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After doing downloading some of my free content or signing up for a free watercolor class with me, one of the very next questions people ask is…
What should I BUY?
You may be wondering…
- What are the best watercolor paints to buy?
- What’s the difference between my kids’ watercolors and professionals’ watercolors?
- How much money do I need to spend?
- Should I even buy really nice stuff if I have no idea what I’m doing?
- There are so many brands and options…. I’m just overwhelmed.
There are books upon books written containing supply lists and materials you can invest in. Lots of artists have lots of different preferences.
I’m saving you the time and giving you a summary as well as my personal recommendations.
But before that, if you read no further:
Start with what you have!
Don’t stress over going out to buy all the things. Even if you have $2 watercolors from your kids’ backpack.
Start by playing and see what comes up. Maybe the colors aren’t vibrant enough, or maybe you can’t get fine lines with the brushes you have.
Once you see what’s missing for you right now, you can use that to make decisions about what’s to buy.
Tubes vs Pans
There are 2 main ways you can purchase watercolors in:
- tubes of wet paint to squeeze out, to use as you go, or into a palette,
- and little tubs or grids of dry paint that you have to moisten with water to activate.
While there are a variety of methods, what I’ve found most economical for my students is to purchase this set: Winsor & Newton Cotman Watercolor Set (varies $11-$25 depending on the time of year). It has a great variety and is much cheaper than buying the professional version.
If you’re missing some colors, you can buy extra Cotman colors in tubes and use as needed.
This is definitely an area I’ll be making LOTS of videos about in the coming months… unboxing videos and swatch demos. It’s really exciting to expand your collection when you’re ready.
There are lots of paper out there. Copy paper, cardstock, and MANY watercolor papers. How do I know what paper to buy?
There’s a place for all 3 of those in our creation process.
- It’s helpful to have scratch paper to block ideas out, or a quick mockup thumbnail. You’ll also need this for graphite transfers. (Video coming soon)
- Cardstock can actually go through your printer, so if you’re downloading printables to paint, this is how you do it. Just don’t use a generous amount of water, as this will buckle your paper. (Lots of printables if you jump on my list!)
- Watercolor paper… this is where the magic happens. This is also where it can get a little complicated.
Let me make it easy for you:
If you’re just starting out, this pad of paper is an excellent price, and recommended for us in the Women Create Weekly Club.
You can also consider your needs… are you painting 5×7 cards to send as gifts? You could buy pre-made/folded cards to just paint and send, instead of measuring and scoring and folding yourself.
You can buy a set for $4 at Walmart, or a single $30 brush from a craft store. What’s the difference?
- Synthetic: brushes made from man-made materials. Don’t typically hold as much water. Large variety in cost and quality.
- Sable: brushes made from animal hair, often by hand. Hold large amounts of water, and give more flexibility to the painters. Typically more expensive.
I’ve acquired a lot of brushes over the years… from my artist mother, and from college classes. If you take care of them, they last forever. Decades, at least.
At first I recommended a variety set (when I was teaching all kinds of painting/crafts), but now I recommend this Brush set, or this one. Here’s a single brush I’ve personally ordered. There are so many out there.
Also consider how large your paintings are as you are choosing your brushes.
And please be careful with smaller brushes… you can lose the fine tip if you’re not careful.
This list is going to get more complex and thorough as time goes on. For now I’ll just briefly list some extras that can be helpful: