If you're looking into watercolor as a hobby, sometimes the amount of supplies it seems like you need may be daunting. Looking through instagram many artists use pan sets, tubes, liquid watercolors, metallic watercolors, masking fluid, white gel pens, an array of brushes, and everyone seems to love the expensive Arches watercolor paper. As your cart fills your bank account empties. It can be really daunting.
In my opinion, you do not need artist grade supplies if you are trying out watercoloring.
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When I first started out watercoloring, I had a student grade Cotman Winsor and Newton half pan palette, a size 2 round brush, and a block of watercolor paper. All of this cost me less than $30. It was all that I needed.
If you are starting off on your watercolor journey and you would like some guidance on what to get, I have some suggestions!
First, you absolutely need watercolor paper. Watercolor paper is made in such a way that the paper doesn't immediately absorb water so you are able to blend and manipulate the paint before it sets. It also doesn't feather. If you use normal paper, you will be seriously disappointed and frustrated. I like to use Canson XL Watercolor Paper. It is on the cheaper side, but it gets the job done. I've also used the Fluid Watercolor Blocks, which are really fun if you are traveling or just want something more portable. I do own some Arches Watercolor Paper, which is a higher end paper. I tend to use this only for special projects. If you are just warming up or playing around with an idea, I suggest using Canson Watercolor Paper.
Second, watercolor paints. I think going with a pan set is a good way to start. I started with this Winsor & Newton Cotman Watercolor Pan Set. It had the perfect amount of colors and provides a palette or space to mix colors.
Another popular choice are the tube watercolors. I've seen them used in two different ways, you can either put them into a palette and let them dry (aka they turn into a pan set essentially) or you can use them straight from the tube. You will notice the tubes are small, which is because you barely need any paint at all. If you do decide to go with tubes, feel free to start with the primary colors (red, blue, yellow) since you can make the other colors out of these. Or you can purchase a set, like these Winsor & Newton Cotman watercolor tubesI find tubes a little daunting for beginners, because there are SOO many options to choose from.
One other thing about watercolor paints, brands typically have a "student" and "artist" or "professional" grade paints. professional grade watercolors are typically more expensive, have more pure pigments in them, and they also most likely don't fade with light over time (aka lightfastness). They are great, but if you're just starting out they are absolutely not necessary. I use a lot of the Winsor & Newton cotman watercolor paints, which are their student grade paints, and I think they work great.
Third, brushes. For watercoloring, it is common to use a round brush. They are great because one brush can create small lines, thick lines, and everything in between. I like sizes 2, 4, and 6. I tend to paint smaller paintings (5in x 5in), so I like to use smaller brushes. If I just had to choose one brush size, it would be a size 4. If you want to create larger paintings, you would need a larger brush, like a size 8 or 10. Princeton Heritage and Princeton Select are two different brands that I really love and they are both pretty affordable.
Fourth, misc supplies. The next few things are things that I thought were nice to have when I was starting and I still use them today, but they are not entirely necessary. I love to use this water dropper to wet my paints before I use them. Some artists take water from their brushes to wet their paints, but because I like to use such small brushes this would take forever. I also like to use a Mason Jar to rinse out my brushes. One trick that I learned is to use two different water jars to rinse. One for cool colors (blue, green purple) and one for warm colors (yellow, orange, red). This prevents the paint from getting a murky brown color. I also use an old dish rag that we had laying around instead of paper towels to wipe off my brushes. When it gets dirty, I just throw it in the wash with my other towels. I find that its a little more eco friendly and lasts longer than a paper towel.
I hope this list helps someone find their footing in their watercolor journey! If you have any suggestions, please comment below!
Curious in some more supplies that you could use to deepen your watercolor practice? Read further for some of my more advanced supplies!
Turns out you only need three colors to create all the colors. Check out this blog post on how to make a traditional color wheel!
Skillshare is the new Netflix. (At least in my opinion!) Check out this blogpost for my favorite Skillshare teachers. Learn how to watercolor gorgeous textures, new watercolor techniques and drills, tap into your creativity, and sooo much more. There is also a link in the post for two months free!