Watercolor Tubes vs. Pans

Ask the Expert: Why are some watercolors so much more expensive than others? Are pan watercolors as good as tube colors?

  • As with all paints, the materials and manufacturing are the main factors in pricing. Some pigments are rarer than others, and some require more extensive milling to make them into paint. Professional grade paints of any type contain a higher proportion of better quality pigment compared to scholastic grade products, and watercolors are no exception.

  • Some semi-moist pans are of superb quality, expertly prepared with premium pigments, while others are strictly scholastic-grade. Better semi-moist pan watercolors are very permanent, highly pigmented and transparent, and dissolve promptly at the touch of a wet brush.

  • Watercolor pan sets come in a broad range of interesting and practical case styles, with built-in palettes and even brush holders. Individual replacement pans are available for some of the better brands. Replacement pans are typically priced in series like all top-quality paint.

  • Lower quality pans may be chalky and opaque with inferior lightfastness, though some scholastic grade brands offer very respectable paint for a low price typical of that product category. Replacement pans are usually not available for lower quality pan sets; these will generally not have lightfastness ratings listed. Exhausted pans from scholastic sets can be refilled with tube colors which can be left to dry, forming a new "pan".

Ask the Experts is intended for entertainment and/or informational purposes only. Dick Blick Holdings/Utrecht Art Supplies makes no warranties of any kind with respect to the information or any use of the information provided herein, and is not responsible for any losses or damages of any kind incurred as a result of the use, misuse, or reliance upon the information and content herein. Any action taken in connection with or reliance upon the information provided is strictly at your own risk. Observe all product package instructions and warnings. © Copyright 2022 Dick Blick Holdings Inc. All rights reserved.