There are several different types of premixed colors. There are colors that a manufacturer mixes to mimic an expensive pigment with cheap ingredients, or colors that should mimic classic pigments that are no longer used. There are also color mixtures that have always been just mixtures, but also mixtures that are pure fantasies, which are nothing more than just a color mixture with a fantasy name.
Something that irritates me a lot is all the manufacturers who cheat with color mixtures, who call a color something it is not. Cobalt blue is a good example, it is an expensive pigment that is classic. All manufacturers must have it in their range. But due to the high cost, some replace the pigment with something cheaper, a common way is to mix French ultramarine + some white color, the result is not cobalt blue! But it is so similar to cobalt blue that it is possible to fool someone, to give the name cobalt blue to such a color mixture is not just cheating, it is fraud. It is always the expensive pigments that come across this treatment: cobalt paints, cadmium paints, viridian and the like. Always look at the contents of a paint to see that it is made with the right pigment.
Some pigments are no longer used, this may be because they are not lightfast (eg gamboge, indigo and sepia) or because they are toxic (eg chromium colors, manganese blue and vermilion) or for animal rights reasons such as Indian yellow and Ivory Black. There are lots of pigments that are no longer used, but many of the names are well-established and well-known, so manufacturers are tempted to try to imitate them as well as possible. You as a consumer should only be aware that it is no longer possible to buy gamboge, sepia, Indian yellow or indigo, they belong to history. All that can be obtained are pale imitations achieved through different color mixtures.
From the first half of the 19th century, Payne’s gray has been an established color, it has always been a mixed color, nowadays manufacturers mix it differently than William Payne did. There are many similar ones such as hooker’s green or contemporary blends such as Jane’s Gray and Alvaro’s Fresco Gray. There are also pure fictional colors such as Neutral Tint, May Green and Neutral Gray. Or mixtures that try to mimic something else, such as olive green, Undersea Green or Lavender.
If you mix your own sapgreen color with blue or green + yellow, you not only get your own color, you can also adjust the color choice so that it harmonizes with the other colors in your painting. If you have eggs, milk, flour and baking powder at home, then you do not go and buy ready-made pancake mix. Same thing with watercolor paints, if you already have blue and yellow, why go and buy a ready-mixed green? You already have the ingredients.
The different manufacturers
There are many manufacturers of watercolor paints, perhaps the proportion of paints that are single pigments can give an indication of how serious they are. The list below is taken from handpring.com, feel free to read it if you are interested, it is a good review of the major manufacturers’ different colors, very comprehensive and serious.
|Lukas||46% Single pigment colors|
|Sennelier||48% Single pigment colors|
|Holbein||52% Single pigment colors|
|Rembrandt||53% Single pigment colors|
|Old Holland||57% Single pigment colors|
|Art Spectrum||64% Single pigment colors|
|Schmincke||65% Single pigment colors|
|Daler-Rowney||66% Single pigment colors|
|Da Vinci||67% Single pigment colors|
|St. Petersburg||71% Single pigment colors|
|Maimeri||72% Single pigment colors|
|Winsor & Newton||79% Single pigment colors|
|M. Graham||80% Single pigment colors|
|Blockx||82% Single pigment colors|
|Daniel Smith||86% Single pigment colors|
|Utrecht||90% Single pigment colors|
There are a few smaller manufacturers that only have single pigment colors, here are two examples.