Your First Watercolour Supplies

Are you just starting out with Watercolours? Going to the Art Store for the first time can be intimidating. I’ve written this post to explain a bit about the basic supplies you will  need in attempt to demystify the process.  I love to chat art supplies. So feel free to contact me if you have any questions! 

Paper

I use Arches coldpress 140lb Watercolour Paper. Fabriano is also a nice brand. Coldpress paper has a good texture for watercolours. Hotpress Paper is smooth and better for fine illustrations. Arches comes in large sheets which is the most economical. Once home you can cut it down into smaller squares. 

It also comes in gummed blocks (perfect for travelling and you don’t have to tape your paper down). The gummed edge acts like tape and you cut off each page to reveal the page underneath. These are more expensive, and unless you are painting outdoors or on the go a lot, I don’t recommend them. 

A third option is their pre-cut sheets that come books in a variety of sizes. These are quite convenient and excellent quality. 

At the very least, be sure to get Paper that is 140lb. Curry’s Fluid Brand and Strathmore are decent, less expensive student brands. But you will find that they don’t hold up nearly as well. If you can, buy a good paper and a “practice” paper. 

Palettes:

A large mixing area is key. Many inexpensive palettes from the Dollar Store don’t have this. You can choose between a portable one or a large flat one.  You can also use a porcelain plate from the dollar store.

Brand new plastic palettes tend to cause the paints to bead up which can be difficult. If you take a scrubbie or fine sand paper and gently brush the mixing area, it takes off that coating and allows you to mix better. A good palette should last you years. 

I have several, but I like the Heritage Palettes. They are blue folding palettes with many wells and a large mixing area.  In my home Studio, I use a large really old plastic palette with 6 large wells.

Brushes

To start, three round brushes are all you need. I prefer round brushes in a size six 4, 6 and 8. A Large Mop brush is also recommended for laying down water washes.

Sable brushes are the best but are prohibitively expensive. Cotman brand brushes (blue ones) are excellent student brushes. Synthetic brushes are really good these days, you don’t have to have natural hair brushes. Keep in mind, if well taken care of, good brushes can last you years. 

Paints

Paint comes in Tubes or Pans. I suggest Tubes, but use both. 

Buy the best you can afford. Cheap student watercolour paints are chalky and can be difficult to mix.  If you are just experimenting, I suggest Cotman student grade Watercolours. They are about $5 per tube. The saturation and quality is not nearly as good as artist grade paints, but it is a good start.  

I use QOR, a watercolour paint by Golden. These are vibrant and mix beautifully. They are more expensive, but the tubes are large and last a very long time. They are my all time favourite.Windsor Newton and Daniel Smith are excellent professional brands as well.

I would suggest starting with a red, blue, yellow and a burnt umber (brown) as the bare minimum. From these you can mix anything. If you are nervous about colour mixing. Add in a green.  Some Good Starter Colours:

  • Alizarin Crimson
  • Lemon Yellow
  • Ultramarine Blue
  • Sap Green
  • Burnt Umber

Cotman has a travel Palette with a variety of colours in it. I have one that I use often. I have long since replaced the paints in it with artist paints, but the palette is decent and inexpensive (around $25). The original paints give you a good variety and starting point.  It has a small mixing area so you might want to use a porcelain plate in addition.

Miscellaneous Supplies

Liquid Frisket or Masking Fluid: A fun tool to help you preserve whites. It’s like a rubber cement that you paint on and peel off at the end of a painting. All brands work well, but the pens tend to gum up quickly.  Not necessary for beginners.

Kneaded Erasers: Did you know you can erase pencil lines from under dry watercolour? A kneaded Eraser is my favourite tool for this. 

Cups, Paper Towels, Painters Tape, Salt, Pencils – All can be found at the Dollarama for the best price. 

 

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