Three watercolour field boxes – a tale

Posted: May 23, 2015 in watercolour
Tags: , , , , , ,

I never thought I would prefer solid paints to tube paints. But then, I never thought I would prefer small illustration to large masterpieces! My tube paints are all W&N Artist quality (hollow laugh, but they say we should use good paints) plus a few Terry Harrison ones. These are great for large areas of wash. Here, I’m going to introduce my three favourites field boxes which have pans not tubes, in case you fancy giving one a try.

First off, I acquired a tiny travel box from Daler Rowney – with quarter size pans. Not refillable with blocks but I could replace the paint from tubes. These have entranced me. With a cut-down, decent-size brush together with the given small one, they are my go-to set, at home or out. The colours come off onto the brush well and, strangely, the one mixing area is mostly enough.

Daler Rowney quarter pans

Daler Rowney quarter pans

I then found out about St Petersburg White Nights – a set of block paints from Russia. Very reasonably priced and nice to use in a different way. Also soft. I wouldn’t take these out for a quick sketch because the folding out palettes make it a little bulky to hold in one hand. But definitely if going away for a week to a relative or a hotel. The front tray can be removed. There are some great colours in this box. I confess I was a little lured by the fantastic write-ups and the rather romantic-sounding name, but I haven’t regretted the outlay once. The names on the wrappers are not repeated elsewhere so I quickly made a chart to keep.

St Petersburg White Nights

St Petersburg White Nights

And then, just recently, someone on ArtTutor asked about Koi paints. I was probably stressed out with work and vulnerable to shopping therapy, but OMG what superb paints they have turned out to be! It’s a travel-sized box again with a removable additional palette that can be fixed left or right, plus two little sponges and a water brush. The paints come off easily and are transparent. What a gorgeous set!

Koi Pocket Field Sketch Box

Koi Pocket Field Sketch Box

I might or might not take these out for a spot of sketching but they are certainly fit for purpose – they won’t look this new for long. I’ve no idea how I would refill these particular paints, but I think the W&N box has proved how long little blocks can last for illustrations, so I will worry about that in a decade or two!

I think I should abstain now from buying any more field boxes. But if you’ve used any of these boxes, I’d love to hear what you think of them.

  1. All those lovely colours look delicious! I have a pan set of W&N; they’re, great..but I must admit, over the years, I’ve often enjoyed using all the “lolly” colours (as I like to call them) in Crayola pan sets – a children’s art brand. 🙂 Lately I’ve been splashing about in some amazing art apps. Good fun! All the best in your painting adventures. Looking forward to your future posts. 🙂


  2. Kristy says:

    Hi Eleanor.. of all 3 sets, which brand would you recommend to someone just starting out in watercolors? I’m always hearing that you should “buy the best you can afford.. better a few artist grade tubes than a lot of student grade paints” etc. What would you say?


    • Hi Kristy, sorry about delay replying. Was on deadline. All are good, but if working indoors and you want to mix some washes up, then more palette area is good. Always try for Artist grade, even when starting, because they simply work better. Outdoors, the White Nights are a bit big and unwieldy but you can leave one tray behind! Indoors, many people use tube paint and a big segmented palette, but I do smaller sketchier stiff, so blocks are fine with me. Simply going by brand, starting out with Winsor and Newton or Daler Rowney is a good choice. I havent really clarified, have I!! You could do worse than join for a month to try out the watercolour essentials course!


      • kristyc says:

        *grin* that’s alright Eleanor, it was some help. I don’t think I’d be painting outdoors anytime soon and since there was a good deal on the White Nights 24 set, I went ahead and ordered it. I was leaning towards W&N but I would have only been able to get a few tubes to start with and was concerned that I’d be frustrated with my inexperience when it comes to color mixing that I might end up regretting it.. plus, I’d feel less guilty about using the paints and making mistakes just because White Nights is cheaper, you know what I mean? I’ll def check out ArtTutor – thank you for encouragement!


      • They are lovely paints – and everyone speaks well of them – some fabulous colours. Decent pigment. You won’t regret it at all. Have fun unwrapping them all!


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