I recently had the pleasure and the privilege of trying out for the first time some hand-made watercolour paints. I admit of never painting with anything ‘hand-made’ before so I was, hopefully understandable, a bit weary.

I am a city girl – born and bred within the concrete, and, as nature-loving as I am, I cannot even begin to fathom how to make my own paints! But an 18-year-old artist from Sheffield did, proudly continuing her grandmother’s tradition of mixing and preparing her own paints. I am literally in awe of what this very young artist achieved – an entire line of watercolour pans with some of the best colours I’ve seen in a long, long time. And the collection keeps growing!

So when she contacted me to review her paints, I was more than delighted – and up for the challenge! I didn’t really know what to expect, given that I never painted with hand-made paints before, but I loved the colours that she produced and I was ready! In the pic on the right it’s what I got

Nectar paints in their original packaging

I am pleased to introduce to you the NECTAR WATERCOLOUR paints – a wonderful collection of earthy tones which increases often, made of artist-grade pigment, gum Arabic, clove oil, vegetable glycerin and honey (which means is NOT vegan) The lovely packaging it seems it’s already “old news” as their lovely maker is determined to reduce the use of plastic as much as possible – but they will still contain all the information needed (name of paint colour, code of pigment used to make each colour – which I just learned it’s a universal thing, regardless of where you purchase your pigments from!) I also put there, with the name of these paints, a link to the Etsy shop where you can purchase them (very sneaky of me, I know) – don’t be surprised if you find many more than I haven’t got here (it’s a treat, trust me).

Now, let’s get to work! Firstly I made a list of all the colours I got, in their light to dark order:

  • Venetian Yellow – pigment PY43 – a rich, saturated orange -yellow
  • Orange Ochre – pigment PY43 – a terracotta like colour
  • Verona Red Earth – pigment PR102 – a version of a cool burnt sienna
  • Potters Pink – pigment PR223 – a cool, earthy red
  • Ultramarine Violet – pigment unknown – a really strong purple
  • Lagoon – containing mica – an incredible turquoise metallic colour
  • Antique Green Earth – pigment PG23 – an almost desaturated, earthy green
  • Storm Green – pigments PG23, PB29, PY43 – an incredible, changing dark indigo-green
  • Amethyst Genuine – pigments PV15, PB29, PR102 – another changing colour from the deepest purple to dark grey, almost black

I did, of course, a swatch of each colour – I wanted to see how much paint I can load and what is the mark is making, as well as how it behaves when it’s loaded with more water. I was surprised by the amount of pigment it allowed to be picked up with every touch – with the exception of the Antique Green which proved difficult to get to ‘full pigment’. Another surprise was the opacity I seemed to have and the chalkiness of the paints – the dark colours also have a wonderful granularity to them which puts each pigment on the spotlight. The metallic colour – I was reluctant and probably a bit snobbish, as I consider metallic paints as a kitschy item and I would never buy one – but it was so creamy and full of pigment, that I might have to reconsider! Not to mention that turquoise is one of my favourite colours in the world! The shininess of it was just unreal (I didn’t really think it will look… well, so metallic!)

The next step in testing them was to try lifting the paint after it dried – one of the trickiest things in watercolour painting, but it proved absolutely flawless in that regard. You will notice on my swatch card that I lifted a little circle of paint in each colour – the paints don’t stain the paper and can be easily reactivated once you wet them, which makes for a very easy (and satisfactory) lift procedure.

I then tried a bit of layering – they are not opaque per se, but a lot of paint load might make it so. The chalkiness of them though, which made the lifting of the paper so easy, also made for some very difficult layering. Once touched with a wet brush, the colours seem to start mixing if one presses on the paper too vigorously.

Test opacity and layering

Once I got aquainted with these lovely paints, I thought about doing a full painting using only them – which might prove difficult since I didn’t really have any blues. But I am nothing if not up for a challenge! Given the master maker’s propensity for clowns (I know!!), I started looking for a clown that inspired me – it proved more difficult than I could believe. They all looked either too silly or plain scary (I don’t need to mention the red balloon I think!). In the end I ‘settled’ for Harley Quinn – she looked too gorgeous to be ignored! It was much easier to paint than I thought – layering the paint was of little consequence (maybe the fact that I rarely use layers has something to do with it?) and loading the brush with as much pigment as possible was indeed very satisfactory. Again, please keep in mind that I had no blues to play with – which was tricky in places, but in the end, I think I overcame it nicely. I even got to use the metallic paint, in her stunning green-grey eyes.

In conclusion, I cannot recommend these enough – they might not make a full palette just yet, but give it some time and they will. Plus, you will support a very young and courageous artist! And just remember, you can find these paints in her Etsy shop and you can follow her process and view her artwork by following her on Instagram

Don’t forget to tell me what you think of my Harley in comments and subscribe to be notified when I manage to post another review or tutorial… or just my usual ramblings about painting in general. Bye for now!

Harley Quinn - watercolour on paper 20x25cm

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PAINTING WITH HONEY