Tube vs. Pan Watercolors

What's the difference between pan and tube watercolors? Tube vs. pan watercolors - one artwork in two mediums! I'm comparing tube and pan watercolors by swatching them and painting roughly the same image with each of them on the same type of watercolor paper.

What's the difference between pan and tube watercolors? Tube vs. pan watercolors - one artwork in two mediums! I'm comparing tube and pan watercolors by swatching them and painting roughly the same image with each of them on the same type of watercolor paper. You can watch the pans vs. tubes speed painting video or keep reading.



I've always used pans, but I recently got these tube watercolors sent to me and tried them for the first time. I've been using them a little bit since in combination with my pan watercolors and I'll finally compare them by swatching the colors and painting roughly the same image with each of them on the same type of watercolor paper. I did this around Easter so thought I'd paint daffodils.

What's the difference between pan and tube watercolors? Tube vs. pan watercolors - one artwork in two mediums! I'm comparing tube and pan watercolors by swatching them and painting roughly the same image with each of them on the same type of watercolor paper.
Cotman pan watercolors and Home Hobby by 3L tube watercolors.


Pan watercolors


The pan watercolors are the *Pocket Plus Watercolor Set by Winsor & Newton Cotman. I've had this set for over nine years and I have yet to replace any of the pans although a few of them are running very low and are in need of replacing. In fact, the Alizarin Crimson Hue has almost completely run out and I couldn't even get a proper swatch anymore.

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The set comes with 12 paint pans and they're half pan size and the student grade. The set came with a few mixing trays and a brush that also fits inside the set although I rarely use that brush. The set is a small size, hence the name pocket set, so you can travel with it. There's no water holder or anything that comes with it, though. I do not remember how much this cost when I bought it. I'm assuming it was something between 15 to 20 euros.

Tube watercolors


The *tube watercolor set is by Home Hobby by 3L and was sent to me for a review. It came with 12 12 ml tubes and I also got the mixing tray as part of the bigger watercolor kit they sent. But if you buy them individually, the mixing tray does not come with the watercolors, it's a separate item. On their online store the watercolors are 6,99 and the mixing tray is 1,99 in euros. And it says on the website that they're artist quality paints.

What's the difference between pan and tube watercolors? Tube vs. pan watercolors - one artwork in two mediums! I'm comparing tube and pan watercolors by swatching them and painting roughly the same image with each of them on the same type of watercolor paper.
Comparison of pan and tube watercolor swatches. Pans on the left and tubes on the right.


Pans vs. tubes


So, let's compare the tube and pan watercolors or at least these two brands specifically, because I don't have experience with other student or artist grade watercolors. The color selection between the sets isn't exactly the same, but close enough.

The pans can be a little hard to use, but you can add a drop of water or spray water on them and let it sit for a while to soften them. As you can see by the swatches, I really can't get the same opacity and saturation with the pan watercolors as I do with the tube watercolors. I don't know if that's due to how I use them or a difference between pans and tubes in general or the quality and pigmentation of the paints.

The white was a good example of this. I normally use the white in the pan set for muting colors or mixing skin tones. But with the tube watercolors, I noticed in a previous painting, I can actually use the white for highlights on darker colors, because it's that opaque. Comparing them in the swatches, the white pan was not completely clean so it wasn't a good comparison, though. The pan watercolor white is Chinese white, but the tube watercolor just says white, it doesn't specify which white pigment it is. 

What's the difference between pan and tube watercolors? Tube vs. pan watercolors - one artwork in two mediums! I'm comparing tube and pan watercolors by swatching them and painting roughly the same image with each of them on the same type of watercolor paper.
Finished daffodil paintings. Pan watercolor painting on the left and tube watercolor painting on the right. 


The tube paints are easier to mix with water so if you need to paint larger areas and mix a lot of paint, it's easier to squeeze out more paint from a tube than to try get that much pigment off a pan with a brush. But I do think I'm using out the tubes quicker than the pans. It's easy to use too much paint at a time with the tubes.

I did find that it's easier to keep tube watercolors clean since you're only mixing the colors on the mixing tray or maybe even on the paper as you're painting, but not in the tubes. Whereas with pan watercolors, while I do mix in the mixing trays, I don't usually bother cleaning the brush in between colors, when I'm adding them to the mix, and I end up mixing on the pans as well and they get dirty.

As for after the painting, I think you should clean the pan watercolors. I rarely do that, I usually just leave the set open to let the pans and the mixing trays dry before closing the box and only wash the brushes. With the tubes, just close each tube and pack them away. And you can either rinse out the mixing tray or let it dry and re-wet the paints and keep using them the next time.

However, pans are made more accessible in the sense that you don't have to keep opening and closing caps while you're painting like you do with tubes, when you need more paint.

Mixing pans and tubes?


I don't know if I'll replace the colors that are nearly finished from the pan set or if I'll just keep using them together with the tube watercolors. Of course, it would be nice to have the little travel set as complete, but whenever I've though about replacing few individual the pans and searched for them at an art store, they've been very expensive.

So, maybe I'll just squeeze some of the tube watercolor into those empty pan boxes and let it dry and use that as a kind of a pan watercolor. I remember hearing somewhere that if you let tube watercolor dry and rewet it, it's going to lose some of its qualities though. Or maybe that was about some specific brand. So, if there's someone more experienced with tube watercolors watching this, let me know what you think about that.

I'd like to know if you use watercolor tubes or pans and if you've tried both, which ones do you prefer and why or do you use both but for different purposes?


Where to buy these watercolor paints and supplies

• *Winsor & Newton Cotman Water Colour Paint Pocket Plus Set on Amazon
• HomeHobby By 3L art kits on *Amazon (US)
• HomeHobby By 3L watercolor supplies on *Amazon (UK)

Source

Choosing between pan and tube watercolors from liveaboutdotcom

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