Wednesday 3 January 2018

Art Spectrum Artists' Watercolours

The Australian professional range of Art Spectrum Artists' Watercolours were created in 1966. The range now includes 67 colours and the colour chart can be found here. The colours can also be found on the website here but some of the information is slightly different and I don't know which is the more recent. Neither show pigment information though it is clearly written on the labels. They have a high pigment content with no fillers and are made with only lightfast pigments rating ASTM I or II.

I still haven't tried this range in full, which is ironic as I am an Australian living in Australia. They tend to paint out nicely fresh from the tube, which I believe is how they are intended to be used. If setting up a palette, which is how I prefer to paint, add a drop or two of glycerine to each colour and stir well to keep them from cracking up.

There is also a range of 30 10ml tubes of student watercolours called Art Prism available, but I am not intending covering student watercolours.

There are still some gaps, but many thanks to those who have provided samples to update this range better :-) Thank you to Lee Angold in the comments below for the link to the 2016 pigment list here.

To fill the blanks I used The Wilcox Guide to the Finest Watercolor Paints 2001-2 edition to obtain pigment information for the colours I haven't tried. This is out of date so I have made corrections in the captions where appropriate. I have also added pictures from old notebooks from the 1990s, long before I started painting this style of swatches.

The numbers are what appears on the Art Spectum website. The pigment numbers are what was on the tube or sample, or what was used back in the 2001.

Art Spectrum Artists' Watercolours - Chinese White, Lemon Yellow, Cadmium Yellow Pale, Cadmium Yellow, Spectrum Yellow (Cadmium Yellow Hue)

This sample of Permanent Gamboge contains PY153, which is no longer available so it has been reformulated. The same is true of Permanent Indian yellow.

Art Spectrum Artists' Watercolours - Aureolin, Cadmium Yellow Deep (not shown),, Permanent Gamboge (new formula made with PY97+PY83), Indian yellow (old formula), Permanent Indian Yellow (now made with PY83) (not shown), 
Cadmium Orange (PY37 + PO20) (not shown)

There are a few ranges with a PO36 orange, in this case called Vermilion, and they are always lovely!
Art Spectrum Artists' Watercolours - Permanent Orange, Coral, Vermilion Permanent,
Spectrum Red (now made with PR112 + PO5), Cadmium Red.

Spectrum Crimson is now made from PV19 Quinacridone Red and PV19 Quinacridone Violet.
Art Spectrum Artists' Watercolours - Brilliant Red, Cadmium Red Deep, Pilbara Red, Spectrum Crimson (Alizarin Hue -now made with PV19) and Permanent Crimson.

Art Spectrum Artists' Watercolours - Pilbara Red 

I had Pilbara Red many years ago and painted a sample in a book. It's rather like a glowing burnt sienna. This was the old formula.

Permanent Rose Madder is a very nice rose madder hue - it has the gentle quality of the original fugitive pigment but is made with PV19. Interestingly though, two versions are very different - the second swatch (oder version) has changed colour from when I photographed it a few months ago!.

Art Spectrum Artists' Watercolours - Rose Madder Hue, Rose Madder (Permanent Hue), Permanent Rose, Permanent Magenta, Flinders Red Violet (previously known as Thio Violet now made with PV19, not shown), Cobalt Violet. (not shown).

An older version of Rose Madder (Permanent Hue) - this is the same swatch shown above but before the colour changed!

It is a nice version of Ultramarine Violet, which is always a rather weak but granulating pigment.

Art Spectrum Artists' Watercolours - Ultramarine Violet, Permanent Mauve, Flinders Blue Violet (also known as Mineral Violet), French Ultramarine (not shown), Ultramarine.

Art Spectrum Artists' Watercolours - Cobalt Blue, Spectrum Blue, Prussian Blue, Indigo Blue,
Phthalo Blue.

Art Spectrum Artists' Watercolours - Antwerp Blue (not shown), Cerulean Blue, Tasman Blue, Australian Turquoise, Viridian.

Art Spectrum Artists' Watercolours - Phthalo Green, Australian Leaf Green Dark, Olive Green Permanent, Hookers Green Permanent, Oxide or Chromium.

Art Spectrum Artists' Watercolours - Australian Green Gold ((not shown - see below, now made with PY129 + PG7), Sap Green Permanent, Australian Grey (also contains PW6), Naples Yellow (not shown), Naples Yellow Reddish.

My old sample of Australian Green Gold painted in a notebook.

Art Spectrum Artists' Watercolours - Australian Green Gold PG10

Art Spectrum Artists' Watercolours - Yellow Ochre, Raw Sienna Hue (Light), Raw Sienna Natural (Deep) (PBr7), Burnt Sienna Hue, Burnt Sienna Natural (see also below).

Burnt Sienna Natural was one of my favourite watercolours in the 1990s - look at the gorgeous granulation! I switched to one that rewet better but it's lovely fresh from the tube. This was painted on nice Moleskine watercolour paper.

Art Spectrum Artists' Watercolours - Burnt Sienna Natural.

The original Australian Red Gold is a gorgeous colour, now also made by Daniel Smith as Aussie Red Gold. I always think it is a shame when other pigments are added to the lovely earth pigments - I prefer Raw Umber and Burnt Umber to be just PBr7 as I love the earth colours.

Art Spectrum Artists' Watercolours - Australian Red Gold, Light Red (now made with PR101 + PY42), Indian Red, Raw Umber (now made with PBr7 + PY42 + PR101), Burnt Umber (now made with PBr7 + PY42 + PR101).

This is another sample from 1990s notebooks, from before I started making these swatch cards.
The Raw Umber was rather awful and gummy :-(

Art Spectrum Artists' Watercolours - Raw Umber

Art Spectrum Artists' Watercolours - Mars Violet, Warm Sepia (see below), Sepia, Payne's Grey, Neutral Tint.

There is not a lot of difference between the Warm Sepia and Sepia. Both are very dark!

Art Spectrum Artists' Watercolours - Warm Sepia.

Art Spectrum Artists' Watercolours - Ivory Black (now made with PBk9), Lamp Black

There are still a few more to be added here, but happy painting!


  1. The Australian Turquoise is lovely. So is the Australian Gray, sort of a peachy version of Buff Titanium.

  2. I found a 2016 pigment listing here

    Gamboge and Indian Yellow are now formulated with PY83 instead of PY153, and Australian Green Gold is now made with PY129/PG7 rather than the discontinued PG10

    1. Thank you - I'll check it out :-)

    2. are they single pigment mixes? as in PY83 alone?

    3. Yes Nate - if there is only one pigment shown, they are single pigment paints.

  3. Happy new year,Jane! As always I am wondering how big that swatchbook of yours must be.... not to mention your paper and palet storage. Concidering I just recently updated my art 'playtime' I can't complain -That would be my husband's department as he now has to share the pc room since it is the only room in our home that is cat free,lol-

    1. ps that would be a hint,yes. As in,please can we have a blogpost on your artsupplies storage ?

    2. That would be a big blog post! And it would require getting my studio tidy enough to take photos ;-) It is not a large room, and also has two computers so every bit of space is used.

      I don't have full tubes or pans of every watercolour I have tested - many have been sent by thoughtful and generous readers from all over the world. What I try to do with those samples is to put them onto the colour charts to keep them all arranged appropriately. Then the charts with dots all go in to a box.

      I have all the swatches in another box, arranged in catalogue order for each brand. My sketchbooks are on shelves.

      For my main colours, I have a unit on wheels with three little drawers that holds my brushes, the the main watercolours I use, and loads of pencils and pens. It's a great design as it is small but compact. I can't find a link to it, but something that is on wheels and compact might suit you well. It can be tidied away when not in use. Check out Ikea storage too.

      I'll do a detailed blog at some point, I promise.