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 45 of them and they are beautiful paints, just best suited for studio use and/or less humid environments I think. Here they are so far, laid out in the order of the colour chart.

As always, I have tried to match the colours accurately. The first section are all single pigment cool to mid yellows.
M.Graham Watercolours - Bismuth Vandate Yellow, Hansa Yellow (not shown), Cadmium Yellow Light (not shown), Azo Yellow, Hansa Yellow Deep.

Azo Orange is more orange than it looks here - it is almost a mid orange but just on the yellow side.

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

Scarlet Pyrrol is a very bright orange-red. Naphthol Red is very rich.
M.Graham Watercolours - Cadmium Orange (not shown), Scarlet Pyrrol, Quinacridone Red, Cadmium Red Light, Naphthol Red.

M.Graham Watercolours - Pyrrol Red, Cadmium Red (not shown), Cadmium Red Deep (not shown), Quinacridone Rose, Alizarine Crimson (not shown).

M.Graham Watercolours - Permanent Alizarin Crimson, Maroon Perylene (not shown), Quinacridone Violet, Ultramarine Pink, Mineral Violet (not shown).

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

M.Graham Watercolours - Cobalt Blue (not shown), Anthraquinone Blue, Cerulean Blue, Ceruelan Blue Deep (not shown), Phthalo Blue Red Shade.
M.Graham Watercolours - Prussian Blue, Phthalo Blue, Manganese Blue Hue (not shown), Cobalt Teal, Turquoise.
There is a good range of greens - useful single pigment mixing greens...
M.Graham Watercolours - Phthalo Green, Viridian (not shown), Phthalo Green Yellow Shade, Cobalt Green, Permanent Green Light.

...and very nice Sap and Olive convenience greens
M.Graham Watercolours - Permanent Green Pale, Hooker's Green (not shown), Sap Green Permanent, Olive Green, Azo Green.
 There are also plenty of lovely earth colours to choose from. I like the purity of the MG pigments - PBr7 for raw siena, PY43 for yellow ochre...

M.Graham Watercolours - Transparent Yellow Iron Oxide (not shown), Yellow Ochre, Raw Sienna (not shown), Nicke Azo Yellow, Naples Yellow.
...PBr7 for Burnt Sienna.
M.Graham Watercolours - Nicke Quinacridone Gold, Transparent Orange Iron Oxide, Quinacridone Rust, Transparent Red Oxide, Burnt Sienna.

And the burnt and raw umbers are a lovely warm and cool deep brown pair.
M.Graham Watercolours - Terra Rosa, Burnt Umber, Raw Umber, Sepia (not shown), Ivory Black (not shown).
 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 - Lamp Black (not shown), Neutral Tint, Payne's Grey, Chines White (not shown), 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.

See also -
Art Spectrum watercolours here
Blockx full range of Watercolours here
Daler Rowney Artists' Watercolours here
Daniel Smith new colours 2017 here
Daniel Smith full range here
Da Vinci range here
Dr PH Hydrus Watercolours here
Lukas watercolours here
M.Graham watercolours here
MaimeriBlu full range here
Mission Blue full range here
Old Holland full range here
QoR watercolours here
Rembrandt Watercolours here
Schmincke new colours 2017 here
Schmincke full range here
Sennelier watercolours here
St Petersburg Watercolours here
Wallace Seymour Artists Watercolours here
White Nights watercolours here
Winsor & Newton Full range here

Only Holbein to go...


  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?

    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.

    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.

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

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

  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!!!

  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!

  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/ 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 ( and Squinting at your paintouts, it looks like you might be experiencing something similar with your Quinacridone Violet (PV19)? Is that correct?

    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?

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

    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.

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

  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.

    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?

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

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

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

    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.

    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.

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

  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).

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

  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.

    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 and I'll send you address details.