Art Material Reviews
Review: M. Graham Cityscape Watercolor Set

Review: M. Graham Cityscape Watercolor Set

Considered as one of the best watercolor brands in the market, M. Graham may not be hundreds of years old but they’ve made a dent in the painting and art world.

Ever since they came out, I’ve always wanted to try them. Artists left and right have been raving about how smooth and pigmented these paints are so it was only a matter of time before they made my way to my collection.

For this review, we’ll be taking a look at the M. Graham Cityscape Watercolor Set. I could review the paints overall but I decided to do them by box since most people would ultimately buy them as box sets first before they branch out to purchasing individual colors.

Let’s dive in!

Behind the Brand

Founded by a couple of artists who have a huge dedication for creating quality paints, M. Graham has been around for over 20 years. What sets them apart from other big brands is they’ve chosen to use traditional and time-tested methods to mill the paint – opting to create them in small batches to ensure superb quality.

In their own words:

“We care about making paint this way, because it gives us the chance to devote attention to every part of the process. That’s why we can personally ensure the reliability and consistency of every paint that leaves our hands.”

I love this idea and it shows in the quality when you use the paint yourself. This is also the reason why most of their products are higher in price compared to those milled by large companies.

The best part, and not the many people know this, is they have a dedication to using green energy as much as possible. Their products are all solvent free and they purchase a 100% renewable power option. Their production waste is only 1% compared to the 3% created by most factories and they use machinery that could otherwise be decommissioned.

This dedication is inspiring and makes each paint or product purchased worth it.

You can read more of their story by visiting their website here. Now, let’s talk more about the box.

Construction, Design & Packaging

The box sets come in a small cardboard box with the name of the set emblazoned at the front. A gorgeous watercolor painting, the work of artist, Ron Stocke, showcases the use of the colors included.

Each box is created with a matchbox sleeve so you slide it out and you’ll be treated to the beauty of the paints. The tubes are .05 ounces or 15 ml each. It’s big if you’re used to 5ml tubes from Holbein, Schmincke or Daniel Smith. Sennelier, meanwhile, has a 21 ml and 10 ml option. This one, the 15 ml is perfect in my opinion. Unless you burn through watercolors like a madman or woman, you can make a single tube last for years.

One thing I adore about the packaging is it’s so compact. It measures 3 x 4 inches and perfect for gifting to an artist friend or bringing along with you during plein air painting.

Note: If you like the idea of buying each box, be careful about getting duplicates. There are boxes with duplicate colors so might as well get the open stock ones after you’ve tried out a box or two.

The tubes are sturdy enough to protect the paint and the twist cap is easy to open. A little squeeze sends the paint out in a buttery consistency. This is thanks to the honey binder used instead of the traditional gum Arabic. Like Holbein, M. Graham’s honey binding agent prevents the paint from easily drying out. It also makes it convenient to reactivate with water. The downside is that it will attract ants and critters.

Colors Included

Each box contains five tube colors at 15ml each. The Cityscape box contains:

• Sepia (Subway gray)

• Hansa Yellow Deep (Taxi Cab Yellow)

• Burnt Sienna (Brick Red)

• Paynes Gray (Asphalt Gray)

As you can see, M. Graham has its own nickname for the paints. This can be confusing at first but you can always compare the pigment code and typical paint name if needed. Unless you use their watercolors exclusively then you might want to make sure you’re not getting repeat colors from other brands by doing so.

Lightfastness & Pigments

You can refer to M. Graham’s lightfast chart below to find out the exact pigments, lightfast ratings, transparency or other properties of the paint.

The Good & The Bad

The Good

  • Gorgeous packaging
  • Portable and convenient set
  • Paints are vibrant
  • Easily squeezes from the tube
  • Substantial tube size
  • Can be easily reactivated
  • Features mostly lightfast pigments (for this box only)
  • Environmentally friendly
  • Superb quality

The Bad

  • More expensive compared to other brands
  • Attracts ants
  • Doesn’t fully dry into a cake because of the honey binder – (although I don’t have a problem with Holbein doing this for some reason)
  • If you buy only sets, they can contain duplicate colors
  • Because they don’t fully dry, they can grow mold easily especially during humid weather

Should You Buy It

If it’s within budget and you want superb quality paints, then yes. I love using them at home but learned the hard way they’re better carried in a tube and squeezed into the palette as you need them when travelling or painting outdoors. I made the mistake of squeezing them into a palette and travelling. Suffice it to say, I had a goopy mess inside my bag waiting for me. (Darn you, Payne’s Gray! shakesfistintheair)

Another thing, M. Graham only has a limited set of colors so all those crazy iridescent and duochromes from Daniel Smith is something you won’t find in their roster.

Where To Buy

You can find the box sets and open stock tubes available in retailers like Amazon and Dickblick. Locally, I buy mine from Artnebula PH. They’re one of the few that sell them. You’ll find open stock and box sets there as well.

Note: For non-watercolor enthusiasts, M. Graham also has oil paints, acrylic and gouache available. I’ve never tried them but I’m hoping to do so (especially the gouache and oil paints) but I need to find them first.

Disclaimer: I am NOT affiliated with the companies mentioned and I wasn’t paid to do this review. All of the thoughts expressed here are my own. It comes from buying, testing and using the product for myself.