Pan Watercolor Vs Tube

Pan Watercolor Vs Tube: Which One Reigns Supreme?

Pan watercolor and tube watercolor are two different forms of watercolor paints. Watercolor artists often debate between using pan watercolor or tube watercolor.

Both options have their own unique advantages and disadvantages. Pan watercolor is dry and can be easily carried around, making it ideal for plein air painting. On the other hand, tube watercolor is moist and provides intense color payoff, allowing for more vibrant and bold paintings.

The choice between pan watercolor and tube watercolor ultimately depends on the artist’s preference and painting style. Some artists may prefer the convenience of pan watercolor, while others may opt for the versatility and intensity of tube watercolor. Ultimately, it is important to experiment with both options to determine which works best for individual artistic needs.

Pan Watercolor Vs Tube: Which One Reigns Supreme?


Understanding The Difference Between Pan Watercolor And Tube Watercolor

Watercolors are a versatile and widely loved medium among artists. They offer a myriad of possibilities when it comes to capturing the essence of a subject through vibrant colors and delicate washes. However, there are different forms in which watercolors are available, mainly pan watercolor and tube watercolor. In this blog post, we will delve into the differences between these two forms, exploring their definitions, variations in composition, and consistency.

Pan Watercolor Defined

Pan watercolors, also known as cake watercolors, are dried forms of watercolor pigments that come in small round or rectangular pans. These pans are filled with solid cakes of paint that can be activated with a wet brush. The water-soluble pigments are mixed with a binder, usually gum arabic, which holds the pigment together in a solid form. When you need to use pan watercolors, you simply moisten your brush and swipe it across the cakes, gradually dissolving the pigments and turning them into liquid paint.

Tube Watercolor Defined

Tube watercolors, on the other hand, are available in a paste-like consistency enclosed in aluminum or plastic tubes. Tube watercolors contain the same water-soluble pigments as pan watercolors but have a higher concentration. They are created by mixing the pigments with a binder and sometimes additives like glycerin or honey, which enhance the texture and flow of the paint. To use tube watercolors, you squeeze a small amount onto your palette and dilute it with water as needed.

Variations In Composition And Consistency

Both pan and tube watercolors offer a wide range of colors and shades, allowing artists to create diverse and captivating artworks. However, there are some differences in their composition and consistency that should be considered.

With pan watercolors, the paint is already dried, making them easier to carry and convenient for outdoor painting. The solid cakes in the pans can be rewetted and used multiple times, making them more economical in the long run. The consistency of pan watercolors tends to be drier, resulting in more controlled and precise brushstrokes.

Tube watercolors, on the other hand, offer a higher pigment concentration, resulting in more intense and vibrant colors. The paste-like consistency of tube watercolors allows for easier mixing and blending of colors, making them perfect for creating gradients and achieving softer washes. The availability of larger tubes also provides more paint for artists who prefer working on larger surfaces.

Ultimately, the choice between pan watercolor and tube watercolor depends on the artist’s preference, painting style, and the specific requirements of the artwork. Some artists prefer the convenience and portability of pan watercolors, while others prefer the versatility and intensity of tube watercolors.

Pros And Cons Of Pan Watercolor

When it comes to watercolor painting, artists often find themselves faced with a choice between pan watercolor and tube watercolor. Pan watercolor refers to the dried paint cakes that come in a compact case, while tube watercolor consists of paint squeezed from tubes. In this article, we’ll focus on the pros and cons of pan watercolor, providing you with valuable insights into this popular medium.

advantages Of Pan Watercolor

There are several advantages to using pan watercolor:

  1. Convenience: Pan watercolors are highly portable, making them ideal for artists on the go. With the colors neatly arranged in a compact case, you can easily carry your watercolors wherever inspiration strikes.
  2. Drying Time: Pan watercolors dry quickly, allowing for faster layering and glazing. This makes them a preferred choice for artists who work on multiple projects or prefer a more spontaneous painting style.
  3. Easy to Control: The dry nature of pan watercolors allows for better control over the amount of paint used. Artists can gradually build up layers of color or dilute their paints as needed, achieving different levels of transparency and intensity.
  4. Longevity: Pan watercolors have a longer shelf life compared to tube watercolors. As the paint cakes are less prone to drying out, they can last for years if properly cared for.

disadvantages Of Pan Watercolor

While pan watercolor offers several advantages, it also has some drawbacks to consider:

  • Color Range: Pan watercolor sets often have a limited range of colors compared to tube watercolors. Artists may need to purchase additional pans or mix their own colors to achieve a wider spectrum.
  • Pigment Concentration: Due to the drying process, pan watercolors tend to have lower pigment concentrations than tube watercolors. This can result in less vibrant colors and may require artists to use more paint to achieve the desired intensity.
  • Environmental Factors: Pan watercolors can be more susceptible to contamination from dust, dirt, or moisture. It’s essential to keep the pans clean and in a dry environment to avoid unwanted effects on your artwork.

factors To Consider When Using Pan Watercolor

When using pan watercolor, there are a few factors to keep in mind:

  • Pan quality: Invest in high-quality pan watercolors to ensure better pigmentation and longevity. Cheaper pans may result in faded or less vibrant colors.
  • Palette arrangement: Consider arranging your pan colors in a logical order for easier access and color mixing. This can help streamline your painting process and enhance your workflow.
  • Water control: Pan watercolors require a different approach to water control compared to tube watercolors. Be mindful of the amount of water used to prevent the pans from becoming overly saturated or muddy.

Overall, pan watercolor offers convenience, easy control, and faster drying times for artists seeking a portable and versatile medium. However, it’s important to consider factors such as color range, pigment concentration, and environmental factors when using pan watercolor. By understanding the pros and cons, you can make an informed decision and create stunning watercolor artwork.

Pros And Cons Of Tube Watercolor

When it comes to choosing between pan watercolors and tube watercolors, understanding their pros and cons can help you make an informed decision. In this section, we’ll focus on the advantages and disadvantages of tube watercolors. Additionally, we’ll also discuss some important factors to consider when using tube watercolors, ensuring you have all the necessary information at hand.

Advantages Of Tube Watercolor

There are several advantages to using tube watercolors:

  • Richer Pigment: Tube watercolors are highly concentrated, which means they offer a more intense and vibrant color payoff compared to pan watercolors.
  • Easy to Mix: With tube watercolors, it’s easier to mix different shades and gradients. The availability of a wide range of colors in tubes allows for greater flexibility in creating unique color combinations.
  • Longer Shelf Life: Tube watercolors have a longer shelf life compared to pan watercolors. The tubes provide better protection against air and moisture, ensuring that the paint remains usable for an extended period of time.
  • Efficient Usage: Tube watercolors allow you to easily control the amount of paint you use. You can squeeze out the desired quantity and prevent wastage, making them more cost-effective in the long run.

Disadvantages Of Tube Watercolor

However, there are a few downsides to using tube watercolors:

  • Less Portable: Since tube watercolors are larger and come in squeezable tubes, they are less portable compared to pan watercolors. This may make them less convenient for outdoor or on-the-go painting.
  • Drying Time: Tube watercolors take longer to dry compared to pan watercolors. This can be both an advantage and a disadvantage depending on the desired painting technique and time constraints.
  • Mixing Space: While tube watercolors offer easy mixing, they require a larger mixing space or palette due to their concentrated nature. This may require some adjustment to your painting setup.

Factors To Consider When Using Tube Watercolor

When using tube watercolors, keep the following factors in mind:

  1. Consistency: Tube watercolors come in different consistencies, ranging from soft to stiff. Consider the consistency of the paint when choosing your tubes, as it can affect the application and blending of colors.
  2. Lightfastness: Check the lightfastness rating of the tube watercolors you intend to use. Paints with a high lightfastness rating will retain their original color over time, while those with a low rating may fade or change.
  3. Tube Size: Consider the size of the tubes based on your usage frequency and painting style. Smaller tubes are ideal for occasional painters, while larger tubes may be more suitable for frequent painters or those working on larger projects.

Choosing The Right Watercolor Medium For Different Artistic Needs

When it comes to watercolor painting, choosing the right medium is essential. Pan watercolor and tube watercolor are the two most commonly used watercolor mediums. Both options have their advantages and it ultimately depends on your individual artistic needs. In this article, we will explore the factors to consider when deciding between pan and tube watercolor, as well as the best uses for each medium.

Factors To Consider When Deciding Between Pan And Tube Watercolor

Before diving into the best uses for each medium, let’s first consider the key factors that can help you make an informed decision:

  1. Convenience and Portability: Pan watercolor sets are compact and easy to carry around, making them a popular choice for artists who enjoy painting outdoors or traveling. On the other hand, tube watercolor requires more storage space and can be less convenient to transport.
  2. Color Vibrancy and Intensity: Tube watercolor tends to be more vibrant and intense compared to pan watercolor. This is because tube watercolors contain higher concentrations of pigments and binders, allowing for richer colors and more expressive brushstrokes.
  3. Cost and Value: In terms of cost, pan watercolor sets are generally more affordable compared to tube watercolors. This makes them an attractive option for beginner artists or those who want to experiment with a wide range of colors without breaking the bank.
  4. Painting Techniques: Different watercolor painting techniques may require different consistencies of paint. Tube watercolor can be easily diluted and mixed with water to achieve desired consistencies, making it suitable for various techniques such as glazing and wet-on-wet. Pan watercolor, on the other hand, may require more effort to achieve the desired consistency.

Best Uses For Pan Watercolor

Pan watercolor sets are particularly well-suited for certain artistic needs:

  • Sketching: Pan watercolor sets are ideal for on-the-go sketching. Their compact size and convenience make them perfect for capturing quick impressions and creating preliminary studies.
  • Outdoor Painting: If you enjoy painting en plein air or exploring the outdoors, pan watercolor sets are a travel-friendly choice. They allow you to easily set up your painting station without the need for additional tools or water containers.
  • Beginners: Pan watercolor sets are often recommended for beginners due to their affordability and ease of use. They provide a great opportunity to learn basic techniques and experiment with different colors without a significant financial investment.

Best Uses For Tube Watercolor

Tube watercolors are highly versatile and can be used for a wide range of artistic needs:

  • Large-scale Paintings: If you’re working on larger paintings or need larger quantities of paint, tube watercolors are a practical choice. Their high concentration of pigments allows for bold and vibrant colors even when used in large quantities.
  • Detailed Paintings: Tube watercolor provides greater control and precision, making it suitable for detailed artwork. It allows for finer brushstrokes and the ability to mix colors to achieve subtle shades and gradients.
  • Layering and Glazing: Tube watercolor’s higher pigmentation and more fluid consistency make it easier to layer colors and achieve translucent glazes. This is particularly beneficial for creating depth and luminosity in your artwork.

Expert Tips And Recommendations For Using Pan Or Tube Watercolor

When it comes to watercolor painting, artists have the option to choose between pan or tube watercolor. Both options have their own unique advantages and it ultimately depends on your personal preference and painting style. In this article, we will provide you with expert tips and recommendations for using pan or tube watercolor, helping you maximize the use of each option.

Tips For Maximizing The Use Of Pan Watercolor

If you prefer using pan watercolors, here are some tips to make the most out of your painting experience:

  1. Keep your pans clean and moist: The pigments in pan watercolors can dry out quickly, so it’s important to keep them clean and moist. Remove any dust or debris from the surface of the pans before painting and mist them with water to ensure they stay fresh.
  2. Mix colors on a separate palette: Pan watercolors can sometimes produce weak or muddy colors when mixed on the pan itself. To achieve vibrant and clean color mixes, use a separate palette to combine the colors.
  3. Experiment with layering: Pan watercolors are typically semi-transparent, so take advantage of this quality by layering multiple washes to create depth and dimension in your artwork.
  4. Invest in a high-quality palette: A good palette with wells that are designed to fit pan watercolors can make a significant difference in your painting experience. Look for palettes that are easy to clean and have ample space for mixing your colors.
  5. Use a synthetic brush: Because pan watercolors can be slightly harder and more compact compared to tube paints, using a synthetic brush can help you pick up the pigments more easily and achieve smooth and controlled brushstrokes.

Tips For Maximizing The Use Of Tube Watercolor

If tube watercolors are your preferred choice, follow these tips to ensure you get the best results:

  • Squeeze out enough paint: Tube watercolors are more concentrated compared to pan paints, so it’s important to squeeze out enough paint onto your palette. This will prevent you from constantly needing to mix more paint in the middle of your creative flow.
  • Use a wet palette: Tube watercolors can dry out quickly on a traditional palette. To keep your paints moist for longer periods, consider using a wet palette. This will allow you to work with the paint for an extended period of time without it drying out.
  • Experiment with different consistencies: Tube watercolors can be diluted with water to achieve various levels of transparency and intensity. Play around with different consistencies to discover the effects you can achieve in your artwork.
  • Seal tubes properly: To prevent your tube watercolors from drying out, make sure to seal the tubes properly after each use. This will maintain the freshness of the paint and prevent any wastage.
  • Invest in quality brushes: Tube watercolors have a creamy consistency, which makes them ideal for techniques like wet-on-wet and blending. To fully utilize the properties of tube paints, invest in high-quality brushes that can hold and manipulate the paint effectively.

Expert Recommendations For Specific Art Techniques

For specific art techniques, here are our expert recommendations based on the type of watercolor:

Art TechniqueRecommended Watercolor
Wet-on-wetTube watercolor
Detailed and controlled brushworkPan watercolor
GlazingTube watercolor
Impressionistic and loose stylePan watercolor

Remember, these recommendations are based on general consensus and individual preferences may vary. It’s always important to experiment and find what works best for your own artistic style and desired outcomes.

Frequently Asked Questions On Pan Watercolor Vs Tube

Are Tube Watercolors Better Than Pans?

Tube watercolors are generally considered better than pans because they offer more vibrant and intense colors due to their higher pigment concentration. Tubes also stay moist for longer periods, allowing for easier mixing on the palette. Additionally, tubes are more versatile as they can be squeezed onto a palette or used directly for painting.

Are Watercolor Tubes Or Pans Better For Beginners?

Watercolor pans are better for beginners because they are easier to control, compact, and less likely to dry out. Pans also offer a wider range of colors and are more affordable than tubes. Their simplicity makes them ideal for learning basic watercolor techniques.

Can You Put Watercolor From Tube In A Pan?

Yes, watercolor from a tube can be put into a pan for easier use and portability.

How Long Do Pan Watercolors Last?

Pan watercolors can last for a long time if stored properly. With proper care, they can last for several years, potentially even a decade or more. Storing them in a cool and dry place, away from direct sunlight, can help maintain their quality and longevity.


Choosing between pan watercolors and tube watercolors ultimately comes down to personal preference and artistic style. Both options have their advantages and disadvantages, with pans providing convenience and portability, while tubes offer more control and vibrancy. Whichever you choose, it’s crucial to experiment and find what works best for you and your artistic journey.

Happy painting!

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