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Basic Watercolor Supplies

  • Paints
  • Brushes
  • Palettes
  • Paper
  • Boards

One of the great advantages of being a watercolorist is the enormous selection of fine quality watercolor supplies to choose from. Although I have not had the opportunity to try all the different brands available, I am sure they are all good.

To get your painting experience off to a successful start you will need to gather the following list of basic watercolor supplies. If what you have is not comparable to what I have listed, visit your local art store so they might help you find an equivalent. Or you can look online for a supplier that offers art supplies through the mail.

Basic Watercolor Supplies that you will need
tubes of watercolor paints
Some manufacturers offer a student grade of paint, but if you are serious about watercolor and looking for the best possible results, you might want to invest in the finest available.
To get started

1 - 5ml tube of New Gamboge
1 - 5ml tube of Permanent Rose
1 - 5ml tube of French Ultramarine Blue
1 - 5ml tube of Burnt Sienna
1 - 14ml tube of Sap Green (Holbein)
My personal favorites are:

Winsor & Newton Selected List WaterColours.
Holbein Artists' Watercolors.
Daniel Smith Extra Fine Watercolors.
personal note  I personally own a wide variety of manufacturers watercolors, but for beginners starting out I feel these colors will get you off to a good start.
To keep your start up costs low, I listed the 5ml tubes of paint. A tube of watercolor paint goes a very long way once it has been set up in your palette and allowed to dry out. All these colors are also available in a larger 14ml tubes.

a display of watercolor brushes
Your brushes should come with, and maintain, a nice point, as well as being capable of holding a full brush load of color.
To get started

1 - no. 5 round (with less of a sharp point)
1 - no. 6 round
1 - no. 8 round
1 - no. 10 round
1 - One inch flat (2.5cm)

My personal favorites are:

Cheap Joe's  Golden Fleece Watercolor Brushes
Bette Byrd  "Aqua-Sable" 100 Round Series
Fritch Scrubbers
personal note  I own a variety of brushes in all shapes and sizes, from inexpensive to expensive, but for beginners starting out these brushes are relatively inexpensive and should offer pleasing results.
For painting:
a no. 6, 8, 10 round, and 1 inch flat Golden Fleece.

For softening edges:
a no. 3, 5, and 7 round Bette Byrd Aqua Sable.

For scrubbing out highlights:
a no. 2 and no. 4 Fritch Scrubber.

watercolor palettes
You will want a good sturdy watercolor palette, preferably one that comes with a lid.
To get started

A palette with deep enough wells to accommodate at least a 5ml tube of watercolor paint, and offer enough mixing areas for all the puddles of color you will be mixing.
My personal favorites are:

San Francisco Slant Palette for mixing my colors.
Cheap Joe's X-tra Color Palette to hold my paints.
personal note   If you plan to stop painting for awhile, covering your mixing tray with clear plastic wrap may help to keep your puddles both clean and wet. I use a product from GLAD called "Press'n Seal®". Just tear off a sheet, enough to cover the size of your mixing tray, then use you finger to seal each mixing well individually. My puddles of paint actually remain the same degree of wetness as when I first mixed them.
The first one holds all my yellows and browns;
the second one my reds and violets;
and the third one, my blues and greens.

how paints are set up in my palettes

watercolor paper
Watercolor paper is available in three different textured surfaces; hot-pressed (slick surface), cold-pressed (medium textured surface), and rough (bumpy textured surface).
To get started
A sturdy medium textured paper that will allow you to achieve deep values of color, and live up to any necessary roughness, as when scrubbing out highlights. My personal favorites are:

Arches 300 lb. Cold-Pressed Watercolor Paper.
Arches 140 lb. Cold-Pressed Watercolor Paper.
personal note   I use the lighter 140 lb. paper for testing my colors, and the heavier 300 lb. for my paintings. Although I enjoyed experimenting with other brands of watercolor paper, Arches still remains my favorite.
The Arches watercolor paper is extremely durable. You don't have to soak or stretch the 300 lb. paper before using it, but I do recommend redistributing the sizing before transferring your drawing.
( I show you how to do that here 7. Sizing).

display of  boards
Any one of these three will provide a sturdy enough surface to attach your watercolor paper to, and to support your hand while painting.

To get started

Masonite Board (wood)
Foam Core or Gator Board
Plexiglass (thick).
Cut your board or Plexiglass one inch (2.54cm) larger on each side than your watercolor paper. For example, a half sheet of watercolor paper measures 22" x 15" (55.9cm X 38.1cm). Cut your board to measure 24" x 17" (60.9cm x 43.2cm).
personal note   Foam Core Board can be a nice lightweight substitute to the Masonite and the Plexiglass, but it does have a tendency to buckle and bend when working on the larger "half-sheet" and "full-sheet" paintings.
Art Suppliers
For a list of suppliers that carry:
Paints  -  Brushes  -  Palettes  -  Paper  -  Boards
click here.

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