|Art supply reviews, color charts and lightfast tests of popular fine art and craft coloring media.
|About me and testing information:
As an artist I'm addicted to color and playing with new goodies, but hate to waste money on supplies that are limited in value, versatility or have colors that fade over time. On
this page I will share my knowledge and testing of coloring products with you so you can make an informed decision on media you might be deciding to purchase and to
give you ideas for how the supplies can be used. All lightfast tests are done on acid-free artist quality papers and taped to a northern facing window in Pennsylvania.
The fading results should be comparable in time frame to most open window (no blinds/curtains) sunlit indoor room walls, the fading would be much slower in shady
rooms. None of my windows receive many hours of direct sunlight each day, and there are many overcast days in my region. Artwork hung in direct sunlight or in areas
closer to the equator would have quicker fading results. Art buyers should be informed that no artwork should ever be stored in direct sunlight, as no pigment exists
that can fully withstand the sun's fading power.
Coloring mediums currently being tested (shown in alphabetical order of product name) include:
Products advertised as lightfast, marketed to fine artists or labeled as containing quality pigments:
* Acrylic Paint Markers (including Sharpie, Montana and Posca brands) Results: varies by color from poor to excellent.
* Bombay India Inks manufactured by Dr. Ph. Martin's. Results: Excellent lightfast colors for entire selection.
* Daniel Smith Extra Fine Watercolors. Results: Excellent, of 238 colors tested only 4 were poor.
* Gelatos gel sticks manufactured by Faber Castell aka Design Memory Craft. Results: Many were extremely poor, some very good depending on the color.
* INK! A fluid acrylic paint (ink consistency) by Liquitex. Results: All colors proved excellent.
* Kuretake Gansai Tambi watercolor paints manufactured by Zig. Results: Majority excellent, a few noted colors were poor.
* Media fluid acrylic paint manufactured by DecoArt. Results: Coming soon.
* Mission Gold Watercolors by Mijello. Results: Majority excellent, 4 of 34 colors tested were poor, 2 were fair with fading after 6 months.
* Shinhan SWC Watercolors Results: Mixed, 7 of 32 colors were poor, 2 were fair with fading after 6 months.
* Polychromos colored pencils by Faber Castell. Results: Excellent lightfast colors, limited testing selection, will expand as budget allows.
* Prismacolor Premier colored Pencils by Sanford. Results: Majority excellent, several poor colors as noted.
The lower half of this page shows common coloring and crafting materials expected to be fugitive.
Products NOT advertised as lightfast, marketed to crafters, dye ink and fugitive coloring supplies:
*Note* These products should not be judged harshly for their poor lightfast results, as they do what they were made to do (be vibrant, unique colors, fit a certain type of use or ease of blending
etc.). The following should not be used in wall-hung/light exposed fine art originals (but certainly could be used for art to create photo copied prints from).
* Alcohol Inks (Adirondack Tim Holtz brand) manufactured by Ranger Ink - Results: Long term indoor lighting results excellent, sun tests poor, see chart.
* Children's Color Pencils by Prang and Crayola. Results: Stable indoors, poor to good results in sun (fluorescents fade quickly and primaries within 1 year).
* Copic Markers (alcohol ink) by Copic - Results: As expected, not lightfast dye, has varying degrees of extremely poor to very good fading depending on color.
* Distress Markers and Ink Pads manufactured by Ranger Ink - Results: As expected, not lightfast dye, has varying degrees of fading, overall extremely poor.
The basic differences between pigment, dye, craft supplies and artists quality supplies is covered on the craft coloring tutorial page. Dye inks are generally not as
strong against the sun as pigment inks, so should never be stored in light.
There are some colors that are always fugitive (will fade over time or sun exposure) across any brands or mediums. These fugitive colors include anything
fluorescent (such as highlighter markers, and "neon" bright paints, those bright man-made dyes can't last). There are certain colors in many paint brands, even
expensive artist quality ones, that fade rapidly - these notably include colors such as "opera pink" and "prussian blue". Prussian colors react oddly to light, they fade
in the sun, but later the color can restore itself to the original state if left in shade for several weeks or more.
|I hope you enjoyed this page and have saved money by using the information to avoid or purchase the ideal products for your artwork without having failed tests
yourself. If you haven't yet visited my free tutorial directory feel free to look around :)
Because it is very expensive and time consuming to test these products, any help you can offer is sincerely appreciated. Even a $1.00 donation can help
cover the cost of supplies, result in another color of a product tested, or even a new tutorial section created.
Thank you for visiting,
About Bombay India Inks manufactured by Dr. Ph. Martin's. I purchased mine at Dick Blick's art supply website for $38 per 12 color set.
They average $3 to $4 per 1oz glass jar with eye dropper top, unfortunately I've only been able to find 12 of the 24 of the colors sold individually outside of the sets, which
makes restocking just your favorite color tricky. The pigments are very saturated and they produced nice color range when water diluted, making them an affordable
replacement for watercolor paint with superior lightfastness. Though it should be noted that since they are mostly waterproof when dry, they can not be lifted or blended after
coloring like traditional watercolors. They perform somewhere between a liquid watercolor and fluid acrylic paint, with easy water clean-up while wet.
Product information from manufacturer: Lightfast, Archival, Fine Artist Pigments, Liquid, Waterproof, Brilliant, Transparent & Opaques, AP approved Non-toxic . For Pen,
Brush, Technical Pen and Calligraphy Pen.
My findings, versatility / usage and notes:
Can be used to create your own custom color markers using empty markers or marker nib tips (such as Copic markers or Ranger's Cut n Dry Pen Nibs here.) This allows
you to apply detailed color strokes over pen drawn artwork on any paper, as the marker nibs allow you to use very thin washes of color versus a paintbrush. Because nearly
all water based markers on the market are dye-based and will fade, these would be a much better alternative for use in your professional level fine art.
Also works beautifully as an alternative to watercolor paints on watercolor paper, as it thins and blends well with any paint brush and water. Can be used in a dip pen,
but dries fast on the nib tip and is difficult to clean off. I would not put this in a technical or calligraphy pen as the pigment particles are too thick and fast drying.
My only complaint: The pigments settle to the bottom of the jars and must be shaken often. Several colors have large particle pigments that were hardening into chunks in
the containers even though they were newly manufactured. The only one that was a major problem was "Sepia" color.
|Color chart was created using a
dip pen to write the color names
and a paint brush to to apply the
long line of color.
It should be noted that any color
differences noticed in this picture
are only from where the lamp light
is reflecting on the inks, as they
are slightly shiny after drying
when applied thickly.
|All tests have been cat approved. Cookie guards all lightfast tests to ensure that there is no funny business.
|One of the most beautifully packaged sets of paints I have ever purchased.
I would highly recommend this as a gift for any artist in your life. The fancy
cardboard container has a blank color chart inside the lid for you to hand
paint. The trays of color are quite large, with the potential to last through
years of use, and can be removed individually from the box.
About Kuretake Gansai Tambi - 36 Colors set of Japanese traditional watercolor paints:
These are a semi-moist pan style watercolor cake, apply a wet paintbrush to pick up color.
Manufacturer's retail price is $54.99 for this set. For the quantity of paint, the amount of
different colors and the pigment load in each cake, I consider this a very good deal in
comparison to other quality watercolor paints on the market.
There is no mention of lightfast or archival properies on the packaging, but after 1 year of
testing I am happy to report all but 4 colors are stable. These are a traditional style of sumi
Japanese water based paint - meaning it is not exactly the same as American style
watercolors you may have tried. It is a thick, dense pigment color in a pan/cake/tray. The
binder is slightly sticky (it doesn't say what type is used, but these types of paints usually
contain animal glue) and many colors are semi-opaque (you can't see through the color,
similar to gouache paints, becoming more transparent with more water added).
|Where to buy: The manufacturer has had a hard time meeting demand
for these sets. Often they are back-ordered for a month or longer (as was
the case for late 2014 and thoughout 2015) at most individual stores.
Amazon.com is usually the quickest place to get a set at this time.
About Distress Markers and Ink Pads manufactured by Ranger Ink:
Typically used as a rubber stamping ink or direct to paper application for
coloring rubber stamp art. Both the markers and ink pads have a purposefully
water-reactive formula making it very easy to blend, lift and erase color as
desired. The most common effect for distress ink pads is to color the paper,
spray with a water bottle mister, lay paper towel down to lift the color away on the
areas the water was sprayed.
THIS PRODUCT MAKES NO LIGHTFAST CLAIMS. Because it is dye based, it can't
be as lightfast as pigment products and should not be expected to perform as
such. It does claim to be fade resistant and archival, therefore good in card
making, scrapbooking and projects stored away from sunlight.
*I tested them purely to decide if the results are long lasting enough for use in
my artwork, but it is made for crafts and scrapbooking projects that would
not normally be subject to wall-hung lighting conditions. Test results: Overall
as expected for this type of product = NOT LIGHTFAST. Dramatic color changes
in all colors except for "Black Soot", "Peeled Paint" and "Forest Moss" which
appear to be stable even in well lit environments.
About Gelatos manufactured by Faber Castell aka Design Memory Craft:
These are gel sticks containing pigment color in a creamy binder, similar to chapstick in both container
and consistency. They are best for laying down background color on paper, canvas or any acrylic gesso
painted surface. They can also be used for light pastel-tone (pale) watercolor painting (they are lighter in
color when picked up with water and a paintbrush).They can also be used directly on a rubber stamp,
misted with a fine spray of water and stamped onto your surface.
They claim to be "permanent" which in the art world typically means waterproof after drying. But I had
major sealing problems for mixed media/layers of artwork after allowing them to dry for 24 to 48
hours. Because Gelatos are designed to be water activated, even after drying for a day they can still be
re-wet enough to cause a muddy mix of colors when you attempt to apply a brush-on sealer to do
multi-layer artwork. To avoid smearing colors you can use light sprays from a spray can style sealer, or
watered down acrylic matte medium in a spray bottle, or a quick pass with a sponge brayer using your
favorite brush on sealer for water based paints, but they are finicky to work over. If you attempt to draw with
a pen over top of a thick layer of gelatos, the waxy layer from the color sticks will clog your pen. I found that
it was much easier to draw over the gelatos covered surface after you water it down. If you try to paint over
the gelatos, the wetness will activate the colors and they will mix into your new layer of paint.
The color chart above shows the "gift set" which retails for $62.95 and contains 28 color sticks
(advertised as a "34 piece set" that includes some applicators and a water brush). The color chart to the
right shows 8 colors from two of their 4-color pack sets called "Tropical" and "Macaroons" that also
come with a brush and foam applicator for $10.45 per set.
Unfortunately 12 of the 36 colors showed very bad fading and/or color changes in just 1 month of light
exposure, with several showing signs of fading in under 2 weeks. Three additional colors showed
slight fading but were not as severe in color change as the first 12 (see pictures). Pretty bad for a product
claiming all colors to be lightfast, especially in comparison to other coloring products on the market
(nearly all of my acrylic paints stayed true to color, even my crayola kid's color pencils did better). The
versatility of this product is pretty good, but I'm disappointed that I spent the money for the larger set. I
would only use a limited list of their colors (and only if you have a need for this type of product, as their are
so many inks and paints on the market that can do similar jobs with easier application, sealing options
and precision application vs the wide chapstick type tip). See the color charts for details on which
colors fade and which colors are stable over time.
Sadly I can't recommend this product and have decided not to carry it for sale in my store. You can find it
on Amazon or Dick Blick art supplies online. If these type of water soluble color sticks interest you, a
similar product is called Caran d'Ache Neocolor II Artists' Crayons made with quality pigments that
have been used by fine artists around the world for many years.
|Design Memory Craft (Faber-Castell's craft supply brand name) has many great projects using Gelatos on their blog. The "no fading in the sun" quote above can be viewed
on this blog post by them. On the Faber-Castell website, Design Memory Craft blog, and on many of the product packages themselves they claim all Gelatos colors are
lightfast. However, compared to other coloring products my testing has shown many of their colors seem to be severely lacking in lightfastness.
|This was extremely disappointing for me, especially because money is very tight and these were expensive. I hope that they will clarify their lightfast ratings for individual
colors in the future, because simply labeling them all "lightfast" is not accurate. The manufacturer's blog also repeatedly makes comments about these not fading from
sunlight. As a seasoned artist, I was armed with knowledge on how pigments fade over long periods of time so I didn't expect the colors to last forever, but certainly
didn't expect changes within 2 to 4 weeks, so what I purchased REALLY didn't meet my expectations.
|Media fluid acrylic paint manufactured by DecoArt. Results: Coming soon.
|Polychromos colored pencils by Faber Castell.
Results: Excellent lightfast colors, but limited testing selection as I could only afford 6 pencils at this time. Images coming shortly.
My highest recommendation, especially for crafters and artists who do not have time to create often, because of the amazing results you can get and no risk of
your coloring supplies going bad/drying out in between uses. If I could only buy a single type of coloring supply, a 60+ color set of Polychromos would be my pick.
Prismacolors are a close second. Compared to paints and inks, the versatility of this color medium is amazing and as an investment they will last years with no risk of
drying out like paints. You can achieve amazing detail with sharpened pencils, color gradient blending is easy with such selection of colors, and a smooth blended
watercolor painted look with the use of a paper stump and baby oil. Best of all, there is very little investment for complementing art tools such as being able to use most
types of paper (instead of expensive watercolor paper or canvas that wet mediums require), along with a small pencil sharpener it's one of the cheapest and most
portable ways to create art.
If you do happen to do watercolor painting or use markers for coloring, any colored pencils work great over top of those to add fine details or shading that wasn't possible
with the wet mediums.
Comparison between Polychromos and Prismacolor discussed in the Prismacolor review section below.
|Prismacolor Premier colored Pencils by Sanford: Better quality than most colored pencils on the market (far better than Crayola/Prang, and not quite as good as
Differences between "Prismacolor" and "Polychromos" colored pencils: These two leading brand fine art quality pencils are both highly pigmented resulting in opaque
application on light or dark paper. Several Prismacolor colors, especially white, seems to beat Polycrhomos in that opacity, but most colors lay down similarly.
The major difference between these products is Prismacolor is wax based and Polychromos is oil based. I prefer the oil based Polycrhomos because they blend easier
together as well as appear more painted, almost a watercolor effect, when you rub a paper stump tool over top that has been lightly dipped in baby oil. I use Johnson's baby
oil because it is easy to find, but any mineral oil will work. Prismacolor also blends well with oil, just not quite as smoothly. The Prismacolor pencil colors, after being drawn
on your surface, can sometimes have the wax-base rise to the surface of the artwork creating a foggy white sheen over the artwork (this is called wax bloom). This does not
happen with the oil-based Polychromos. Therefore varnishes/protective sprays should be used on Prismacolor drawings to prevent wax bloom from showing up in the
future. One other thing I noticed when drawing with both brands of pencils is that Prismacolor has more crumbling/color dust and can not be pressed as hard onto the
paper as Polychromos without breaking. Therefore I ended up having more wasted pencil lead with Prismacolor.
Price comparison: Prismacolors are cheaper and I recommend them for serious beginner colored pencil artists to later decide if Polychromos would be a good
investment based on your usage. It's also a good idea to buy a 48-60 color set and then supplement with individual pencils as desired, as the 72+ color sets contain
many similar duplicate colors that are not necessary for such easily blended pencils. Prismacolor pencils run about $1.09 ($1.84 retail) per pencil vs Polychromos
pencils run about $1.75 ($2.85 retail) per pencils based on sale prices at http://www.dickblick.com/categories/coloredpencils/
|Alcohol Inks (Adirondack Tim Holtz brand) manufactured by Ranger Ink
There is no change in colors when kept in normal indoor conditions, no direct sunlight or exposure to humidity. They are not lightfast in the sun for any prolonged period of
time. Many of these colors would break down within a couple weeks of constant direct sunlight (outside OR inside by a window where the sun beams come through directly
on them) because they are dyes and not artist's pigments puts them at a disadvantage.
UV sealers and barriers could help prolong the color life for temporary outdoor situations. Particularly helpful with jewelry making, you could use a sealer such as Krylon's
clear UV resistant gloss spray. That helps protect your surface and makes these inks less prone to fading if you need them to be exposed to sunlight briefly.
The indoor color charts and projects are currently posted on the alcohol ink tutorial page here. The outdoor sun exposed chart is below:
|Color Pencils by Prang and Crayola (leading children's art brands). Stable indoors only, in sun fluorescents fade within weeks, primary colors fade within 1 year.
Lightfast test went well for each and every Bombay India Ink
color they make. I am pleased that in a month and a half in
sunlight there is no fading that I could see with my eyes. I feel
comfortable using these in fine art, and for the price compared
to other "artist quality" paints, these are a great deal.
When applied thickly, Bombay
India Inks dry with a slight sheen.
This causes a subtle shine on
some colors (reflecting light) that
may appear as a color change,
but there are no changes.
INK! By Liquitex color charts and results coming soon.
|RESULTS: Colors on the left were hidden from light, colors on the right that were exposed to window lighting have faded and changed color tone. These three colors are the
only changes after 1 month of light exposure: #66 menthol, #67 deep blue and #34 dark pink. Otherwise I was very impressed with the lightfastness of these paints,
especially for a product not advertised to be lightfast, with only 3 of 36 colors having any issues. After 1 entire year, #57 Turquoise also failed. I would not hesitate to use
these in any craft project, and would use all but the 4 of the colors listed above for paintings that may be hung on a wall in a well lit area.
|Dispersion of wet paint on wet paper is similar to any watercolor paint, though
covering larger areas with washes is more difficult using pan style cakes vs
liquid watercolors in tubes. This set is ideal for small-scale artwork, such as
small paintings under 8x10", card making and rubber stamp art coloring.
|The metallic mica powders in the silver and gold paints are very
saturated, leaving a beautiful reflective effect on painted paper.
Using Prismacolor pencils on bristol paper (a smooth surface thick white cardstock) I found it easy to
create fine details with sharpened pencils (hair/wings) and smoothed skin with baby oil.
|All products below this bar can be expected to be not lightfast as they are dye based craft products, not pigment based fine art
quality. I have done several tests anyways due to being curious about how long they take to break down in light.
|April 2016 - 1 year
results are in!!!
I'm very pleased that after 1 full
year in the window there has still
been no visible color changes.
Everything still looks like the day
I painted it. These inks have
performed amazingly well and
come with my highest
recommendation for fine art and
|Lightfast results will be updated as testing time goes by, 1 year results ETA March 2017. Larger images of each color can be found on the Daniel Smith site at
http://knowledgebase.danielsmith.com/ColorChart.asp and can be purchased through D.S. or Dick Blick's website.
Copic markers are a design tool - not a fine art
Though they are a quality product and very expensive, they have
a purpose other than fine art. They are meant to create quick,
vibrantly colored projects that will be photocopied within a few
weeks of creation to be used in making prints, published in
magazines, displayed online etc. A great tool for graphic design
artists because of the vibrant color dyes, easy blending and
shading that the alcohol ink is capable of. They are also great
for craft projects such as greeting cards or crafts that will not be
hung on a wall for long term display.
The chart to the left is a photograph of a color chart created 5
years ago that has remained on my bedroom wall. The only
major change in colors that have remained in shady, not direct
sunlight, indoors are the BV00, 000 and 0000 colors which
within 1 week turn pink from blue-violet.
* None of these colors are lightfast and they will fade if
exposed to direct sunlight. *
While Copic generally makes very high quality alcohol based
dye inks and air-tight markers with replaceable brush tips that
can last a lifetime - there is a problem with 3 of the lightest
If you plan to use Copic markers in your work I recommend
avoiding marker # BV00, BV000 AND BV0000. These pale
blue-violet colors turn pink within a week in normal indoor
shade. The color is completely unstable. Unfortunately this
problem has yet to be fixed as of 2015, as I repeated the test
from 2010 with new markers purchased in 2015 hoping the
issue had been solved.
See the picture to the left showing how the purples blend
together when applied, but are so unstable that after a few
days they start shifting into a pink color.
|Mission Gold watercolors by Mijello UPDATE:
1 year results showed slight fading in "burnt sienna" and "light red" bringing the questionable color count to 6 in this set.
*** However, both Prussian and Indigo have recovered their original color state once removed from light exposure (stored in shade for 3 months). ***
Final results pending
|Shinhan watercolors "SWC" version (note they do have other qualities of paint, this is the
artist grade professional quality type) as of may 2017 is only $87 per 32 color set on
Amazon. Each tube is 15ml, a standard large size for watercolors. They are made in South
Korea and are the main competitor of Mission Gold brand.
This breaks down to less than $3 per tube, compared to the average of $10 to $15 per tube
of most brands of artist grade watercolors. The pigment load, water dispersion, lifting,
packaging and overall quality was excellent.
Verdict: 9 fugitive colors, 23 lightfast colors. Close in comparison to the amount of
lightfast paints in the Mission Gold sets. However, I prefer Mission Gold for color
intensity and pigment load. If you are able to find both Shinhan and Mission Gold sets
available for similar prices, the Mission Gold paints can be diluted to last longer than the
Shinhan set would. Some reviews have commented that they prefer Shinhan's subtle color
selection, however I would argue that all it takes is a little extra water to make your Mission
Gold paints less vibrant in color.