Wednesday, 7 June 2017

Sennelier Watercolours

The French brand Sennelier, which has been around since 1887, make a huge range of wonderful art materials - inks, pastels, all sorts of paints, dry pigments and so on. I've used their oil pastels for years but I've actually never bought any of their watercolours, so this post is created entirely with the help of others :-)

The watercolour range of 98 colours was reformulated a few years ago with a higher honey content. Quoted from the Sennelier website -

"Honey has many virtues: a symbol of light and sun, an emblem of poetry and science and has been used since Ancient times as a remedy for dry skin and to help heal wounds. This nectar is used in L'Aquarelle Sennelier not only as a preservative but as an additive giving incomparable brilliance and smoothness to the paint. Always striving for excellence, Sennelier has reworked its watercolor formula with increasing the amount of Honey in the paint to reinforce the longevity of the colors, their radiance and luminosity."

Unfortunately, honey also makes watercolours stay more runny, so this has made it far more challenging to get hold of samples as they don't necessarily dry enough to be posted through the mail - lots of inventive solutions including using blister packs from chewing gum, contact lenses and tablets have needed to be devised.

48 half pan set of
Sennelier L'Aquarelle Watercolours
However they are also available in 1/2 and full pan form, and one of my students lent me her 48 colour pan set so I was able to fill a number of gaps. Here are all but 18 of the Sennelier professional or L'Aquarelle range. There is also a student range called La Petite.

The set uses the same palette as Rembrandt, but includes this useful overlay showing what each colour is.

The full colour chart can be seen here.

There is a Sennelier shop in Paris, opposite the Louvre at 3 Quai Voltaire that is apparently a joy to visit - see the comments below.

For those who use watercolours straight from the tube, Sennelier (and M.Graham) tube colours are a possible choice. For those who, like me, use them dried out in palettes, the pan versions are the best options with this range. They rewet beautifully.

Here is the 48 colour set open.

 As always, I have tried to colour-match as well as possible but this is just a guide to the actual colours.

Sennelier L'Aquarelle professional Watercolours - Titanium White, Chinese White (not shown), Nickel Yellow (not shown), Lemon Yellow, Aureoline (not shown but not a recommended pigment).
 The Indian Yellow is warmer than it looks here.
Sennelier L'Aquarelle professional Watercolours -  Cadmium Lemon Yellow (not shown), Primary Yellow, Cadmium Yellow Light, Sennelier Yellow Light, Indian Yellow.

Sennelier L'Aquarelle professional Watercolours - Yellow Lake, Naples Yellow, Yellow Sophie, Naples Yellow Deep, Cadmium Yellow Deep  (not shown).
These colours are all richer and warmer than they appear here. It is always very difficult to show warm yellows and oranges accurately. Sennelier Yellow Deep is a lovely warm yellow option.
Sennelier L'Aquarelle professional Watercolours - Sennelier Yellow Deep, Cadmium Yellow Orange (not shown), Red Orange, Sennelier Orange, Chinese Orange.

 There are some gorgeous bright warm reds in this range!
Sennelier L'Aquarelle professional Watercolours - French Vermilion, Scarlet Laquer, Rose Dore Madder Lake, Bright Red, Cadmium Red Light.

 Rose Madder Lake is the colour usually referred to as Quinacridone Rose or Permanent Rose - a great cool red option. Thought Carmine is the same pigment and also very pretty.
Sennelier L'Aquarelle professional Watercolours - Alizarin Crimson (this is a permanent hue), Carmine, Crimson Lake (not shown), Quinacridone Red, Rose Madder Lake.
Sennelier L'Aquarelle professional Watercolours - Sennelier Red, Perylen Brown (not shown), Cadmium Red Purple (not shown), Alizarin Crimson Lake (not recommended due to poor lightfast rating of this pigment), Venetian Red.

Sennelier L'Aquarelle professional Watercolours - Opera Rose, Cobalt Violet Light Hue, Permanent Magenta, Cobalt Violet Deep Hue, Red Violet.

Sennelier L'Aquarelle professional Watercolours - Helios Purple, Blue Violet, Dioxazine Purple, Prussian Blue, Indigo.
The French Ultramarine Blue is a two pigment mix so go with the Ultramarine Deep if you want a single pigment Ultramarine.
Sennelier L'Aquarelle professional Watercolours - Blue Indanthrone, Cobalt Deep, Cobalt Blue, Ultramarine Deep, French Ultramarine Blue.

'Blue Sennelier' is often referred to as Phthalo Blue Red Shade.
Sennelier L'Aquarelle professional Watercolours - Ultramarine Light, Blue Sennelier,  Phthalo Blue, Cinereous Blue, Royal Blue (not shown).

 It's unusual to see a Cerulean made with PB28 rather than PB35 or PB36.
Sennelier L'Aquarelle professional Watercolours - Cerulean Blue, Cerulean Blue Red Shade (not shown), Turquoise Green, Cobalt Green, Phthalo Turquoise.

 There isn't a single pigment Phthalo Green PG7, but the mixed pigment Viridian is a rather nice option.
Sennelier L'Aquarelle professional Watercolours - Forest Green, Phthalo Green Deep, Viridian, Emerald Green, Sennelier Green.
 The Olive green is a lovely premixed green. I don't know where the 'Brown Pink' gets it name...
Sennelier L'Aquarelle professional Watercolours - Olive Green, Phthalo Green LIght, Bright Yellow Green, Brown Green, Brown Pink.
The Sap Green is also a very usable foliage green mix. I love the granulation of the opaque Chromium Oxide Green - a colour I've never used but always rather like...
Sennelier L'Aquarelle professional Watercolours - Cadmium Green Light (not shown), Hooker's Green, Chromium Oxide Green, Green Earth (not shown), Sap Green.
 The Quinacridone Gold is a nice version, even though a three pigment mix.
Sennelier L'Aquarelle professional Watercolours - French Ochre, Light Yellow Ochre (not shown), Yellow Ochre, Gold Ochre, Quinacridone Gold.
 I'm always happy to see a PBr7 Burnt Sienna. Caput Mortuum is like a deep Indian Red.
Sennelier L'Aquarelle professional Watercolours - Burnt Sienna, Permanent Alizarin Crimson Deep, Caput Mortuum, Payne's Grey, Neutral Tint.

Sennelier L'Aquarelle professional Watercolours - Van Cyck Brown, Warm Sepia, Raw Umber, Raw Sienna, Burnt Umber.

Sennelier L'Aquarelle professional Watercolours - Transparent Brown, Warm Grey, Sennelier Grey (not shown), Greenish Umber.

Sennelier L'Aquarelle professional Watercolours - Light Grey (not shown), Lamo Black (not shown), Ivory Black, Raw Sepia (not shown)
 I'll add more if I get them but I hope this will be useful for those looking at Sennelier - especially if you are in or near France :-)

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
Holbein Watercolours here
Isaro 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


  1. Warm gray almost looks like Buff Titanium.

    I notice their Rose Madder is PV19 but they don't call it "hue".

    Thanks for the info about the honey. I bought some half pans from Greenleaf and Blueberry and they use honey in their paints. I'm not that familiar with honey as an additive as Daniel Smith doesn't use it. I did notice that the samples I painted were taking a while to dry. I think this might make my small set really good for Plein Air since the paint won't dry quite as fast. They colors lend themselves really well to landscapes so I'll be taking it out at some point.

    1. They don't refer to any as a hue, though the Alizarin Crimson is also a hue.

      Yes the Warm Grey is very close in colour to Buff Titanium but without the gorgeous granulation. Still, for those who can't get hold of DS and want that lovely ecru colour, it's nice to know there is a convenient option available.

      I resist honey in Australia - it does seem to cause some problems and can even attract bugs. I haven't tried the Greenleaf and Blueberry paints but would like to at some stage. However I think it's time to try making my own watercolours next...without honey.

  2. I have an 8 paints tube set from Sennelier and chucked out my Koi 12 pancolors to reuse the travel kit for the Sennelier paint tubes together with a couple from Mrs. Grahams from the Art Snacks box. Best decision I made to upgrade! It took 3-4 days to dry completely in the half pans. I do LOVE how these flow and work together with Mrs. Grahams as they should because now I know they are both honey based :)
    Have you tried the student set from sennelier/compared them to the artiste set? I have the chance to purchase the la petit tubes in 24 colors for a good price but an doubting to do so because of quality shifts... go for it or is it wise to save up to get the artist quality? any thoughts?

    1. I haven't tried the student sets from Sennelier. I am concentrating on artist quality so I can explore the varied characteristics of the pigments. Student sets tend to be far more homogeneous. I always think it is better to use artist grade if possible as the colours are more highly pigmented and easier to work with.

  3. Honey doesn't automatically mean drippy paint, it's all about the amount you use. I happen to really like it, so I make my own paints with enough that they're slightly tacky, but still solid in the pan, they definitely aren't runny. I carry a tin of them in my purse absolutely everywhere and I've never had a mess. So if you do make your own paint and want to try a honey formula, you can still reap the benefits without the drawback of sticky paint, just use less honey and more glycerin. I've never had a pest problem with mine, but I also use clove oil as a preservative, perhaps that helps keep bugs away.

    1. Good point that honey doesn't necessarily make paints runny. I have yet to make my own properly - I tried a little using some gum Arabic, a touch of clove oil and distilled water.
      Certainly the MG and Sennelier tubes I have tried have been too runny for our humid climate.

    2. Making some of my own watercolors i use gum arabic and glycerine. These two I use in even parts and thus I need less water. Glycerine also prevents bacteria from making diy wc going moldy over time.. my three little beads jars I used are now about a year old and still are fine -micca powder rocks-

    3. Do you find you need to vary the proportions depending on the pigment? Watercolour is a tricky beast and I understand each pigment needs different treatment!

  4. What proportions have you been using? My formula for earth colors is 1 part gum arabic to 2 parts water, and about 1/2 part humectant, which can be glycerin, honey or both. Then maybe 1/4 to 1/2 tsp of clove oil to about 24oz of liquid medium. I might overdo it a little on the clove oil in those amounts, but it seems to do the trick. Synthetic colors are trickier, I'm still figuring out proportions for some Pyrrole and Quinacridone colors I've got.

    I have used your blog for just about all of my paint buying needs for a while now, thank you for creating such a thorough guide to paint colors! Have you gotten to try any of the Armenian earth pigments from Agulis? I don't think I've seen those colors on your blog yet, and some of them are very interesting. I have a few, Augite Porphyry Violet and Mummy Red Light, which I think might just be the brightest earth orange I've run across so far.

    If you've not gotten to try them yet, I have some paint I've made from them I could send you, or if you're getting into paint making I would be glad to mail you a spoonful of the raw pigments if you're interested?

    1. I was making less than a half pan just to try the colours so was not really worrying about proportions - will do when I make my own paints later this year though!

      I always love to try new paints, but would prefer your hand made ones to just the pigment at this stage. Please send me a message at


  5. Hello Jane. Great job with these watches. What colours would you recommend for the three primaries in sennelier? ( Always the same question :)
    I like the honey base of sennelier and here is not very runny because in Portugal the climate is dry enough. The colours are very intense but I think that they could have done a better job in the lightfastness of most of their colours.
    Cheers from Lisbon

    1. I think you'd explore Primary Yellow, Sennelier Yellow Light or Yellow Sophie along with Rose Madder Lake and Ultramarine as a basic primary triad in this range. I'd also add Burnt Sienna to speed up the mixing :-)

  6. Fun fact about brown pink! Turns out it was originally derived from buckthorn berries, also called "Dutch pinks."

    I also want to thank you for taking the time out of your life to tell us about your watercolor discoveries. I've just stumbled upon it, and I must say, I'm an instant fan.

  7. Thank you so much for this wealth of knowledge, Jane. It is truly wonderful to a new watercolorist like me.
    I live in Arizona, US and love the Sennelier paints for use in the hot, dry desert. I've never had trouble with them being runny or not drying. I paint slowly and my original paints just dried too quickly for me.

    1. That's good to know. It's fabulous that we do have such a choice - we can find the right materials to suit so many different needs and climates :-)

  8. Jane w8hing ypu a speedy recovery and big fun at PT! I had a small surgery on my dominant hand last year and became quite decent at drawing with my other hand in a very short time. Do give it a try, I actually th8nk it helps your brain and dominant handed drawing later.

  9. Thank you so much for your awesome swatch lists, I have your blog on my favorits next to handprint dot com. Would you happen to know a quin gold mix from the sennelier set 12+6 free? I figured out my schmincke mix and my white nights mix but the properties from this set are so different that I have troubles finding the right shade

    1. If I am looking at the right set, it contains Lemon Yellow, French Vermilion, Alizarin Crimson, Carmine, Dioxazine Purple, Ultramarine Deep, Phthalocyanine Blue, Forrest Green, Phtalo. Green Light, Burnt Sienna, Payne’s Grey, Warm Sepia, Naples Yellow Deep, Bright Red, Venetian Red, Cinereous Blue, Raw Umber and Ivory Black. It's rather short on yellows - there isn't a warm yellow or a raw sienna or a yellow ochre. So start with the lemon yellow, add a touch of bright red (a really small touch - just to create a mid yellow) then add burnt sienna to gradually create a neutralised warm yellow. That's my best guess. In this case though, I think is is worth getting the Quin Gold as a full pan to add to the set to fill a gap.

    2. The naples yellow deep feels rather warm to me, but to add black and that weird blue in that set was mind puzzeling,plenty of blues to add w/o a white mix in it,lol and black is imho not needed in a palet when you have the purple,forest green,burnt sienna and paynes grey...but thats just me being picky on my single pans when bought seperate. Same for cover sheet,if you make the effort for a plastic sheet-hello environment calling- why not put pigment numbers on it,lol. working on review,so thank you for the fast reply on mix tips

  10. ps quin gold is worth stacking on any palet. But then again that's just my own addiction. here is a low budget tip. I know the white night paints are different,but I really like the white nights deep gold and their deep rich yellow. I use it for practice all the time. In europe they retail in single pans, not sure if they do in australia as I am not familiar with your options in the big down under.

    1. White Nights are available in Australia from for AU$4.95 each I think.
      I am not sure which colours you mean but the full range (before the new 2017 colours were added) can be seen here

  11. My husband and I recently went to Paris for a week to celebrate our 25th anniversary. While there I made a pilgrimage to the Sennelier mothership. It's tiny and very crowded and the woman behind the counter was frantically trying to help everyone. I asked her where the watercolors were and she handed me a battered hand-painted color chart, a scrap of paper, and a pencil. I chose 3 colors and wrote them down with the color numbers and color names in French. She looked so happy when she saw what I wrote. The watercolors were behind the counter in what looked like an ancient apothecary chest and they must have been organized by number. She held up a 10ml tube. I shook my head and said le grand, s'il vous plait, so she gave me the 21ml tubes. She also gave me a free bamboo brush roll for my patience which was very kind, but really, I'm in Paris, at Sennelier, and I'm going to be in a big rush to get through this experience? Mais non! I was very proud I did this all in French, despite being from Kansas. The Sennelier store is across the street from the Louvre. I recommend it for art lovers if you happen to be in Paris.

    1. Loved the idea that C├ęzanne and Picasso too squeezed through the narrow entrance to Sennelier to pick up a few supplies. I also think much of the first floor hasn't actually changed in 100 years. The sales people wrap everything individually which is why it can take some time trying to pay, a bit like shopping at a busy market stall on a Saturday morning.

  12. What a lovely story. I'll add the shop link to the post. It sounds like the lovely London L. Cornelissen and Son shop, which is an absolute joy to explore.

  13. Shaoli Chatterjee27 January 2018 at 08:24

    I am so grateful for such a detailed post.This helped me immensely while ordering individual colours online. What a great guide!Thank you again.

  14. Does anyone know what is used in the Bright Red? Obviously it is something without a CI number but I'd still like to know what it is and having trouble finding out.

    1. PR 254 and PO 43, as I've just read in a wetcanvas entry.

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  16. Thank You very-very-very much for all Your color charts. So enormously helpful!

  17. Hello Jane. Great job with these watches this post is excellent. I've been following your blog forever and almost never comment, but I have to thank you for this smart, fun post. And June is so cute! Keep up the great work, lady.