Monday, May 4, 2009

Review: Daniel Smith ExtraFine™ Watercolor Sticks

Daniel Smith Watercolor Sticks

Being a huge fan of Daniel Smith watercolor tube paints, I was thoroughly intrigued by their new Extra Fine Watercolor Sticks.

With a desire to test and review this new product, I was thrilled that DS sent me 4 of the 6 colors to test. They arrived in the sizes you see below, and it made me happy to know that they have a use for their "imperfections."

Daniel Smith Watercolor Sticks

Although these sticks can be used in a number of ways, (drawn onto paper wet or dry, rubbed with a wet brush, etc.) I discovered that I was most happy using them as you would with pan paint - simply by running a wet brush over them.

This is how the sticks would arrive as new - with wrappers, much like a crayon.

As my sample bits do not have a wrapper, it was a challenge to figure out how to use them without having one stick cause transfer to another. I was hoping that DS would have created some kind of special box to house them while in use, but nothing is available at this time. I ended up wedging my 4 sticks into a tiny Altoid gum tin, then squeezing in a tissue to use as a blotter.

In my mind, the concept of these sticks is pretty brilliant, except when it comes to putting them away. Imagine you are painting plein air. It starts to rain and you pack up your supplies. If these sticks are still even the least bit wet, they are going to transfer onto anything they touch. I'm trying to be as careful as possible, but even with a small brush, I'm still getting paint transfer.

The set of 6 runs $68 from the Daniel Smith site, and considering their expense, I wish there was a way to use them where I didn't have to worry about wasting paint through transfer and because of this, in my mind, I think I would prefer to use DS paints in pan form.

Fingers crossed, maybe someday.

Daniel Smith Watercolor Sticks

These are swatches of the Quinacridone Coral, Sap Green, French Ultramarine, and Quinacridone Burnt Orange. Each of these colors are as vibrant as you would expect from DS. They work well straight, mixed in a palette, or mixed on the paper. The color combinations from just these 4 make me very happy.

Love these colors!

In a Moleskine Watercolor Book, the above image was created by using the coral, orange and blue. I mixed up an orangey red with the orange and coral, and a maroon with the blue and coral. Paints were mixed in the lid of the Altoids tin.

DS Watercolor Sticks

In the above image, I attempted to mix as many colors and shades as possible by using all 4 sticks. Paints were mixed with water in a seperate palette. Clairefontaine WC paper.

Tiny Portable Painting Kit

My tiniest paint kit. small Moleskine WC book, Niji waterbrush and tin filled with 4 Daniel Smith Watercolor Sticks.

DANIEL SMITH ExtraFine™ Watercolor Stick 6-Color Set

From the Daniel Smith Website

"DANIEL SMITH Extra Fine™ Watercolor Sticks are like nothing else, combining the intensity of tube paints with the convenience and portability of half pans. Packed with pure pigment—with just enough gum Arabic to form a solid stick—they produce vibrant, strong color as you wet them. They’re highly reactive and release rich, creamy color. For outdoor sketching, developing color values and bold expression, Watercolor Sticks are a truly unique addition to your watercolor experience. Handmade and hand-shaped, the sticks are approximately 3"long and ½" diameter. Experiment with them—you’ll feel like a kid again! All Lightfast Rated I – Excellent.

Set Contents:

* Hansa Yellow Medium,
* Quinacridone Coral,
* Sap Green,
* French Ultramarine,
* Burnt Umber and
* Quinacridone Burnt Orange.

A few tips to get you started:

1. Create light washes by applying the stick color directly to your wet brush. This technique works well for establishing lights, as well as for darker passages using a more heavily loaded brush.

2. Mix colors directly on the paper within a painting. A Mix of French Ultramarine with Quinacridone Coral creates a rich purple, French Ultramarine with Hansa Yellow produces a clear green and Burnt Umber with French Ultramarine results in a complex gray.

3. Wet the paper, then draw directly into it. As the stick liquefies, it leaves a distinct but soft-edged mark. Sharpen the stick to create intricate line work.

4. Pre-wet the stick to apply saturated color and establish darks. If desired, you can then draw the color down with a wet brushstroke.

5. Liquefy the shavings to create rich color mixtures. Use a Lyra sharpener to make shavings of Quinacridone Coral and Hansa Yellow and mix them to create a highly saturated orange."


Dorothy said...

I just discovered your site and think it's fantastic! And how cool that you chose to critique these W/C sticks just when I'm about to order some online for Kate Johnson's new w/c pencil class. One question..I wonder if the DS w/c sticks work as well as the Caran d'Ache Neocolor II crayons when it comes to being able to paint light over dark?
Thanks! Dorothy

Biffybeans said...

Hi Dorothy! Thank you for the kind words about my blog. To answer your question, these sticks are not wax based like the Neocolor - They are more like pan paints in stick form, so they are not going to allow light over dark. Hope that helps!

B2-kun said...

Very thorough and informative review. Agree that for their current retail price, they really should be packaged in a more user-friendly palette tray that would prevent unwanted transfer and waste of precious pigment. Interesting product concept, but somewhat lacking marketing approach. For users of the discontinued Faber Castell Albrecht Durer Aquarelle sticks boxed sets (also featured in the DS website),it would seem that the DS watercolor sticks could probably fit in FC plastic trays to prevent transfer and color pollution.

Gentian said...

The colours are gorgeous, and I love your page with the mixes. Thanks for sharing and reviewing them! It makes a nice little watercolour set in the altoids tin.
I noticed in the recent summer catalog they added new colours to this series,and selling the individual sticks!
I wonder if you can wrap and tape a bit of waxed or parchment paper around the stick for a wrapper? Also could it be cut into smaller pieces if you wanted to use a bit at a time?

Biffybeans said...

B2-Kun - thanks for your comments!

Gentian - if you want to use a little bit, you can use a pencil sharpener and place the shavings in water....

Gentian said...

Oh yeah! I remember that I saw it on the demo page about them. That is neat.I like that aspect of woodless colour pencils and water soluble crayons, that you can use the shavings to paint with. Thanks again for sharing your information about these!

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