Best Watercolor Paint Sets For Beginners

Watercolor paint has been a favorite among artists for centuries.

Watercolor painting are beautiful and have a very distinct look compared with from either acrylic paint or oil paint.

Moreover, watercolors are easy to travel with or use outside the house.

But as a beginner you might be overwhelmed by the huge selection of different brands to choose from.

Keep reading if you want to know what the best watercolor sets are.

top watercolor paints

Top Watercolor Paints

1 Rembrandt watercolor paint set

This set by Rembrandt is all you will need if you are looking for high-quality watercolor paints. These are made with some of the purest pigments and gum Arabic, which gives them great transparency, a high degree of lightfastness, and brilliant colors.

The set comes with 48 different pans so you will have a wide variety of colors available to you. Some colors might look identical when dry, but if you apply some water to them you will see that they are different hues.

If you are a serious artist looking for the best watercolor pan set out there, you will be hard-pressed to find one better than this.

2 Schmincke Horadam aquarell set

Schmincke is another brand that is well-known for its excellent paints. Their watercolor paint in particular was first formulated in 1881, and they have been steadily improving it ever since. So it’s no surprise that many profession artists use their paint.

Almost all the watercolors by Schmincke are made using only a single pigment (rather than a combination of different pigments). This makes their colors like a little more vibrant than most other brands, while maintaining the characteristic translucence of watercolors.

3 Van Gogh watercolor set

These watercolor paint tubes by Van Gogh are considered to be student-grade, but the intense colors would make you believe they are professional-grade.

They are easy to work with and blend together, and the colors have a very good lightfastness.

Maybe the best thing is that you can choose out of several sets that come with different colors. This lets you choose a color spectrum best suited for your projects

4 Winsor & Newton Cotman watercolor set

The Cotman watercolor sets by Winsor & Newton are great for beginners. They are made with synthetic pigment to keep the price low, but the colors are still pretty vibrant and transparent.

The 12 different colors it comes with are enough to get started with and the plastic box can function as a mixing palette as well.

This watercolor set is the best you can get for a cheap price, so it’s a great option for beginners.

Buyer’s Guide

With all the different options out there, it isn’t surprising that not every professional artist will agree on what the best watercolor paint is.

However, there are definitely some factors that are useful to keep in mind to determine if a paint is good or bad.

These include:


Watercolors come in two different varieties; student-grade and artist-grade quality.

Student-grade paint generally contains less pigment and more filler, which makes the colors less vivid. Whereas artist-grade has more vibrant colors due to the high amount of pigment and has better permanence as well.

If you are just beginning and want to practice some basic techniques student-grade will do. But for more serious painting I would recommend choosing artist-grade quality.


Permanence, also known as lightfastness, indicates how well the paint withstands exposure to light and humidity. Low permanence paint will start fading, darken or even shift color over time.

The permanence of a paint is normally indicated by the ASTM scale. I would suggest choosing paint with either a I (excellent) or II (good) rating. Fortunately, most watercolor paints easily meet this standard.


Transparency is what gives watercolor paint its unique look compared to oil and acrylic paint, and is needed to achieve the characteristic layering effect.

However, not every watercolor paint is transparent. Besides transparent you can also find opaque watercolor paints, so check the label to know what you are buying.

This doesn’t mean that opaque watercolors are useless. There are definitely times were they are preferred over the transparent version. But if you can only afford to buy one set of paints, I would go with the transparent ones.


Watercolor paint is easy to blend. So you won’t have to buy a huge selection of different colors when you start off.

However, mixed colors often look more dull than pure colors obtained from a single pigment. So over time you definitely want to keep expanding the colors to your disposal.

When buying new artist-grade colors, you will probably notice that some colors are more expensive than others. That’s because the minerals that they are made from are simply more difficult to get. Unlike the synthetic substitutes used for most student-grade paints which all cost more or less the same amount.


If you are having a hard time choosing a suitable paint set, you can simple buy from one of the best watercolor brands, since you can’t really go wrong with them. Some of the best watercolor brands include:

  • Winsor & Newton
  • Schmincke
  • Daniel Smith
  • Sennelier
  • Van Gogh
  • M. Graham
  • Rembrandt

Most of these brands offer both student-grade and artist-grade watercolor paint, so you can choose what suits you best.

Tubes or pans

Watercolor paint comes either in pans or tubes.

Pans are the small rectangular or circular solid blocks of paint that you mix directly with water. Normally pans are sold as a set of different colors but some brands also sell pans individually.

The tubes contain watercolor in a paste-like consistency. After squeezing out some of the paint on a palette you can apply water to dilute it. This is great if you want to paint a large section the same color. But it is also easy to waste some paint because the watercolor paint from tubes don’t rewet many times.

In short, the paint in tubes and pans are nearly identical. So choosing between them is just a matter of personal taste.

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