Top 6 Best Watercolor Pans for Artists of All Levels in 2024

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Watercolor painting is a revered art form, celebrated for its ethereal and translucent qualities. It allows artists to blend colors seamlessly and create gradients with delicate control over the medium. Watercolor pans, a key supply for this art, are small cakes of pigment that are activated with water. They offer ease of use, portability, and longevity, making them a favored choice for artists of all levels, from beginners to professionals.

Choosing the right set of watercolor pans is crucial as it can influence the quality and outcome of one’s artwork. Important factors to consider include the pigmentation, quality of the binders, lightfastness, and the range of colors. Pans come in student and artist-grade quality, with the latter offering more vibrancy and a higher concentration of pigment for longer-lasting works of art. Additionally, the pans should have a good balance between transparency and staining properties to suit different painting techniques and styles.

We understand the importance of having reliable and high-performing watercolor pans in an artist’s toolkit. That’s why we meticulously tested and evaluated a variety of them to ascertain which can offer the best results. By focusing our efforts on the nuances that make a significant difference in performance, we have determined the top watercolor pans that cater to diverse artistic requirements and styles.

Top Watercolor Pans for Artists

We have meticulously selected a range of high-quality watercolor pans perfect for artists at any skill level. Our choices focus on ease of use, durability, and the purity of color they offer. Whether you’re just starting out or looking to upgrade your current set, the following products will enable you to express your creativity with vibrant and lasting results.

1. DANIEL SMITH Ultimate Mix

For artists seeking top-tier watercolor pans that blend tradition with innovation, we wholeheartedly endorse the DANIEL SMITH Ultimate Mixing Set.


  • Exceptional pigment saturation for vibrant artworks
  • Convenient for travel with a secure plastic case
  • The flexibility of filling empty pans allows for tailored color palettes


  • The price point might be steep for beginners
  • Limited mixing space could hinder creativity
  • Half pans may run out quicker for heavy users

We recently got our hands on the DANIEL SMITH Ultimate Mixing Set, and it’s become a staple in our kit. One stroke with these paints reveals a world of vivid colors that exemplify decades of craftsmanship; their hand-poured nature assures that each pigment is cared for with precision.

On our field trip last weekend, we found the portability of the compact case to be a lifesaver. It weathered our backpacks without popping open, keeping the half pans secure. When it came to actual painting, we were able to mix a broad spectrum of shades without fuss, thanks to the set’s wide color range.

However, for those who love a luxurious mix, the limited palette space might not suffice. We noticed that our extensive blending occasionally needed more room. Also, if you’re planning lengthy painting sessions or large projects, be mindful that the half pans might need frequent refilling.

All in all, the DANIEL SMITH Ultimate Mixing Set matched our expectations for professional-grade watercolors. It allowed us to capture the scenery in all its glory with color mixes that could only come from such fine pigments. Despite a couple of drawbacks, which are minor in the grand scheme, our experience has been positive.

2. Winsor & Newton Compact Set

Artists searching for exceptional quality and portability in watercolor paints will find the Winsor & Newton Compact Set a worthy companion.


  • Compact and travel-friendly design
  • High-quality, vibrant pigments with good permanence
  • Comes with handy accessories for on-the-go painting


  • Limited color range may restrict some artists
  • The small mixing area might be challenging for broader washes
  • Price might be a consideration for budget-conscious buyers

The Winsor & Newton Compact Set packs a punch for its size. The pure brilliance of the colors caught our eye immediately upon opening the set. The hues lay down smoothly on paper, offering the transparency and depth that Winsor & Newton is known for. The convenience of having everything at your fingertips, from pans to a folding brush, makes this kit a steady favorite.

Handling the paints feels intuitive, like an extension of our own hands. Transitioning from one color to another is seamless, thanks to the well-thought-out selection of shades. Though as extensive as they are, the selection may leave some desiring more. But, for on-the-spot painting sessions in the park or at a café, this has been our go-to.

At first glance, the price may seem a stretch, but once you experience the vibrancy and longevity of these colors, it’s clear that this set is an investment. Additionally, with the compactness comes a smaller mixing area, requiring a bit of creativity when blending large washes. Despite these minor drawbacks, the overall quality and convenience make the Winsor & Newton Compact Set a stalwart of our artistic arsenal.

3. PHOENIX Watercolor Set

If you’re aiming for top-notch vibrancy and ease of use in watercolor painting, this PHOENIX set should be on your list.


  • Exceptional color payoff and blending capability
  • Convenient portability with a compact tin box
  • Non-toxic, making it safe for prolonged use


  • Limited amount of paint in each half pan
  • Metal tin may be prone to dents during travel
  • Color variety could be overwhelming for beginners

Our recent experience with the PHOENIX Artist Grade Watercolor Paint Set transformed an ordinary painting session into a delightful exploration of color. The pigments have a level of brilliance that beams right from the page, maintaining their intensity even as they dry.

The tin box housing the 48 half pans is a charm to carry around. Whether we’re out capturing landscapes or simply brainstorming in the cafe, this set has been an admirable companion. Mixes on its built-in palette come out smooth and are a breeze to manage.

Despite being smitten by the color range, we’ve found it to be a bit daunting for newcomers in watercolors. It can be challenging to choose the right shade from so many options. In addition, we noted the pans are small, and with frequent use, one might find themselves replenishing the set sooner than desired.

While it’s a minor concern, the durability of the tin box can be an issue. One of our boxes attained a few dents through normal travel, something to keep in mind if you prefer your art supplies in mint condition. However, these are just small imperfections in an otherwise excellent product.

In conclusion, whether you’re dipping your brush as a seasoned professional or just diving into the world of watercolor, the PHOENIX watercolor set is worth considering. With its commendable qualities, it’s a worthy addition to any artist’s toolkit.

4. Mungyo 48-Color Watercolor Set

We believe that both budding and experienced artists will find the Mungyo 48-Color Watercolor Set a valuable addition to their art supplies, owing to its vibrant colors and convenient design.


  • Vibrant, pigmented hues that add life to artwork
  • Portability ensures painting on-the-go is hassle-free
  • Built-in mixing palette enhances usability


  • Accessing and unwrapping individual pans can be fiddly
  • May not meet the expectations of those seeking professional-grade supplies
  • The small size of each pan could limit longevity for frequent users

Painting with the Mungyo watercolor set today, we were struck by the vividness of the colors right out of the box. They translated beautifully onto paper, creating luminous washes and clear, crisp lines. Our spontaneous outdoor sketching session was made all the more enjoyable with this compact kit; transportation was effortless and setup was quick.

During our art session, we appreciated the built-in mixing palette in the lid. It made blending colors a breeze and allowed for creativity to flow without interruption. We also noticed how these watercolor pans, despite their affordability, held their own against more expensive counterparts, producing vivid artwork that impressed us.

However, we did encounter a slight inconvenience with the packaging of the individual pans—unwrapping each color took time and sometimes proved to be a bit of a challenge. Although these watercolors are vibrant and satisfying to use, professionals may seek more specialized options. Furthermore, frequent use of these pans may lead to them running out rather quickly due to their petite size, an aspect to consider for those with a heavy painting hand.

Overall, the Mungyo 48-Color Watercolor Set is a boon for artists who value both quality and convenience in their painting experience.

5. Botanicals Travel Watercolor Tin

In our experience, this palette is ideal for artists who value both form and function in their tools.


  • Remarkable aesthetics complement creativity
  • Firmly secures pans, ensuring no slips or spills
  • Optimized for versatile use and travel-friendly


  • Pricier than some alternatives
  • Requires investment in watercolor pans or tubes
  • Not dishwasher safe, so hand cleaning is needed

This Paintcrush watercolor tin genuinely makes each painting session a pleasure. The colorful artwork on the lid serves not just as inspiration but also as a visual treat, transforming the palette into a piece of art itself. Its sturdy construction can withstand the rigors of travel, proving its worth as a reliable companion.

The way the pans snap into position and stay put is gratifying. We’ve found no issues with pans popping out or mixing trays shifting, which can be a common annoyance. The clip system inside secures the pans effectively, a detail that doesn’t go unnoticed when in the flow of painting.

As convenient as it is carrying it to our favorite outdoor spots for plein air painting, we’ve noted that it’s not as budget-friendly as some might prefer. However, the quality and the joy in using a palette that feels personal and unique can outweigh the cost for serious artists. It is a solid pick for those ready to invest more in their artistic tools.

6. Paintcrush Strawberry Palette

If you’re in search of a functional yet aesthetically pleasing watercolor palette, this one should be at the top of your list.


  • The unique strawberry design is a refreshing departure from standard palettes.
  • The half pans secure tightly, ensuring no frustrating slips while mixing colors.
  • Its durable construction feels sturdy and long-lasting in our hands.


  • With a metal build, it’s heavier than some may prefer for travel.
  • The artistic design might not appeal to everyone’s taste.
  • Limited to 24 half pans, so it may not suit those needing more capacity.

Upon first opening the Paintcrush Strawberry Palette, the standout feature is its alluring pattern, which is not only pleasing to the eye but also inspires creativity. As we filled the half pans with our favorite pigments, the process was seamless, with each pan clicking firmly into place—a testament to its thoughtful design.

We found mixing colors on this palette quite enjoyable. The lid’s five mixing wells coupled with 10 additional spaces in the flip-down section give ample room for experimentation. This layout fostered an organized workflow that we appreciated during our painting sessions.

Finally, after a satisfying day of painting, cleaning up the palette was straightforward. While not dishwasher safe, a simple rinse under running water had it looking as good as new, ready for our next artistic venture. It clearly reflects the brand’s commitment to combining function and form, and despite a few minor drawbacks, this palette is bound to be a dependable tool in any artist’s collection.

Buying Guide

When selecting watercolor pans, we must consider quality, size, and color range. High-quality pans offer better pigment load and lightfastness, ensuring our paintings last without fading. We look for pans crafted with fine pigments that provide a smooth application.

Choosing the right size is a balance between portability and paint longevity. Larger pans last longer, while small pans are ideal for travel. We also make sure the pans fit comfortably in our palette and are replaceable.

Color Range:

  • Basic Set: A set with primary colors for mixing.
  • Extended Set: More hues for minimal mixing.

Quality Factors to Check:

  1. Pigment Load: Intensity of the color.
  2. Binding Agent: Glycerin or honey to enhance moistness.
  3. Lightfastness: The paint’s resistance to fading.

Additional Features:

  • Non-Staining vs. Staining: Non-staining allows for easier corrections.
  • Granulation: Textural effects for dynamic paintings.
  • Transparency: Layers and glazes without a chalky finish.

Proper research helps us make informed decisions without being swayed by brand recognition alone.—we always seek reviews and swatches to understand the product’s performance in real-world conditions. Our choices balance cost with our specific needs, investing in a set that enhances our artistic journey.

Frequently Asked Questions

In the realm of watercolor painting, having the right materials is crucial to developing both skill and style. We’ll address some common queries about watercolor pans to guide beginners and professionals alike in making informed decisions.

What are the recommendable watercolor pan sets for someone just starting out?

For beginners, we suggest starting with simple yet versatile watercolor pan sets. Brands like Winsor & Newton Cotman and Sakura Koi offer affordable options that don’t compromise on quality. These sets often come with a good range of colors, are portable, and have mixing trays that can aid in learning color blending.

Which watercolor pan brands do professionals prefer for high-quality painting?

Professionals frequently turn to brands like Schmincke Horadam and Daniel Smith for their high-quality pigments and superior lightfastness. These brands offer a wide spectrum of colors and their pans are refillable, which is a mark of quality and sustainability.

What are the differences between half pan and full pan watercolors?

Half pans are smaller and more compact, making them ideal for artists who work on a smaller scale or need portability. Full pans, on the other hand, provide more paint, suitable for artists who use more washes or work on larger pieces. The choice between them often comes down to personal preference and the scale of work.

In terms of quality and ease of use, should beginners opt for watercolour tubes or pans?

Pans are generally favored by beginners for their ease of use and convenience. They’re ready to go with just a bit of water, eliminating the guesswork of mixing. Tubes can offer more color intensity and are better for larger works, but they require more setup and knowledge to get the right consistency.

What factors should one consider when selecting a watercolor pan set?

Consider the range and quality of colors, the size of the pans, and if the set includes extras like a brush, mixing tray, or sponge. Pigment concentration, permanency ratings, and transparency are technical factors that influence the selection, in addition to the brand’s reputation for consistency and quality.

How does the Sennelier Watercolor Set compare to other brands for both amateurs and professionals?

The Sennelier Watercolor Set stands out for its honey-based formulation which contributes to its luscious texture and brilliance in color. Both amateurs and professionals appreciate this as it allows for smooth application and is forgiving to work with. Its longevity and vibrancy of color are on par with other high-end brands, positioning it as a worthy investment for artists of all levels.

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