Friday, May 26, 2017

Review/Comparison Viviva Colorsheets and Peerless Watercolors

This is an in-depth review of Viviva Colorsheets in comparison to Peerless watercolors. I purchased the Peerless watercolors myself but received the Viviva Colorsheets free for review; note that I contacted them because I was interested and they were kind enough to send me a sample booklet. These are my findings and opinions. I don't have any other connection to these companies. I have tried to be as honest and objective as possible.

Note: colors will likely appear different on screen than in person.

Affiliate links may be included in this post. See Notice at bottom of blog.

What They Are

Viviva Colorsheets and Peerless watercolors are watercolor sheets that contain heavily pigmented dyes. They come on a paper-type substrate. Peerless calls them films, a throwback to their history. This is how they are described in their booklet introduction: "The COLOR FILM is a heavy film of highly concentrated pure color, of intense strength and absolute solubility. This film of color is coated on one side of a special fabric that readily discharges the color the moment it comes into contact with water, or any water soluble mixture." I am not sure they are still made of fabric since the substrate feels and cuts like cardstock, and tends to peel a bit when rubbed with a wet brush. Both are transparent, with the exception of one or two colors. When looking at them, the surfaces mostly do not reflect the actual paint color; this is due to the amount of pigment in them. They also may vary in color and texture across the sheets; some even look like they have crystal-like structures on top. This does not affect performance.

When using the paints, you just need to touch a wet brush (or water brush) to the sheets. I have noticed that the Viviva Colorsheets seem to be more concentrated (or pigmented) than the Peerless in many cases. For example, I usually have to load my brush more often with Peerless to get the same strength of color that I get from one touch of Viviva. The Viviva makers claim that one set will last about as long as a standard half pan set. From the few experiences with the paint so far, I tend to believe this.


Viviva Colorsheets were developed by a 3rd year medical school student in India, named Aditya Vadgaonkar. Before med school, he had enjoyed watercoloring but found he didn't paint as much while attending school because of the inconvenience of carrying around pans, tubes, palettes, etc. What he wanted was a light, portable set. He developed the idea for his watercolors while studying a diagnostic technique that involved picking up a substrate from paper. It took him a year to find an expert on dyes to finally realize this idea. His brother, Rohan Vadgaonkar, also helped with branding and by setting up the supply chain. So far, they have been able to produce Viviva Colorsheets in small quantities, but in order to supply them to a larger market, they will have to invest in raw materials on a larger scale. For this, Aditya and his brother have started a campaign on Indiegogo. It is currently "funded" and they are now in production, with hopes of shipping early. With more investors, they would like to add the stretch goal at $60,000 to upgrade the Colorsheets to include a mixing area (something people have requested). Their website is

Peerless watercolors have been around a long time. They were developed in 1885 by Chas F. Nicholson and first published in booklet form in 1902. They are still handmade using the same process. They were originally manufactured by Peerless Color Laboratories in Rochester, New York. The current manufacturer, Creative Mode, LLC, is based in Stoughton Wisconsin, USA. Their website is

Booklet Contents and Sizes

Viviva Colorsheets come in a booklet approximately 2 7/8 x 5 1/8 inches in size. It is made up of 3 thick sheets and three thin partition pages folded to make 6 thick pages with partitions in between. Inside the book there are four sections. Sections are made up of a top page and a bottom page, with 2 colors each, for a total of 16 colors. Each color is about 1 3/4 x 2 3/8 inches in size. The color's name is below each color. The sections are color coded in staggered strips along the bottoms of the section pages, creating an index so colors can be easily found inside the book. The partition pages between each page are water resistant (there are actually two in the middle due to how it was folded together). The book is bound by stitching down the center. The booklets can be a bit off. For example, one of the color names was unreadable because the stitching ran across it - I had to flip to the other side of its fold to figure it out. Also the partition pages are not consistently cut or assembled - some are off to one side or the other. They cover the colors in most cases though. Only one of mine is slightly short such that about 1/16 or less of the colors on either side stick out beyond it. Note: even though the colors are printed on the bottoms of the sections, the printed colors will not match exactly; I highly recommend swatching the colors themselves next to the paints - this will give you a more accurate rendition.

Peerless sheets are typically 2 1/2 x 6 1/2 inches. Since these are hand made, I have found them to vary up to a quarter of an inch or so. I contacted the company about two of my sheets that were really short; they sent me replacements, so they do stand behind their products. You can see the size difference in the top photo - see the two green sheets next to the booklet. One sheet is flipped up and one down but they are lined up on the long edge (the lengths are the same, one is just further under the booklet). The Complete Edition contains 15 colors. "Complete" refers to the original set of colors, not the complete library of current colors, which contains 78. The booklet has a cover sheet, an intro page, 6 double-sided pages of instructions and information (this is the vintage text taken from the 1902 version), plus 15 pages with color "films" stuck to them. Note: they aren't really film-like; they are more like dyed paper. On the page facing each color is the color name as well as information about the color and some uses. The color names are also printed on the back of each film. The book is bound by 2 staples. In my book, I found that the films were not stuck well on the pages and in some cases a little glue had seeped onto the front sides, sticking their facing pages to them. The company told me that the glue they use will not hurt the paint and will come off with water. Some films fell out of the book when first opened. This didn't really bother me since I had planned to make my own palettes from the films anyway. I would not recommend using these paints from the book (more about that in Convenience). Peerless does make a "travel palette" but it contains about 14 or 15 loose pages plus 6 sheets of acetate for dividers (I don't know how this would be enough for the number of pages) that may be bound by a removable clip. This seems cumbersome so I bought several packs and made my own palette by cutting down the sheets.

Swatches of both Viviva Colorsheets and Peerless Watercolors may be found at the bottom of this post.


Viviva Colorsheets come ready to take with you for travel, plein air, or studio use. You can easily hold them in one hand and manipulate the pages as you paint. The index on the bottom of the pages helps you to quickly find the color you need. The Peerless paints are not really well suited for use in their booklet. Even if you overlook the glue issues, there are no water resistant dividers, so when they get wet they will stick to their facing pages. To use them, I recommend creating your own palette. Many people have created a one page folded palette with some sort of divider, like acetate or Yupo. It usually holds 30 to 40 colors, depending on the size you cut your colors (the Peerless Bonus Pack has 40 colors and is typically the one used). Ellen Hutson has a printable palette on her blog (scroll down her page for the pdf). I created an extra 2 sided page in the middle of mine so I could have 60 colors. I might create a smaller palette in the future. Peerless does have a travel palette now; more information is listed below, under Price.

Field Experience

In addition to the tests you will see below, I took the Viviva Colorsheets with me to Washington DC on a recent trip. I sketched and painted an owl at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History as well as a scene in front of the fountain near the National Archives. As you can see by the image below, I was able to hold the paints in one hand; this allowed me to use a water brush to paint with the other hand (offscreen). I plan to use them to color a stamped image for a card in the near future; look for that here on my website.


Viviva Colorsheets contain mineral based dyes and a binder. The pigments used are a "trade secret" according to the producers, so I have no information about their toxicity. Since some pigments are highly toxic (e.g. vermillion, cadmium, cobalt), I recommend handling with care. The instructions inside direct you to "not ingest them" and to "please wash your hands after use" - a good rule of thumb when working with any paints. Peerless watercolors are 100% non-toxic according to their website but I still recommend thoroughly washing your hands after handling them.

Handling and Care

As noted above under Toxicity, it is recommended that you wash your hands after use. Even though the Peerless say they are non-toxic, they will still stain your hands and anything else they come in contact with (this is actually true of both paints). Trust me - the smallest amount on your hand can find its way to your work surface, projects, clothes, and even face (ask me how I know). It was the worst when created my Peerless palette; I had color all over my hands - a real mess. I had tried to keep my hands dry but the slightest moisture will activate them. Both Viviva and Peerless should be kept away from any moisture, including humidity. You may want to store them in a re-closable (zip) bag. If you have any silica gel desiccants (i.e. the small packets that warn you not to eat them), you could add them to the bag to wick moisture.


Neither of these paints is lightfast, meaning you should not expose them to direct light for very long or the colors may shift and/or fade. If you would like to preserve your art, you could coat it with a UV filtering finish, frame it with UV filtering glass/plexiglas, or just scan it and print it. They are perfect for use in a sketchbook since the book will be closed most of the time, protecting the paints from light.


Viviva Colorsheets: On Indiegogo the Viviva Colorsheets were selling for $15 (a 15% discount + shipping) but that option has sold out as of this writing. Currently available is the set of 2 for $27 (a 25% discount + shipping) and the Sketcher Set that includes 1 Viviva Colorsheets plus a water brush for $25 (a 15% discount + shipping), among other combinations.

Peerless: The base shipping fee starts at $2.95 for all US orders and at $13.80 for International. The Complete Edition of 15 colors sells for $15. Peerless also offers a travel palette that may be purchased full or empty. The full travel palette contains 78 colors for $60.00; the empty travel palette is $9.00. The color films in the full booklet look to be about 1 x 2 1/2 inches if the sheet dimensions are similar to the Complete Edition (this is just a guess from looking at their website photos). They include 6 clear acetate pages as partitions. The sturdy white pages come loose but may be bound with a metal clip when not in use.


Viviva Colorsheets include the following colors: Crimson, Deep Pink, Vermillion, Flesh, Chrome Yellow, Gold Ochre, Burnt Umber, Burnt Sienna, Light Green, Sap Green, Viridian, Peacock Blue, Persian Blue, Violet, Magenta, and Slate Black.

The Peerless Complete Edition contains Brilliant Yellow, Deep Yellow, Orange Yellow, Flesh Tint, Geranium Pink, Japonica Scarlet, Royal Crimson, Mahogany Brown, Sepia Brown, Light Green, Dark Green, Deep Blue, Sky Blue, Wistaria Violet, and Pearl Gray. There are 78 colors in the full range, which are sold in separate packs except for the full travel palette. See the Peerless website for other color options.

One thing to note is that within each set some colors are very similar to others. In the Viviva Colorsheets the following colors are similar: Peacock Blue and Persian Blue, Crimson and Deep Pink, and Flesh and Chrome Yellow (close on their heels is Gold Ochre). I also would like to see more difference between some of the other colors. For example, Burnt Umber and Burnt Sienna: I'd like Burnt Umber to be a darker brown than it is; Sap Green and Light Green: I'd like Light Green to lean more towards blue (cooler hue), like a grass green rather than a yellow green. The Persian Blue has too much of a green tint, making it almost match the Peacock Blue. Crimson is usually more orange - this version looks more like a Deep Pink than the actual Deep Pink. Flesh is probably the worst of the bunch - the orangey hue looks nothing like flesh, with the possible exception of one person. The Burnt Umber in its current state would make a better flesh tone.

In the Peerless Complete Edition, Orange Yellow and Flesh Tint are very close, with Deep Yellow not far behind. If you expand to the full set, there are many other similarities (too many to mention here); you really don't need all the colors.

Color Comparison Between Viviva and Peerless

In general, the Viviva colors are a bit more vivid than the Peerless. The following color comparisons are as close as I could get between the two paints. Disclaimer: I own 64 of the 78 Peerless colors; the below comparisons are closest to what I own. I put the Viviva color first then described how the Peerless compared.

All the sample images are in two rows with and four columns. The top rows are the Viviva colors; the bottom rows are the Peerless colors (although the left side has a swatch of Viviva for comparison - each is labeled). The columns, going from left to right, contain: the colors, the colors with salt added, a lift test, and finally a wet in wet test (these last three are discussed below in their own sections).

You may click an image to enlarge.

Crimson: Scarlet Lake looks closest while wet but once dry, the closest colors are Tea Rose Pink and Blush Rose Pink (a combo would probably come closer). The Crimson is more vivid.

Deep Pink: since Deep Pink is similar to Viviva's Crimson, the above applies here as well. This time I tested Blush Rose Pink. The Deep Pink is slightly brighter.

Vermillion: both Orange Yellow and Flesh Tint match pretty well but I used Flesh Tint for the test.

Flesh: Cadmium Yellow is a good match.

Chrome Yellow: Daffodil Yellow is a good match.

Gold Ochre: Golden Yellow is a good match.

Burnt Umber: Bismark Brown combined with Warm Sepia would probably match best; I used Bismark Brown for the test.

Burnt Sienna: Poinsettia Red is close but has a bit more red than Burnt Sienna. Bismark Brown is also close but has a bit more yellow.

Light Green: Amber Yellow combined with Olive Green would probably match best; I used Amber Yellow for the test.

Sap Green: Olive Green is close but has more blue.

Viridian: Robin's Egg Blue is a good match.

Peacock Blue: Alice Blue is a good match, just slightly more blue (Peacock Blue leans towards the green).

Persian Blue: Alice Blue is probably closer but I did the test with Cobalt Blue. Persian Blue has too much green; it matches too closely with Peacock Blue (above).

Violet: Mauve is a good match although it is less pigmented.

Magenta: Lip Smackin' Pink was close but still more red than the Magenta.

Slate Black: Lamp Black is a good match.


I added salt to each color, let them dry, then brushed off the salt. (This is a common way to add texture to watercolor.) Most colors reacted well with the salt but there were a few exceptions. I decided to re-test them in case I didn't add enough paint (making the color was too light) or if I didn't add enough water for the salt to absorb. The Viviva Gold Ochre and the Peerless Golden Yellow showed some texture when applied more heavily. The Peerless Daffodil Yellow and Bismark Brown both are a bit too light for this technique (i.e. they don't have enough pigment) - there is faint texture but it's difficult to see. The Viviva Burnt Umber and Peerless Olive Green both color shifted in the salt. In the re-test, the Viviva Burnt Umber turned a gray color where the salt was placed. In the original test, the Peerless Olive Green, which was applied more lightly, took on a yellow green cast where the salt was placed but in the re-test ,where I used more color, the color just darkened around the salt.


Lifting is a technique that watercolorists use to remove color for highlights, or possibly for removing mistakes. Paper can make a big difference in lifting. Watercolor paper with sizing on its surface and/or in it will tend to allow for better lifting. I find the Strathmore 400 to be an excellent lifting paper when used with traditional watercolors. Since these are dye based paints, they do tend to stain almost instantly on contact. This is something you should be aware of when using these watercolors. It will change how you paint vs. traditional watercolor.

Both Viviva and Peerless lifted pretty well, although all colors had at least some staining. Only one color of Viviva didn't lift well (Gold Ochre) while two Peerless didn't: Bismark Brown, Cobalt Blue. The next three that lifted only a little were two Peerless: Golden Yellow and Amber Yellow, as well as one Viviva: Sap Green.

Wet in Wet

All the colors moved pretty well when dropped into wet paper. Some moved better than others. A few had a bit of color separation (mostly the green colors). I was able to get blooms with both paints.


In watercolor, granulation can happen when water is mixed with the pigment. Granulating pigments will separate from their binder when water is added and then settle into the valleys of the paper because they are heavier. These will dry to have a grainy texture. Non-granulating pigments stay more consistent with their binder when water is added, covering the paper more evenly. Being dye based, it is not surprising that neither the Viviva nor the Peerless showed much in the way of granulation.

Rewetting, Glazing/Layering, and Reactivating

When I used water across a patch of dried paint, in both cases the color was pushed away. The pushed color formed a darker line at its edge as it dried. The color reactivates when moisture is added; the thicker the color has been applied, the more it will likely reactivate. Glazing or layering is used in watercolor to build up color or to change the color. For example, a cool color may be added to shade an area. When glazing/layering colors, you will see a mix or darkening of the colors where they overlap. For best results, layers should be thin and allowed to dry completely between applications. I found these paints more finicky than traditional watercolor for glazing due to how easily they reactivated. If you would like watercolor like pigments that dry permanent, I recommend Inktense pencils or blocks - they are highly pigmented inks.

Blending and Mixing

Both paints mixed well, similar to traditional watercolor. The vibrancy remained when mixed. Note that in order to get bright violets and purples, I had to resort to using Magenta (Viviva) or Lip Smakin' Pink (Peerless) since both sets contain reds with a yellow hue (i.e. they contain more yellow so they lean slightly towards the orange). When mixed with blue, the extra yellow mutes the color produced so you get burgundy/wine/dark purple type colors. Examples of mixing are both above and below (under the Opacity color lines).


I tested several colors of each paint over a black waterproof marker, applying it in a thick layer by saturating the brush with the paint. For the most part, both paints were very transparent. The only exception was the Viviva Chrome Yellow; it was somewhat opaque when not applied thinly.

Final Thoughts

The biggest difference between Viviva and Peerless is Viviva's convenience. Viviva Colorsheets can be used immediately, out of the package, as a portable watercolor. The Peerless travel set contains separate sheets that can't be held in one hand or manipulated easily in the field. The Peerless Complete Edition is not really usable in its booklet. If you want a smaller, convenient palette of Peerless watercolors, you need to make one yourself, which is both time consuming and messy. The Peerless are larger for about the same price, but Viviva's paints are more pigmented so they should last longer than Peerless in the same size. The Viviva producers say their set is comparable to a set of half pan watercolors. Although there are 16 colors in Viviva, vs. 15 in Peerless, some colors are similar. Overall I would consider them comparable in price. The color index at the bottom of the Viviva Colorsheets is really handy for finding a particular color.

Both sets contain inconsistencies in production, but nothing major. Neither set offers a mixing area, although there are plans to add one in Viviva's future. I highly recommending creating swatches of each color below or beside their respective paints. Printed versions rarely match actual colors.

Both sets had minor issues with shedding to some degree - bits of paper came up with the color when a wet brush was rubbed across the surface. I saw more of this with the Peerless, probably because there isn't quite as much pigment on the surface as with the Viviva.

The Viviva Colorsheets were surprisingly similar in intensity to Mermaid Markers by Jane Davenport and American Crafts (these another set of dye based paints which come in water brushes). I put them on the same page in my swatch book. I recently did a mini-review of Mermaid Markers.

I enjoyed using the Viviva Colorsheets in the field (plein air sketching). They are easily held in one hand so you are free to use the other for painting. Their small size makes them super portable - I just tucked them into my purse (pocketbook) with my small sketchbook, a waterproof black pen, and a water brush.

  • Viviva Colorsheets
  • Peerless Watercolors: Complete Edition, Bonus Pack Large, Pretty in Pink, DrySpot
  • Custom Palette: Strathmore Watercolor Paper, Disney Mega Paper Pad SC9602, Cricut Vinyl Linen - Custom Text Cut on Cricut
  • Brush: Loew Cornell Simpatico #2 Round 821RS
  • Watercolor Paper: Strathmore 400 Series
  • Pentalic Aqua Journal
  • Moleskine Art Plus Sketchbook
  • Salt: Morton Course Kosher Salt

Follow my blog with Bloglovin so you won't miss any of the watercolor fun!


  1. Such a wonderful and thorough review, Mary. Thank you so much for taking the time to share your insights and knowledge. And by the way, great job on that owl -- you're very talented!

  2. Great review! As F. Wimmer said, very thorough. Thanks for the info!

  3. How long do these last? Less time that a cake I assume?

  4. Such a great comparison. Thank You! And thanks especially for your info on the lack of colourfastness but ideas to work around that. Appreciate the info.


Thank you for leaving a comment! I read (and appreciate) every one!