Friday 31 December 2021

Aquarius Watercolours by Roman Szmal

Happy New Year for 2022.

For my first post of the year, I'm updating a previous post of the Aquarius range. I hope to add many more posts and updates this year :-)

Roman Szmal launched Aquarius Watercolours, a honey-based range, in 2019 with 140 colours.

In 2020 this was extended to 165 full pan colours with an additional 25 colours. There was still a huge proportion of single pigment colours (all but 26) and some unique pigments for watercolours. 

In 2021, another 15 colours were added to the range, bringing it up to 180. 

The full range is stocked at Jacksons (affiliate link) in the UK and many other places around the world. In Australia they are available from Adamstown Art in sets or individual full pans.

December 2022 update; For my previous post I photographed the swatches, this time they are scanned. Some colours are really difficult to show accurately using either method - the yellow oranges and orange yellows, along with oranges and reds generally! So I have updated this post and colour matched each swatch individually to get them as close as I can. These are now all pretty accurate :-) I'll be updating all my swatches during 2023.

Anyone familiar with my blog will know that I love Buff Titanium and use it a lot. This is less granulating than the version I use, but still a lovely colour.

Aquarius Watercolour - Chinese White, Titanium White, Buff titanium, Nickel titanate Yellow, 
Cadmium Yellow, Bismuth Yellow. 

These yellows are very similar, though Cadmium Lemon, Bismuth Yellow, Hansa Yellow Light and Lemon Yellow and Quinaphthalone Yellow are slightly more lemon, then Isoindolinone Yellow Light and Aquarius Yellow and are really mid yellows and Aureoline Hue has a hint of warmth. They are colour matches as closely as I can.
Aquarius Watercolour - Hansa Yellow Light, Lemon Yellow, Quinaphthalone Yellow (new 2021), Isoindolinone Yellow,  
Aquarius Yellow, Aureoline (Hue)

Aureoline Hue, Cadmium Yellow Pale and Benzymidazole Yellow are very similar mid primary yellows, with Hansa Yellow Medium being the brightest and sunniest by a small margin. Characteristics vary - how transparent do you want your yellow to be? Cadmium Yellow Deep is a true warm yellow. 

Aquarius Watercolour - Cadmium Yellow Pale, Benzymidazole Yellow, Hansa Yellow Medium, Indian Yellow (Hue), 
Nickel Azo Yellow, Cadmium Yellow Deep.

Hansa Yellow Deep is the easy option as a warm yellow. The others shown here are very bright and beautiful warm yellows, very difficult to capture exactly. There are a lot of interesting pigments that are not used by other manufacturers.

Aquarius Watercolour - Hansa Yellow Deep,  Isoindolinone Yellow Deep, Golden Yellow, Permanent Yellow, 
Permanent Orange, Chrome Orange Hue (new 2021)

There is a huge range of gorgeous oranges. Golden Orange is just on the yellow-orange side, a little brighter than it looks here. Ginger red was new in 2021 and an accurate dull orange. Transparent Pyrrol Orange and Aquarius Orange are stunning transparent mid oranges.

Aquarius Watercolour - Golden Orange, Ginger Red (new 2021), Transparent Pyrrol Orange, Deep Orange, 
Aquarius Orange, Brilliant Orange.

The next two oranges are attractive, if overshadowed by the new additions above, though I still like the Benzimidazole Orange. Pyrrol Orange is just on the red side of orange, so could be used as a warm red. Scarlet Lake, Anthraquinone Scarlet and Pyrrol Scarlet are definite reds - on the warm side. I really like PR255 as a warm red option.

Aquarius Watercolour - Cadmium Orange, Benzimidazole Orange, Pyrrol Orange, Scarlet Lake, 
Anthraquinoid Scarlet, Pyrrole Scarlet

These are the warm to medium reds. Scarlet Lake is almost identical to W&N Scarlet Lake. Naphthol Red and Pyrrol Red are rich mid reds - fire engine or pillar box. PR254 is my favourite for this colour. Perylene Red is just a little more crimson.

Aquarius Watercolour - Cadmium Vermilion, Scarlet Red, Scarlet Lake, Quinacridone Scarlet (new 2021), 
Naphthol Red, Pyrrole Red, Perylene Red (new 2021).

These are all mid reds to slightly crimson reds, with more or less pink. Azo Red is a rich crimson, Aquarius Red is a little brighter and Permanent Red brighter still. Cadmium Red is a duller mid red, Cadmium Red Deep has the more 'purple' hue and Perylene Maroon is richer than Azo red.

Aquarius Watercolours - Azo Red, Aquarius Red, Permanent Red, Cadmium Red, 
Cadmium Red Deep, Perylene Maroon.

Pyrrole Rubine is my favourite of the crimson reds, though if you wanted a more primary crimson rose the PR176 is a good option. Cherry Quinacridone is a lovely coral that is difficult to replicate on screen - this photo is close. Quinacridone Red is my favourite rose and primary red colour.
Aquarius Watercolour -  Anthraquinoid Red, Pyrrole Rubine, Permanent Alizarin Crimson, 
Cherry Quinacridone Red, Quinacridone Red, Magenta.

PR122 is as close as we can get to the printing Magenta colour. Quinacridone Pink is almost identical to Magenta above, but richer. PR202 is slightly stronger but duller. 

Aquarius Watercolour - Quinacridone Pink, Quinacridone Fuchsia, Quinacridone Violet, 
Perylene Violet, Cobalt Violet Light, Ultramarine Pink.

This range has so many of the gentle granulating violet pigments - PV 14, PV15, PV16, PV49 as well as the unusual PV37 instead of the more common PV23.

Aquarius Watercolour - Manganese Violet, Quinacridone Violet (new 2021), Ultramarine Violet, Cobalt Violet Deep, 
Dioxazine Violet, Mineral Violet.

There are a number of convenience and atmospheric violets and purples here. The most fascinating is Misty Morning as it is not made with a traditional red and blue. French Ultramarine, or the new Ultramarine Intense shown next, is my pick for this pigment.

Aquarius Watercolour - Misty Morning, Shadow Violet Light, Shadow Violet, Lavenda, 
Ultramarine Light, French Ultramarine.

There are also many cobalt colours in the range. These are granulating and liftable and quite beautiful. I use PB36 along with Ultramarine in skies, though many use cobalt blue PB28.

Aquarius Watercolour - Ultramarine Intense (new 2021), Ultramarine (Green Shade), Cobalt Blue Deep, Aquarius cobalt blue, 
Cobalt Blue, Cobalt Cerulean Blue.

Aquarius Watercolour - Cobalt Coelin Blue, Royal Blue, Phthalo Blue (Red Shade), Indanthrone blue,
Lazurite (Lapis Lazuli), Vivianite (Blue Ochre), 

Phthalo Blue GS is one of my key mixing colours. PB16 is a gorgeous pigment.
Aquarius Watercolour - Indigo (Hue), Prussian Blue, Sky Blue, Phthalo Blue (Green Shade), 
Ocean Blue, Phthalo Turquoise.

 Cobalt Turquoise is a lovely pigment. So is the new PG26 Cobalt Green Deep added in 2021.
Aquarius Watercolour - Cobalt Sea Blue. Cobalt Teal, Cobalt Turquoise, Viridian, 
Cobalt Green Deep (new 2021), Transparent Turquoise.

Phthalo Green (Blue Shade) is another key mixing colour. I wouldn't use it alone, but it can create a fabulous range of greens. I use PBk31 all the time for shadows in foliage.
Aquarius Watercolour - Phthalo Green (Blue Shade), Phthalo Green (Yellow Shade), Cobalt Green Light, 
Chromium Green Oxide, Green Earth, Perylene Green

Perylene Green Deep made with PBk32 is a unique addition to the range. These mixed greens are mostly very useful. I particularly like the Aquarius Green and the Sap Green Light (below) for convenient realistic landscape greens. Autumn Green is new 2022.
Aquarius Watercolour - Perylene Green Deep, Malachite, Aquarius Green, Autumn Green (new 2022), 
Hooker's Green, Sap Green

 Sap Green Light is another useful convenience green. Glauconite is an historical colour. Deep Green Gold is lovely for the glow of sunlight through leaves or as an alternative to a cool or lemon yellow.

Aquarius Watercolour - Permanent Green Light, Sap Green Light, Olive Green Light, Glauconite, 
Olive Green Deep, Deep Green Gold.

Aquarius Watercolour - Green Gold, Naples Yellow Light, Naples Yellow Reddish; Transparent Gold Ochre, 
Venetian Yellow Earth, Natural Sienna Light.

There is a confusion of yellow earths made with PY43. Gold Ochre is the brightest of them and would be my choice, though Yellow Ochre is Transparent. These need a bit of exploring. The new Blue Ridge Raw Sienna may be even nicer and richer than these as a yellow earth colour. The new Goethite granulates nicely, though not as much as the version I use.
Aquarius Watercolours -  Gold Ochre, Yellow Ochre, Veronese Yellow Earth Blue Ridge Raw Sienna (new 2021), 
Goethite, Natural Sienna Mont Amiata. 

This is a lovely version of Quinacridone Gold, but will be unavailable once PO48 runs out. The new version is yellower - the colours are quite accurate. I do like PBr24 though I've never painted with it!

Aquarius Watercolour - Quinacridone Gold (old version), Quinacridone Gold Hue (2021), Italian Raw Sienna, 
Transparent Yellow Oxide, Naples Yellow Deep, Ochre Havana.

I rather like these earth colours, especially French Ochre and Mummy Transparent Red. Quinacridone Burnt Sienna will not be around much longer as PO48 has run out.

Aquarius Watercolour - Dark Ochre, French Ochre, Mummy Transparent Red, Blue Ridge Burnt Sienna (new 2021),  
Mont Amiata Burnt Sienna, Quinacridone Burnt Sienna.

These are all quite similar in hue, and any could be used as a burnt sienna colour. They differ in characteristics. Aquarius Brown is a super granulating pigment.
Aquarius Watercolours - Veronese Red Earth, Red Ochre, Transparent Oxide Red, Pompeii Red, 
Italian Burnt Sienna, Aquarius Brown.

The red earth colours are quite lovely.

Aquarius Watercolours - Flesh Tint, Terra Pozzuoli, English Red Light, Venetian Red, Quinacridone Maroon, 
English Red Deep.

PBr23 is a unique pigment. The new Indian Red has the pink undertone I look for in an earth red.

Aquarius Watercolour - Transparent Brown, Mars Red, Indian Red, Porter's Pink, Caput Mortuum, 
Hematite (Violet Shade).

Brown Ochre or Cyprus Burnt Umber is my choice for a Burnt Umber colour. While it can be mixed as a hue using burnt sienna and ultramarine, having a warm dark brown is often useful.

Aquarius Watercolour - Hematite, Hematite Brown Shade (new 2020), Transparent Oxide Brown, Brown Ochre, 
Cyprus Burnt Umber, Cyprus Burnt Umber Light.

There are many raw umber variations. German Raw Umber Greenish painted out the smoothest…
Aquarius Watercolour -  Cyprus Raw Umber Brownish, Cyprus Raw Umber, German Raw Umber Greenish, Iron Chrome Brown, (new 2021), Manganese Brown (new 2021), Cyprus Burnt Umber Deep, 

...however Cyprus Raw Umber Deep is my favourite of these cool dark browns. Shadow Grey is very close to my Jane's Grey.
Aquarius Watercolour - Cyprus Raw Umber Deep, Sepia, Van Dyck Brown, Shadow Grey (new 2021), 
Przybysz's Grey, Payne's Grey, 

Aquarius Grey is a great addition - useful for concrete and urban sketching. 
Aquarius Watercolour - Aquarius Grey, Roman Black, Vine Black, Ivory Black, Neutral Tint, Mars Black.

I don't tend to use black pigments - with the exception of PBk31 (Perylene Green) and PBk11 - here seen in Aquarius Black - for its amazing granulation.

Aquarius Black

While my preference is for paints made without honey, I was asked to suggest a 24 colour set of Aquarius colours. It is daunting to come up with a set when faced with such a huge choice, but here is my suggested set.
    • Buff Titanium
    • Hansa Yellow Medium
    • Quinacridone Gold (PO48 + PY150 version)
    • Aquarius Orange
    • Pyrrol Scarlet
    • Pyrrol Rubine
    • Quinacridone Red
    • Mineral Violet
    • Ultramarine Intense
    • Cobalt Cerulean Blue
    • Phthelo Blue (Green Shade)
    • Cobalt Turquoise
    • Phthalo Green (Blue Shade)
    • Perylene Green
    • Aquarius Green
    • Sap Green Light
    • Gold Ochre
    • Goethite
    • Mummy Transparent Red
    • Blue Ridge Burnt Sienna
    • Indian red
    • Cyprus Burnt Umber
    • Cyprus Raw Umber Deep
    • Shadow Grey. 
Here they are painted out. This is a really lovely balanced palette for any subject, with the convenience of an orange and a purple, along with a great range of earth tones and realistic mixed greens. 

Happy Painting.

2023 update.

20 colours have been added to the range. Most are single pigments and many of these are pigments I've not seen in other ranges.

Aquarius Watercolours: Nickel Tungsten Yellow, Azo Yellow, Anthraquinone Yellow, Gamboge (Hue), 
Bismuth Orange and Perylene Scarlet.

Quinacridone Warm Scarlet is very like Quinacridone coral - as always a difficult colour to replicate.

Aquarius Watercolours: Perylene Vermilion, Raspberry Red, Quinacridone Warm Scarlet, Strontium Violet, 
Aquarius Violet and Lapis Lazuli (limited edition)

This is a very brown version of PR179.

Aquarius Watercolours: Royal Blue Light, Phthalo Blue (Turquoise Shade), Perylene Red Deep, 
Benzimidazole Brown, Natural Umber Reddish and Urban Grey.

Aquarius Watercolours: Graphite, Velvet Black


  1. Beautiful colors. I have a set of these and like them more than my W&N or Schminckes. I just hope they‘ll bring out tubes, since I like to pour my own palettes.

    1. They may add half pans to the range, but it is a very small company and I actually hope they stick to just pans and half pans. Trying to do everything adds a huge cost.

    2. replying to Jane- Honestly the full pans are so affordable that I hope they keep them that way! The colors are so gorgeous for the price.

      I second the question below about what palette to fit these in. Do you have anything specific you recommend that will fit ~16?

    3. For 16, consider the Herring Compact - you can see it on my website - it holds 16 full pans if you fill in the thumb hole. Great mixing areas.

    4. Thank you! Waiting for Jackson to stock up on them. My collection has actually grown to 30 now! Do you know if it's possible to get the wooden 36 pan box on it's own with no paint or any other suggestions for 30+ pan box.

      This blog is invaluable! I've used it to select all of my Aquarius colors. Thank you so much for it!

    5. I use just regular 48 metal pallet from aliexpress and additional white nights plastic pallet - it need to be altered though. I cut the small dividers with scalpel and it works perfectly.

  2. Thank you so much for providing this information! It is so helpful and I am learning a lot!

  3. Did you omit a row of swatches by accident? I'm not seeing 118 Eng Red Lt, 122 Eng Red Dp, 121 Venetian Red, 119 Terra Pozzuoli, 350 Quin Maroon. With so many earths I understand the oversight!

    1. Was just about to make the same observation

    2. I've updated it to add those colours - thanks for letting me know :-)

  4. Thank you so much for this! I'm new to watercolours and your blog has been a blessing. Which empty palettes would you recommend to fit 14 or 20 of these pans?

    1. The metal palettes are one option - you can find them from a range of manufacturers. Or my favourite is from the UK - the Herring Compact (full pan version). You can see that on my website here - just go down until you find it.

    2. If you don't need the mixing area (I mix on ceramic platter or flower palette)I highly recommend the metal tins sold on Amazon. There are a couple of distributors, I've purchased both Booyee and FClub, they are exactly the same. They hold 20 full pans or 40 half pans with magnets.. they come with the pans but it's easy to just add your own to existing pans (you can buy the self adhesive magnet squares on Amazon too or at local craft store).. come in multiple designs.. take up very little space...and are cheap.

  5. Thank you for all the information! Roman Szmal has become on of my favorite brands. I love their earth tones. I just wish they came in tubes as well so I could add a few colors to my porcelain studio palette. I wonder since they have honey in them if I could soften them enough to scoop some out with a palette knife and add to my palette... hmm.. I will have to think on this. Do you have any suggestions on this? Thanks again for the swatches! They are lovely :)

    1. They do have lovely earth colours and some unique pigments. Some are soft enough to scoop out with a metal knife.
      I actually hope they stick to pans and half pans rather than branching out to tubes - they are a small company and if they spread too thin they may not be able to control all the factors as well.

    2. Just to follow up on Jane's answer. I used a dry steak knife to scoop out my RS paint. It's winter in my city so my paint behaves like claydoh, super easy for the task. Maybe put your pans into a fridge for 10 mins to minimize the sticky mess?

  6. Thank you for this information. Can you recommend a palette to put these pans in. I am collecting a few here and there and would love to put them in a palette but am afraid to buy one blindly. Thank you for all you do for watercolorists.

    1. My favourite for pans or half pans is the Herring Compact but you may have too many colours for that, in which case consider one of the metal palettes.

    2. I have made a good compact palette for full pans from a pocket tin of Romneys Kendal Mint Cakes. They are far too expensive via mail order, but I happened across one in a local store; about 12-16 full pans will fit in, and a bit of flexible plastic magnet on the bottom of the pan holds them well in place. I cut a really cheap plastic mixing palette in halves and hot glued them into the lid of the tin. I secure the whole thing to my board (also my carrying kit) with velcro. Looks fancy too--mountain climber in the foreground, Mount Everest in the background.

    3. I keep 7 full pans in an Altoids tin. I find that plenty for a split primary with an extra (I like burnt sienna), or a fully functional earth palette. You can actually pop two extra half pans in there too if you wish. I toss a little ceramic flower palette in for mixing.. they are strong and deep enough to hold a wash, yet fit in a pocket.

  7. Jane, your blog's RSS feed stopped working today or yesterday. "There are no news in this feed" is the message I get on my Netvibes RSS feed reader(?). Other blogs from the same host are still working for me. Just thought you should know.

    1. I didn't get the usual email for the latest blog post either. I found out it was here when I searched google for the information it contained. I get notifications for replies to comments still though.

  8. I'm looking forward to your palette arriving,as I have just ordered it from Jackson's. If anyone is interested has all the new palettes available. I had to hunt around for some of the colour ways in them.

  9. I have been very well pleased with St. Petersburg watercolours--they have been good value for money. Your reviews were very helpful in figuring out a palette that pleased me. In view of the current international news, I feel obliged not to order anything from Russia any more, which is a shame. Maybe Roman Szmal will work out well; any other suggestions are welcome.

    1. Rosa Gallery are made in the Ukraine. Very similar to the St. Petersburg paints. Available on Etsy and Amazon.

    2. I think I have worked out a selection of Aquarius watercolours that approximates my St. Petersburg selection, plus one or two interesting additions. I might order them tomorrow.

    3. I have swatched out the Aquarius colors I ordered, and have three or four others coming in before long. They are in fact pretty close to my customary White Nights colours. Out of curiosity I ordered the caput mortuum and find it most interesting; I wonder what sorts of colours I will get by mixing it with various others. I produced remarkable granulation when mixing Aquarius French ultramarine with a warm yellow to make green.

      I think I will give away my White Nights colours to students enrolled in the watercolour course at the local junior college; many of them are hard pressed for art supplies. Maybe free pigments will enable some to purchase all rag paper.

    4. Thanks for the Rosa Gallery idea--I have one I received as a bonus with a set of Russian coloured pencils.

  10. I just bought this set, love it. Best choice of colors .Thank you for making this available , saved me a lot trouble selecting . I always trust your taste.

  11. I think the quality is way better than white night. Can be compared with winsor newton and schmincke.

    1. I expect you are right; I went with White Nights because they were very good value for money and I couldn't justify the cost of experimenting with more highly reputed brands. It isn't fair to punish them for Putin's abhorrent acts, but I have done so. Probably can't pay for them anyway because of the trade restrictions placed on Russia.

  12. How does Rosa compare to Roma Szmal in terms of quality? Rosa is much cheaper so I'm considering purchasing a 24 pan set instead.

    1. Jane here - I haven't tried Rosa at all so I can't comment sorry.

    2. I would say Rosa is more comparable to White Nights. Kind of in the middle between student level and professional. Roman Szmal is a higher level with more expensive pigments and more single pigments available, plus some elaborate mixed colors. I own all three, I like all three, but I have to be more selective with Rosa and White Nights. That is not to say that everything from Roman Szmal is 100% either.. they have some fugitive issues.. but that is true for almost every professional brand.

  13. So just letting anyone know that reads this blog that Roman Szmal is now available in half pans for their most popular colours. At the moment Adamstown art doesn't have them but Jackson's does.

    Oh and thank you Jane for such a useful blog post I refer to it frequently when I'm choosing my colours.

  14. Jane, if you could add four more colors to your Roman Szmal palette, what would they be?

    1. It depends what you like to paint, but I'd add interesting pigments like Potter's Pink, Naples Yellow Deep, perhaps a granulating single pigment violet and perhaps Aquarius Black.

  15. Fantastic, and many thank’s from Sweden for this post with painted tests. Is it possible to buy the full pans from Szmal och where do you order?

  16. Jackson's Art carries the full pans, and I think they carry tubes as well.
    ----Alan Barbour