Friday, October 09, 2015

Walmart Art Supply Review: Alex Watercolors

This post is one of a series of posts that feature art supplies I purchased from my hometown, Luling, Walmart while I was in town for Mechacon.  It was inspired by the fact that kids, teens, and 20 somethings don't have many options for quality and affordable art supplies in the New Orleans area.  I wanted to see what I could get at Walmart, put what I buy through its paces, and let you guys know how these supplies fared.  As almost always, I purchase these materials out of my own pocket, and one of the ways you can show support and appreciation is to give me a tip in my Paypal (sidebar right).  You can also show support by sharing this post to your social networks, or emailing me.

I must admit, I bought this Alex watercolor set on a whim- it was only $1, and so tiny and cute, I had to see if it had any merit at all.  I was in the school supply section of the Luling Walmart, specifically the back to school cardboard displays, and although I wasn't looking, this little set called out to me.  It's like most sets kids get as party favors, sets that I think are admired for how cute they are, but ultimately tossed.  I figured that, for a buck, I could give this little test a whirl, and at the very least the paints could be popped out, Chiclet style, and the case filled with the paints of my preference.

Alex is actually a toy company, but they do make a lot of art supplies.  Their website offers kid grade acrylic paints, natural bristle brushes, watercolors, sketching pencils, finger paints, color pencils, and even drawing sets, all way too cheap to be up to much good.

The Packaging





My little dollar tin of Alex watercolors came blister packed in a plastic and cardboard package, which are my favorite for American products, as they're easy to open.  I have my doubts about being able to paint the shown flowers using either these paints or the included brush.


The chicklets of watercolor come in a little tin box that has wells for mixing color, and are in a removable plastic insert that feels very very cheap.


The paints themselves have a chalky quality similar to the Pelikan or Angora opaque watercolors I've reviewed here in the past.


The plastic insert is very easy to remove, leaving a plain bottom of the box.  If you were so inclined, and did not like Altoids, you could repurpose this set as a mini watercolor set composed of your own favorite colors quite easily.  My favorite types utilize the gum tray from say a package of Dentine Ice, and fill the holes with tube watercolor.


The Palette





The brush is one of those plastic with plastic splayed bristles deals, and honestly, even if the watercolors in the set have merit, you really ought to toss the brush.  I'm not sure why companies even included brushes like this, you'd be better off trying to paint with a toothpick.


Mark made by brush

But for the sake of thoroughness, I went ahead and tried to use this brush.  The plastic bristles hold zero water, which is bad news for watercolors, and they also hold very little paint, which pretty much makes this brush useless.

Side By Side With My Work Watercolor Palette

Above is one of the two palettes I regularly use for serious watercolor illustration- 7" Kara comic pages, Gizmo Grandma Illustrations, ect.  Below is the Alex palette.  As you can see, there are a lot of differences between the two paint sets.


The Field Test

There's no brown in this set, but there is a pretty decent purple, and I'm going to try and mix a good brown for this test, along with a passable skintone.

Swatches


Alex swatches are to the bottom, Pelikan swatches are at the top.



The colors lose some of their intensity after they've dried, but I feel like they're still better than the colors Crayola Washable Watercolors produce.  For a buck, this set isn't bad.

Practical Test

Colors used for Kara's skintone:  Yellow, Orange, Red
Colors Used for Kara's Hair:  Orange, the darker Blue

For darker browns, mix more blue.  For darkest browns, mix in black. 


I did the sketch with the Clearpoint mechanical pencil, also part of the Walmart Art Supply series, that I'll be reviewing here shortly.


And I inked this piece, as I do with most of my water-based reviews, with the Mitsuo Aida.







Although the pink is too opaque to use as a mixing color, it's not as opaque as I would've like for a streak-free, gouache like fill.





The straight from the palette blue goes down well, but does not layer well at all.  As with many cheap, opaque watercolors, these are prone to feathering and bleeding.






These paints don't layer all that well, and like many chalky paints, when you DO layer, or apply detail, it spiders out and is absorbed by the surrounding area.  The chalk basically acts as a ground.

It's hard to get very saturated color by mixing, the paints dont seem to contain a lot of pigment.


The Verdict

That said, for a buck, these paints are more of a hit than a miss, and are a great little treat for a kid or a teenager who would like to start an illustrated diary.  The tin is cute and reusable, and all you really need is a waterbrush to start painting.