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Tried & Tested – Daniel Smith Watercolour Sticks

1st April 2024 Estimated reading time: 5 mins

SAA’s Anita Pounder puts the new Daniel Smith Watercolour Sticks through their paces.

I am sure you are familiar with watercolours in tubes and pans, but did you know you can also get them in a stick? A couple of exciting sets have landed on my desk: the Daniel Smith Creative Mixing Colours set of five, selected by Italian artist Giovanni Balzarani, Daniel Smith Brand ambassador since 2017, and the Daniel Smith Watercolour Stick Granulating Colours set of five, selected by Indian artist Rajat Subhra Bandopadhyay.

The sticks are presented in a five compartment translucent plastic case with a snap lid, making it easily portable, and great for storing your colours, keeping them clean. These two sets are a great
introduction to the Daniel Smith Watercolour Sticks and offer great value for money as each stick is approximately the equivalent of three full watercolour pans.


A selection of work showing the different effects possible with the Creative Mixing Colours.


Creative Mixing Colours Set

All the colours are made from highly concentrated, single pigments, making them perfect for mixing to create all the colours you need.

● Hansa Yellow Medium (PY97). This bright, intense, semi-transparent yellow offers a clean, flat colour. Low staining and non-granulating.

● Quinacridone Coral (PR209). With its transparent pink-orange tones, this paint is low-staining and non granulating.
● Lamp Black (PBk6). The only opaque colour in the set, this offers a rich, dark black, non-granulating colour that is highly staining, so it is the most difficult to lift.
● Cobalt Blue (PB28). A low staining, semi-transparent, perfect primary blue that has granulating characteristics.

● Phthalo Green (Yellow Shade) (PG36). A transparent and highly staining bright green offers a clean, not graduating wash of colour.

Daniel Smith Creative Mixing Colours.


Granulating Colours Set

Making excellent use of naturally granulating pigments, four of the colours are made from genuine semi-precious minerals. The granulating effect results from the bigger, heavier pigment particles clustering in the
valleys of the paper surface, offering a mottled effect rather than a flat, even wash.

● Serpentine Genuine is made from genuine Serpentine, a dark green mineral of hydrated magnesium silicate with a mottled or marble-like green colour, sourced from Tasmania. As a paint, it offers a non-staining,
granulating, semi-transparent, muted green with brown speckles.
● Sodalite Genuine. This deep blue, almost black colour is made from genuine Sodalite, sourced from Greenland and Mount Vesuvius, Italy. Low-staining, granulating, semi-transparent, very deep dark blue-black, it granulates with a blue-grey undertone.
● Lunar Black (PBk11). An interesting, transparent, low-staining, granulating black pigment that offers a mottled texture.
● Piemontite Genuine has a reddish brown colour ground from genuine Permontite mined in Italy. This low-staining, semi-transparent colour has dark-brown granulation with a warmer red-brown undertone.
● Hematite is a widely found mineral, and the pigment is ground from a heavy silvery-black mineral rich in iron. With a soft grey undertone and black granulation, this low-staining, transparent colour is perfect for textured washes.

Daniel Smith Watercolour Stick Granulating Colours.


The Daniel Smith Professional Watercolour Sticks are manufactured in the United States, using the same high-quality, pure artist pigment and gum Arabic binder as the Professional Extra Fine Artist Watercolours.
The result is rolled into solid sticks, offering rich, vibrant colour or exciting granulating textures, and can be applied in many different ways. They contain no wax or fillers and offer the highest lightfastness (I = Excellent). These sticks cross the painting and drawing mediums, work perfectly with other watercolour formats, and add texture and marks while remaining in the genre.

The Creative colours are bright and vibrant

Techniques to Explore

● Use dry – apply the colour straight onto a dry surface to add a textured layer of colour. Some colours are stronger and easier to apply than others. The creative mixing set offers a good dry colour application. In
contrast, the granulating genuine colours were harder to apply, but the Lunar Black went on much more easily.
● Apply a dry layer of colour, then with the touch of a damp brush it bursts into life. Depending on the surface used, the pigments can be fully dissolved to a clean wash. Sometimes you will still see the grainy lines where
the dry colour was applied, which can be used for interesting effects.
● For paint-like applications, lift colour from the stick to give you the beautiful transparent washes or the exciting granulating effect you would expect from each colour.
● An exciting technique that takes using a watercolour medium to another level is to apply it onto a wetted surface. This offers the strongest colour application.
● Dip the stick into water and apply it to the surface for a strong colour load that tapers out to a dry line.
● Colour mixing can be achieved in several ways, from mixing and blending on the paper surface, lifting wet colour from the stick and mixing on to a palette, adding dry colours over one another and blending with a damp brush, to grating some shavings of colour from the stick and mixing into paint on a palette.
● Splodges can be added using a wet stick dabbed onto the surface, and speckles form if colour is grated onto a wetted surface.
● The sticks can also be sharpened to a point, in which case, remember to keep the shavings as these can be reactivated for painting or mixing. As these are watercolour sticks, I was surprised that they felt slightly
softer than I expected, but this is because they only contain pure pigment and a gum Arabic binder. I frequently ended up holding the stick in my left hand between my fingers and lifting colour with a brush
and these were perfect for transparent layering. I was excited by the colour when applied to a wet surface, and I could create the texture of solid lines, releasing some energetic creativity.

The Daniel Smith Professional Watercolour Sticks are a perfect addition to your artist toolbox, and the two sets provide a perfect introduction to the stick format, from bright, clean colours perfect for colour mixing to
exciting granulating textures. These can be used on the same surfaces you would use for watercolours: watercolour paper, primed canvas, mixed media papers, cartridge paper, board and thinner paper; NOT watercolour papers may cockle with wet applications and rougher surfaces will enhance the granulating effects.

To see the full range of Daniel Smith products, visit:


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