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Watercolors are some of the most fun types of paint to work with. However, many beginners get lost when they try to buy art supplies for the first time. There are just so many brands and things to look out for.
However, when it comes to watercolor art supplies the quality matters much more than with other paints.
Unfortunately, cheap supplies won’t get you very far. That’s why even beginners should be prepared to invest a little bit in their new hobby.
In this article you’ll discover the 5 most important watercolor supplies for beginners and we’ll share our favorite art materials.
1. Watercolor Paint For Beginners
When it comes to watercolor paint, the first decision you will have to make is between pans and tubes. For beginners I would normally suggest pans because they are easier to work with and they normally come in a container that can function as a palette as well.
Secondly, you will have to choose between student-grade and artist-grade quality. The artist-grade contains a higher amount of pigment which results in more vibrant colors. If you are just practicing the student-grade paint will do. But for more serious painting I would recommend using the artist-grade paint.
However, there are many other factors that can influence you decision such as the permanence and transparency of the paint. If you want to learn more, read our article about the best watercolor paints.
For beginners I normally recommend the Cotman watercolor sets by Winsor & Newton. These paints are made with synthetic pigment to keep the price low, but the colors are still pretty vibrant and transparent.
It comes with 12 different colors which should be enough for beginners to start with and the plastic container can function as a mixing palette as well.
This watercolor set is the best you can get for such a cheap price, so it’s a watercolor set for beginners.
2. Watercolor Paintbrushes For Beginners
Paintbrushes come in all shapes and sizes and watercolor brushes are no different. However, although there are many brushes to choose from, you will probably end up using the round brushes the most. That’s why having several round brushes of different sizes is crucial and all the other brushes are useful but optional.
To judge the quality of watercolor brush you will have to look at the hair that the bristles are made from. Synthetic fibers are quite popular nowadays because they are cheap. However, the best brushes use natural fibers because they can absorb more water than their synthetic counterpart.
If you want to learn more, you can read our article on the best brushes for watercolor paint.
To get a good grasp of the different types of brushes that are out there, I normally recommend starting out with a pretty big set.
The 15-piece brush set by Virtuoso includes round brushes in 5 different sizes, liners in 5 different sizes, and 2 different flat brushes.
The short handles make it comfortable to hold the brushes even for longer periods, which is great if you like to finish a painting in a single sitting.
Finally, the anti-shedding bristle technology which makes them very durable and you’ll experience minimal hair loss. This makes them some of the best affordable watercolor brushes for beginners.
3. Watercolor Paper For Beginners
Many beginners don’t realize that using the right paper is just as important as using the right watercolor paint. If you are using regular printer paper you will probably end up a wrinkled mess.
The big difference between normal paper and special watercolor paper is the weight. Since watercolor paper is heavier and thicker it can absorb much more water.
For comparison, printer paper weights around 80 grams per square meter (GSM) whereas watercolor can weigh anywhere between 300 to 600 GSM. However, the heavier the paper the more expensive it becomes. So as a beginner you want to find a good balance between weight and cost.
Additionally, there are also other factors to consider such as the texture of the paper and if it’s acid-free or not. To learn more, read our article on the best paper for watercolors.
For beginners I would recommend using the watercolor paper by Canson Arches.
This paper is made out of 100% cotton and weights 300 GSM. This allows it to absorb a ton of water before it starts showing any single of wrinkling.
Arches has years of experience in making paper, and this particular watercolor paper doesn’t disappoint.
4. Watercolor Palette
Although most watercolor paint sets with pans come in a container that can function as a palette, it often feels a little smaller than ideal.
If you like to have plenty of space for mixing and storing your paint then getting an additional palette can be a good solution.
When it comes to watercolor palettes there is really no need to go with the most expensive option.
I like to use the Mijello Martin palette which gives plenty of color well and comes at a very low price.
All the wells are on the same side of the palette, so you can close it right after finishing, without having to worry about the paints that are still wet.
5. Optional Watercolor Painting Supplies
Once you have all the crucial watercolor supplies in check, you might also want to get some optional items that will give you extra versatility. Here are some suggestions:
- Watercolor Pencils: as mentioned before most watercolor paint comes as either a pan or in a tube. However, some people prefer to use watercolor pencils. After drawing on the paper, you can bring the paint alive by applying a splash of water on your drawing.
- Art Markers: markers are always super versatile and come be used in combination with many different mediums, including watercolors.
- Watercolor Sketchbook: although individual sheets of watercolor paper are great, they might be a little expensive for some beginners. Using a watercolor sketchbook can keep the cost down since they use light-weight paper and you basically buy the sheets “in bulk”. Once you don’t have to worry about cost anymore, you can start practicing on a daily basis.
- Watercolor Canvas: although paper is by far the most used surface for watercolor painting, some people like to paint on canvas. Since normal canvases don’t absorb water very well, you will either have to treat it with gesso and watercolor ground, or buy a special watercolor canvase that can be painted on right away.