Recently, Prima came out with three sets of pan watercolors. I immediately got the itch to try them out, and bought the ‘Classics’ set. I paid $21.99 plus S&H, so that puts this set in the same price range as Cotman and Koi watercolor sets.
- The paints come in a professional metal tin. These tins range in cost around $18-$20 dollars, so if you really wanted a tin (and some people do), you’d be getting the paints very cheaply.
- The paints are comparable to Koi paints, which come in a plastic case.
- The set does fit nicely in your hand, and there is room for a small travel brush.
- Three of the colors are white, gray and black
- There is NO information about the pigments in the packaging. Not even the names of the colors. Nothing to back up the claim of professional grade. I looked online, but couldn’t find anything there, either.
- They don’t impress me as professional grade, but as said, they are comparable to other brand sets in the price range.
- Some of the colors are opaque (this is true of the Koi as well).
- No brush comes with the set so you have to supply your own.
- The Koi 12-color set is cheaper, and includes a waterbrush.
- Three of the colors are white, gray and black (later I’ll discuss why this is in both pros and cons)
If you want a nice set for quick sketches when you travel, or are a casual painter who intends to only do small paintings, this is a definite possibility. The paints are good enough that they won’t cause a lot of frustration, though they won’t give you large, glowing washes (neither would the other sets in the price range). Although Prima does not call this a travel set, that is what it most closesly compares to in other brands.
The metal tin case counts for a lot. It is durable, though I think you could easily bend the fold-out mixing piece. The paint pans slide around. I do know how to secure them, in this kind of tin, but was not able to get all of the pans to stop sliding. That isn’t of great importance — eventually, they’ll stick just from use, but meanwhile, there will be rattling.
There is a ring on the bottom of the tin, that is meant to help you hold the tin stable if you have no place to set it down. This is a standard feature.
When you open the tin, you see that the lid has areas for mixing paint, and that there is a middle insert. Again, standard features.
I’ve included this photo so you can get a feel for what the tin looks like after a little use. The metal does stain slightly, and you need to take a little care in handling the middle insert while cleaning it off, so that it doesn’t bend.
As with all small travel sets, the colors are close together, so you can get some color contamination. It’s very easy to simply wipe away the contaminating color though.
So what colors do you get? (Please forgive the white. My scanner did something weird there. To the eye it is almost exactly the same shade as the Arches watercolor paper I used).
White, Pink, Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Lt. Blue, Blue, Purple, Brown, Gray and Black.
Since I felt this set was most likely to be used as a travel set, I felt a waterbrush was the best for painting examples that would reflect that usage. I used Strathmore Aquarius II watercolor paper for the rabbit and the nuthatch, and the Zentangle-Inspired Line and Wash was done in an EarthCare sketchbook, with mixed media type paper. All of them are 5.5 x 5.5.
The pigments in the Prima Watercolor Confections Classics Pan Set are bright, and you can easily work up a range of values, from the barest tint to a dark black. The colors move well in water and blend easily. The colors are a bit more opaque than I like, but then that helps with creating darker values, so it’s a bit of a trade-off.
I used lots of water in this next example, so you could see the colors in their lighter range. Almost too much so, because I couldn’t get the scanner or camera to pick up the red or purple. It’s the paper, I believe, rather than the paint. I decided to go ahead and include, because it does give you a feel for the range you can get with the colors.
One of the things that would make this set a must-have versus a no-go for many people is the white, gray and black pigments. Many watercolorists will not use these colors as a pre-mixed pigment, preferring to mix their own blacks and gray, and to use the white of the paper for their white. At first, I was a little disappointed. Then I realized that I had just been telling myself that I needed to do more value studies, using only white, black and gray.
Since you can build up some nice dark value with these pigments, this set is obviously great for value studies.
Would the Prima Watercolor Confections Classics Pan Set be the best choice of a travel watercolor set for you? It is a definite contender in the price range. The main way in which it stands out from the others is with the metal tin. I believe it will be more useful as a travel set, or for very small paintings. It would be great for color books that have suitable paper.
If you don’t think you will use the white, gray or black, you might be happier with one of the other Prima sets, or another brand. If having a brush come with the set is a must, you’ll need another brand. If you are looking for a set that will give you a professional range of colors and effects, you should probably look for something less like a travel set altogether.
If having a metal tin is a must, this is the set for you. Or after comparing the colors available in other sets you really like what this set offers, you may find this to be the set for you.
Disclaimer: I bought this Prima Confections Classics Watercolor set on my own dime. Prima did not ask for a review or send me anything, and probably won’t even take notice of this review. I was curious about the set, and thought my readers probably were too, so I reviewed it.