Watercolor Pans and Tubes – Which are Better?

Cheap watercolors for children are sold in pans. Many beginner artists get confused as expensive paints are often bought in tubes. They may assume that tubes are better and ‘real’ painters buy them. They may also wonder if they need to purchase a solvent or other specialist products.

The Key Point

There isn’t a fundamental difference between the two types of aquarelle – both are water-soluble, quite transparent, etc

All you need in the case is to know how they change on a palette.

Pan paint is designed to be used from dry. Rewetting makes it blend and flow again and again.

The content of a tube always must be fresh.  While it’s drying, some of its additives evaporate, and it irreversibly loses important benefits.

Pros and Cons of Tubes

Unlike common pan paints, freshly squeezed ones are:

  • more vibrant and juicy – reputable artists say the difference isn’t obvious for a beginner (or for me, even though I have been painting for at least 15 years);
  • good for a painter who prefers large-scale paper: it’s easy to mix big batches of them at once.

Paints in tubes stay clean until tubes are empty: you can’t fit a soiled brush into their narrow openings.

That’s all.

As for me, I don’t often use tubes. They are bulky and make the preparation process longer.

And the main trouble for me is that I never know exactly how much watercolor to squeeze out, and then I feel guilty for wasting paint.


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Natalia Usanova
I am a poet and an amateur artist. A few years ago, it seemed to me creating works of art is a much more important occupation than reading books, visiting galleries, or listening to music. Now I don't think so. Let me share with you the masterpieces which have changed my life and can change yours. Follow me on Twitter!

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