REVIEW: White Nights Watercolor Tubes

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

St Petersburg - White Nights - watercolor - watercolour - tubes
I've seen a lot of reviews on the White Nights full pan sets around, but very few on the tubes.

These paints are from St Petersburg, Russia, from the company Nevskaya Palitra and they've been making paints since 1934. They use real pigments and the White Nights are defined by the brand as high quality professional grade paints.

I'd say the first attractive feature of these paints is the price, they're really inexpensive when compared to other professional grade paints. I've paid only around USD 30 for this set, shipping included, from this eBay seller. You will find approximately the same price tag at Amazon.

They come in a very simple and unpretentious cardboard box. Not a problem for me at all, I just think the box doesn't do justice to the richness of the colors. But if it keeps the price accessible, I'm all for it!

The colors are:
(name - pigment(s) - lightfastness - transparency)

Lemon - P.Y.3 - *** - transparent
Yellow - P.Y.1 - * - transparent
Yellow Ochre - P.Y.43, P.Y.1 - ** - semi-transparent
Red Ochre - P.R.102 - *** - semi-transparent
Scarlet Light - P.R.2, P.R.4 - * - transparent
Ultramarine - P.B.29 - *** - semi-transparent
Azure (or Blue) - P.B.15 - *** - transparent
Emerald Green - P.G.7 - *** - transparent
Green - P.G.8 - ** - transparent
Umber - P.Y.43, P.Br.7, P.Bk.7 - *** - semi-transparent
Neutral Black - P.R.187, P.B.15, P.Br.7 - *** - semi-transparent

[The lightfastness rate, as provided by the manufacturers, goes from * (weakest) to *** (strongest)]

Here is a color wheel using the primary triad: Yellow (PY3), Ultramarine (PB29) and Scarlet Light (PR2 + PR4).
On the right page, I made 2 mixing charts, trying to see the difference between warm and cool triads, but the red is the same Scarlet Light in both. In the 4th color I used Red Ochre (PR102) for the earthy warm colors and Umber (PY43, PBr7, PBk7) for the cools (I miswrote it as Sepia).

Below, on the left page, you can see 11 colors and some more mixture tests: Scarlet Light + Yellow gives a vibrant orange; Scarlet Light + Ultramarine gives a nice purple color and Ultramarine + Umber gives a nice grey. Ultramarine and Red Ochre will also give you a nice grey (not shown above).
On the right page, you can see the 12th color, Neutral Black, and mixes with the other colors (except for Umber and Sepia, witch already contain black pigment in their compositions).

St Petersburg - White Nights - watercolor - watercolour - tubes

You can get a pretty huge range of colors altogether, but I really miss having a cooler red for mixing more vivid purples and violets, though. And it's not like you can get it separately, these are all the tube colors they have, so I'll have to use another brand or from the pans. I still have to make a post about the pans I have from this brand. (EDIT: I did! If you want to see color swatches for my White Nights custom 36 full pans palette, go here.)

Here's the mixing chart I made with all the colors, excluding Neutral Black:

St Petersburg - White Nights - watercolor - watercolour - tubes

Most of the colors are incredibly pigmented and intense, almost too intense, it's sometimes hard to control how much color you pick. The exceptions are the earthy Yellow Ochre and Umber. Yellow Ochre is the weakest of the set and it has a strange grainy texture. As you can see in the chart, all Yellow Ochre mixtures have this strange, sort of chalky, look to it. I normally appreciate granulation, but this is different, it's like actual little grains that you move around with the brush, they don't spread and flow quite as nicely. Maybe that's because they use the natural PY43 pigment instead of the synthetic PY42. Maybe this particular pigment was not as finely milled as the others. Or, it could be due to my lack of knowledge and experience with the medium, or even the paper I'm using, which is not 100% cotton. (I'm using Strathmore 400 journal in this chart).

When put in a palette, they don't dry out completely (much like the White Nights full pans). If you touch them with your fingers, they're always a bit sticky (not as much as M. Graham's though).  I'm pretty sure they use honey in their composition. Even if you don't use them for a long time, they are very easy to re-wet.

St Petersburg - White Nights - watercolor - watercolour - tubes

All colors, as far as I could tell, have a very nice flow and dispersion when you work wet-on-wet, most like the only other professional grade paints I have, M. Graham.

I've seen a lot of reviewers saying these paints are more opaque than most, but I don't notice that with this set (they do have some pan colors that are more opaque). For me, it's rather a matter of intensity than opacity. You can go really, really strong with most colors, but I can still see the faint pencil mark underneath. There is some getting used to the intensity of the colors, you have to get acquainted with them, know which ones you have to work the brush on more intensely and which ones you hardly need to touch, to get the amount of color you need. But I guess that's true for any brand. Pigments behave differently from each other.

Another issue many artists seem to have with this brand is the lightfastness. I haven't tested that, so I can't say. But if you're concerned about that, check out this blog post and this Youtube video.

As for a rough comparative reference, I think they are far superior to any student grade paint I own (namely, Cotman half pans, Lukas Studio, Sennelier La Petite Aquarelle, Shinhan). Don't get me wrong, I love those too and they certainly have their own little perks.

The only other professional grade paints I've tried are M Graham's. I'd say my M Graham are slightly easier to use, but they are also more difficult ($$) to buy, so I only have a few tubes.

There is a little bit of a controversy as for the "professional" quality of White Nights, however. Handprint, a website that serves as a reference for a lot of artists, wrote a less than ravishing review of these paints, mostly for their lightfastness (or lack thereof). You can read their review here.

All in all, I really love my White Nights paints, tubes and pans. If you're starting out, as I am, or if you're a crafter or hobbyist and wants to try some real pigment colors without breaking the bank, I highly recommend you try White Nights! If you intend to sell your original pieces or do commission work, maybe use these with caution or make your own lightfastness tests. If you intend to make prints of your work, lightfastness is not an issue. These are very rich, intense colors, overall great to work with and I don't feel I have to be so precious about "wasting" them on daily practice.

Here is little feathers study I made using these paints:

St Petersburg - White Nights - watercolor - watercolour - tubes

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  1. Hi thankyou for your review! Are you referring to the yellow ochre only that dries up completely on the palette or all of them? One thing i like about my white nights pan sets is because the paints are sticky and not dry.

    1. So sorry it took me so long to see your comment! I meant all of the tube colors, but I went to check again as I saw your comment, and I have to correct my previous impression. They were a little sticky to the touch. I still think they dry a little bit more than the pans. And they are not as sticky and dewy as M. Graham's. Hope that helps!

  2. Can the paint from the white nights tubes transferred in pans? Don't they dry up?


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