The Best Watercolor Supplies for Beginners – What You Need to Start
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Dreaming of Watercolor
I love watercolor paints. Something about the way it feels when I am painting or the gorgeous effect when I’m done just steals my heart. I’m not alone in this passion. Plenty of people have heard the siren call of watercolors and are ready to jump in and get their feet wet. But where does one begin? There are so many brands, colors, and extras to purchase that getting started can be a daunting task. Don’t worry, though, because I’ve got you covered with the best watercolor supplies for beginners that won’t break the bank!
Let’s start with the foundation of your watercoloring – the paper! I tried using the cheapest watercolor paper for the longest time only to get frustrated that all my paintings were terrible. Learn from my mistake and don’t reach for the cheapest option! Thankfully, there are several watercolor paper brands that work for a beginner (and that are fairly cheap, too!).
Canson Watercolor Paper – This is a fantastic option that you can find at most major stores, and their watercolor pads come in larger and smaller sizes.
Strathmore Mixed Media Sketchbook – This student quality paper is not as good for proper art, but the sketchbook is great for playing around, testing out techniques, and just for sheer portability.
Strathmore Watercolor Art Journal – This journal mixes portability and great watercolor paper, so it’s perfect for anyone wanting to do real-world studies.
Leuchtturm 1917 – If your interest for watercolors is more for the bullet journal realm, then you’ll be happy to know that the Leuchtturm handles watercolors surprisingly well for basic splashes and washes. You can see how to stands up to a rigorous watercolor test here, and a full review here!
Rhodiarama Soft Cover Journals – This is another excellent journal for light watercolor use. Check out some of my watercolor weekly spreads to see what I mean.
Watercolor paper and pads are often sold in terms of ‘hot press’ and ‘cold press’ paper.
Hot press paper has a smooth texture, so it’s ideal if you’re looking to add more intricate details with pencil to your pieces. This paper tends to produce brighter colors and cleaner transitions as well.
Cold press paper is recommended for those just starting out with watercolors. The rough texture of the paper holds water and pigment in place, allowing for more control in your painting. It is more absorbent than hot press paper, which can help when blending and layering washes. Cold press is also great for beginners because it is one of the more abundantly available types of watercolor paper you can find.
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Prang Watercolors– If you’re only wanting to create some basic splashes with bright colors, then this cheap option will suit you fine. These student grade paints are affordable and the pans are refillable. But be aware – any of the lovely blending, bleeding, or other hallmark watercolor effects won’t be possible with such a cheap product.
Winsor & Newton Travel Palette – This palette is a great middle ground, giving decent quality paints without being too expensive. Plus this watercolor set is great for traveling, surprise surprise!
Dr. Ph. Martin’s Hydrus – This more expensive option is a much higher quality and will produce the cool effects you are looking for, making the extra cost worth it. The only downside is that you need a palette to put the concentrated liquid pigment into.
Sennelier Watercolors – These artist quality tube paints are my fanciest set of watercolors, and they are my absolute favorite! The colors are rich and creamy, and they produce a lovely texture when they dry.
Finetec Gold Watercolor Palette – Finetec offers many different types of palettes. I use this palette constantly and it’s worth every single penny!
Finetec Pearl Paints – Another quality Finetec palette with 12 shimmery colors!
Dr. Ph. Martin’s Bleedproof White – This ultra concentrated white pigment is excellent for adding highlights and accents to your work.
Pentel Aquash Water Brush Pens – This set of three water brushes is really all I need. The water is in the barrel, so they’re easy to bring along and there’s no elaborate set up. They’re also fabulous for brush lettering or sketching, if that’s what floats your boat.
Round Brush Set – If you want more traditional watercolor brushes, you really only need some small round brushes as a beginner.
Pigma Micron Pens – If you want to do any line art before or after you lay down watercolors, these pens are great because they won’t bleed with exposure to water.
Pentel Pocket Brush Pen – I use this pen with my artwork all the time to add lines in the last few steps and I’d totally recommend it.
Loew Cornell Palette – This cheap palette will allow you to mix and store your watercolors easily!
Spray Bottle – Keeping a spray bottle on hand is extremely useful.
Masking Tape – This is needed to keep your watercolor paper from warping while you paint on it.
Artist’s Tote Board – This surface is where you tape your watercolor paper and work, and it is very portable.
Now Go Create Something Beautiful!
Are you feeling a bit scared to start now? Don’t worry, that’s only natural. Remember that you aren’t aiming for perfect. Watercolors don’t work that way. They are wild, spontaneous, and random and you will need to be patient while you learn your tools and materials. Just give yourself some time to paint simple things. In fact, some gorgeous artwork is made exclusively from basic geometric shapes, so it’s a great exercise!
If you’re looking for even more watercolor supplies, or ways to expand your watercoloring abilities, this watercolor guide has absolutely everything you need to know!
I hope this was helpful as you dive into the wonderful world of watercolor! Comment below your favorite watercolor art supplies. I’m always looking to try new watercolor goodies. And tag my Instagram account when you post your awesome art, I’d love to see! Happy painting!
Great blog. Excellent information presented in an “easy to understand way.” I feel like we are hanging out having coffee! Thanks so much.
The Scottish Thistle
What pretty examples! I do a lot of plein air painting. I usually have a small table for my art supplies, but it gets tiring of my supplies rolling off the table. How do you keep everything organized when working?
It is an ongoing battle, but I tend to use a lot of shelves to help keep things off of flat services. You can see more about my studio on my Instagram, and in this Youtube video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CTVLiwet10g
Hope this helps! 🙂
This is a great blog…. I totally found it super useful and it is chic too.
Thank you, I’m really glad you enjoyed it!