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Winsor & Newton Professional Water Colour

Winsor & Newton Professional Water Colour

Click to view related document Winsor & Newton Artist's Water Colour Chart


Since 1832, when Henry Newton and William Winsor introduced the first moist watercolours to the world, much of Winsor & Newton's reputation for supreme quality has stemmed from the Artists' Watercolour range.

Since then Artists' Water Colour continues to be formulated and manufactured according to Winsor & Newton's founding principles; to create an unparalleled watercolour range which offers artists the widest and most balanced choice of pigments with the greatest possible permanence.

Each colour within this wide and balanced spectrum of 96 colours, has been selected and formulated to offer the greatest choice so that artists can use a unique palette that best suits their work. 

You can view all of the colours in this range by going to Winsor & Newton colour chart.

You can also learn much more about Artists' Water Colour if you go to the Further Information section.  This explains how Artists' Water Colour is formulated and manufactured.  It also gives you a selection of different spectrum lists for building your own palette and much more.

For in-depth information on pigments used in Artists' Water Colour, go to the Winsor & Newton Pigments in Water Colour section.


Sizes Available

The Artists' Water Colour range offers a wide and balanced spectrum of 96 colours in half pans, whole pans and in 5ml and 14ml tubes. A limited range of 30 colours are available in 37ml tubes. 

To see the colours available in each size, see the Winsor & Newton colour chart.

Artists' Water Colour Tubes or Pans

Both Artists' Water Colour tube and pan colours are made individually to the highest standards. Pan colour is often used by beginners because it can be less inhibiting and easier to control the strength of colour.

Tube colour is more popular overall, used by regular users, those who use high volumes of colour or stronger washes of colour. Many painters have both, as pan colours are useful when travelling and sketching. Of course, artists can use both tube and pan together if they wish.


In simple terms, a watercolour is produced by combining (or suspending) a pigment with a binder, for example, Gum Kordofan, a type of Gum Arabic (To find out more about Binders go to Further Information.)

The formulations for Winsor & Newton Artists' Water Colours are each unique and vary according to the nature and behaviour of each individual pigment.

With this in mind, and with a range which has thousands of different applications by millions of artists worldwide, Winsor & Newton rely on expert chemists who have spent their working lifetimes understanding and formulating Artists' Water Colour.

In fact, these chemists have learned from the chemists before them who also spent their working lives at Winsor & Newton - since William Winsor died in 1865 Winsor & Newton have only had four chief chemists! Thanks to their experience and expert knowledge, we can continue to formulate the highest quality range with the widest choice of colours, using the largest number of pigments.

For more indepth information about how Artists' Water Colour is manufactured, go to Further Information.



Pigment Choice 

Watercolour more than any other medium relies upon the variable characteristics of the pigments used. As it is essentially a staining technique, everything rests on the handling properties of the pigments; whether they can produce a smooth wash or a textured wash; how opaque or transparent they are; the brilliance and strength of their colour; and so on.

With this in mind, it has always been - and will continue to be - Winsor & Newton's aim to provide artists with the widest possible range of pigments to give them the greatest choice and flexibility. It takes a total of 87 different pigments to produce the 96 Artists’ Water Colours.

The world’s industries have also multiplied during the history of Winsor & Newton, leading to the continual development of new pigments. Plastics, ceramics, aviation and car industries have also needed stable, bright, dense colours and this has been wonderful news for artists.

Today, Winsor & Newton's Artists’ Water Colours contain an ever-widening range of high performance pigments, which ensure strength of colour and excellent brilliance combined with extremely high permanence ratings.


Single Pigments in the Range

Just like people, each and every pigment differs in shape, size, colour, and “personality”. Pigments, especially in watercolour, serve as a set of tools or vocabulary to help artists manipulate their work and alter their expression.

Blue area of the spectrum showing different single pigment characteristics.

Wherever possible, single pigments have been used in Artists’ Water Colour to ensure that they offer the widest choice of colours and pigment characteristics or positions, such as hue, particle size, transparency, tinting strength, etc. This helps broaden the artist’s creative expression.   

Winsor & Newton use single pigments wherever possible. Single pigment formulations are purer in hue and cleaner in colour than mixtures of pigments, providing a larger number of colour mixes before resulting in muddy effects. Within the new Artists’ Water Colour range there are 75 single pigments amounting to 78% of the range.




The unique hue of Cobalt Violet (A) cannot be matched by a mixture of pigments (B)


Mixed Pigments

Although mixed pigments inevitably lose some degree of chroma or brightness, there are many reasons why Winsor & Newton still choose to formulate with them. In some instances, we can achieve a higher level of permanence over a single pigment alternative, e.g., Permanent Alizarin Crimson and Hookers Green.

In other instances, some pigments have to be mixed to achieve a given formulation. For example, Quinacridone Gold where the pigment itself is no longer available.


Colour Series

The Artists' Water Colour range is split into 4 groups termed 'Series'. The series indicates the relative price of the colour and is determined mainly by the cost of the pigment. Series 1 is the least expensive colour and Series 4 the most expensive.

If you go to the Colour Chart for Artists' Water Colour, you can find out the Series numbers for each of the colours in the range.


Colour Strength

The strength of each colour in the Artists' Water Colour range has been maximised by combining the most advanced colour manufacturing techniques with the most recent developments in pigment technology. Optimum colour strength offers the artists greater tinting possibilities.


Colour Range

Winsor & Newton choose their colours according to mass tone (colour from tube), undertone (bias of colour when in a thin film), colour strength, relative opacity and the character of the pigment in watercolour, ie. granulating, staining or even wash. The resultant colour spectrum ensures the largest number of colours can be mixed from the range.

Today the Artists' Water Colour range benefits from continued advancements in pigment technology and production methods to enable Winsor & Newton to build upon their already high standards to produce even brighter, more transparent and more stable colours. Equally important, many of the formulations remain the same - proving that they cannot be bettered!



Brilliance can be defined as the richness, intensity and depth of the colour. The optimum brilliance of every colour in the Artists' Water Colour range is unparalleled by any other watercolour. Remarkably, this brilliance is combined with high permanence. Botanical painters will benefit particularly from the excellent and unusual combination of brilliance, purity and permanence, especially in the red area of the spectrum with colours such as Quinacridone Red, Quinacridone Magenta and Permanent Carmine. 

Find out more about Quinacridone colours in our Pigments in Water Colour section.

Transparency & Opacity


Winsor & Newton Artists’ Water Colours exhibit unrivalled transparency due to the unique pigment dispersion in the manufacture of the colour. This is particularly important because transparency is the key characteristic of water colour. As a result of the thinness of the watercolour film, all colours have a transparent quality on paper, allowing the reflective white of the paper to shine through. However, pigments do retain their natural characteristics to some degree. For example, transparent pigments refract light in much the same manner as stained glass, making jewel-like brilliance and clean mixing. Opaque colours such as cadmiums are likely to cover significantly more than transparent colours. 


Gum Arabic increases transparency

The varying transparency and opacity of a pigment will affect the optical character of the individual colour as well as how the colour mixes with other colours. The most transparent colours will enable you to create a pure glazing effect by applying a number of washes on top of one another. The more opaque colours give flatter washes and greater covering over previous washes. Opaque colours are also useful for toning down colour mixtures.

On the Winsor & Newton Artists’ Water Colour chart, the transparent colours are marked with  or T, the semi-transparent colours are marked  or ST. The relatively semiopaque colours are marked with  or SO and the opaque colours are marked with  or O.

The addition of Gum Arabic will also increase transparency. By adding Gum Arabic to a colour wash, you will achieve even greater transparency and luminosity from your washes.



French Ultramarine (showing
flocculation) vs Permanent Mauve

Some pigments show a characteristic called granulation, where the way in which the pigment particles settle in the paper creates a mottled effect. For many artists, granulation is highly desirable because it adds visual texture to their paintings. Even within granulating colours, different effects are apparent when they are brushed out onto paper. Some fine pigments rush together in huddles, more commonly called “flocculation”, whilst other heavy pigments fall into the hollows of the paper surface.

As a general statement, the traditional pigments granulate, e.g., cobalts, earths, ultramarine, etc... The modern organic pigments do not, e.g., Winsor colours. Granulating colours are marked on hand painted and printed colour charts with a “G” beneath the colour chip. They are also detailed in the Colour Charts and the Spectrum Colour Lists.

In Winsor & Newton's ongoing search for new pigments, they have introduced a number of new granulating colours, as follows:


New granulating colours: Lemon Yellow Deep, Cerulean Blue (Red Shade), Terre Verte (Yellow Shade), Brown Ochre, Magnesium Brown, Potter's Pink and Mars Black


Normal Winsor Blue
(Red Shade) wash
Winsor Blue
(Red Shade) mixed with
Granulation Medium

Granulation Medium gives a mottled or granular appearance to colours that usually give a smooth wash, such as Winsor Blue (Red Shade). By adding Granulation Medium to colours that already granulate, such as French Ultramarine, the effect is further enhanced.

For more information on Granulation Medium, see Winsor & Newton's Water Colour Mediums section.




As watercolour relies upon the relative absorbency of the paper surface for stability, more powerful colours such as Prussian Blue, Alizarin Crimson, and the modern organic pigments such as Winsor colours penetrate or stain more than others.

These colours cannot be lifted completely with a damp sponge. The traditional inorganic colours and earths tend to lift more easily from the paper. Those colours that are more likely to stain a surface are marked "St" on the Artists' Water Colour colour chart and the Composition and Permanence Table.



Lifting colour entails sponging water colour from a surface. It can include anything from a complete wash down under running water, to getting a "smoky" background, to the sponging out of a small area in order to lighten or rescue it. Winsor & Newton Lifting Preparation helps ensure that colours, including those that stain, can be more easily lifted from paper with a wet sponge or brush.

Lifting Preparation must be applied to the paper first and allowed to dry before removal.

(A) (B)
See how Permanent Alizarin Crimson (a staining colour) can be lifted from the surface of a sheet of watercolour paper that has been pre-treated with Lifting Preparation (A) in comparison to a wash lifted from paper alone (B).



Since 1832, one of Winsor & Newton's founding principles has been to offer a range of Artists' Water Colours that has the greatest possible permanence. Fortunately, the 20th century featured enormous improvements in the lightfastness of colours, helping Winsor & Newton in their quest.

In fact, over the last few decades, advancements in this area have been nothing short of remarkable. New pigments developed for the car, ceramics, and plastics industries have provided Winsor & Newton with an astonishing array of colours with unparalleled permanence.

As a result, 93 out of 96 colours in the Artists' Water Colour range are classed as "permanent for artists' use". This means that 97% of the Artists' Water Colours are rated AA or A for permanence to ensure that the colours used today will appear the same for generations to come.


Opera Rose

Sometimes certain desirable or historical colours cannot be achieved or matched unless less lightfast materials are used.

In the past, this was much more common and Winsor & Newton's ethic was that they must provide choice. After all, many artists may not need the original work of art to be permanent in itself, e.g., illustrators or designers.

Opera Rose is a case in point. Quinacridone Red and Quinacridone Magenta are vivid, lightfast violets which have proved to be hugely useful to botanical artists who specifically require their original work of art to be lightfast.

Opera Rose, however, offers a brightness beyond any of these lightfast colours and is so desirable because it can represent the most vivid colours in the garden. Although a B rating, Opera Rose is in fact significantly more lightfast than any of the older pigments of its type. This is one new colour where the hue will be more desirable for some artists than the ultimate longevity of the colour.

The quest for permanence has turned watercolour from a less lightfast, delicate media into one which is equal to oil colour despite the extreme dilution of the paint film. Recently available pigments have enabled us to meet that quest.

It's worth remembering that Opera Rose, even with its astonishing brilliance, is equal to or superior in permanence than many of the commonly used 19th century pigments.


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