Watercolours in a Tube or in a Pan?

July 13, 2018


OK, you all keep asking me…………..


What’s the difference? Which is better? Which should I buy?


Firstly, it’s easier for me to introduce both watercolour paint choices.

We will start with the tube paints.


How to use Watercolour from a tube!

Squeeze a small amount of paint onto your palette and dilute the paint with water before painting.  As if you were squeezing toothpaste from a tube.



It is concentrated and will appear vibrant.

You will have a heavier load of paint on your brush which will add depth and tone.



Depending on the type of paint,  the paint may dry and may not ‘revive’ with water the same as if using a palette. This is due to the different formula and also dependent on the manufacturer.


If you do not screw the top on correctly the paint can dry in the tube very quickly, it’s hard to remove the dry layer in this case.  You may end up throwing away your tube, which is wasteful and costly. 



How to use Watercolour in a Pan:

Watercolours in a pan are referred to as watercolour cakes.  They can withstand an element of pressure and make easy travel paints for those who like to paint away from a studio or home setting.  They are dry to the touch and all you need to do is wet them with a wet paintbrush.  This is known as ‘activating’ your paint.




Since the paint is dry to the touch, it is easy to transport.



They last for a long time, usually 10years+



You need to wet your brush and activate the paint, which can take a little longer to get the desired colour and consistency.  If you are working a larger surface area it can be frustrating to maintain the same colour and transparency throughout your painting time.


So then………..which should I buy?

You are hoping for me to give you a definitive answer...........but really that's for you to decide.


Whilst you can attain the same effects with both types of paint, you will have to vary the amount of water used for application.


Personally I love the low maintenance and easy travel aspect of a watercolour pan to create my paintings.  However, when working with larger areas or creating watercolour washes, I find that having the concentration that comes with a tube is very helpful.


So I use to some extent both types of watercolours depending on the palette I require.  I consider the picture size and depth of colour I require and finally I always consider convenience.  Painting that is easy and less fuss is right up my street.   Too much prep and too little time to paint is no good for any keen painter


The best advice is not to spend a fortune initially and allow your self the opportunity to explore and get the feel for both.


Book in for a Watercolour workshop and decide for your self which you prefer before even purchasing any materials.  That way you can be absolutely sure your new hobby is for you, before spending huge amounts of money.

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