These essential watercolor painting supplies are all you need to get started plus recommended products used by most artists that will not break the bank
So, you decided to dive into watercolor painting because of the watercolor craze you probably saw on Instagram. But before you buy any supplies, check first what you need to get started. Otherwise, you’ll be splurging money on tools that you might not need in the first place, or you’ll buy brands that are not of good quality which could sabotage your interest in the watercolor medium. Mind you, if you’ll go straight to craft store and go to watercolor paint tools you’ll probably get lost with the sea of supplies. So better do your research.
I listed here the necessary watercolor painting supplies that you’ll need as a beginner and my favorite brands. Just to let you know, these brands are also among the recommended brands of many watercolor artists. (I’m a big-time IG stalker and read descriptions of artists’ works as well as comments. That’s how I get info on what products are suitable for watercolor painting.)
Watercolor tutorials that you can
start learning as a beginner:
There is a wide selection of watercolor paints to choose, and they come in different forms like pan, tubes and liquid watercolor.
Pans are a solid block of paints. You only need to rewet them by spirting water on the solid watercolor paint. Watercolor in pans is the best choice if you plan to bring your supplies on your travel.
Watercolor in a tube has a paste-like consistency. You need to squirt it on a palette and dilute it with water. You can reuse it even when it dried up by rewetting it just like pan watercolor.
Liquid Watercolor Paints
Liquid watercolor paints are highly concentrated paints. You can dilute it or add water to lessen the intensity of the color.
Aside from these forms of paints, you also need to consider the quality of watercolor paints. So, there are kid’s and classroom watercolor paints, student grade paints, and artist’s grade paints.
Kid’s and classroom watercolor paints
These are the typical paints that probably most of us tried in grade school. It is cheap and not the best. But, there are brands of kid’s watercolor that are good to start with like Crayola Watercolor Paints.
Student Grade Paints
These are the paints that I believe any beginner should consider buying. It is good to start to experiment and try the different techniques of watercolor painting.
Artist Grade Paints
As the name implies, it is more suitable if you want for a more pro-level of quality of your painting. Artist’s grade paints are highly pigmented and made to last. These paints are quite expensive. So, I won’t suggest buying it if you are still practicing.
If you want to have a deeper understanding between student vs the artist’s grade, check this related blog post, Student VS Artist Grade Paint – Watercolor 101 by Watercolor Misfit.
Aside from the forms and quality of paints, they also come in different colors and shades, and that could be overwhelming to decide. I suggest choose a set of watercolor paints that comes with the primary colors (red, yellow, and blue). You probably know why. With the primary colors you can get different colors by mixing them: red + yellow = orange, yellow + blue = green, and blue + red = purple… and we know that it doesn’t stop there.
My to-go brand is Winsor and Newton: Cotman Watercolor Paints. It comes in pan or tube. Another brand that I also love is Prima Marketing by Art Philosophy. Check the Watercolor Confections: The Classic. It has the primary colors that you need to get started.
Watercolor paint can be used on paper and other surfaces that have been primed to accept water-based paint. But the suitable papers are those that are explicitly made for watercolor paints. You can quickly check because it is labelled as “watercolor paper” if not check the product if it is okay for watercolor medium. Just like Canson, it has a chart of compatibility of a medium and the type of paper.
It also comes in student grade and artist’s grade. You probably already get the idea of the difference between the two. Artist’s grade known as archival, acid-free, designed to endure and yes, more expensive.
But to make your life easier, choose a watercolor paper for student grade. It is still good, and I have no problem with it.
There are different types of watercolor papers: cold press, hot press and rough surface. Generally, it refers to the paper surface’s finish and on how it was processed.
Hot Pressed – Surface is smooth. The cotton fibers that formed in sheet and finished by hot roller.
Cold Pressed – Surface is a little bit rough (between the smoothness of hot-pressed paper and rough surface paper). It is finished by pressing the paper using metal plates to take out the excess water and left to air dry.
Rough Surface – As the name implies, it is rough, uneven, and there are lumps. The raw fibers are made into a sheet and left to air dry.
Watercolor papers have different thickness, too: 90lb, 140 lb, 300 lb. The thicker, the more it can hold the water.
Since we are just starting with this medium. I suggest you go for cheaper brands with excellent quality. For starters, I suggest Canson Watercolor paper 140lb, most artists recommend it. I like the texture of its surface, it holds watercolor well, and it’s affordable.
Brushes come with different sizes and forms and are made out of animals hair. But don’t worry if this is an issue for you, there are excellent synthetic brushes, too. One thing that you’ll consider in choosing a brush is that the amount of water it can hold.
Again, there are brushes made for student and pro. It is good to start with student grade brushes and learn the strokes using different brushes.
Buy a set of brushes instead of buying an individual brush. A collection that has round, angled, fan, flat brushes. Try each brush, check it’s characteristic and learn on what technique or stroke it can be used.
I got a set from Sta Fe Art Supply from Amazon, with the different forms and sizes of brushes. It is a good set of brush for a starter.
I also got a set Oriental Brush round at Dollar Stor, and up to now, I am still using it and consider as my favorite brushes. The only thing is that it doesn’t hold much water.
If you want to go for better quality and synthetic brush, I hear Princeton brand are of high quality (as of this writing, I am still waiting for my Princeton brushes).
Watercolor Palette and Mixing Trays
If you chose watercolor paints that come in tubes, then you’ll need a palette. With paints on a palette, it will give you easier access, and you don’t have to squirt tubes every time you want to use them. You don’t have to worry if it dries out because you only need to dampen it with water to reuse it.
I like the MEEDEN Empty Watercolor Tins Palette Paint Case with pans because I can bring it wherever. You can purchase it with either half or full pan for your paints.
Typically palette comes with mixing trays, so it’s not necessary to buy one. But if you consider using plates to mix color, it is available in any craft stores.
I like using ceramic mixing trays. You can purchase it, or you can use old plates. My favorite is the dipping sauce that I bought from an Asian store. Aside from mixing my colors in those cute bowls, I can also use it for my props on photography layout.
Water and Paper Towel
It is necessary to clean your brushes in between use. This is to prevent from mixing different colors, and you don’t want to compromise the quality of your work by using dirty brushes.
The best practice is to use two cups of water for cleaning your brushes. One cup is for your warm color paints (yellow to red hues), and the other container is for the cool colors (green to blue shades). If you are using black color, I suggest to wash it in a different cup.
Use a paper towel to dry your brushes.
Pencil and Eraser
If you want to outline your drawing before painting, I suggest using a pencil lightly, unless if you purposely want the pencil outline to show on your final output.
Your outline may be visible after applying your watercolor paint, and you can’t erase it once painted.
Also, when you erase your pencil outline, rub it gently and as much as possible. Rigid erasure will only ruin the surface of the paper, and you’ll get a different result.
I won’t be recommending a kneaded eraser, though some suggested it. I tried it once, but it only destroyed the paper. I find Staedler | Mars Gum Eraser and Magic Eraser work well.
That’s it! You only need five tools for watercolor painting: paints, paper, brushes, palette and mixing trays, and water and paper towel. Additional tools are pencil and eraser if you prefer doing an outline first before painting.
So now that you know the essentials to get started in watercolor painting, it is time to jump in a start your watercolor painting.
Yes, it could be overwhelming when choosing the right brand of supplies. It is always a trial and error. So experiment, try different products, learn by researching about the watercolor medium, join forums, check the description and comments on an artist’s work or ask the artist, and… do lots of practice. It is the only way you’ll get better.
Watercolor tutorials that you can
start learning as a beginner:
Here is a summary of my favorite products. These are essential supplies if you are a beginner and even if you are advance in your watercolor skill.