Basic Watercolor Supplies

Basic Watercolor Supplies

What Tools Do You Need to Paint with Watercolor?

Painting with watercolors is the stage from which all artists begin. What can one say there, even if children often paint with watercolors? Agree that a five-year-old child with a pallet knife in his hands causes surprise and amazement. Another matter is ordinary watercolor. If the children can do it, then you will make first steps in watercolor too. First, you need to have a watercolor starter kit. You can assemble it yourself by purchasing all of its parts separately, or just buy a ready-made watercolor painting kit for beginners, which contains everything that a novice artist needs. Here is the detailed list of watercolor supplies for beginners. So, you need:

  • •    no less than five brushes;
  • •    approximately ten color paint set;
  • •    watercolor paper;
  • •    a palette for mixing paints;
  • •    a watercolor pad or easel;
  • •    two containers for water (one for washing the brush, the other for clean water).


Watercolor paint is a mixture of powder pigment and gum arabic, a water-soluble binder (filler). Besides, the more it is in substance, the cheaper the paint. However, the purity and durability of the pigment become poorer. The watercolor painting kit for beginners contains more filler and appears duller compared to the professional ones. Nevertheless, basic watercolor supplies for beginners of high quality are also good in terms of transparency, durability, and color.

Surely, you can start right away from professional paints. Your eyes will light up when you see the difference between the pictures performed with different types of paints. Perhaps, you will also notice that colors are less messy than when working with student grade paints. Watercolors are available in:

  • •    tubes;
  • •    pans;
  • •    half-pans.

Most artists choose tube watercolors because the paints are already wet and easy to use. However, the paints in pans are small and lightweight. Thus, it is very convenient for traveling. Furthermore, whatever packaging you choose, be sure to buy paints designed for professional artists. Basic watercolor supplies contain a large number of additives and binders, which makes the color less intense, which will certainly be reflected in your work. Professional paints are made from refined pigments, so they provide more saturated colors.

Paints in pans and half-pans are usually sold in a special box with a palette for mixing paints. When using, dampen the paint with a wet brush and rub the surface lightly – and it's ready to go. Small tubes (if you decide to buy paints in tubes) last for a long time, so there is no need to buy the largest ones.

What Colors to Choose?

The number of colors in the palette can be different. Someone prefers a little choice of options while somebody else likes experimenting with it. It all depends on how the artist mixes paints and diversifies the color shades of his palette. For instance, a mixture of lemon yellow and Prussian blue gives a very different shade of green than a mixture of lemon yellow and phthalate turquoise. Start with testing several types of paint.

In theory, a novice artist only needs three primary colors: red, yellow, and blue. But in practice, it is more convenient to use a small set of paints. Even a minimal watercolor starter kit, or the so-called limited palette, will allow mixing paints to get any desired shade.

Most often, the quality of paint is rated by numbers from 1 to 4: the larger the number, the higher the quality (and price). If you see the word “shade” in a color name (say, “shade of cadmium yellow" instead of "cadmium yellow"), it means that the manufacturer is mixing several cheaper pigments to obtain the desired shade and not the original pigment. Such paints are cheaper, but they give dirtier colors.


There are three types of watercolor paper:

  • •    hot-pressed;
  • •    cold-pressed;
  • •    raw.

The choice of paper type depends on how textured you want your work to be. The hot-pressed paper has a smooth surface with virtually no relief, i.e. grain and texture. This surface does not hold paint and water well, so some artists prefer cold-pressed paper. It has a remarkable embossed texture for a perfect adhesion of paint to the surface and precise application of strokes. Moreover, it is not as rough as raw paper.

Features of the behavior of paint on different types of paper can significantly affect the results of work. You can work on a variety of materials or substrates, such as art or Bristol cardboard, but most watercolors prefer paper. Watercolor paper varies in weight and texture: satin paper is smoother, while the matte paper is rougher.

What Paper Density Do I Need?

Another important point to consider when choosing paper is its density. It is measured in pounds (lb) and grams per square meter (g / m2). The paper of the density less than 140 lb. (300 g / m2), is too thin, as it warps when the ink dries. However, it is not necessary to use only the paper thicker than 140 lb., but this may provide better absorbency.

The most popular paper is 76 lb. of medium weight that is most suitable for beginners. However, it is better to use heavier paper such as 200 lb. for wet watercolors as it deforms less under multiple layers of ink. Watercolor painting kit for beginners may consist of:

  • •    watercolor paper blocks;
  • •    sketchbooks;
  • •    pads;
  • •    notebooks, etc.

Painting on a block, rather than on individual sheets, ensures that the paper is pre-tensioned. By the way, if one does not stretch the paper, which is less than 140 lb., it will deform when applying water and paint. The watercolor block, in turn, is glued on all four sides. That means that you can safely remain the painting attached to it until it dries completely, being sure that nothing will happen to it. You will need a ruler or thin plate, to neatly separate it from the rest of the sheets. If you are painting on sheets of paper, we recommend attaching them to the board with watercolor duct tape to keep it in place.


In terms of materials, changing brushes play a decisive role in many watercolorists. There can be different brushes in the basic watercolor set. Watercolor brushes must retain their shape and elasticity when wet. Sable and kolinsky brushes do the best for that. They perfectly hold the paint and take different forms. However, they are quite expensive. If the kolinsky sable-hair brushes are too expensive for you, synthetic fiber brushes are light on your wallet. They are also quite elastic and hold the paint well.

Brush size is usually indicated in inches or by a number, but the numbering system differs from brand to brand. The trace, which the brush leaves depends on its shape: a round brush allows you to make a thinner line than a flat one. By the type of hair, brushes are divided into:

  • •    natural;
  • •    synthetic.

Both are suitable for work, but natural ones usually cost more. A set of five brushes will be enough for a novice artist. As a rule, they are included in a basic watercolor set. There are many different brushes, and each one has a different purpose. A soft flat brush is used for broad, loose strokes. The sharp tip of a small round brush is ideal for detailing while the thinnest brush (snipe) leaves very thin lines.

Round brushes allow for both – painting quickly and constantly switching from wide strokes to fine details. Nevertheless, you may find over time that round, flat or other brushes are more suitable for your style. Feel free to experiment with different materials and tools and choose the ones that work best for you.

Other Recommended Materials

Artistic and graphite pencils vary in hardness (H) and softness (B) depending on the type and tone of the line. Also, some artists have such watercolor starter sets, which include a high-polymer eraser, paper towels. You need to have two cups of water on hand too, one for rinsing the brush, and the other for drawing clean water and creating a new color.

Mixing palettes are available in glass, ceramic, plastic, and metal. They are all easy to clean, but glass and ceramic palettes are heavier. All palettes have separate cells for each color and a mixing area. Regardless of the shape, choose a palette that will hold all the paints within a large enough mixing area. In watercolor, one can get by with a small amount of pigment.

Use a portable palette that has many indentations. Some artists squeeze about ⅓ of a 0.4 oz. tube of paint into each and let it dry overnight, so as not to waste paint. That is important when you work with natural pigments. Thus if the paint is too wet, it can easily overdose. To best equip your workspace, remember three things:

  • •    convenience;
  • •    lighting;
  • •    comfort.

Try to arrange all materials so that they can be easily reached and check if there is enough light. Natural lighting is best, but you will also need artificial lighting to work in the evening or on cloudy weather. Finally, make sure you have a comfortable chair to make your painting more enjoyable.

Do I Need Something Else?

For work, you will need some additional accessories. Take an album for painting, a pencil, and an eraser to quickly sketch the objects you like, as well as to build a composition. It is also desirable to have an easel or board with a flat surface that can be raised and tilted.

To create special effects, you can use a toothbrush, salt, duct tape, sponges, and tissue scraps. Special artistic tape or masking liquid is used to preserve the white surface of the paper in the required places. A special knife or blade can be used to highlight the tone and corrections.

Keep a spray bottle handy to moisten the paper or paint, or if you need to speed up the drying time, a hairdryer is also useful. It is convenient to dry your hands with a paper towel or cloth, and you will also need an extra container of water to rinse your brushes.


Write Comment