Wednesday, 7 June 2017

Sennelier Watercolours

The French brand Sennelier, which has been around since 1887, make a huge range of wonderful art materials - inks, pastels, all sorts of paints, dry pigments and so on. I've used their oil pastels for years but I've actually never bought any of their watercolours, so this post is created entirely with the help of others :-)

The watercolour range of 98 colours was reformulated a few years ago with a higher honey content. Quoted from the Sennelier website -

"Honey has many virtues: a symbol of light and sun, an emblem of poetry and science and has been used since Ancient times as a remedy for dry skin and to help heal wounds. This nectar is used in L'Aquarelle Sennelier not only as a preservative but as an additive giving incomparable brilliance and smoothness to the paint. Always striving for excellence, Sennelier has reworked its watercolor formula with increasing the amount of Honey in the paint to reinforce the longevity of the colors, their radiance and luminosity."

Unfortunately, honey also makes watercolours stay more runny, so this has made it far more challenging to get hold of samples as they don't necessarily dry enough to be posted through the mail - lots of inventive solutions including using blister packs from chewing gum, contact lenses and tablets have needed to be devised.

48 half pan set of
Sennelier L'Aquarelle Watercolours
However they are also available in 1/2 and full pan form, and one of my students lent me her 48 colour pan set so I was able to fill a number of gaps. Here are all but 18 of the Sennelier professional or L'Aquarelle range. There is also a student range called La Petite.

The set uses the same palette as Rembrandt, but includes this useful overlay showing what each colour is.

The full colour chart can be seen here.

For those who use watercolours straight from the tube, Sennelier (and M.Graham) tube colours are a possible choice. For those who, like me, use them dried out in palettes, the pan versions are the best options with this range. They rewet beautifully.

Here is the 48 colour set open.

 As always, I have tried to colour-match as well as possible but this is just a guide to the actual colours.

Sennelier L'Aquarelle professional Watercolours - Titanium White, Chinese White (not shown), Nickel Yellow (not shown), Lemon Yellow, Aureoline (not shown but not a recommended pigment).
 The Indian Yellow is warmer than it looks here.
Sennelier L'Aquarelle professional Watercolours -  Cadmium Lemon Yellow (not shown), Primary Yellow, Cadmium Yellow Light, Sennelier Yellow Light, Indian Yellow.

Sennelier L'Aquarelle professional Watercolours - Yellow Lake, Naples Yellow, Yellow Sophie, Naples Yellow Deep, Cadmium Yellow Deep  (not shown).
These colours are all richer and warmer than they appear here. It is always very difficult to show warm yellows and oranges accurately. Sennelier Yellow Deep is a lovely warm yellow option.
Sennelier L'Aquarelle professional Watercolours - Sennelier Yellow Deep, Cadmium Yellow Orange (not shown), Red Orange, Sennelier Orange, Chinese Orange.

 There are some gorgeous bright warm reds in this range!
Sennelier L'Aquarelle professional Watercolours - French Vermilion, Scarlet Laquer, Rose Dore Madder Lake, Bright Red, Cadmium Red Light.

 Rose Madder Lake is the colour usually referred to as Quinacridone Rose or Permanent Rose - a great cool red option. Thought Carmine is the same pigment and also very pretty.
Sennelier L'Aquarelle professional Watercolours - Alizarin Crimson (this is a permanent hue), Carmine, Crimson Lake (not shown), Quinacridone Red, Rose Madder Lake.

Sennelier L'Aquarelle professional Watercolours - Opera Rose, Cobalt Violet Light Hue, Permanent Magenta, Cobalt Violet Deep Hue, Red Violet.

Sennelier L'Aquarelle professional Watercolours - Sennelier Red, Perylen Brown (not shown), Cadmium Red Purple (not shown), Alizarin Crimson Lake (not recommended due to poor lightfast rating of this pigment), Venetian Red.

Sennelier L'Aquarelle professional Watercolours - Helios Purple, Blue Violet, Dioxazine Purple, Prussian Blue, Indigo.
The French Ultramarine Blue is a two pigment mix so go with the Ultramarine Deep if you want a single pigment Ultramarine.
Sennelier L'Aquarelle professional Watercolours - Blue Indanthrone, Cobalt Deep, Cobalt Blue, Ultramarine Deep, French Ultramarine Blue.

'Blue Sennelier' is often referred to as Phthalo Blue Red Shade.
Sennelier L'Aquarelle professional Watercolours - Ultramarine Light, Blue Sennelier,  Phthalo Blue, Cinereous Blue, Royal Blue (not shown).

 It's unusual to see a Cerulean made with PB28 rather than PB35 or PB36.
Sennelier L'Aquarelle professional Watercolours - Cerulean Blue, Cerulean Blue Red Shade (not shown), Turquoise Green, Cobalt Green, Phthalo Turquoise.

 There isn't a single pigment Phthalo Green PG7, but the mixed pigment Viridian is a rather nice option.
Sennelier L'Aquarelle professional Watercolours - Forest Green, Phthalo Green Deep, Viridian, Emerald Green, Sennelier Green.
 The Olive green is a lovely premixed green. I don't know where the 'Brown Pink' gets it name...
Sennelier L'Aquarelle professional Watercolours - Olive Green, Phthalo Green LIght, Bright Yellow Green, Brown Green, Brown Pink.
The Sap Green is also a very usable foliage green mix. I love the granulation of the opaque Chromium Oxide Green - a colour I've never used but always rather like...
Sennelier L'Aquarelle professional Watercolours - Cadmium Green Light (not shown), Hooker's Green, Chromium Oxide Green, Green Earth (not shown), Sap Green.
 I'm always happy to see a PBr7 Burnt Sienna. Caput Mortuum is like a deep Indian Red.
Sennelier L'Aquarelle professional Watercolours - Burnt Sienna, Permanent Alizarin Crimson Deep, Caput Mortuum, Payne's Grey, Neutral Tint.
 The Quinacridone Gold is a nice version, even though a three pigment mix.
Sennelier L'Aquarelle professional Watercolours - French Ochre, Light Yellow Ochre (not shown), Yellow Ochre, Gold Ochre, Quinacridone Gold.

Sennelier L'Aquarelle professional Watercolours - Van Cyck Brown, Warm Sepia, Raw Umber, Raw Sienna, Burnt Umber.

Sennelier L'Aquarelle professional Watercolours - Transparent Brown, Warm Grey, Sennelier Grey (not shown), Greenish Umber.

Sennelier L'Aquarelle professional Watercolours - Light Grey (not shown), Lamo Black (not shown), Ivory Black, Raw Sepia (not shown)
 I'll add more if I get them but I hope this will be useful for those looking at Sennelier - especially if you are in or near France :-)

See also -
Blockx full range here
Daniel Smith new colours 2017 here
Daniel Smith full range here
MaimeriBlu full range here
Mijello Mission Gold full range here
Old Holland full range here
Schmincke new colours 2017 here 
Schmincke full range here
Winsor & Newton full range here

Da Vinci range here
Lukas range here
M.Graham range here
Rembrandt range here
Sennelier range here

I am still working on Hydrus, Daler Rowney, Holbein, QoR, Art Spectrum and ShenHan PWC, though will post up partial ranges of these brands as well.


  1. Warm gray almost looks like Buff Titanium.

    I notice their Rose Madder is PV19 but they don't call it "hue".

    Thanks for the info about the honey. I bought some half pans from Greenleaf and Blueberry and they use honey in their paints. I'm not that familiar with honey as an additive as Daniel Smith doesn't use it. I did notice that the samples I painted were taking a while to dry. I think this might make my small set really good for Plein Air since the paint won't dry quite as fast. They colors lend themselves really well to landscapes so I'll be taking it out at some point.

    1. They don't refer to any as a hue, though the Alizarin Crimson is also a hue.

      Yes the Warm Grey is very close in colour to Buff Titanium but without the gorgeous granulation. Still, for those who can't get hold of DS and want that lovely ecru colour, it's nice to know there is a convenient option available.

      I resist honey in Australia - it does seem to cause some problems and can even attract bugs. I haven't tried the Greenleaf and Blueberry paints but would like to at some stage. However I think it's time to try making my own watercolours next...without honey.

  2. I have an 8 paints tube set from Sennelier and chucked out my Koi 12 pancolors to reuse the travel kit for the Sennelier paint tubes together with a couple from Mrs. Grahams from the Art Snacks box. Best decision I made to upgrade! It took 3-4 days to dry completely in the half pans. I do LOVE how these flow and work together with Mrs. Grahams as they should because now I know they are both honey based :)
    Have you tried the student set from sennelier/compared them to the artiste set? I have the chance to purchase the la petit tubes in 24 colors for a good price but an doubting to do so because of quality shifts... go for it or is it wise to save up to get the artist quality? any thoughts?

  3. Honey doesn't automatically mean drippy paint, it's all about the amount you use. I happen to really like it, so I make my own paints with enough that they're slightly tacky, but still solid in the pan, they definitely aren't runny. I carry a tin of them in my purse absolutely everywhere and I've never had a mess. So if you do make your own paint and want to try a honey formula, you can still reap the benefits without the drawback of sticky paint, just use less honey and more glycerin. I've never had a pest problem with mine, but I also use clove oil as a preservative, perhaps that helps keep bugs away.

    1. Good point that honey doesn't necessarily make paints runny. I have yet to make my own properly - I tried a little using some gum Arabic, a touch of clove oil and distilled water.
      Certainly the MG and Sennelier tubes I have tried have been too runny for our humid climate.

  4. What proportions have you been using? My formula for earth colors is 1 part gum arabic to 2 parts water, and about 1/2 part humectant, which can be glycerin, honey or both. Then maybe 1/4 to 1/2 tsp of clove oil to about 24oz of liquid medium. I might overdo it a little on the clove oil in those amounts, but it seems to do the trick. Synthetic colors are trickier, I'm still figuring out proportions for some Pyrrole and Quinacridone colors I've got.

    I have used your blog for just about all of my paint buying needs for a while now, thank you for creating such a thorough guide to paint colors! Have you gotten to try any of the Armenian earth pigments from Agulis? I don't think I've seen those colors on your blog yet, and some of them are very interesting. I have a few, Augite Porphyry Violet and Mummy Red Light, which I think might just be the brightest earth orange I've run across so far.

    If you've not gotten to try them yet, I have some paint I've made from them I could send you, or if you're getting into paint making I would be glad to mail you a spoonful of the raw pigments if you're interested?

    1. I was making less than a half pan just to try the colours so was not really worrying about proportions - will do when I make my own paints later this year though!

      I always love to try new paints, but would prefer your hand made ones to just the pigment at this stage. Please send me a message at


  5. Hello Jane. Great job with these watches. What colours would you recommend for the three primaries in sennelier? ( Always the same question :)
    I like the honey base of sennelier and here is not very runny because in Portugal the climate is dry enough. The colours are very intense but I think that they could have done a better job in the lightfastness of most of their colours.
    Cheers from Lisbon

    1. I think you'd explore Primary Yellow, Sennelier Yellow Light or Yellow Sophie along with Rose Madder Lake and Ultramarine as a basic primary triad in this range. I'd also add Burnt Sienna to speed up the mixing :-)

  6. Fun fact about brown pink! Turns out it was originally derived from buckthorn berries, also called "Dutch pinks."

    I also want to thank you for taking the time out of your life to tell us about your watercolor discoveries. I've just stumbled upon it, and I must say, I'm an instant fan.

  7. Thank you so much for this wealth of knowledge, Jane. It is truly wonderful to a new watercolorist like me.
    I live in Arizona, US and love the Sennelier paints for use in the hot, dry desert. I've never had trouble with them being runny or not drying. I paint slowly and my original paints just dried too quickly for me.

  8. Jane w8hing ypu a speedy recovery and big fun at PT! I had a small surgery on my dominant hand last year and became quite decent at drawing with my other hand in a very short time. Do give it a try, I actually th8nk it helps your brain and dominant handed drawing later.