Several months ago, I set out to review Schmincke watercolors. I falsely believed that I could paint with Schmincke for a few weeks to formulate my opinion and then be ready to write this review. And then I received a few of their paints along with Schmincke's massive 23-page color chart.
Schmincke has an extremely large and diverse selection of watercolors, and I found this brand extremely difficult to characterize. Schmincke offers a nearly overwhelming selection of colors from muted to bright, very light to very saturated, and very transparent to very opaque.
To even begin to formulate a valid opinion of these watercolors, I eventually had to request and purchase more of their paints. Through the generosity of Chartpak, Schmincke’s U.S. distributor, along with an assortment of tubes that I found on sale and a handful of pans procured from a limited edition set, I was finally able to build a decent assortment that still only constitutes the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Schmincke’s selection.
Since my first Schmincke tester palette was a hodgepodge palette built from a variety of sources and sets (not the best way to build a palette but sometimes necessary on a budget), about midway through testing, I ended up pulling from these colors to create a smaller test palette that performed extremely well.
I painted nearly every day with Schmincke paints for several months until I finally felt as if Schmincke and I had reached an understanding. So without further ado, let’s dive into the review!
About Schmincke Horadam Watercolors
The name is actually derived from the original founders, Josef Horadam and Hermann Schmincke, two chemist who began with the development of oil paints in 1881. Not long after, Josef Horadam began creating their line of Horadam Aquarell watercolors, and in 1892, these paints joined the company's offerings.
Throughout the years, Schmincke has increased their product line and currently offers a wide variety of options including but not limited to oil, acrylic, and watercolor paints along with various mediums, pastels, and even individual pigments so you can create your own.
Schmincke currently offers two grades of watercolors, their professional line of 139 colors is still labeled Horadam Aquarell, but they also offer a "student" selection of 24 colors labeled Akademie Aquarell. They also offer more ways to purchase their watercolors than I have seen in any other manufacturer—all 139 colors are available in 5ml and 15ml tubes as well as half and full pans.
This review is only about Schmincke's professional line, Horadam Aquarell, but when shopping these paints, take care. Both lines' packagings are nearly identical and it's easy to confuse the two. You can download a simplified version of Schmincke's professional watercolor chart here.
Expert tip: Here in the States, I've constantly heard Schmincke pronounced in more ways than watercolors, but the two most commonly used are shh-MEEK-e and shh-MINK-a. I've decided to speak it like the Germans and go with the second pronunciation.
My Palette of Schmincke Watercolors
The colors in the palette above are the ones that made it into the final, limited tester palette that I mentioned earlier. If you're interested in building a palette of Schmincke colors, I think this 15-color palette is a great all-purpose palette.
In the free printable attached to this post (see below), I share my experiences with these colors along with the additional colors that comprised my original 36-color tester.
The paints are listed in order of the swatches above, from left to right, top to bottom. Click on the links to view current pricing, availability, swatches, and more.
Expert Tip: This list can easily be modified to build a great 12-color Schmincke palette. Simply omit one of the blues, one of the greens, and either the Transparent Sienna or Mahogany Brown.
My Impressions of Schmincke Watercolors
My first impression of Schmincke was that these watercolors are Winsor & Newton on steroids! The colors portray a delicate softness that I think is similar to WN watercolors, but Schmincke has a bit more boldness and flow, more variance in opaque and translucent colors, and much more granulation in certain colors.
The texture from the tube varies from a liquid to a toothpaste consistency, but all paints dried and rewet with no notable separation or cracking. After drying, a few colors exhibited quite a bit of shrinkage—657 Transparent Ochre, 488 Cobalt Deep, and 494 Ultramarine Finest—but the prefilled pans have been exceptional.
With further testing and painting, I came to the conclusion that Schmincke is a very distinct brand. The pigments are rather finely milled but aren't heavily loaded, so don't expect extreme boldness or a lot of depth, but these paints are richly colored.
Schmincke watercolors dilute and disperse easily in water, and while they are willing to let loose in a very controlled fashion, they do not appreciate a lose hand. In fact, Schmincke is easily overdiluted which results in blossoming and hard edges as it dries. I occasionally thought the blossoms were rather beautiful, but oftentimes the surprises were nasty.
I constantly fought these issues, especially the hard edges. When charging colors wet-in-wet and in glazes and washes, Schmincke popped hard edges all over the page and then balked if I tried to go back in to smooth things over. I learned to leave Schmincke alone.
In conclusion, Schmincke is not a paint that appreciates a fiddler and works best in a firm, decisive hand. If you value control and precision, Schmincke watercolors will love you. Personally, I'm a fiddler. I constantly go back into paintings, lift and rewet, and greatly enjoy messing with my paintings and paints. If this is you also, don't say that I didn't warn you: Schmincke hates it.
However, Schmincke offers a massive number of colors and, regardless of my struggles, all of my tests revealed that these are well made paints overall. If your painting style fits the description above and you can get a decent price on Schmincke, they may work well for you.
Expert Tip: Schmincke still keeps some fugitive pigments in production. Their 515 Olive Green contains PG8. Also, PR83 is used for 357 Alizarin Crimson, 358 Madder Lake Deep, 356 Rose Madder, and possibly more. To avoid fading and loss of work, I wouldn't recommend the use of these pigments in finished pieces.
Also, I had performance issues with only one color I tested, but Schmincke's 341 Geranium Red (PR242) was a constant troublemaker. Binders constantly separated out and clouded on every paper I used for testing.
Schmincke Color Info Printable [Unavailable until 1/31/19]
If you're interested in knowing more about individual Schmincke Horadam watercolor colors, you are welcome to download a free copy of my personal testing notes. This letter-sized PDF contains 5 pages of notes on 35 of the 36 colors* that I tested.
Please play fair & do not share the PDF or a direct link to the download. Sharing a link or pin to this blog post is just fine. Thanks!
*The 36th color, Schmincke's 101 Titanium White (PW6), was not included in my notes. But just in case you're curious, it mixes and paints just fine.
Where to Shop for Schmincke Watercolors
Schmincke is a widely distributed brand and fairly easy to find here in the States, but you'll pay a premium for this German brand. Even if I absolutely loved these watercolors, I'm not sure I could afford them, so here's where Schmincke and I tend to part ways.
However, your budget may be bigger than mine, or you may find Schmincke's performance in your hand trumps cost. If so, I'd still encourage you to look for the best deal possible. Besides eBay and clearance racks (I've found good deals on Schmincke in both places), below are a few suggestions.
Dot Sample Cards
Because online swatches are highly inaccurate, a great way to save money on Schmincke is to test their watercolors and colors prior to purchase. Wet Paint and Jackson's Art both carry Schmincke dot cards.
Schmincke's prices are usually lower in this U.K. shop and Jackson's often offers exclusive sets, sample sizes, and more. Their inventory is huge and their international shipping is fast and affordable. (Note: If you're American and see an "awaiting stock" date, European date format is DD-MM-YEAR.)
Prices can vary widely and third party sellers can be iffy, but with a bit of care, good deals can often be found on Amazon. It's also a fine choice if you just need a tube or two.
This store will also occasionally release limited edition sets that can be a good deal... IF you like the colors, IF you need the tin, and IF you don't mind half pans. Otherwise, pass on this one.
For more on saving money along with price comparisons of top brands including Schmincke, see this article & free download.
Overview of Schmincke Horadam Watercolors
I'm split in my overall opinion of Schmincke. There's no doubt that these are beautiful watercolors that are very well made. Many of Schmincke's colors are splendid and have a soft, ethereal quality about them that I greatly enjoy.
However in my hand, I couldn't achieve consistently good results with Schmincke. While painting with them, I was forced to abandon too many paintings midway due to the problems I mentioned above. I'm not sure Schmincke works with the way I paint, and their prices are sky high here in the States.
Through all the struggles, Schmincke Horadam's quality is so evident that I'm still rather charmed by these paints. I'm keeping my Schmincke palette because I want to continue to try these watercolors to see if they will eventually "settle" with me, especially as my painting experience and skills grow.
Overview of Schmincke watercolors:
Extremely large & diverse selection of watercolors
A wide range of pigments (transparent, opaque, granulating, etc)
All colors are offered in 5ml tubes, 15ml tubes, half pans & full pans
Very few quality issues detected
Bright, clear hues with soft tones
Not a lot of depth to colors
Colors disperse on the page unevenly
Finely milled paints which result in blossoms & hard edges
Schmincke Horadam Watercolor Giveaway [CLOSED]
I'm giving one lucky reader a chance to try Schmincke Horadam watercolors for themselves! This prize package contains a watercolor palette stocked with 14 colors of Schmincke Horadam watercolors along with a beautiful Hahnemühle Watercolour Book.
A perfect pair!
How to Enter:
This giveaway is open to legal residents of the U.S. age 18+ with a valid U.S. shipping address. Enter only once from February 1-4, 2018, using the Rafflecopter entry below. Just follow the prompts for each entry. (Complete giveaway rules & policies are located here.)
How to know if you've won:
A winner will be randomly chosen and notified via entry email within 24 hours after the giveaway ends. Winner must respond within 48 hours or another winner will be chosen.