Thursday 20 April 2017

Da Vinci Watercolours complete range

Da Vinci (USA) is a third generation family owned company based in California. They make oils, acrylics, gouache, painting mediums and, of course, watercolour. What's great is that they make watercolours in a huge range of tube sizes from 5ml to 15ml to 37ml, as well as a couple of palettes of selected pan colours. You can see the full watercolour set and colour range here.

I have been using their 37ml tubes for many years to make up my students' palettes. Don't get me wrong - they are not student colours. My student palettes are made up entirely of artist quality colours, but I use a mix of Daniel Smith and Da Vinci to make them up. The 37ml DV tubes are so economical that I can price my palettes at a very reasonable rate and get my students started with artist quality watercolours. They are probably some of the most consistent watercolours available - thick and strong out of the tube, and they rewet well. They are now available in Sydney, Australia from Pigment Lab in Newtown, who will also do mail order.

June 2018 update: I have now tried their full current range of 104 colours, and will eventually add the last one - Lapis Lazuli - if it becomes available again. These swatches are all gradually being added to my website here.

As always, I've tried to colour match, but will mention it when the colour I see on my screen and the colour of the swatches is way out...

First are the cool yellows. Nickel titanate is usually a very weak pigment - this is one of the best example of this opaque and granulating yellow I've tried. Hansa Yellow Light is the coolest of these and a very clean yellow. I don't recommend PY40 as it will fade in washes and can discolour in mass-tone.

Da Vinci Watercolours - Nickel titanate yellow, Cadmium Yellow Lemon, Hansa Yellow Light, Da Vinci Yellow, Aureolin Mixture.
For some reason, I really struggle to show the true beauty of the orange-yellows on my computer - Gamboge Hue is definitely more orange than this swatch - it looks more like the Hansa Deep shown next.

Da Vinci Watercolours - Arylide Yellow, Cadmium Yellow Light, Hansa Yellow Medium, Cadmium Yellow Medium, Gamboge Hue.
 ...and these are all more on the orange side then they appear here. The Arylide Yellow Deep is the same pigment (and the same colour) as DS hansa yellow deep and Schmincke Chromium yellow hue deep.

Da Vinci Watercolours - Hansa Yellow Deep, Cadmium Yellow Deep, Arylide Yellow Deep, Indian Yellow,
Benzimida Orange.
These swatches should also be a little more on the red side. The DaVinci Cadmium orange is a lovely single pigment version - in many ranges this colour is a mix.   Benzimida Orange Deep is one of my favourite single pigment oranges - along with Schmincke's Transparent Orange. It's rich and powerful.

Da Vinci Watercolours - Cadmium Orange, Da Vinci Orange, Benzimida Orange Deep, Vermilion Hue, Bright Red.
These should be a little more red. Da Vinci Red is a rich fire engine red, just starting to move past the mid-red and into the blue-red range.

Da Vinci Watercolours - Cadmium Scarlet, Cadmium Red Light, Permanent Red, Cadmium Red Deep, Da Vinci Red.

Naphthol Red is described as 'mid tone' and it really does seem a perfect mid red. The tube I have of this was more runny than any others and took a long time to dry. Quinacridone Red is a coral colour - like the DS Quin Coral. The Alizarin Gold is more dull than it looks here, and the Alizarin Crimson (Quin) is more crimson - I think it's the closest I've seen to the genuine but fugitive Alizarin Crimson PR83 pigment.

Da Vinci Watercolours - rose Dore (Quinacridone), Naphthol Red, Quinacridone Red, Alizarin Gold, Alizarin Crimson (Quinacridone).
 Lots of variations using PV19 here - the Carmine is a little more dull than the Alizarin Quin shown above. Perylene Maroon is also a lovely version. It has a strong drying shift, but not the very neutral colour is often can be. The Rose Red Deep and Permanent Rose are so similar that you certainly wouldn't need both.

Da Vinci Watercolours - Carmine (Quinacridone), Perylene Maroon, Rose Red Deep (Quinacridone), Permanent Rose(quinacridone), Rose Madder (Quinacridone)
 I'm not a fan of Opus Pink and other flouro colours but they are popular. Cobalt Violet is always a very gentle granulating pigment.

Da Vinci Watercolours - Opus (Vivid Pink), Quinacridone Fuchsia, Thioindigo Violet, Cobalt Violet.
 I'm obviously missing a couple of purples - it's not a colour I buy much as I like to mix them. I'd like to rest the Manganese Violet as PV16 is such a lovely granulating red-violet usually. The Mauve is a convenient way to buy the common Ultramarine + Quin Violet or Quin Rose mix if you are painting a lot of purple items. The Ultramarine Violet is a fairly strong version of this gentle granulating pigment.

Da Vinci Watercolours - Cobalt Violet Deep, Lilac Permanent, Manganese Violet, Mauve, Ultramarine Violet.
 Da Vinci Violet (also called Winsor Violet, Carbazole Violet, Dioxazine Violet etc) is a powerful and staining pigment. I love Indanthrone Blue. Cobalt Blue Deep is often made from PB74 so it is interesting to see it here made from PB28. It looks very similar to French Ultramarine, but not identical.

Da Vinci Watercolours - Da Vinci Violet, Lavender Permanent, Indanthrone Blue, Cobalt Blue Deep, Cobalt Blue.
Some gaps, and it's hard to see the difference between the red and green shades of phthalo blue, but they are quite different. I find the Green Shade (just called phthalo blue) more useful if you want it as a cool blue, but I like the Red Shade in a CYM palette as the greens are a little less unrealistic. Lapis Lazuli is not being made at the moment as they are sourcing new pigment. Prussian blue green shade will appear eventually :-)

Da Vinci Watercolours - Phthalo Blue (Red Shade), Lapis Lazuli Genuine (not shown - not currently available), Prussian Blue, Prussian Blue Green Shade), Phthalo Blue.
You can see that there is a difference between the Ultramarine and the French Ultramarine with  the French being warmer (more red). I prefer the regular. I always prefer genuine cerulean made with PB36 rather than a hue as I love the granulating character of PB36 or PB35.

Da Vinci Watercolours - French Ultramarine, Ultramarine Blue, Ultramarine Blue (Green Shade) (not shown), Cerulean Blue Genuine, Cerulean Blue (Hue)
It is becoming more difficult to find genuine Manganese blue PB33, with Old Holland perhaps no longer making it. The Da Vinci version also has PB15, but will granulate due to the PB33. Phthalo Turquoise is another lovely option instead of phthalo blue GS. I love Cobalt Turquoise Deep for copper effects and seascapes.

Da Vinci Watercolours - Manganese Blue (Permanent), Phthalo Turquoise, Cobalt Turquoise, Cobalt Turquoise Deep,
Cobalt Green Hue.
Phthalo Green for mixing and Perylene for deep shadow greens are two of my favourite palette greens. Viridian is a good choice if you want a less staining cool green option.

Da Vinci Watercolours - Phthalo Green, Viridian Green, Phthalo Green (Yellow Shade), Hooker's Green, Perylene Green.

Chromium Oxide Green is one of the most opaque pigments in watercolour, and it's a pigment I haven't explored much. The others here are convenience mixes, which can be useful if you find you tend to mix these hues a lot yourself.

Da Vinci Watercolours - Emerald Permanent (not shown), Chromium Oxide Green, Hooker's Green Light, Sap Green,
Olive Green.
 I love PY129 - it's a great colour for mixing and for the look of sunlight through trees. Nickel Azo Yellow is an interesting cool to mid dull yellow option. I don't tend to work with Naples Yellow but I like this one as it does'n have white pigments in it.

Da Vinci Watercolours - Green Gold, Leaf Green, Nickel Azo Yellow, Naples Yellow, Naples Yellow Deep.
Da Vinci make beautiful earth colours.

 Some lovely yellow earth options. I'd tend towards the single pigment colours every time.

Da Vinci Watercolours - Yellow Ochre, Raw Sienna, Gold Ochre, Quinacridone Gold, Raw Sienna Deep.
I love the orange earth colours. DV Burnt sienna is a little more on the orange side than the DS one I use. Lovely granulation.

Da Vinci Watercolours - Raw Umber Natural, Quinacridone Burnt Orange, Burnt Sienna, Burnt Sienna Deep,
Terra Cotta (Light Red).
 PR101 has so many different personalities - here are a few more versions.

Da Vinci Watercolours - Venetian Red, Indian Red Deep, Indian Red, Brown Madder (Quinacridone), Violet Iron Oxide.

Burnt Umber and Raw Umber are colours I like to include in most palettes as it gives a deep warm and cool brown. I am not fond of black pigments in watercolour so I like the Indigo made with PB27+PV19 rather than the usual phthalo blue, indanthrone blue or ultramarine mixed with black.

Da Vinci Watercolours - Burnt Umber, Raw Umber, Sepia, Indigo, Payne's Gray.
 I draw a black line on white swatches so I can see how opaque they are. the titanium White is more white - brighter - but also more opaque.

Da Vinci Watercolours - Ivory Black, Lamp Black, Davy's Gray, Chinese White, Titanium White.

As always, let me know if you notice any mistakes. Many thanks to those who have sent samples to help complete these posts, including Da Vinci paints in California and Pigment Lab in Newtown, Sydney. :-)


  1. Wow. They have a very impressive range of colours too. Beautiful swatches

    1. Yes they are great paints - they don't have the incredible granulating colours of the DS range but are a totally dependable professional watercolour range...available in huge tubes!

  2. Thank you so much for doing this Jane. Your blog is a reference for all my students. I have some of the colours you missed, how can I help fill in the gaps?

    1. That is always a terrific help Zan. Send me an email to and we'll take it from there :-)

  3. I've sent you an email, Jane, with a list of the Da Vinci pigments I have that could help fill in your gaps.

    Do you print the cards you use for swatches out on watercolor paper or use a template to draw your blocks so evenly?

    1. I have created a template so I can draw up 4 at a time. It's still time consuming of course but not so bad. I use the width of a metal ruler for the width of the swatches, and the template helps to draw the lines.
      Were I doing it again, I'd have put a black line down first to show opacity, but it's a bit late now ;-) I only do that for the white swatches.

  4. thanks Jane. Just wondering how well the Da Vinci mix with Daniel Smith paints, any tips or things to watch out for? thanks, Bronnie

    1. I haven't had any problems mixing DS and DV. In many cases the colours are so close they are interchangeable.

  5. On my monitor, when I compare your Da Vinci "Raw Sienna Deep" swatch to your "Raw Sienna" swatch, and your "Burnt Sienna Deep" to your "Burnt Sienna" swatch, it seems that the "Deep" swatches are lighter (rather than darker) than their non-Deep counterparts. Is that what you're seeing "in real life"? And if so, do you happen to have any idea what Da Vinci means by "Deep" w.r.t. these paint colors?

    1. You are completely correct and I agree it is confusing. It would be more accurate to describe them as burnt sienna natural and burnt sienna synthetic! It isn’t only DV that name then this way though. I’d be curious to see where it originates - perhaps a translation error somewhere along the line that has stuck?

  6. Wonderful! A phantastical help! Thank you so much for all!!!

  7. Very interesting and informative. I have been painting with DV and DS for the past 5 years and love them. I love how easily the paint spreads on the paper and the way it dries...

  8. Thank you for sharing. This is extremely helpful.

  9. Three Questions:
    1) I see that Red Rose Deep, Alizaren Crimson, and Quinacridone Violet are single pigment colors, all using PV19, yet they look very different. How could that be? What would be the Daniel Smith equivalents of each?
    2) Also Raw Sienna and Raw Umber are both PBr7, yet are remarkably different. What would the DS equivalents be?
    3) Finally, Burnt Sienna Deep and Violet Iron Oxide are both PR 101, but look so different. What would be the DS equivalents?
    Thanks so much! Karen

    1. For some pigments, there is just one version. PG7 - phthalo green blue shade - is very consistent throughout all brands. PG36 - phthalo green yellow shade - is another. PB15:3 is also a consistent cool blue in pretty much any range. PR255 is a consistent warm red, PR264 is a consistent crimson red.

      There are others, however, that I describe as 'multi-personality' pigments. PV19, PBr7, PR101, PB36 are a few of those. I have draft posts going into more detail on these...

      PV19 is normally seen as a quinacridone rose colour or a quinacridone violet colour. Only a few brands, such as Da Vinci, also have it as a crimson red. It would have been really helpful if it had been numbered PV19R, PV19V and PV19C, but that isn't the case so you have to read the colour name as well as the pigment number.

      PBr7 is a natural earth brown pigment. The colour of the earth varies depending on the elements/metals that are found in it - iron oxides, manganese oxide, and others - which vary in different locations. It can then be heated, which warms up and changes the colour, or used raw (Raw Umber vs Burnt Umber; Raw Sienna vs Burnt Sienna). So you will see a multitude of colours made with PBr7 that are different, and range from a yellow earth through orange earth to deep brown and cool brown earth colours. If a synthetic earth pigment is used, it is usually designated PBr6, though not always!

      PR101 is the most schizophrenic pigment of them all. It ranges from a burnt orange transparent through super granulating versions through to some of the most opaque watercolours - Indian red, Light Red, Caput mortuum violet. Once again, you need to look at the pigment number and the name to figure out the colour you are likely to see.

      These multi-personality pigments are one of the reasons I've done these comparisons!

  10. there is no color chart-- the link to DV's website pulls an error. i keep coming back to your page, love it, and periodically search for info on DV. WHY do they make it so cumbersome??? i'd buy a dang color chart or dot sheet. it's frustrating. i CAN'T find lightfastness info (till looking at these swatches again), nobody seems to have done testing reviews. i love that DV makes artist collections, but feels sketchy that no one talks about lightfastness (IRL). i don't want to invest only to have fading issues. been burned before. THANKS JANE!

  11. Jane, in using these did you find it unusual that many of the colours that other brands put in their highest lightfastness category were only rated as "very good" as opposed to "excellent" in the DaVinci line? For example, I am afraid to try their PV19 colours, or their phthalo blue for these reasons. Is it likely that they are just more conservative in their lightfastness assessments than other brands like Daniel Smith? Or is their phthalo blue actually less lightfast than M. Graham's or Daniel Smith's?

    1. Back to answer my own question in case anyone else was wondering. It turns out they do their own lightfast testing and have really rigorous standards for this, rather than simply using the pigment manufacturer's ratings as a majority of other paint producers do (which are not always accurate). This is great news for me with regards to this line!

  12. One great thing about DaVinci's website is that they put the pigment info right on the page with all the thumbnails! So many companies make you dig for it. I'm pretty sure most brands don't want to make it obvious that you might mix some of the colors themselves, or that you might already own the same pigments in other brands. I do agree it's a little odd that they are so forthcoming with pigment info, but don't give lightfast ratings there.

  13. Will you be updating with the newer Da Vinci colors like Joyce's Mother Green and Violet, Denise's Green, Artemis, and Sea Glass?

    1. I hope to update all the brands, but it isn't always easy to get hold of the new colours to swatch them out.

  14. Jane, what color is similar to davinci alizarin gold? Thank you!

  15. Jane here - it is almost a unique colour but actually quite easy to mix yourself if you have a rich crimson such as a PR264 or PR177 and a yellow ochre or Mars yellow. (Preferably PY42 or but PY43 would also work.)

  16. What 12 colors would be best used to make a set from these watercolors?

  17. I am interested in the lightfastness of Da Vinci Aureolin. It is a mix of PY40 and PY3 both of which in other brands are not believed to be lightfast. Wilcox says it is reliable and lightfast. Why would DaVinci Aureolin made with the same pigments be lightfast when others aren’t?