The Best Watercolor Set for Beginners

Jul 2, 2021 | 7 comments

Are you looking for high-quality and reliable watercolor paint sets to start off your art journey? Well then, this article is made for you! Read more as we explore and review the best watercolor set for beginners.

For centuries, the art of watercolor has been explored in and out. For watercolor beginners, this new world might be a little too much to take in. No worries, we have everything right here to help you get started!

We’ve spent the better part of our week researching and putting this article together to give you a detailed write-up to aid you in your purchasing decision. We’ve concluded that Winsor & Newton Cotman Watercolours Sketchers’ Pocket Box is probably the best watercolor set for beginners, but there are also so many others that are great options, too.

With so many choices available, we’ve gathered ten (10) of the best watercolor sets for beginners and all you have to do is choose one that suits your budget and preference.

Table of Contents

Picking the Watercolor Paint Set for your Needs

The Best Watercolor Set for Beginners

Other watercolor supplies and accessories


Picking the Watercolor Paint Set for your Needs

There are a few things to consider and think about when you look for watercolor paints that will suit your needs. There’s a great variety of different paint sets available in the market and when you are just a beginner, the number of available watercolors will no doubt overwhelm you. Here are a couple of things you need to look out for when shopping for watercolors.


There are two types of watercolor art sets: student-grade and professional-grade.

Student-grade types are more suitable for beginners as they are the cheaper option. This watercolor paint has cheaper pigments, more synthetic binders, and tends to have less permanence. But this does not mean that they won’t give you good results. There are a lot of student-grade watercolor sets from top brands that are high-quality and have vibrant pigments and excellent permanence.

Professional-grade watercolor sets are made with more pigment that will give you vibrant paints that are easy to work with. And they also come in a wider range of colors and are typically more expensive than the student-grade ones.

For beginners, it’s highly recommended to get the student-grade paint sets. You won’t notice that much difference when you’re just starting out on watercolor painting, and it will be more cost-friendly.


Some brands sell watercolors in individual tubes and this will allow you to pick out the exact colors you want. While others are sold in pans that come in sets and with this, you’ll have to evaluate each color included in the set.

The great thing about watercolors is that you can mix watercolor paints to create a wide array of color palettes without having to shell out a wide range of colors. So if you are looking to get professional-grade watercolor paints, start with 5-10 colors and build out your color palette from there.

best watercolor set for beginners


The prices of watercolor paint sets can vary depending on the type of watercolor you get. The higher the quality, the pricier it will be. As stated earlier, student-grade paint sets are generally cheaper than professional-grade paints.

Some pigments will have different prices because the raw materials used to create these pigments vary, and certain minerals are rarer and more pricey than others.

Student-grade watercolors are cheaper and have standard pricing because these do not use rare pigments, they use synthetic fillers as substitutes instead.


Permanence (or lightfastness) is how the paint’s color holds over time. It’s the paint’s durability when exposed to light and humidity. The paint’s permanence is highly dependent on its pigments and how much filler is in the paint.

To check this information on your product, check the label to see how each color rates on the ASTM (American Society for Testing and Materials) rating scale. I is excellent and II is good.

Transparency & Texture

Watercolors have the ability to have light pass through them and with that, it creates a beautiful washed-out effect. They come in opaque or transparent, and you can check which one you’re getting by checking on the label. The level of transparency is important if you want to create the layered effect, although opaque watercolors can be thinned and watered down.

There’s also the paint’s texture to consider as it can make a big difference. Some watercolors are creamier than others and these are easier to work with and blend with water. The paint’s texture will also affect how the watercolor goes on to your chosen medium – paper or canvas or something else.

Pans or Tube

Watercolors are sold either in tubes or in pans. Both have good qualities and have advantages and disadvantages, So how do you determine what’s best for you?

Watercolor paints in pans are dry and this makes them more portable and easier to clean up. To use them, you only need to activate them with a wet brush or spray them with a bit of water. Each pan of paint can go a very long way and you can use your set of watercolors for a long time.

Watercolor paints in tubes are liquid paint and this can be messier to bring when you are traveling. These kinds of paints are easier to mix with water compared to pan paints and it’s easier to use more amounts of paint quickly with tubes so that means you’ll have to buy them more often.

Each has its own advantages and disadvantages and it’s really up to personal preference on which one you should get. Try both to get a feel of both types and see which one works better for you.

The Best Watercolor Set for Beginners

Here are our best picks of watercolor sets that are great for beginners.

Winsor & Newton Cotman Watercolours Sketchers’ Pocket Box (12 Pieces)

Winsor & Newton is a brand well-known when it comes to watercolors, and its sub-brand Cotman is perfectly made for beginners. If we’re speaking technical, there are synthetic fillers in the pigments to keep the cost down, but the quality and permanence of each color are still impressive.

This line also comes in tubes but we chose this one in pans because of its portability, and with 12 colors, you are all set to begin your watercolor painting journey.

What’s great about it:

  • Rich colors and great transparency
  • More affordable option from a trusted brand
  • Perfect for beginners
  • Great color options
  • It will last a long time

Van Gogh Watercolor Paint Set 12 Tube Pocket Box Set

Despite it being a student-grade watercolor paint, this tube set of 12 colors exceeds its status. Its reviewers rave about its quality and how it produces such pigmented and vibrant colors. The paints blend and mix well together, dry quickly, and the colors remain vivid once dry.

This brand also comes in pans if you prefer that type. Seriously, this is one of the best high-quality watercolor paint sets for beginners and if you have the budget, this is a great kit to invest in.

What’s great about it:

  • Bright pigments
  • Exceptional value
  • Great for beginners and professionals
  • Sold in both pans and tubes

Daniel Smith Extra Fine Essentials Introductory Watercolor (6 Tubes)

This American watercolor brand is known for its artist-quality paints. With over 235 color options in its array, each color is made with finely ground pigments that will allow you to create a wide color palette.

This set may only come with 6 tubes but it’s a great set for beginners if you are interested in learning and mastering the color theory before you transition into professional watercolor paints. This set includes 3 warm and 3 cool colors that are made for mixing.

These paints are vibrant, have excellent permanence, and transparency. It’s really worth your buck.

What’s great about it:

  • Highly pigmented
  • Great for mixing and blending
  • You get more than what you pay for
  • Can serve as professional-grade paints

Grumbacher Academy Watercolor Paint 12-Color Set

This watercolor paint is comparable to the Van Gogh watercolor paints. It also comes in tubes and it has an affordable price which is great for artists who want to learn the basics of watercolor. The brand has a vast array of colors to choose from but this 12-color set is perfect for beginners. 

What’s great about it:

  • Colors are pigmented and well-saturated
  • Great value for money
  • Great for both beginners and professionals

Reeves Student Watercolor Set, 24 tubes

If you want to have a wide array of colors in your arsenal, this watercolor set can be what you’re looking for. This paint set is one of the most ideal sets for beginners. Aside from the wide selection of colors, it’s of very good quality plus it comes with a cost-friendly price!

The brand Reeves is well-known for being a key provider in the art industry since the 1700s so there’s no doubt that their products are of high quality despite the wallet-friendly prices they have.

The only downside of this watercolor set is it does not come with a mixing palette or brush, but nevertheless, it is still very much a great set to have for beginners.

What’s great about it:

  • Wide color selection
  • Bright and vivid colors
  • Great value for money

Sakura Koi Watercolor Sets

Known for their Pigma Micron pens, this same brand has a watercolor set that’s great for beginners. The Sakura Koi Watercolor Set has bright and pigmented colors and it comes in a cheap price tag compared to the other brands in the student-grade category.

Despite having the colors having pre-arranged in a permanent place making it difficult to clean and refill them, this set is still a great value for your money especially when you are just starting out on your watercolor journey. This set comes with a water brush making it a great travel set as well.

What’s great about it:

  • Very Portable
  • Has a lot of beautiful colors
  • Great for beginners

Sennelier la petite Aquarelle, Set of 12 tubes

With 24 colors in half pans, this watercolor set is a wonderful travel companion for artists who are always on the go. Sennelier is known for its high-quality paints and this set comes with a mixing tray, 24 colors, and an elastic strap which is great for field painting.

This watercolor paint set boasts of its high transparency and that means it’s great for making a glazing effect and layering, plus the colors are bright and pigmented.

What’s great about it:

  • Travel-friendly
  • Really high-quality
  • Has a wide elastic band that will make it easy for you to hold the pan set while painting

Kuretake Gansai Portable Watercolor Set

This watercolor paint set is made in Japan and includes 14 pigmented and creamy colors. Each color is highly opaque and the packaging is in durable plastic with a mixing palette in its inner lid.

What’s great about it:

  • Opaque colors
  • Partitioned upper lid for mixing paints

Artsy Watercolor Paint Set, 42 colors

This uniquely packaged watercolor set is a joy for artists who like to take their work on the go. Although the colors are less pigmented than other brands, this set is perfect for beginners. It comes with 42 colors, a foldable palette, a detachable sponge, and 3 water brushes, and it fits in your bag with ease!

What’s great about it:

  • Foldable and highly-portable
  • A wide array of colors
  • Has a good degree of permanence

MozArt Supplies Watercolor Paint Essential Set

This essential set from MozArt Supplies is great for beginners especially when you are just starting to explore the watercolor painting world. There are 24 colors in the set and with a brush and mixing palette, you are well-equipped to start your watercolor journey, don’t forget your paper, of course.

This paint set has vibrant colors and each pigment is easy to mix and blend, and they have a clear and crisp finish on paper. This set comes in a sturdy metal box yet lightweight and easily portable should you want to use it on the go.

What’s great about it:

  • A partitioned, 3-part lid which can be used as a mixing palette
  • Small and portable

Other watercolor supplies and accessories

Other than having a watercolor paint set, you also need to have other supplies and accessories for your watercolor painting adventure.

other watercolor supplies

Watercolor brushes

Some watercolor paint sets come with a basic brush, but if you want to create a variety of brush strokes and make different kinds of artwork, you will want to invest in several more brushes of different sizes.

There are so many available brushes on the market with different types of handles and fibers. The brush handles will come down to personal preference, but the type of brush fibers you choose will make a big difference.

Watercolor paper

There are two categories of watercolor paper – cold-pressed and hot-pressed. Both are great but the cold-pressed watercolor paper is more common.

Cold-pressed watercolor paper is textured. It absorbs paint faster and makes the color look duller when dry. It’s easy to use and compatible with any type of watercolor.

Hot pressed watercolor paper is smooth. The paint does not dry that fast so you can work on the paint more before it dries. It presents brighter colors when dry. This type of paper is best for precise watercolor paintings.

Spray bottle

When working with watercolors, you will always need to have water on the side. A spray bottle is a handy accessory to have as it only takes a few sprays to activate your paint pans or wet your paper to get them ready for painting.


These are the most frequently asked questions when it comes to purchasing watercolor paints, so we’ve provided answers for your convenience.

Where can I buy watercolor sets?

You can shop at your local art stores or browse for more options online. There’s a lot of places to look for watercolor supplies and with the help of the internet, purchasing watercolor sets have been made easier than ever.

How long do watercolor paints last?

They typically last for about 2-3 years on average, but the lifespan of these depends on the type, formula, and storage. Paints in pans last longer than tubes.

To make your paint sets last longer, make sure to seal them in an airtight container and keep them in a dry place.

Are watercolor paints non-toxic?

Watercolor paints are harmless in general, though some high-quality pigments contain minerals like cobalt, cadmium, and zinc which can be harmful.

If you are concerned about the toxicity of the product, always check the label and its ingredients list. Most watercolor paint formulas these days are often harmless but it doesn’t hurt to be careful still.

Can you mix watercolor and acrylic paints?

Yes, they can be mixed as both paints are water-based. Just remember that when acrylic paints dry, they are waterproof and you won’t be able to work on your watercolors on top of them. The best way to work with both mediums is to use watercolors first before acrylics.

Do watercolor paint sets work on canvas?

There is canvas made for watercolor but the normal canvas is not suitable for watercolor paints. You’re better off sticking with watercolor paper for best results.

Is watercolor paint washable?

Yes, watercolor paints are generally washable as they can be reactivated using water.

Do watercolor paints expire?

Watercolor paint sets have a shelf life and this varies on each brand. Check the label. Usually though, expired watercolor paints can be revived by mixing water in them.

Our Takeaway

There are a lot of wonderful watercolor sets on the market and a lot of brands are competitive and have high-quality paints. We aim to narrow down the best of the best and make your purchasing lives easier. 

Paint sets like Winsor & Newton Cotman and Van Gogh are superior, but there are also other brands like Sennelier La Petite Aquarelle and Grumbacher Academy that are great for starters as well. Ultimately, the choice will come down to your budget and your preference. 

I hope this post had helped you. 

As always, art is imperfect, you just have to keep practicing and have fun while you’re at it!

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