Geesh, Cali4Dawn, which pans are you referring to that are horrible? I must admit my favourites are the Decorator Preferred of which they have discontinued most of the line of. I am not a big fan of their cheaper ones as they are a rather flimsy aluminum. I don't buy them. But for the most part at least with the Decorator Preferred, I find them comparable to the professional lines. I also have Crown and Chicago Metallurgic pans and I love Nordicware. Personally I still find WIlton Preferred better quality than either of those brands. I also have some older commercial pans that I am not too keen on. And some Cusinart and Kitchen Aid. Now the character pans are of course not the best weight of aluminum but for what you would use them for, they are adequate. And you would have to say that even their absolutely cheapest and worst pans are still better than anything Baker's Secret makes. Don't get me started, haha!
The colours, well I have to say I do like the Chefmasters although, like Kiddiekakes, being in Canada, we have a lot more limitations on the manufacturers and brands that we have available to us without going on-line and paying dollar conversion rates, huge packing and shipping rates and then on top of that, Custom Duties. Even within Canada, for instance when I visited Kiddiekakes' hometown of Calgary, well she had things available to her that I cannot get in Ottawa and vice versa. Plain and simple, the Wilton ones are always available to us and in all of the various shades and colours.
I do like Chefmaster's Liqua Gel when I can get it and also Cake Craft when I can get it. The one drawback with both of these is that they are a lot more liquidy and so when added to fondant, you are also adding a lot more icing sugar. But I do find that yes they do get red faster. But in our cases, when Wilton is easy to come by, well you use what you can get and it does work - even though you use huge amounts. I must admit though for red, I use all three most of the time except for perhaps some very specific colours of red where I stick with Wilton's. Though they are almost the same colour, there is a wee bit of a difference.
I suppose for me that isn't a big issue because I was decorating in the days where there was no such thing as a real red, all you could make was a horrible shade of pink when you did red pointsettias. Heck I was decorating in the days when all you could get were the food colours that you use to colour Easter Eggs, I believe they had a vegetable oil base.
Anyway, a lot of people are more limited because of the areas they live in. For instance, in some European countries, food colour addititve guidelines are such that they do not have similar products as we in the U.S. and Canada have. So they are using a totally different product.
So I tend to recommend Wilton colours to most people just because I know that the vast majority of people can get their hands on their products.
Unfortunately we don't all have the same abilities to purchase the same thing. Even within the U.S. many folks are limited by the size of the area they live in. Makes it all very interesting, doesn't it?
Hugs Squirrelly Cakes