In late 2022 Daniel Smith launched their first gouache paint. When I first started using watercolors in 2016 I fell in love with the Daniel Smith brand, so I had high hopes for their gouache.
I bought the primary set, which includes:
- Titanium White (PW6)
- Hansa Yellow Light (PY3)
- Pyrrol Red (PR254)
- Ultramarine Blue (PB29)
- Lamp Black (PBk6)
At $11.18 per tube this gouache is the third most expensive gouache on my list, placing it as a cost competitor to Schmincke Horadam, Holbein and M. Graham Gouache. The 15 ml tubes are standard sizes on the gouache market.
The binder is made of gum arabic, the most common type of binder, and all of the colors in this set are considered extremely lightfast except the yellow, which may fade in tints (keep an eye on my Gouache Database if you’re interested in that).
I asked the company if their paint is vegan friendly and they said “Yes, except: Sepia, Ivory Black, Joseph Z’s Neutral Grey & Payne’s Gray” because those colors contain PBk9, a pigment derived from animal bone.
Below are the color swatches of the Daniel Smith Extra Fine™ Gouache Primary Set, as well as a quick color mixing sheet to show a general idea of what you can mix.
As soon as I started swatching the colors, the thickness of the paint stood out to me. At first, the paint flows easily across the paper, but after a few seconds, the moisture is soaked into the paper and pushing the paint around takes some extra effort.
This gouache seemed very opaque, so I could easily overlay lights on top of darks. Because of the thickness, it took extra effort to thoroughly mix colors to avoid streaks. You can see in my color mixing sheet above that many of the colors have streaks. I wasn’t doing anything differently compared to my usual mixing. It just seemed to take longer to thoroughly get colors to blend. But to be honest I think those subtle varieties in each brush stroke can add depth to the painting.
On the paper, the gouache dried quickly into a velvety smooth finish. On the palette, the gouache took around 15-20 minutes to dry, and the larger piles of paint remained wet for 60 minutes until they developed a stiff outer film. However my larger pile of leftover red and black remained wet inside overnight. That was a surprise! The paint did not crumble on the mixing tray like some brands do. It was also extremely easy to rewet the dried mixes and use them again.
While painting, I noticed there were times when the paint felt a little sticky. Kind of like peanut butter? It’s very subtle, but once in a while it caught me off guard and I found myself trying to compensate by adding more water to get it to flow easier. It seemed to dry much faster than other gouache, making it harder to spread in a shorter amount of time. Thankfully it’s quite opaque, so if I added a touch of water I could get it to flow again. But then I had to be very careful not to lose opacity. With time and practice, the perfect amount of water-per-brush stroke can be achieved.
Conclusion: This is a very high quality gouache, and a pleasure to paint with once you get used to the consistency. The thick consistency might make beginners feel like they are doing something wrong. If it is more affordable in your country, it’s worth trying.
EDIT (March 24): I have been using this gouache in my dried gouache palette and really love it. I think it rewets the easiest and feels the best out of all the brands I’ve used in my dried palette.
Color Review: Regarding color choice, this is a pretty good mixing set. I was able to get a wide range of secondary and tertiary colors. However I struggled to get some really rich purples that would have been possible with phthalo blue, which is to be expected. Despite that, overall it felt like I could get enough variety that I’d be happy painting almost any scene.