feel of them for drawing. The F is smoother to write and draw with though of course the EF is finer. Above left is the F, above right is the EF. Neither have the Spencerian modification as I bought these for drawing.

The Pilot falcon nib up close and personal - the beak shape is interesting for upside-down effects.

A blunt needle syringe - great for filling fountain pens
Update: Many people find that when they refill a fountain pen using a converter, the bladder of the converter doesn't completely fill. The way I solve this is to use a syringe with a blunt needle to top up the ink directly into the converter. (These are available on eBay, through Gouletpens, from pharmacies etc.) It is yet another tool to carry around but it is also very useful for making custom ink mixes as it is easy to get the exact proportions of the colours you are using, or to get the last ink from a bottle or to transfer from one bottle to another. While a syringe without the blunt needle would be useful, the needle does make it much less messy to fill fountain pens and is worth getting hold of.

Nalgene wide-neck bottles 

I find the tiny Nalgene bottles, pictured left and available from camping stores, fantastic for carrying ink with me safely. I use the little 15ml and 30ml wide mouthed models.

To see some more of my pen and ink work, visit my website and look at the plein air sketches tab, or see this blog post.

Update - another couple of favourites that I've added to my Blog - the Lamy Safari, Joy and Al-Star pens (I have many of these and they deserved their own post) and the TWSBI Diamond 580 that you can read about here. In my post about my Sketching Tools, I also show some lovely Pilot piston filled pens here. The TWSBI and Pilot Custom pens are great for sketching as they hold larger volumes of ink.

I've created a post in inks for fountain pens here.

For more information on pens, see the Goulet Pens website, with wonderful reviews, ink comparisons and videos; Larrypost in Australia, which is a largely online store specailising in all things sketching; Jetpens, who specialise in Japanese pens; Pen Chalet or your local pen shop :-) There is a Japanese website to explore for a greater range of Japanese pens too.

You may also enjoy Tina's Epic Pen Search which runs over 11 parts, leading to a very well researched pen purchase, the first of which is here - it's wonderful! And a great way to see a range of pens in action. Also look at Parka's many product reviews on

Finally, I found this handy guide while Googling but am not sure where it came from. I'll add an acknowledgement when I find it. I believe they are Pilot pens.

Sunday 2 August 2015

White Nights watercolours (updated August 2016)

While I was in Singapore, I was given a set of White Nights watercolours to try. They are available through the Straits Art store and a sample was provided to the #USKSingapore2015 symposium instructors to sample.

These watercolours are available in full pans or tubes and come from Russia. There is a full range of 55 colours, many of them single pigment colours, though some are a mixture. I'd heard that they were an economical range that rewet well and found that to be the case with most of the colours I tried in this 24-colour set. The full pans were only S$3 or S$4 each in Singapore, which is excellent value.

This case could easily hold an extra 12 colours but 36 is a lot! They are also available in 48 colour sets and the 12 colour set looks to have quite a good looking compact case.

The labels give the pigment information, lightfast ratings and opacity. Some of the pigments are very fugitive so would be best avoided for work to be framed though would, I suppose, be protected from light in a sketchbook. All the same, I'd avoid the colours with only one * rating and be cautious about two ** ratings. The *** rated colours have reliable pigments though I don't know how much filler.

There is a very workable warm and cool yellow, red and blue and some interesting earths though some of the earths were weaker than I would have expected, and this set didn't contain Burnt Sienna, one of my key colours. I plan to paint them out in swatches in more detail at some stage and test them in mixes but my first reaction is that these could be a very good option for those getting started in watercolour and looking for a starter set of 12 colours that are better than the student ranges currently available, such as Cotman. If you are starting out in watercolour you may not want to buy whole tubes but affordable full pans are a good option.

I'll add to this post later. I have written the pigment numbers a little larger on the labels so click on the photos to see in more detail.

White Nights colour chart.

Suggested 12-colour White Nights mixing set.
I was asked in the comments section below (August 2016) what a good White Nights 12-colour beginner palette might be. I was able to test Cerulean and burnt Sienna while in Bath UK - the burnt sienna is a nice version and definitely worth including. Cerulean is rather weak but still a useful colour to mix with ultramarine for skies. So - here's my general 12-colour suggestion. You can see the warm and cool yellows. I don't generally recommend the cadmium colours for sketching but these are not particularly opaque so won't cover the lines the way many might. Golden is not especially lightfast, but would be fine in a sketchbook. You can see three reds, which is my preference as the Madder Red Light will mix interesting colours with the phthalo green, but you may only want two reds in which case the Cad Red Light and Carmine would do the trick. There are the three blues - a warm Ultramarine, a cool phthalo blue (Azure) and the liftable Cerulean. Emerald green is the same as phthalo green (PG7) and a great mixing colour best not used alone. The earth colours - Raw sienna and Burnt sienna - are rather nice. Sepia is an option, or a mixed grey though I haven't tested those and usually try to keep away from black pigments. If not including Madder red light, both sepia and a mixed grey could be included. 

In 2015 I sent a list of 12 colours that would be suitable as an urban sketching palette to White Nights Russia, and it included Cadmium Yellow Medium, Golden, Cadmium Red Light, Carmine, Ultramarine, Cerulean, Emerald Green, Green, Raw Sienna, Burnt Sienna, Sepia and Payne's Grey. This set is now (November 2017) available from Larry Post Australia, called the Plein Air set for AU$49.95. I'll add a paintout of this set to a future post, along with the full range of White Nights colours.

The White Nights 12-colour palette is a decent size for sketching. The large pans are great for brush access. I still prefer the stronger tinting power and lightfast ratings of the watercolours I have been using for over 20 years, but as a starter set the price is hard to beat so you may well like to give them a try.

By the way - I finally did a quick mixing experiment using the ultramarine and burnt sienna - such an important mixing pair. I deliberately do these charts creating random colours using various amounts of each, and various amounts of water, to show the full range of colours that can be produced, at various strengths. It's a very nice mixing pair. You could add Raw Sienna and play around with that trio of colours for a lot of paintings :-)

White Nights Burnt Sienna and Ultramarine mixes.

 The burnt sienna is actually more orange than it looks on my screen - it's a nice colour, though on the yellow side, and a good mixing pair with the ultramarine. Quite different, though from the DS Burnt Sienna that I usually use, which is more on the brown/red-side of burnt orange.