How to Read a Paint Tube

Reading a tube of watercolor paint can feel like trying to read in a foreign language at first. But with this handy guide you'll be reading paint tubes like a pro in no time. Happy dance!

Manufacturer's Color Name

Each paint brand has a unique naming system, so that while manufacturers may use the same pigments to make a color, the name given to that color can differ from brand to brand. (This can be most vexing!) To ensure color accuracy consult the Color Index Name which is a standardized naming system. More on this below.

Color Swatch

A printed representation of the color inside or sample dab of paint.

Manufacturer's Permanence Rating

Some brands use their own system to rate a color's durability when exposed to environmental factors such as light and humidity.

Price Group

Because some colors require more costly pigments to make, artist's grade watercolor paints are categorized by series, usually from 1 (least expensive) to 5 (most expensive).

Tube Size

Quantities are often listed in ml and US fl oz.

Health and Safety Info

Be sure to read paint labels carefully as some colors may contain cadmium or lead which require careful handling. An ACMI Approved Product seal indicates that the paint inside contains "no materials in sufficient quantities to be toxic or injurious to humans, including children, or to cause acute or chronic health problems".  

Color Index Name

Want to be certain you're getting the same color no matter which brand you use? Look for the Color Index Name: a combination of letters and numbers used to indicate a specific pigment. For example - PB29 (commonly labeled French Ultramarine)

Pigment Name

The chemical composition of a pigment.

ASTM Lightfastness Rating

An ASTM rating is an independent and standardized method that rates a pigment's ability to remain unchanged when exposed to light. Pigments are rated from I to V. Select pigments with a I (Excellent) or II (Very Good) rating to make sure your paintings stay vibrant for years to come.