Learn All About Daniel Smith Watercolour

Daniel Smith Watercolours are among the most popular watercolours used by artists across the world.
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Learn All About Daniel Smith Watercolour


Daniel Smith’s story begins in 1976 at the University of Washington in Seattle. At the time, its founder, Daniel Smith, was working at the school’s printing press where the school newspaper was produced. One day, Daniel and his colleagues were standing around the printing press and noticed that the printing ink was of substandard quality. They wondered how they could make better printing ink for their needs.

Daniel took up the challenge, did a lot of research to find the best black pigment and oil-based binder, gathered these ingredients in his home in Seattle and took them back to the university for testing—and the rest is history! Daniel’s ink was then used to print the school newspaper, and it wasn’t long before the art department heard about this beautiful ink and started placing very large orders for it. It was then that Daniel thought he could be a full-time paint maker.

It wasn’t until 1993 that Daniel decided he wanted to produce watercolours, but there was one problem: he didn’t know how. So, he went to various watercolour festivals around the world to get input from artists on what they were looking for in a watercolour paint. He brought all this knowledge from around the world back to Seattle and created his first batches of watercolours.

At first, Daniel Smith had a palette of 18 colours. The following year, Daniel presented these colours to the artists at the festivals, and the feedback was fantastic. They all started to use them in their artwork, workshops, etc. Today, Daniel Smith offers a total of 266 colours in three different ranges: Extra Fine, PrimaTek and Luminescent!



Extra Fine™

Daniel Smith Extra Fine™ Watercolours are among the most popular watercolours used by artists across the world. This superior-quality range includes historical hues, amazing earth tones, and some of the brightest and boldest quinacridones ever formulated. With colours rated LR1 or 11, they boast superior lightfastness and have excellent brushing properties.


Daniel Smith’s Primatek™ Colours are made with genuine minerals, finely ground into pigments. These watercolours are produced with semi-precious minerals such as amethyst, lapis lazuli, amazonite, hematite, etc.—gemstones and minerals that have captured artists’ imaginations for hundreds, if not thousands of years! Sourced from different countries, the semi-precious minerals are processed on-site, and stones are reduced to a fine powder. The powdered minerals are then mixed with gum Arabic and reworked in cylinders. This process creates a watercolour paint with balanced particles. Their effects are beautifully diverse, from warm and subtle to sparkling and vibrant.


The Luminescent™ range contains four different types: Iridescent, Interference, Duochrome and Pearlescent.

  • Iridescent colours are made with iron oxide-coated mica flakes. These colours are all very shiny, and many have a copper finish, or a gold or silver sheen. Colours appear almost colourless straight from the tube, but when applied over a dark ground they create a fascinating sense of depth.

  • Duochrome paints bounce between two colours depending on the light source. When seen from different angles, rich and vibrant Duochrome pigments offer a true colour-changing 3D effect. Depending on the reflected light, the colour oscillates between two distinctive colours to create a pure visual experience. With a little experimentation, you’ll see that Duochromes can illuminate, reinforce and majestically brighten up your palette.

  • Interference colours take on different hues depending on how the light is striking them. Made of transparent mica flakes, which are coated with different thicknesses of titanium dioxide, Interference colours refract light into delicate shades of blue, copper, green, gold, lilac, red and silver. When applied to white paper, they are almost colourless, but on a dark surface, they come alive in pale, shimmering colours.

  • Pearlescent colours are of consistent texture, and do not create colour changes like Interference colours. Mix Interference or Pearlescent Colours with standard tube colours to add depth, or simply apply them on top of a dried colour to add sparkling effects when creating flower petals, shimmering water or feathers.

    What is the difference between Iridescent, Interference and Pearlescent colours?

    Iridescent colours reflect light like a mirror, while Interference colours refract and scatter the light. Iridescent colours are shinier than Interference and Pearlescent colours.


    Daniel Smith rethought their manufacturing methods from A to Z by integrating watercolour “quinacridone” pigments. Quinacridone is a type of synthetic pigment that is derived from natural materials like carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen and oxygen. In Latin, “quin” means “five” and “cridone” means “rings”: a quinacridone pigment has five rings. Quinacridone describes the DNA of a particular pigment.

    Daniel Smith was the first manufacturer to use these high-performance pigments in art paints, which were initially developed for the automotive industry. Known for their brilliant colour and luminous transparency, these pigments make paints durable and extremely lightfast, and are perfect for watercolours. They are ground and mixed under a refrigerated system, which keeps the pigments bright, transparent and very permanent.


    How to read Daniel Smith's colour chart

    Available in

    Daniel Smith Watercolours are available in 15 ml tubes, 5 ml tubes, watercolour sticks and half pans.

    • Watercolour sticks are composed of mineral or pigment and gum Arabic: that’s it. What’s great about these is that they are portable, dry when hard, and easy to re-wet, making them perfect for outdoor painting. One stick equals three full pans of watercolour!

    Lightfastness rating

    Daniel Smith colours come in a Roman numeral system to help you better understand their lightfastness rating, and when you can expect colours to begin fading with time.

    • I: excellent (100+ years)
    • II: very good (100 years)
    • III: fair (50 to 70 years)
    • IV: fugitive (15 to 20 years)

    Staining properties

    Daniel Smith has a one through four system that helps you understand the staining ability of each of their colours.

    • 1: non-staining (you can soak up this colour with a paper towel and it will hardly leave a trace)
    • 2: low-staining (you can soak up most of this colour and it will leave behind just a little glow)
    • 3: medium-staining (aggressive colour)
    • 4: high-staining


    Granulation is a textured effect: it’s the effect you get when pigment particles clump together rather than settle evenly onto the painted surface. Now, what’s interesting is that Daniel Smith doesn’t add anything to their paint to make it do this. Basically, this is the result of the specific weight of the particles used to make the colour. So, you can have this effect with either a mineral-based colour, like a Primatek™ colour, or even with synthetic pigments.



    A step towards eco-friendly pigments!

    Daniel Smith developed three eco-friendly pigments called EnvironOxide™. They’re used to manufacture three Extra Fine™ watercolours: Yellow Iron Oxide, Brown Iron Oxide and Red Iron Oxide.