I recently received a fabulous goodie package in the mail from Royal Talens that was filled with their professional-grade watercolors (or what this Dutch-based company calls water colours) named "Rembrandt."
Royal Talens is more well known in Europe than it is here in the States, but the company has been around for more than 100 years. It was founded in 1899 by Marten Talens, and not long after launching, Talens added their Rembrandt line of watercolor and oil paints.
I had heard of Royal Talens' student brand, Van Gogh, but I wasn’t familiar with Rembrandt. I immediately filled a palette and put these watercolors to work. I’ve tested them on a variety of papers using various techniques, so I thought it was time for a full review.
Note: Though I graciously and enthusiastically thank Royal Talens for freely providing an extremely generous supply of Rembrandt watercolor paints for me to sample, this review contains my unbiased, honest opinion.
[If you're curious about the actual products used in this review or want more information, just follow the links. Some links are affiliates. Also, click on any of the photos in this post to enlarge.]
My Palette of Rembrandt Watercolors
Royal Talens produces 80 colors of watercolor in their Rembrandt line, and half are single-pigment tubes. And these are substantial tubes! Each tube is a whopping 20 milliliters, though Royal Talens also offers a 5 milliliter tester size in many of their colors.
Currently at Cheap Joe's, a 20ml tube of Rembrandt's Phthalo Green costs $14.96 or 75-cents per ml. Cobalt, which is usually more expensive, costs $18.71 or 94-cents per ml. When compared to other top brands of artist-grade watercolors, Rembrandt is fairly pricey but these tubes may cost less in European countries.
Rembrandt paints are very fluid and squeeze like syrup into a palette or pan. I learned very quickly to keep my palette flat until they are completely dry. Once set, I had no issues with these paints staying put, and so far, there's been little to no contraction.
Each color's information is listed in the order (top to bottom, left to right) of its location in my palette. You can view and download a complete Rembrandt color chart here.
- Lemon Yellow (PY184)
- Azo Yellow Deep (PY154/PO43)
- Gamboge (PY150/PO48)
- Yellow Ochre (PY43/PY42)
- Transparent Oxide Red (PR101)
- Van Dyke Brown (PR101/PBk7)
- Permanent Green (PG7/PY154)
- Hooker Green Deep (PG7/PY150, and nope, not Hooker's)
- Quinacridone Rose (PV19)
- Permanent Red Light (PR254/PY154)
- Permanent Red Deep (PR254)
- Permanent Madder Lake (PR264/PV19)
- Cerulean Blue (PB35)
- Cobalt Blue (PB28)
- Ultramarine Deep (PB29)
- Prussian Blue (PB27)
For this review, I won't remark on each individual color because I'll be profiling Rembrandt colors in future posts. All of my articles on watercolor colors are listed here.
Initial Testing of Rembrandt Watercolors
When testing new paints, I usually paint out a color or two on great paper just so I can see what I'll be working with. (Below, that's Rembrandt on Kilimanjaro artist-grade paper.) After that, I always swatch out the paints on student-grade paper.
There are a couple of reasons for this. One, some issues that are often hidden on artist-grade paper are greatly magnified on student papers. I can see the pigments at their worst, so to speak. Two, I'm always interested to see how watercolors and pigments perform on a variety of papers.
The first thing I noticed is that, wow, Rembrandt watercolors are vivid! The chroma in these watercolors is so intense that some colors appear almost headachy brilliant. I have yet to use a more vibrant brand overall.
However, this intensity could come at a price. In the photo above (Rembrandt on Strathmore student-grade paper), can you see the white, cloudy and sometimes sparkly material that has floated to the surface of the paint?
I don't know a lot about the production of watercolors, but I do know that this is often a telltale sign of added brighteners. Hmmm, could this explain Rembrandt's intensity?
This theory required another test, so I painted more swatches on black art paper. The pigment mostly disappears into the black paper, so when the paint dries, any added brighteners become visible. In the swatches below, it's easy to see the brighteners added to these paints.
Don't panic: This doesn't mean these watercolors are poor quality paints. Many manufacturers add brighteners along with other additives to their products. However, I do think that you should know what you are getting and why these watercolors may look and perform the way they do.
While making swatches, I also thought that these paints appeared very opaque, but when tested, Rembrandt watercolors displayed some transparency. There's obvious masking in the test strip below, but opacity isn't excessive. It's possible that the intensity of these watercolors makes them appear much more opaque on paper than they actually are.
Even though they appear more opaque, Rembrandt watercolors dilute easily and beautifully. In the test above, you can also see how easily these watercolors lift, even when dry. In fact, these watercolors have extraordinary lift and flow, but more on that in a minute.
Though testing these watercolors was fun, I was ready to try them out in a painting.
Performance of Rembrandt Watercolors
Rembrandt watercolors seemed to be waiting for this moment to break out of their shells... or tubes. These are not shy watercolors! Their boldness is evident in my first attempt below. (Rembrandt on Hahnemühle paper) These paints are so vibrant, I felt like I was painting a glow-in-the-dark landscape!
Also, these paints like to move on a page— a lot! During my initial tests, I became frustrated with their constant movement, blossoming, and general unruliness. They certainly have a mind of their own, and this is very evident in the first layer of the painting below.
Excuse the cockling— the paper's still wet in this photo— but you can see where I started losing control right at that blob in the middle, and then the entire treeline on the right blossomed. Argh! Since the paints lift easily, I couldn't correct any of the runs by blotting, at least without removing everything. I just sat there and watched it go.
I consider myself a fairly adept wet-in-wet painter, but these paints gave me a workout. I was somewhat able to salvage the mess above (the final is below), but this was not how I planned for this landscape to look. Oh well.
I finally chose a paper that celebrates movement (Saunder's Waterford) and decided to allow the paint to run the show. I wanted to see how Rembrandt watercolors reacted when left to their own devices.
Bingo! Immediately, these watercolors started to sing in my hand, and I actually began to enjoy painting with them. I had fun with this technique (above, and in the lead photo of this post) and liked the final results.
Because of this discovery, I decided to do a simple test to gauge Rembrandt's dispersement level. Oh my, the results were astounding!
On the left is what Rembrandt watercolors do when pulled through a wash, wet-in-wet. Compare it to other brands of the exact same pigments on the right. Rembrandt's dispersement ability is quite remarkable, and this test was done on Kilimanjaro paper which doesn't always allow a lot of movement. Rembrandt's Cobalt Blue even ran into the border and tried to keep flowing around the page. Yep, bold audacity!
Overview of Rembrandt Watercolors
- Extremely vibrant color with moderate opaqueness
- Moderate to high granulation
- Stays put in a palette and remoistens easily
- Huge amount of mobility & dispersement
- Expensive in the U.S.
- Best on artist-grade papers
In conclusion, though Rembrandt watercolors are quite exciting and fun to play with, and I like vibrant watercolors, these are a bit too bold even for me. Also, I'm not completely confident the quality justifies the price.
Though I'll continue to profile this brand here at SJ, I'll also be completely honest (as always) and say that these watercolors probably won't become part of my permanent palette. However, you may love them. Many artists do!
In Liquid Color's Rembrandt Watercolor Review
These watercolors were an enigma to me, and though I feel like Rembrandt and I finally came to an understanding, they never did fully win me over.
Since opinions vary and I want you to find the best watercolors for you, I asked Denise Soden, the artist behind the fantastic YouTube channel In Liquid Color, to also take a look at Rembrandt watercolors and share her thoughts.
Denise put together an excellent video that showcases Rembrandt watercolors in action. She also compares the individual colors to other brands, which I find extremely helpful. If you'd like to know more about Rembrandt watercolors, I highly recommend watching Denise's video.
Rembrandt Watercolor Set Giveaway! [Closed]
You know what? I'd also like YOUR opinion about Rembrandt watercolors. If you've used these paints, please leave me a comment at the end of this post. And I'd love to give you a chance to win a palette full of these fiesty pigments!
This Rembrandt watercolor sketching set includes a Loew-Cornell palette filled with 12 colors of Rembrandt watercolors, a Kilimanjaro watercolor block, a Factis extra-soft eraser, a Faber-Castell Grip pencil, a sepia Pigma Micron pen, and a sampler pack of Yupo. (I haven't tried Rembrandt on Yupo yet, but I've got a feeling it might be fun!)
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