We Tested the Daniel Smith Essentials Watercolor Set

If you’re comfortable blending your own watercolors, you will love this set

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Daniel Smith Watercolor Tubes

Daniel Smith Essentials Watercolor Set

 The Spruce Crafts / Erika Owen

What We Like
  • Ultra-rich hues

  • A little goes a long way

What We Don't Like
  • Easy to use too much paint

  • Tough to blend

  • Fewer colors than other sets

If you’re an experienced watercolor blender, you will love how rich and smooth the paints in the Daniel Smith Essentials Watercolor Set are—beginners, stay away.


Daniel Smith Watercolor Tubes

Daniel Smith Essentials Watercolor Set

 The Spruce Crafts / Erika Owen

We purchased the Daniel Smith Essentials Watercolor Set so our expert reviewer could test it out while painting. Keep reading for our full product review.

There’s nothing better than spending an afternoon painting. My partner, who studied fine art in college, and I recently did just that to test out watercolors, including the six-paint Essentials Watercolor Set from Daniel Smith. We bought some watercolor paper and a palette to use with some CraftSmart paint brushes we had at home. You’ll also want some water and paper towel or a knit towel on hand for cleaning your brush as you change colors. 

For each set, we made color swatches of the three primary colors: red, yellow, and blue. We also drew and painted some flowers, just to see how the paints would blend into themselves in a more natural painting situation. Ahead, learn everything there is to know about this set.

Quality: Super smooth and thick

These paints are incredibly pretty. Squeeze a few dollops into your palette, and they’re almost too beautiful to use. The color is thick and vibrant; if you didn’t know, you wouldn’t assume that they are watercolors, given the texture. 

Quantity: Small tubes that pack a lot of color

At 5 milliliters, or .17 ounces each, the six tubes included are small compared to other sets we tested. That’s not a lot of paint. With that said, it’s incredibly easy to use too much, so keep that in mind as you’re squeezing your color. This also makes blending tougher, but more on that later. 

Daniel Smith Essentials Watercolor Set
 The Spruce Crafts / Erika Owen

If you’re an experienced painter, you’ll find that there’s plenty of paint in these tubes to last you multiple projects. If blending is new to you, I can see it being really easy to waste an entire tube of color on one painting. I squirted out way too much pigment for my testing and ended up wasting a lot of paint.

Blending: Experienced watercolor painters only

While I have dabbled in watercolor painting, I am no pro, and I found it really hard to blend the primary colors in this set. The richness of the pigment made it hard to actually blend the colors without one taking over—something I attribute to my lack of knowledge and experience, but also the depth of the primary colors.

The richness of the pigment made it hard to actually blend the colors without one taking over.

It’s worth noting that there is a helpful video on the Daniel Smith website specific to this essentials set and how to best use them. 

Performance: A little paint will take you very far

These paints already have a binder (meaning it’s already liquid straight out of the tube), which makes it a bit trickier for beginners. It’s easy to add too much water, but I gave myself this mantra while I used these paints: Use the tiniest dollop of paint. And please note that it takes a lot of water to completely kick the pigment out of these paints. Plan accordingly when you choose your palette.

Color: Nearly opaque with no additional water added

These colors are ultra-rich. If you use them without adding any water, the hues are completely opaque. This set comes with six colors: three cool primaries (Hansa Yellow Light, Quinacridone Rose, and Phthalo Blue), and three warm primaries (New Gamboge, Pyrrol Scarlet, and French Ultramarine). From these, you can mix whatever hue you want to. 

Daniel Smith Essentials Watercolor Set
 The Spruce Crafts / Erika Owen

Given that these pigments are so rich, they’re going to stain whatever palette you’re using. I spent about five minutes trying to force the ultramarine blue out of my brand-new plastic palette to no avail. This isn’t a huge deal—any palette that gets used enough will get stained—but these left their mark after the first use.

Price: Competitive, but only if you’re good at controlling the amount of paint you need

The real kicker is how small the tubes are. If you are good about using only the amount of pigment you need, this is a great price for these rich watercolors. But if you’re anything like me and not very good at monitoring how much paint you’re squeezing out of the tube, opt for another kit—preferably something that offers solid pigment blocks so you can better control the amount of paint you’re using.

Daniel Smith Essentials Watercolor Set
 The Spruce Crafts / Erika Owen

Competition: Right in the middle

It’s hard to compare this kind of liquid watercolor to solid pigment blocks, as they are meant for two completely different types of watercolor painters. Solid blocks give you more control in terms of how much paint you’re using—just add water when you need more—but the liquid watercolors give you richer colors. Comparing this Daniel Smith set to a similar liquid set like the M. Graham Basic 5-Color Watercolor Set, they are pretty similar when it comes to color quality. The Daniel Smith set is a bit more appealing as it offers an additional color and breaks down its hues into warm and cool primaries (which makes it easier to blend, if you know what you’re doing). 

The M. Graham set does come with larger tubes, which seems nice when you’re comparing the two in your shopping cart. Keep in mind that a little goes a very long way when it comes to the Daniel Smith paints. I would buy the M. Graham set over the Daniel Smith set if I was looking for liquid watercolors in a tube, specifically because I don’t know as much about blending, and the extra paint would be valuable to me in that situation.

Final Verdict

Great for experienced watercolor artists.

If you’ve mastered the art of blending watercolors, the Daniel Smith Essentials Watercolor Set is a great option. Beginners who want to experiment may be better off choosing a set with more color options, more paint, or solid pigment blocks.


  • Product Name Watercolor Tubes
  • Product Brand Daniel Smith
  • SKU 285610005
  • Price $32.00
  • Colors Included Hansa yellow light, quinacridone rose, phthalo blue, new gamboge, pyrrol scarlet, French ultramarine