Saturday 26 September 2015

Winsor & Newton change watercolour paint tubes - again!

A lot of artists will be very pleased that Winsor & Newton have listened to all the complaints about the design of the new tubes for professional water colour paints - and have changed them - again!

There's nothing on the website as yet - and I can't find a press release but the announcement is on the W&N Facebook Page (on 16th September) about their plans to change the tubes.

No announcement as yet as to when you will find them at your preferred supplier.

Below you can see the old 'new' tube on the left and the revised 'new' tube on the right.

Winsor & Newton Professional Water Colour - another change of tube
(image from W&N on Facebook
The main changes are:
  • Name of the colour: this is now much more obvious and much easier to read at the cap end due to the improvement in contrast between the text and the background. It's still in three languages as before - 
  • Actual Colour Swatch: much larger and goes from being a small brush stroke to being a much obvious block of colour at the cap end
  • W & N name and logo: moves down the tube so that all the core information is at the top. Slight redesign of text and more prominence for the griffin logo.
I think the changes made were much needed and a major improvement which I'm sure will be welcomed by very many artists who use W&N watercolours.

They may also get back those artists who decided to stop using W&N paints after they found they couldn't tell which tube they were picking up.

 With any luck W&N will eventually realise that:
  • quite a lot of artists would rather like to have the white matte background back as well. I've yet to find an artist who actually likes the shiny metal tube. Shiny when it comes to reading is 'bad news'.  As soon as the new tubes came out, one professional artist I know made a point of showing me how impossible it was to read any text on the tube under a bright light.
  • addressing the change in quality concerns are ALSO important. 
When I interview botanical artists who paint in watercolour at the RHS Botanical Art Show II always make a point of asking them which paint their prefer. It was the case for while that almost all used to say Winsor & Newton. However in the last 2-3 years, as they have replaced their 'old' tubes of Winsor and Newton Water Colour Paints with the new paints, I'm now hearing that people experienced disatisfaction with the quality of paint performance and are now also trying other brands to get the quality they require.

Winsor & Newton and the Manufacture of Water Colour Paints

The Winsor & Newton Paint Factory in Whitefriars Avenue, Harrow - which opened in 1937 and used to make all the watercolour paints - closed in 2011 after ColArt (who own W&N as well as a number of other famous brands) moved paint production to the Lefranc & Bourgeois factory in France.

(Do NOT be misled by this video of the old Wealdstone factory uploaded to YouTube in 2012 AFTER the factory closed)

Changes in paint were noticed by both retailers and artists after this. 

It's not entirely clear where watercolour paint is now made - the website is very curiously silent on the matter. However the ColArt website indicates that the company has two art material plants in China.

It's all very curious in an age when most of W&N's main competitors in quality watercolour production now make a virtue of how and where they manufacture. (e.g. Daniel Smith; M. Graham)

I don't think people mind the location of manufacturing changing.
What they do mind is when the quality of the manufacture changes.

Wednesday 8 October 2014

Ampersand Panels reach the UK - at long last!

Virtually the complete range of Ampersand panels are now available in the UK - from Jackson's Art Supplies.  

They are the business!  There are surfaces for every type of art medium (see below) and some work work well with more than one media.

These are the ones which are now going to be available in the UK:
I've imported Pastelbord in the past from the USA. It's a great surface to work on and I love the fact you can prder it in different sizes and colours. However what is so very impressive is the rigidity of the board and the fact it does not warp in any way and they can be framed without glass so long as the surface is robust (eg oil and acrylics) or sealed with a varnish (e.g. watercolour and coloured pencils).  Plus all the boards are eco-friendly and safe for artists to use.

For your further information on the Ampersand website there is

We highly recommend using thin washes of acrylics on Claybord. Or, try Gessobord for a less absorbent panel or Pastelbord for a surface with more texture and a toned ground.
Claybord is ideal for airbrush.
Ampersand recommends Claybord with this medium.
Claybord and Gessbord are both appropriate for use with casein.
Use egg tempera on Claybord. Compare with panels you are preparing yourself.
Encausticbord is made for the unique demands of encaustic painting.
We recommend Aquabord for use with gouache.
Use graphite and colored pencils withClaybord.
We recommend Claybord with inks because they can be easily erased and manipulated.
Use Claybord with markers and frame without glass.
We recommend Gessobord for use with oils. Claybord may also be used but is very absorbent..
We recommend Pastelbord for working with all types of pastels.
Use Scratchbord as a professional alternative to scratchboard paper.
Use Aquabord, similar to cold press paper, for very wet watercolor washes.
Do also:
Ampersand Panels are  hugely impressive - and I'm sure a lot of artists are going to want to try them for themselves.

NOTE: A more limited range of Ampersand Panels are also available from Ken Bromley Art Supplies.

Saturday 30 August 2014

Ecommerce software - analytical review of different options

If you are an artist and want to market and sell your art online then one of the things you'll end up doing sooner or later is investigate ecommerce software. The aim will be to try and evaluate whether any of them do what you want and which one might work best for you.

For those who have never had to deal with anything more threatening than a new version of Microsoft Office, this can be a major challenge!

The first thing you learn is that, with few exceptions, most of the software is generic and not targeted at artists.

I've just come across a website called G2Crowd which provides a way-in to:
  • understanding what the options exist relating to ecommerce software
  • typically in-depth customer reviews for different products
  • an evaluation and rating of different business software according to market presence and customer satisfaction
Home Page - GCrowd website
The idea behind the site is that there is too much spin out there in relation to products available for sale in the marketplace - and not enough well informed reviews.  
  • The idea is to eliminate "vendor spin and outdated analyst reports".  
  • Products ranks are aggregated from peer reviews and social data. 
  • The reviews are intended to be real, unbiased feedback or ....advice from people who had actually implemented and used the software and related services

This, for example, is its page relating to ecommerce software and below is the widget it uses for demonstrating how one site relates to another.
  • The y axis is documenting presence in the marketplace with those in the top half being the bigger players
  • the x axis looks at the satisfaction scoring attributed to different sites - with the more established sites tending to have more and higher scoring ratings.

This is how GCrowd describes the four quadrants of the four cell table
The best E-Commerce Software products are determined by customer satisfaction (based on user reviews) and scale (based on market share, vendor size, and social impact) and placed into four categories on the Grid:
  • Leaders offer E-Commerce products that are rated highly by G2 Crowd users and have substantial scale, market share, and global support and service resources. Leaders include:Amazon WebstorePaypalPayPal Payments
  • Contenders have significant scale and resources, but their products have received below average user satisfaction ratings or have not yet received a sufficient number of reviews to validate their products. Contenders include: MagentoIBM WebSphere CommerceYahoo Merchant Solutions
  • Niche vendors do not have the scale and market share of the Leaders. They may have been rated positively on customer satisfaction, but have not yet received enough reviews to validate their success. Niche include: ZuoraCloudCraze
It's worth taking a look and checking out what you currently use (I've just had some validation of my choice to use PayPal for payments by clients!) and investigating how well it stacks up relative to competitors.

To the extent that dedicated software for artists actually exists, you can assess whether (1) it's recognised and (2)  its performance in the market in general for that type of product.

The ecommerce categories for software are

Click any of these links above and you can find the software which comes into this category.

Use the column on the left to define attributes and further sub-categories which you want to focus on. You'll end up with a list of options for your particular needs eg for Digital E-Commerce Software

You can also use the platform to assess other business and marketing software - for example, find out which product is rated as the best email marketing tool

Sunday 17 August 2014

Review: Integrity Broken Link Checker - for websites and blogs

Websites and blogs for Artists: RECOMMENDED - A broken link checker which works.

For those artists with websites, you may or may not be aware that essential maintenance involves making sure that all the links on your website work.  Google's not fond of sites with broken links.

That's not a problem if you only have a few - but if you use a lot like I do then checking them can be just plain tedious unless you use a backlink checker. I've tried some in the past but today was the first time I felt moved to download a tool.

I've just downloaded The Integrity tool for Mac users which is an app produced by Peacock Media. I checked reviews of it online first and it's been around for ages and generally gets good reviews.

This is how it is described

Integrity is a link checker, no more, no less, no frills - and free (donationware). If you'd like:
  • Advanced options such as nofollow, authentication, custom header fields
  • XML sitemap generation and upload
  • Page load speed test, SEO checks, HTML Validation
  • Manage multiple sites and settings
  • Full report exportable as html or pdf
It requires Mac OSX 10.6 or higher, Intel 64-bit - but they also have earlier versions of their tool available for earlier versions of the operaing system - which is a major plus. You don't often see that.

My experience of Integrity is that it's speedy, thorough and has turned up all sorts of links which were broken which I had no knowledge of.

  • Some were really stupid ones - like including the Admin view URL when interlinking between pages of my website. 
  • Others were ones which had just become out of date (my website goes back to 2005).

I recommend:
  • using the Flat View option as that gives you the most detail in relation to locating the broken link  - and why it's broken.  This is what it looks like.  
  • checking the bad link box ( on the top line menu) so you don't get ALL the links on the site listed.
  • reviewing the worst problems using the 'by link' page
Integrity - Broken link checker: Example of a test check and the results for my portfolio website
On my portfolio website, it found and checked 1656 of 1656 links of which 41 were bad.
On this blog it found all sorts of problems which I had no idea about. It's actually a bit scary. Common culprits are blogs in the blogroll who've gone offline.

I have to say that I've not yet tried it out on Making A Mark - I think I might have to run that one overnight!

However I shall certainly be using this as a routine maintenance tool in future.

Sunday 20 April 2014

QoR - a new watercolour paint

Yesterday I updated my website The Best Watercolour Paint for Artists and included a new section about a new artists' watercolour paint which becomes available in the USA next month.

branding on the new dedicated QoR website
QoR WaterColor paint is produced by Golden who are well known for their acrylic paints.

The new section devoted to this paint includes links to:
  • the new dedicated website
  • other information about the new paint made available by Golden
  • reviews and comments on the new paint by artists (eg Cathy Johnson) who have been provided with samples
Initial indications are that Golden's experience in acrylics is maybe also obvious in the formulation of this new paint. It'll be interesting to see what those painting traditional watercolours think of it.

RECOMMENDATION: I suggest people try one of the six colour trial pack of colours in the first instance to see whether they like how this new paint behaves.

Please report your experience of this new paint after you get your hands on it wherever is best for you. You can include a comment on this post if you like.

I expect that the website will undoubtedly expand and there will more information about availability in terms of distribution to art stories and online retailers in different countries in the near future.  My experience of such things is that roll-out might be somewhat slow with a focus on the USA only in the short-term. I'll update my website as and when new information becomes available. I won't be including sites which merely repeat a press release.

Sunday 2 February 2014

The price of paint

Jackson's Art Pricewatch Scheme is the sort of marketing effort by art supplies companies which impresses me. 

Jackson's Art website page for the Pricewatch Scheme

Pricewatch Scheme

Our dedicated team of price watchers will constantly check our online competitor’s prices for the most popular branded art materials so that we can guarantee that the lowest prices can always be found at
I'm a committed buyer of goods from John Lewis and one of the reasons I do is because they promise to match the price of the same goods on sale somewhere else so that they always offer the lowest price on normal (ie not clearance) stock.

A commitment from art supplies companies to introduce a price watch comparison service has been long overdue.

The Jacksons scheme is not perfect.  They've picked popular products and very reasonably have matched it against "competitor websites chosen on the first search results for the term ‘art supplies’ on"

Which means it doesn't cover every product and it doesn't cover every competitor - but it's a start.

It could also mean that art supplies companies start to look very carefully at the price they're charging and introduce a bit more competition into the marketplace.

However, one might be forgiven for not being aware that the system actually exists.  They don't exactly shout about it on the front page of their website!

In fact, it's new and if I hadn't read their 24th January blog post Price Watch scheme I wouldn't have known anything about it.

To my mind, the quality of this scheme will depend on reliable reporting and updating of prices across the board. I could imagine other art suppliers becoming very annoyed and even litigious if their prices are misrepresented in anyway - that's if the Trading Standards people don't get there first!

My conclusion is that it's good to see somebody trying this approach - let's see how it works in practice before arriving at any conclusions about the scheme as a whole.

Cost of shipping

My normal caution to individual artists when comparing prices for art materials is 'ALWAYS look at the cost of shipping' because of the scope for suppliers to balance losses on cutprice goods with premiums on shipping costs.  I've certainly spotted suppliers in the past who have operated according to this strategy.

In this instance I note Jackson's Shipping Information indicates all shipping - at UK standard postage rates - is free once you've topped £39.  The usual sort of premiums apply to the Islands and Ireland.

Friday 31 January 2014

Arches Huile Oil Paper, Paper Rolls and Paper Pads - reviews and prices

Arches Oil Paper Pad (140 lb x 12 sheets)

Below you can find
  • a video by Professor Steve Levin and Canson about the Arches® Oil paper: A new paper for oil painting
  • links to reviews of the Oil Paper and Oil Paper Pads introduced by Arches.
  • details of suppliers and the prices they've got for the different types of Arches oil paper on their websites as of today's post. It includes both UK (£sterling) and USA ($American) so be careful which one you're looking at

Noted characteristics of the paper are:
  • 100% cotton paper - thus much lighter than all normal supports for plein air painting
  • paper is deckle edged 
  • NOT-type surface 
  • range of alternative sizes - from pads to paper to rolls
  • ready to use
Comments about performance include
  • eliminates the need for preparation
  • easy to cut to different sizes
  • easily rolled for transport
  • strong paper - does not degrade when scrubbed
  • capable of taking oil paint without medium or thinners; paint and pigment stay on the surface of the paper and do not sink into the paper - hence no need to prime with gesso
  • can take a lot of solvent - which doesn't leak through paper or under tape - plus paper does not buckle when wet
  • absorbent - but views as to how absorbent it is very much depend on what people usually paint on; experience seems to be generally similar to painting on primed canvas
  • paint takes the same time to dry as other surfaces
  • possible to combine oil paint with other drawing media
  • oil paper pads provide a backing which means no need for a board to paint on 'en plein air'
  • great for oil sketches
  • needs to be framed under glass (that's because framing relates to the nature of the support as much as the media used)

Reviews of Arches Huile Oil Painting Pads


These are the art supplies people who have it in stock - and the prices they're charging

9 inches x 12inches
12 inches x 16 inches
22 inches x
30 inches
1.3 x 9.15 metres
51 inches x
10 yards
No. of reviews
on site


4 reviews

4 reviews

rated 4.7
(3 reviews)

rated 5.0
(3 reviews)
(pack of 10 sheets)


Remember to check out the cost of shipping goods to you. (Not included above as it depends where you live and how big your order is)
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