Sunday, 18 June 2017

M.Graham Watercolours

M.Graham watercolours have been produced in Oregon for over 22 years. The M.Graham colour chart shows 70 colours and the website is very helpful.

It's been challenging testing the MG paints since they are made with a high honey content, making them tricky to for people to mail out samples. However people have been ingenious - as they have been with the Sennelier range - so I've tested all but 6 of them and they are beautiful paints, just best suited for studio use and/or less humid environments I think.

As always, I have tried to match the colours accurately. The first section are all single pigment cool to mid yellows. The first four are almost the same in hue though vary in characteristics.

M.Graham Watercolours - Hansa Yellow,  Cadmium Yellow Light Bismuth Vandate Yellow, Azo Yellow,
Hansa Yellow Deep.

The Gamboge swatch is fairly accurate but Indian Yellow is just a bit more orange than it looks here. PY110 is a perfect mid yellow-orange or orange-yellow colour.

M.Graham Watercolours - Cadmium Yellow (not shown), Cadmium Yellow Deep (not shown), Gamboge, Indian Yellow, Cadmium Orange (not shown).

These swatches are fairly accurate in hue.
M.Graham Watercolours - Azo Orange, Scarlet Pyrrol, Quinacridone Red, Cadmium Red Light, Naphthol Red.

These swatches are fairly accurate though the Permanent Alizarin Crimson has a slightly brown cast here that is not visible in reality. The Alizarin Crimson is the fugitive pigment PR83 so shouldn't be used in paintings that will be exposed to light. Permanent Alizarin is made from the lovely rich PR264 that mixes so well with PG7 to make blacks.

M.Graham Watercolours - Pyrrol Red, Cadmium Red, Maroon Perylene, Alizarin Crimson, Permanent Alizarin Crimson.

I find Quinacridone Rose to be a fabulous primary red as it mixes beautiful purples with almost any blue, but sometimes a more textural purple can be useful. the colours of these swatches are fairly accurate.

M.Graham Watercolours - Cadmium Red Deep, Quinacridone Rose, Quinacridone Violet, Mineral Violet, Ultramarine Pink.


The colour of these swatches if fairly accurate. PV14 and PV15 are lovely granulating pigments.

M.Graham Watercolours - Cobalt Violet, Ultramarine Violet Deep, Dioxazine Purple, Ultramarine Violet (not shown), Ultramarine Blue.


The colours of these swatches are fairly accurate. Lots of beautiful single pigment blues. The Cerulean Blue Deep is really rich and a great partner to Ultramarine for a sketching palette.
M.Graham Watercolours - Anthraquinone Blue, Cobalt Blue, Phthalo Blue Red Shade, Cerulean Blue, Cerulean Blue Deep.
These swatches look slightly richer than in real life but are fairly accurate. 


M.Graham Watercolours - Prussian Blue, Phthalo Blue, Manganese Blue Hue, Cobalt Teal, Turquoise.

M.Graham Viridian is one of the stronger versions of this often weaker or more gentle pigment.

M.Graham Watercolours - Phthalo Green, Viridian (not shown), Phthalo Green Yellow Shade, Cobalt Green, Permanent Green Light.
There is slightly more difference between Sap Green Permanent and Hooker's Green that shows here - the latter being less yellow. Either work as useful convenience foliage greens with the Sap being slightly brighter and the Hooker's being slightly more neutralised.


M.Graham Watercolours - Permanent Green Pale, Sap Green Permanent, Hooker's Green, Olive Green, Azo Green.

There are also plenty of lovely earth colours to choose from. I like the purity of the MG pigments -  PY43 for yellow ochre...
M.Graham Watercolours - , Yellow Ochre, Nickel Azo Yellow, Naples Yellow, Nickel Quinacridone Gold, Transparent Yellow Iron Oxide.

...PBr7 for raw siena, PBr7 for Burnt Sienna.
M.Graham Watercolours - , Raw Sienna, Transparent Orange Iron Oxide, Quinacridone Rust, Transparent Red Oxide, Burnt Sienna.

Terra Rosa is a gorgeous version of an earth red and Raw and Burnt Umber make an excellent warm and cool dark brown pair. 

M.Graham Watercolours - Terra Rosa, Burnt Umber, Raw Umber, Sepia, Ivory Black.
 I really like the Neutral Tint being a mix of two bright coloured pigments rather than a black pigment - it keeps life in watercolour paintings and is difficult to find commercially (which is why I make my own).

M.Graham Watercolours - Payne's Grey, Neutral Tint, Lamp Black (not shown), Chinese White, Titanium White Opaque (not shown).

Those who use M.Graham watercolours speak very highly of them. Hopefully I'll be able to eventually try the whole lovely range, even though they don't suit my plein air style of painting.

For paint-outs of other brands of watercolour, use the search button :-)

29 comments:

  1. Of the colors you tested, which were the one or two that really stood out to you as offering a particularly exciting feel/color/granulation, etc. that sets them apart from comparable colors seen in other brands, like Daniel Smith?

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    1. That's a good question.

      The problem is that I have a very strong bias towards portability in watercolours - it's one of the strengths of the medium - so paints that are difficult to travel with are less interesting to me. MG and Sennelier both make gorgeous watercolours - highly pigmented and lovely and rich - but I wouldn't choose to use them myself simply because they don't 'set' in a palette. Maybe if they were heated a little...? One artist who uses them very happily for plein air just puts a tiny dot of paint in each pigment well and keeps his palette flat so it can't make a mess. Larger quantities of paint staying moist in a palette in humid Sydney are a recipe for mould.

      Colours I know to be very popular in the MG range are Naphthol Red, Azo yellow and Azo green. Their ultramarine is very nice and their yellow ochre particularly bright. I also like the colours of their Burnt Sienna, raw umber, terra rosa and neutral tint, as mentioned above. So it would be very easy to create a 12-colour palette choice in this range. Add Quinacridone Rose as a cool red and Cerulean as a cool blue.

      But if you are looking for granulation you'd see it most in the cobalt colours. And of course in Daniel Smith.


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    2. Wonderful! Thanks so much for the info!

      I tend to work almost exclusively in a studio setting, so portability isn't an issue for me (thankfully!) but the mold concern is definitely a very real thing!

      Thank you so much once again for your wonderful color charts and information! I might try picking up some of the colors you mentioned to compare them to the mainstays in my own collection. :) I especially love the idea of the neutral tint's mix, as you mentioned.

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  2. Those are some lovely colors. Humidity isn't really an issue where I am but I do like portability.

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  3. M.Graham Azo Yellow is my fave cool yellow, almost a primary yellow. The only non-Daniel Smith colour in my palette.

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  4. So glad you finally got these. I have used these paints outside in 90 degree weather that was average in terms of humidity. There are some colors you absolutely can bring, the cobalts are the worst, especially the green cobalt, it turns into soup just in a hot car. However, who doesn't like using watercolors straight from the tube?? when they are soft and wonderful to work with! If you fill your pans up half way and just make sure you carry your palette flat they would be a joy to work with outside. It would be like having fresh tube paint! My fav MGs are the Azo yellow, Viridian, ultramarine pink, ultramarine Violet Deep, mineral violet (I have never liked these colors in any other line), cobalt teal (way prettier than DS' cobalt teal which is too green), I use almost exclusively MG for Quinacrodones which are gorgeous, and to be honest all the MG Cobalts are superior as well. The other reason I am partial to MG is that the line is small, other lines with a bazillion colors have a lot of hit or miss tubes and this can get to be very expensive. I have not found a single tube of MG paint that isn't stellar. There are some DS colors that I prefer over MG, but I have also purchased hundreds of dollars of DS paint that I won't use. So for beginners or anyone on a budget I always recommend MG. There is no tube of paint in that line that is a fail, like there is in every other line. But I can't get back to how anyone can not like the soft sticky honey consistency of this paint! Outside its even better because the paint stays like tube paint! The only problem is that outside the honey attracts bugs so I wouldn't bring this palette into the woods to paint! I honestly think that anyone who using "only DS" and has not tried MG's cobalts, ultramarines, and then Quins (in that order) is really really missing out. DS does not do cobalts or Quins like MG. And if I didn't have MG I still wouldn't choose DS for either of those. Although I strongly dislike the binder and consistancy of W&N, they even do better cobalt blue and Quins than DS. The brand that I cannot get anywhere near me that this site has me intrigued about is DaVinci. Hope to try some of those soon! If there are any "must have" colors from that line please share!!!

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  5. I live in M Graham country - it is just a few miles up river from me - and it is reasonably priced and available around here. My favorite that I only use in MG is viridian... because it remoistens wonderfully! I have never had any bits that refuse to be available! The only one that I have tried that I'm not fond of is their Burnt Sienna because it lacks the red/orange that seems to be a better complement to Ultramarine. Most of my paint stash is Dan Smith's... I got hooked back when they came out with so many beautiful colors and when Quinacridone Gold arrived, it became a staple. After using up my first tube, I tried W&N's version but had to put that away. It is just not an equal. I love your blog/site! I am so glad being on opposite sides of the earth means nothing when it comes to information sharing!

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  6. I'm so glad you reviewed these watercolours! I really admire your blog and have been looking forward to this review in particular. M. Graham is/was one of my favourite brands, but I've experienced something unusual and annoying with some of their paints (particularly the quinacridones) that non-granulating colours sometimes clump/curdle...it seems to be partially related to minerals in the water, but is mostly a brand attribute - I wrote a couple of blog posts about it on my blog (https://leeangold.com/2017/04/26/effects-of-water-hardness-on-watercolour-paints/ and https://leeangold.com/2017/07/02/clumping-of-non-granulating-watercolour-paints-part-2-its-not-me-its-you-m-graham/). Squinting at your paintouts, it looks like you might be experiencing something similar with your Quinacridone Violet (PV19)? Is that correct?

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    1. Yes Lee I did find it difficult to get a 'smooth' result with many of the colours. I try to paint the best swatch I can with every sample and certainly found MG difficult to control. But I also painted them almost always from dried swatches (well semi-dry) rather than fresh from the tube so perhaps that was why? do you work with them in a palette or fresh each time?

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    2. ...just read your posts and have mused that perhaps the tubes are causing a chemical reaction???

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    3. I usually paint from pans, but I've tried fresh from the tube and the exact same thing happens. It could be something in the tubes. It does seem to be affected by minerals in the water, but that's definitely not the whole story. I theorized that it might be partially crystalization in the honey (which would explain why I see this in several tubes while other artists in warmer climates have never experienced it), but warming up the sealed tubes didn't help. They're beautiful, saturated colours, but I would like my quinacridones and phthalos to make smooth washes.

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  7. how do you distinguish a transparency rating, I as I can't find the labeling on the paints?

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    1. I usually check on the company web site to find what information they give. It isn't always written on the tubes but may be on a colour chart or on the individual colour on the website.

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  8. I have added that to each swatch - ST for semi-transparent, T or Trans. for transparent O for opaque, SO for semi opaque etc.

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    1. lol yes, i guess what i meant was wether it was listed somewhere i didn't know to look or if you've just learned from hands on use of each specific paint? are the ratings you list from your personal experience?

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    2. I always check the manufacturers website. Not that they always give the full information but this one does. Have a look at www.mgraham.com

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  9. Have you ever used paints by Polish brand Renesans? Or by other one - Karmanski?

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    1. No - I haven't heard of them before. I wonder if they are available outside of Poland?

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    2. Renesans I'm sure is, their page and FB are both in Polish and English, and they were at the last Creativeworld fair in Frankfurt am Main, so most certainly they aren't focused only on local market. If I'll find information, I'll let you know.
      As to Karmański, I don't know, it is possible, since they are the oldest paint makers in Poland, so maybe also have reputation outside, but on the other hand, because they are so long on the market, they tend to not do anything marketing-wise, they just exist here and everybody knows they are available.

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    3. There is an etsy shop called alittlecreativeme that sells Renesans watercolors in the US for really reasonable prices (link below)! I would love to see a review of them from you, Jane. I've bought a couple pans and have been pleased with them so far.

      https://www.etsy.com/shop/alittlecreativeme

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    4. Thanks for the link Amy. I have contacted the owner.

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  10. Do you still need a sample of the M. Graham Viridian? Mine actually dried quite solid (as in: I can rub the surface of the paint quite vigorously and get none on my finger).

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    1. Yes that would be great - for any colours not shown. Send me an email and I'll send you my address :-) jane@janeblundellart.com

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  11. Jane, I love M. Graham and have a few of the colors you're missing here in watercolors. I also have a few from their gouache line, which does NOT have opacifiers in it. Do you need those as well? I find they behave quite well with the watercolors, and occasionally mix a little bit of the same color of gouache into a persistently sticky MG watercolor pan. I find it helps correct the palette issues without much consequence to transparency, but I am not as much of a transparency purist as some people are.

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    1. I would be very grateful to receive samples of any missing colours - my goal is to have a sample of every available professional watercolour on my blog and website and every sample helps. I haven't done a lot of Gouache swatches but I think that MG, Da Vinci and Schmincke would be well worth showing as they are all made without opacifiers. Please send an email to jane@janeblundellart.com and I'll send you address details.

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  12. What do you think of their quinacridone gold? I know you love the color so certainly interested to hear your opinion.

    I have been meaning to experiment with viridian but the fact it dries rock hard is not appealing. Do you think that using a honey-based color would actually be an advantage here? Would it balance that out?

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    1. It is a slightly more yellow version than the DS hue. Like the DS, it is made from PY150 (Nickel Azo Yellow) and PO48 (Quinacridone Rust) and would seem to have more of the yellow and less of the rust. So in mixing it might need a little boost of Quin Rust (or burnt sienna) to make the same mixes as the genuine Quin gold would have created.
      As for the viridian - you can add a couple of drops of glycerine to any of the brands that tend to harden and stir well - it really helps them to rewet. The MG version seemed very rich to me. It's the same hue as phthalo blue but very useful when you want a granulating and non-staining green especially if lifting out veins in leaves created with a mixed green.

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    2. Interesting! Do you find that the glycerin changes how viridian mixes and looks?

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    3. I haven't noticed any problem mixing a little glycerin into paints. I tend to add a drop or two to a half pan and mix well so it really isn't much, but it makes a difference in being able to paint with it. I guess honey would work in a similar way but I do a lot of plein air painting and don't want to attract insects ;-)

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