Are you a watercolor beginner and are looking for supplies that will help you with your art journey? You’re in the right place because this post is going to be all about watercolor supplies for beginners – the things to consider and the many categories that may seem overwhelming for newbies.
I’ve always been fascinated with watercolors but was too intimidated to actually start working with them because the pieces of information I saw when it comes to choosing your first supplies as a beginner were overwhelming. When I got my first watercolor paint set, I was beaming with joy because the plethora of colors in front of me was so pleasing to the eyes. I slowly built my supplies from there with trial and error and a bit of help from the internet.
I want to help those who are starting their watercolor journey so you won’t end up as clueless as me, so I made this guide.
As someone practical, I am all for affordable yet quality products that will give you great results. So without further ado, here are the best watercolor supplies for beginners.
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Tips for Choosing Art Supplies
Before going to the main point of this article, I have two tips to give you when purchasing art supplies.
1. Buy the best supplies within your budget
As a beginner in watercolor painting, you don’t have to spend a lot of money on supplies to aid you in your journey. At the starting point, stick to your budget and look for the best supplies that you can afford. There are cheap alternatives and these ones, though they have a difference from the premium supplies, are workable and great to have as a beginner.
2. Quality over quantity
You don’t need 48 watercolor paints or 25 kinds of brushes. Start small and choose quality over quantity. Sometimes, investing in one good brush is better than buying the generic cheap brush sets that don’t really last or don’t have the best performance.
You will learn along the way what works for you and what doesn’t.
Watercolor Supplies for Beginners
Despite the many options available on the market, there are brands of art supplies that have quality products and made for beginners to build up your skills without making your wallet cry.
We’ve compiled the lot of them and made some recommendations on great products so you will have ideas and choices should you decide to get them for yourself.
The first thing you need to have is, of course, watercolor paints. Sample sets might be the best place to start in this category.
There are a lot of high-quality brands that carry a variety of colors at very reasonable prices, and you will surely pick one to your liking.
Watercolor paints come in two forms – in tubes and pans. Tube paints are great but they are easily used up, so I personally recommend pan paints for those who are still exploring watercolor painting.
Watercolor paints in pans are most commonly used by beginners because of their convenience. Pan paints are highly portable, easy to clean up, mostly have a built-in mixing palette, and they typically last longer.
Look for reputable brands that offer quality products because quality watercolor makes all the difference as it gives you great pigments, color payoff, and workability.
Here are the things you need to know when you get pan paints:
- they need to be activated with water before you can start mixing colors
- they’re great for small to medium-sized paintings
- they are great for traveling
- they last longer than tube paints
- Winsor & Newton Cotman Watercolours Sketchers’ Pocket Box
- Sakura Koi Watercolor Sets
- Sennelier La Petite Aquarelle
Watercolor in tubes is in liquid form and is thick. They can be squeezed out on a mixing palette and thinned with water to have varying transparency. And just like watercolors in pans, dried tube paints can be re-activated with water.
The great thing with tube paints is they give intense pigments and are naturally more concentrated than pan paints. The disadvantage of tube paints though is that you can easily squeeze out too much product and end up using more.
Things you need to know when you about tube paints:
- Colors are easy to mix together
- they are great for large scale paintings
- you have to get a mixing palette because tube paint sets often don’t come with it
- you need to tightly close the tubes to keep the paints from drying.
- Daniel Smith Extra Fine Essentials Introductory Watercolor
- Van Gogh Watercolor Paint Set
- Reeves Student Watercolor Set
Gouache (Opaque Watercolor)
While many consider gouache a different form of paint, it technically is an opaque form of watercolor. What’s special about it is it gives results that are similar to opaque paints like oils and acrylics. Some artists focus on making artworks using only gouache paint, but you can use this paint in conjunction with watercolors to intensify highlights and depths.
- Winsor & Newton Designers’ Gouache Primary Color 6-Tube Paint Set
- MIYA Gouache Paint Set
- Arteza Gouache Paint
There are a ton of watercolor brushes on the market and the varieties can be overwhelming. What should you, as a beginner, get?
Watercolor brushes vary in handles, bristles, and prices, and recommending this art supply is difficult because it really comes down to personal preference. What I prefer may not work for you or vice versa.
It’s kind of like a trial and error when it comes to finding the perfect brush for you, but don’t worry, we have a few recommendations that will give you somewhere to start.
One thing to keep in mind is that there are a lot of brush sizes available and usually, the recommended brush for beginners is a round brush in a size 8 or 10. Using this size will allow you to paint almost anything you want.
As for the brush handles, they come in different lengths and materials. Long handles are great when you are working on an easel and are usually designed for acrylic paints. As for watercolors, shorter handles are commonly used as you’ll be working mostly on paper.
There are also various bristles available and most artists generally prefer the softer ones. Brushes made out of sable and goat hair are soft and are popular options, but there are also soft nylon brushes that many artists prefer because of their excellent spring and control.
- Pentel Aquash Water Brush Pens
- Winsor & Newton Series 7 Kolinsky Brushes
- Kuretake Water Brush – Medium
- Princeton Aqua Elite, Series 4850
Choosing the paper you’ll be working on is important in your watercolor painting journey. The paper made for watercolor is absorbent and it allows you to work on the paint for multiple applications without warping too much.
There are three main things you need to look out for when choosing your watercolor paper: weight/thickness, absorbency, and texture. Watercolor papers are categorized into three – rough, cold press, and hot press.
- Cold Press
This type is the most popular and it’s referred to as “cold press” because the paper is manufactured by rolling them on cold cylinders which produces an irregular dimple pattern on the paper.
This type of watercolor paper has medium absorbency and medium texture. And it’s often the best type of paper for beginners.
- Hot Press
This type of watercolor paper is a bit smoother because it is rolled on hot cylinders. The brush strokes are more visible in this paper.
Hotpress watercolor papers don’t absorb water and paint as quickly as the others so it allows you to work and move your paint on the surface for longer. This paper is great for artists who want to emphasize the details of their work.
Rough papers are not rolled in cylinders, instead, they are hard-pressed or not pressed at all. This results in a heavily textured paper and this type is the most absorbent out of the three.
Watercolor papers are available in different weights, the most common of which are 180 gsm (light-weight), 300 gsm (medium-weight), and 640 gsm (heavy-weight).
Light-weight papers buckle and warp very easily, unable to take in too much water.
Medium-weight papers can take a few washes, lifting, and other watercolor painting techniques, although there can be a tiny buckling so it needs to be taped down to minimize the warping.
While heavy-weight papers do not require you to tape it down as it allows multiple washes and wet-on-wet technique. Although this paper has the highest thickness, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s better and it’s usually more expensive than the other two options.
- Canson Watercolor Pad
- Strathmore Mixed Media Pad
- Strathmore Watercolor Art Journal
- Stillman & Birn Beta Series Softcover Sketchbook
- MozArt Premium Cold Pressed Acid-Free Watercolor Paper
When you are using tube paints, having a good mixing palette is essential. You can use disposable ones like palette paper but those are not really practical because they are a bit wasteful. The watercolors left on the palette can be reactivated for future use and investing in a good palette will do you more good.
There are a variety of palettes available. There are plastic, acrylic, and ceramic palettes among others. I recommend using plastic palettes as they are the most affordable. If you are using a watercolor set that comes with a palette, then you are good to go.
When working with smaller paintings, you’d want to have your paper stay put and unmoving. You can use masking tape to adhere your watercolor paper to your work surface.
Have a handy spray bottle on your side when working on watercolors. You’ll need this to activate and moisten your watercolor paints in a pan so that you can easily pick them up with your brush.
Pencil and eraser
Some artists paint directly on blank paper while others sketch out a draft first. If you are one of the latter like me, you’ll need to have a trusty pencil and eraser.
A 2H or HB pencil will be useful to make your lines light enough so they won’t be visible through the paint. Although what pencil you’ll use will ultimately depend on your preference and the amount of force and pressure you exert on it.
Two Plastic or glass containers
As mentioned in our Watercolor for Beginners article, it’s recommended to use 2 jars of water. One jar is for rinsing your brush and the other one is for painting and mixing up your colors. It’s a simple hack so you won’t have to keep changing your water.
Paper towel or absorbent cloth
Of course, don’t forget your rag or paper towel when working on watercolors. This will come in handy when you need to wipe off excess water or paint. This will keep your workspace clean and mess-free.
Start Your Creative Journey!
Now that you know the basic watercolor supplies for beginners, you are ready to take on your art journey! It’s exciting to shop for art supplies, but it’s more exciting when you actually use those supplies to start creating your artwork!
Don’t worry about purchasing the affordable options first, you can always upgrade when you have already mastered your skills and are ready to move on to the next level.
I hope this list helped you. Don’t forget our motto, art is not perfect, so it’s okay to mess up a little bit. Learn from your mistakes and always strive to improve on your next try!