Tuesday, 27 March 2018

Isaro Watercolours

Isaro Watercolour 7ml tubes
Isaro Watercolours come from Belgium. I was familar with Blockx, also from Belgium, but hadn't heard about them until one of my blog readers told me so I am grateful for that information. I am also grateful to their creator, Isabelle, for the samples. They are available in shops in Belgium and France, and there are some videos in French on the website showing the manufacturing processes.

July 2020: They are now also available in Australia here.

The website states that "The entire range of Isaro water colours has been developed  to give maximum transparency to the colours. In addition, the ingredients that enter the composition of the binder are all carefully selected. Only top quality bum arabic is used in the manufacture of Isaro water colours. Gum arabic varies in colour from very pale yellow to dark brown. The gum, in fact, darkens on contact with the tennis in the acacia bark. Consequently, it is essential for Isaro to select an acacia gum which, when dissolved in water, gives a clear solution to that the luminosity of the pigments is protected. Glycerine and honey are added in very precise proportions to ensure the paste remains supple. A single-flower honey was chosen, the honey of the acacia, since good quality honey of this type is very clear."

I received samples of nearly all the colours and really enjoyed painting them out. The cadmiums seem very finely ground and not as opaque or heavy as they can be. Some names were different on the colour chart and the website so I will note both in the captions. The dried dots of colour mostly rewet with ease. They are available in 7ml and some in 20ml tubes. The 7ml tubes feel robust with a solid lid.

It is a really nicely balanced range of just over 50 colours, plus some metallic colours, with a good mix of traditional and modern pigments. I didn't notice any pigments that are not lightfast. The tubes are well labelled with series number, lightfast stars, opacity guide and pigment information. The majority are single pigment colours but there are some useful mixes.

I like PY154 for the mid or primary yellow, with Indian yellow as the warm option, though it's a shame it isn't a single pigment colour.
Isaro Watercolours - Titanium White (not shown), Cadmium Yellow Lemon,
Isaro Yellow Light (also called Isaro Yellow), Cadmium Yellow Light, Cadmium Yellow Deep.

Isaro Watercolours - Indian Yellow, Isaro Yellow Deep, Cadmium Orange, Pyrrol Orange, Cadmium Red Light.

I love PR255 Scarlet Red (also called Pyrrole Red on the website - Pyrrole Scarlet would be a great name for this colour) as a warm red in a transparent split primary palette. The cool would be Magenta in this range, with Pyrrole Red Deep as the optional third Crimson red - so useful for mixing.
Isaro Watercolours - Scarlet Red (also called Pyrrol Red. Pyrrol Scarlet would be a great name for this one),
Isaro Pyrrole Red, Pyrrole Red Deep, Cadmium Red Deep, Perylene Red.

Magenta is the usual Quinqacridone Rose/Permanent Rose colour, while Isaro Pink is the normal Quiacridone Magenta colour. Isaro Mauve is Quinacridone Violet in most ranges. Isaro Purple Deep is Dioxozine Violet.
Isaro Watercolours - Magenta, Isaro Pink (Also called Isaro Rose), Ultramarine Pink (also called Ultramarine Rose),
Isaro Mauve, Isaro Purple Deep (also called Isaro Mauve Deep).

The Ultramarine Violet is a particularly nice version of this often weak pigment. I like this version of a PB35 Cerulean too - a useful non-staining cool blue colour. Ultramarine is the classic warm blue - it's hard to set up a watercolour palette without it.
Isaro Watercolours - Ultrmarine Violet, Ultramarine, Indanthrone Blue, Cobalt Blue, Cerulean Blue.

Indigo Blue is made with two blues and a brown pigment rather than the usual black and blue mix, which is great to see. As far as I know, Schmincke and Da Vinci are the only other manufacturers to make an Indigo hue without black. There are no cobalt turquoise colours (PB36) in the range.
Isaro Watercolours - Indigo blue, Prussian Blue, Phthalo Blue, Turquoise Green (not shown), Phthalo Green.

Emerald Green is Viridian - often not a strong pigment. The Isaro Grey Light is an interesting soft convenience grey.
Isaro Watercolours - Emerald Green, Phthalo Green Yellow, Chromium Oxide Green,
Olive Green (not shown but this is the new formula), Isaro Grey Light.

Chartreuse Yellow is often called Green Gold - a wonderful pigment for the look of sunlight through foliage, or as a cool yellow option. The Yellow Ochre says it is made from PY42 on the colour chart but PY43 on the website. I am not sure which is correct, but it's a lovely version of this colour. Oxide Orange is the most orange version I have ever seen of a PR101 colour - really lovely.
Isaro Watercolours - Isaro Green LIght (not shown), Chartreuse Yellow, Yellow Ochre, Raw Sienna, Oxide Orange.

Isaro Watercolours - Burnt Sienna, Mars Red, Mars Brown Light, English Red (not shown), Venetian Red.

Raw Umber was not as strong is I'd like. The Sepa and Van Dijck Brown are really dark versions of these hues.
Isaro Watercolours - Oxide Purple, Burnt Umber (not shown), Raw Umber, Sepia, Van Dijck Brown.

There are a number of 'Metallic Touch' watercolours that contain mica or copper. It is difficult to show sparkle but I have included these after the Lamp Black swatch. Steel Blue is a bit like my Jane's Grey but with mica added.
Isaro Watercolours - Payne's Grey, Lamp Black, Steel Blue, Icy Lake, Imperial Moon.

'Or' (Gold) is included on the website but not in the colour chart, so I created a swatch for that. I also created a swatch for Nickel Yellow as it was on the colour chart but as it is not on the website I assume it has been discontinued. It is not a very strong pigment in any brand so that's not surprising.
Isaro Watercolours - Silver Sky, Eternal Summit, Star Dust, Coppery Red (not shown), Gold (not shown),
Nickel Yellow (not shown and probably discontinued.)


  1. They look lovely except for the Payne's Grey. More like "Payne's Blue." The Raw Umber is ver disappointing. I suppose the Van Dyck Brown or Sepia could be substituted. I do like the Chartreuse Yellow, Emerald Green and Mauve.

  2. June, I looked these beautiful colors up on the internet, but their website does not give the USA as an option. In other words, it doesn't appear as if I can order them. I live in Ohio in the USA. Do you have a suggestion?

    1. Yes neither the USA nor Australia is mentioned, so I suggest you fill out the contact form and ask how you can buy them. Good luck!

    2. Hi Donna, Just curious if you contacted Isaro, and whether their paints can be shipped to the U.S.? Aren't they lovely colors!?

    3. You can buy Isaro watercolours from Jacksons in the U.K. (jacksonsart.com). Their international shipping costs are very low.

  3. Hello,

    Isaro is a fabulous watercolor paint. You can see on youtube "Pilutu", a french artist, ManĂ¹, he work with thise paint since 2016.
    Contact Isabelle by mail for postage to USA, she sent to USA and Korea in Februaryor March. The french distributor "aquarelle et pinceaux" could be an other solution.

    Jane i'm very to poublish swatch of Isaro on your website.

  4. If I remember it right, the schminckes' indigo consists of two blues, no black there either. Might be wrong here.

    1. Yes, Sch. Horadam indigo is PB15:1 and PB66.

    2. Thanks for that - I'll amend.

  5. This is a lovely overview of the paints which I never knew existed until today.
    You covered the warm and cool reds, but I would also like to know what would be the warm and cool yellow and blue in this set as I would like to try both cool and warm primaries to begin with. Thank you in advance!

    1. I've updated the blog with suggestions for warm and cool reds, yellows and blues. Phthalo Blue would be the suggested cool blue if you want a powerful staining colour, Cerulean if you want a more gentle cool blue.

  6. Hi! I was wondering what colors did you love the best out of all of the isaro colors? Any suggestions of colors that you thought best represented the brand that you think are "must buys" from them, such as any unique colors? Also, if you recommended any colors from their "Metallic Touch" line would be greatly appreciated. Thank You!

    1. Most of the range is well chosen fairly traditional pigments, but Oxide Orange is a special colour that I've not seen elsewhere. Steel Blue is very like Jane's Grey, but with sparkle. I don't do a lot with metallic or sparkly colours so can't give more information on those.

  7. I ordered three of these colors recently and they are all knockouts!... I just love this handcrafted paint, and it dries to a "soft set" when creating full DIY pans, so no reconstitution needed, yet it's solidly in the pan, great for travel. I'd like to try the Cerulean but I hesitate because it looks more teal that a Cerulean usually looks. But you say you like it, Jane...would it be a good sky color though, being as cool as it is?