Rembrandt Watercolours

Royal Talens have introduced new colours and improved hues into their range of Rembrandt artist-quality watercolours, including a break-through addition of metallic paints. Watercolourist Max Hale finds them exciting and effortless.

This year – 2019 – is the ‘Year of Rembrandt’ as it marks 350 years since the death of the Dutch master. To celebrate this, Royal Talens, who have been producing the finest artist-quality paint since 1899, are launching 46 new Rembrandt watercolours and 18 improved pigment hues. Although Rembrandt paints have always been recognised as top-quality, artist-level products, this initiative has taken on a characteristic of superior quality in the genre.

It is clear to identify as the paint flowed around on the paper as I worked. Washes of the more standard colours were clean and bright with a vividness that I enjoyed – I didn’t have to go back to strengthen and add more pigment. I have used many brands of watercolours yet Rembrandt has captured my imagination, even revitalised my enthusiasm for this beautiful medium; even without the metallic colours, this is a special, quality product.


The new range of Rembrandt watercolours literally pushes the boundaries into areas of incredibility – you can’t help being excited at what they have been developing for this special year. Of the existing palette of colours, 18 have been reformulated so now there are more monopigments available, plus unique and innovative pigments. What this means in real terms is that instead of buying a tube or pan of colour comprising two or more pigments pre-mixed in the factory, you can create purer, cleaner and more vibrant mixes on the palette. For the professional and serious amateur artist, this is a massive step forward, giving the artist personal control.

As a long-time watercolour painter with an established palette, I have been experimenting with some of the new colours to try to establish how I would embrace the range. I use a simple set of six or a maximum of eight colours for most of my work.

Some of the new colours introduced include transparent yellow medium, a monopigment sitting between a warm and cool with beautiful transparent qualities. I am beyond excited to try this on foliage or grass.

Benzimidazolone orange, another monopigment, is a fabulous warm orange with an attractive yellowish undertone. I can imagine many artists using this to lift skies or to add light in buildings in the later afternoon. I am also excited about titanium buff, a pigment I have used in oils and acrylics; it’s a sophisticated neutral warm grey/buff and I adore it for its ability to enhance colours around it – exciting to bring into watercolours! Among the reds are quinacridone red – a superb monopigment that is exceptionally transparent with excellent lightfastness and brightness.

Moving into violets and blues where colour changes are subtle and telling, especially if you paint outside in gardens or the natural world, there are seven new entries including lavender – not a monopigment but a useful one for those wishing to capture the colour of bluebells in the woods. This group includes more quinacridones – rose reddish, more magenta and red violet. Continuing into the blues and turquoises there’s a new cerulean blue greenish and a cerulean blue phthalo; even the artist’s staple, French ultramarine, has been changed to make it more granulating by changing sources of pigments.

All this indicates a huge injection of commitment by Royal Talens into the Rembrandt brand and their place in the serious watercolour area. My listing hasn’t even touched on the greens or umbers, but similarly, there are improvements and introductions of new colours, to motivate all levels of artists.

Dusk, Metallic, Interference, Chameleon and Spark colours

Dusk colours come with a unique pigment combination that results in a dark granulated effect with a vibrant undertone.

Metallic colours

Swatches of Metallic silver, graphite and gold. I really liked these colours and thought they could be useful for areas that need a lift, such as in still life or industrial landscape.

The Metallic colours are silver, light gold, copper and graphite. They can be used on the usual watercolour paper but on black – yes black – watercolour paper (also by Royal Talens) the results are incredible.

Interference colours on black paper

Interference blue, violet green and white on black paper. Some practice is required to paint on black with these paints but they’re great fun to use.

Interference is a range of colours that shine with an even, pearlescent sheen, allowing for some surprising effects and highlights. The best effects are achieved when used over black paper and dry paint. The intensity varies depending on the light incidence and viewing position. I found these to be beguiling. Colours available are Interference white, blue, violet and green.

Interference violet in palette

Interference colours such as this violet look very similar in the palette, so take care when using as colour doesn’t show well until it goes on the paper.

Chameleon colours change colour as soon as you alter your viewing position or the position of the light. They are best as a thin layer on a dark ground; black watercolour paper is ideal.

Spark blue and green

This swatch shows how Spark blue and green appear when angled towards the light.

Finally, Spark colours sparkle like stars. The irregular sheen in the pigment particles is fun and useful if you wish to add a final touch or a significant piece of light in your work. These come in four colours: green, blue, violet and pink.

When I was offered the option of black paper to try out the new Metallic watercolours I must say I was quite surprised, but I needn’t have been. It is quite difficult to see the effects of these paints on the traditional white so a coloured ground is definitely required. Alternatively, painting over a darker, dried colour of watercolour on any colour paper will give interesting results.

Some of the Metallics can look similar when on the palette. A creamy white, fairly thin reservoir of any of the Interference, Spark or Chameleon colour needs to be noted at the time of laying out, otherwise getting a blue or a violet transposed would be very easy and it could prove fatal to your painting. A little practice will be required with the Metallics in general – they vary in use and produce unusual and fun visual effects.

Sets and colours


In addition to the speciality colours, Rembrandt is introducing eight new watercolour palette sets such as Monopigmented, Speciality, Oxide Black with ten mixing colours, Opaque White with ten mixing colours, Landscape, Portrait, and Cityscape. The paints and pans will also come in larger sets of 24, 36 or 48 pans. If you’d like to add more tubes or pans you can add to a set or buy them individually.


Tubes are 10ml or 20ml and pans and tubes have a total of 120 colours available. I found them all exciting and easy to work with – very rich pigments with strong hues that will produce delicate washes of the required strength when diluted.


The Blue Dinghy

I used the following tube colours which, with the exception of French ultramarine, were new colours for me:

French ultramarine, azo yellow medium, cobalt turquoise green, cerulean blue greenish, naphthol red bluish, azo yellow deep, Davey’s grey, phthalo green yellow. Only one brush was used: a Pro Arte Prolene synthetic size 14 round.


I drew with a soft 2B pencil onto a taped-down sheet of Bockingford paper and then worked on the harbour walls with a dark mix of French ultramarine, azo yellow deep and a touch of Davey’s grey. I used plenty of water and built the pigment into it in a wet-on-wet technique to create the texture of the bricks.


I wanted to put some of the harbour water in so I could see which blues and greens would be suitable for my new palette. I chose cerulean bluish green and cobalt turquoise at this early stage of the piece. The main dinghy was also worked on to establish the strength of pigment and to set the scene of a bright sun. This was painted with a mixture of all three blues, taking note of the reflections.


The Blue Dinghy, Royal Talens Rembrandt watercolours on Bockingford Rough 140lb (300gsm), 15 x 11in (38 x 28cm).

I played with blues and greens to establish the balance of light and dark. The addition of French ultramarine gave it some strength on the shadow side of the dinghy with a touch of naphthol red.

Max Hale studied at Harrow School of Art. He teaches workshops and painting holidays, and offers personal mentoring. Discover more on his website, His DVD First Steps in Water-Mixable Oils is available from Town House Films.