Were these old sketches done with student or artist grade paint?

September 17, 2018 | 35 Comments

Following on from last week’s discussion about artist grade vs student grade watercolour paint, I spent a little time looking through some old sketchbooks and what I discovered was very interesting! There were examples of good use of student grade paint and examples of poor use of artist grade paint. So I thought it might be fun to choose four sketches and see if you can pick which is which. And some of my more recent followers might enjoy seeing some of my early work. These date from 2007-2008, the first 18 months of my sketching journey, when I was teaching myself to use watercolour and didn’t really understand anything about watercolour magic.


  • All sketches have been scanned today on the same scanner with no adjustment so they all look a bit flatter here than they do in real life.
  • They were all painted in the same type of sketchbook – Moleskine Watercolour A5 size.
  • For each example I have included a full spread and then a cropped square., so all the images are the same size.

(Aside: Isn’t it fun to see how my work has changed and in particular my linework!)

A. Australian Landscape

B. Prague

C. Tasmania

D. Siena


So, which of the above were painted with WN Cotman Water Colour (student grade), and which with WN Professional Water Colour (artist quality)? And how can you tell?

Hmm…. I just thought that it would be a better comparison if I did a sketch with Cotman paints now and compared it with an artist quality.

UPDATE: The answer has now been revealed – click to find out which ones were Cotman.


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