Product Profiles: Watercolor Cakes vs Tubes

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

A: 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 contain more (and higher quality) pigment than scholastic grade colors. Country of origin and vendor agreements can also affect the final price.

Vintage Utrecht watercolors in the old "skinny" tubes

Utrecht Artist's Watercolors are made exclusively at our original Brooklyn, NY facility. Our watercolors are made by skilled craftsmen with the maximum load of the best pigments.

Antique box of Reeves watercolor cakes

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

Lower quality cakes may be chalky and opaque with inferior lightfastness, though some scholastic grade brands offer very respectable paint for such a low price.

Better scholastic set with miniature palette

Watercolor pan sets come in a broad range of interesting and practical case styles, with built-in palettes and even brush holders. Individual replacement cakes are available for some of the better brands, priced in series like all top-quality paint. Replacement cakes are usually not available for lower quality pan sets; these will generally not have lightfastness ratings listed.

Exhausted pans can be refilled with tube colors which can be left to dry, forming a new "cake".

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