Prang watercolour sets review and lightfastness test

Last September I received as a gift a variety of Prang watercolour sets, sent to me straight from US. Prang watercolour sets are ( as far as I know) very popular school watercolour paints. They are not available though at European market and the sets that are retailed from European online stores are ridiculously expensively priced. ( but this is a subject for another post).

The Prang sets that I received where from various different production eras.

One vintage one  metal box made in early sixties, two other sets of 8 and 16 colours made during the 80’s and an 8 colour set modern one.

Bellow are all the sets side by side

And here are opened.

Here are the boxes. Left is the metal vintage one, in the middle the one from the 80’s (but  I can’t be sure about that ) and on the right the modern one.

I made some swatches from all the colours included in the boxes that you can see below.

What impressed me was the excellent quality of the colours inside the metal vintage box. The colours reweted instantly and  were heavily pigmented ( though staining). Mixing the colours gave me expected results, didn’t create mad and it were easy to work with.

Same characteristics had the rest of the colours of the other sets, though the modern one’s colours were less pigmented.

Regarding the boxes. Well .. I don’t know what the designers or Dixon were thinking but the boxes’ quality downgraded over time. The vintage metal box is by far the most convenient and well designed of all the boxes. Second came the two from the 80s while the modern one is a complete an utter failure and I’ll explain the reasons below.

As you can see on the above scan, the metal box has a very compact design. The box is slim, light, and the separators on the underside of its lid are curved and can be cleaned easily with a tissue. Of course due to the age of the box, the enamel  turned yellow but this wasn’t that much of a problem as I re- enamelled the inside of the box with white enamel paint for kitchen appliances. The design of the box allowed me to add extra colour pans on its empty space.

The 80’s 16 colours sets has its lids opening in the middle. Very convenient and practical in real condition  painting and sketching  though I can’t see what exactly is the purpose of this almost oval wells under the separators that catch dried colours in the corners and is impossible to be cleaned with a tissue unless someone has long nails and time to waste to remove by scratching the dried paints from the corners.

The modern box’s design is a complete and utter failure in my not so humble opinion!

Thick and bulky it has all the wrong characteristics plus the narrowing part at the middle that catches fingers, the vertical separators that catch paint in the corners, the ditch like thing under the separators, plus the hanging hole on the top. Lot of space in the box goes unused and due to the narrowing middle part it is impossible for someone to add extra pans inside the box.

Tragic design, I don’t know who though that this sort of box would be practical by anyway.


I was curious about the lightfastness of the colours so I made two testing swatches. One for the 16 colours 80’s set and one for the modern one that I exposed fro three months under none direct natural light on my studio window. I didn’t test the paints of the vintage test because they are unavailable and I didn’t test the 8 colours 80’s set because its colours were included in the 16 colours set.

And below are the results scanned at 150 dpi with my Epson V33 scanner. ( click on the images to see them in full resolution as they came out from the scanner).

Surprisingly both sets performed very well. Only one colour from each set faded slightly under indirect sun light  ( the colours that faded are marked with an x)  after three months.

At the modern set, that is the one that interests the most, only the cobalt like blue faded slightly. The rest of the colours even the red-pink one retained their saturation and colour strength.

So I think that these colours are perfectly safe for use for sketching and painting on sketchbooks, and safe enough to be used on paintings that are going to be framed and hanged on room walls keeping always in mind that these paintings will have to be protected by a glass and not exposed to extreme natural light ( something that is a rule of course for retaining in a good condition all of your framed watercolour paintings regardless what kind of paints you use, professional or student grade).

The fellow painters and sketchers on the other side of the Atlantic are those who can take advantage of the very good quality and the super low price that these watercolour sets have.

Bellow is a sketch that I made with my Prang watercolours just to see what can be done with them on my Strathmore 400 CP watercolour paper sketchbook.

Plate with Fruits- Watercolour still life sketch- Artist Marialena Sarris- © 10-2016

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Thank you for reading my review and I wish to each and everyone of you, to have a very happy and creative 2017.