Are you someone who has decided to learn how to paint with watercolors? Are you looking for some guidance as to what supplies you will actually need before you embark on your journey? This post will help guide you when choosing which watercolor supplies to begin with.
How to choose watercolor paper
When starting out with watercolor painting, it’s easy to make the mistake of thinking any paper will work. I know I certainly did! Although, after investing in the proper watercolor paper I found that the final results of my paintings drastically improved!
Watercolor paper comes in three different textures, the table below shows the comparison between the three:
|Hot press paper||Rough paper||Cold-pressed paper|
|Texture||Smooth surface||Bumpy rough surface||Medium texture (in between rough and hot press paper)|
|Ideal usage||Used for carefully detailed work, watercolor work combining ink and watercolor.|
Used to create botanicals, and small illustrations.
|Used for bold expressive work that includes dry brush technique and washes.|
Used to create landscape paintings
|Ideal for paintings with large washes and delicate detail.|
Can be used for landscape painting and ink and watercolor
|Absorbency||Least absorbent- this means the wash will take more time to dry giving you more control.||Most absorbent- This means you have less time to adjust the paint before it dries.||Slightly less absorbent than hot press- enough time to adjust the wash.|
Each texture comes in three different weights:
- 90 pound paper- Thinnest paper, good for practice sketches, cheaper to get.
- 140 pound paper- Can handle more washes than 90 pound paper, still needs to be stretched
- 300 pound paper-thickest paper, the most expensive, and very effective for final pieces.
- You can produce the best results with 300 pound paper
The thing about watercolor paper is that if you’re using low, cheap quality paper you’re learning experience will be a lot more challenging and less enjoyable. However, If you can afford the higher quality paper, I would recommend going for those. Perhaps save the cheap paper for rough sketches and ideas.
Choosing this watercolor supply can be a very personal endeavor
The type of watercolor brush and sizes vary from artist to artist based on these variables:
- Shape– There are many brush shapes, each used to create different techniques. Below I have listed brush shapes that are more commonly used.
- Round brush- Holds its shape to a fine point, very useful in drawing details and also creating broad strokes.
- Flat brush-Useful when creating background washes, covering a large area and creating linear strokes as well as blending.
- Mop/Quill brush- Tend to have a large belly and softer hairs. Good for painting large washes and backgrounds.
- Size– Choosing the brush size is fairly simple based on these two concepts:
- Smaller brushes are more effective when completing finer details
- Larger brushes are more effective when adding a larger amount of watercolor, in backgrounds for example.
- Try getting a few small-sized and large-sized brushes. Remember the size of brushes also depend on the size of the paper you are painting on. Bigger paper sizes= bigger brushes…
- all brushes have a different level of “spring to them”. This is basically when you pull back the bristles of the brush and how the brush springs back to shape.
- It all depends on what you are painting and your personal preference. I prefer using brushes that spring back. However, the best way to know what works for you is by trying different ones and seeing which you prefer to work with.
- Brushed with more spring tend to be great for more detailed and bolder strokes
- Brushes with less spring tend to be great for loose washes and strokes.
Go for quality over quantity. Instead of buying a large number of brushes I recommend purchasing a few good quality round and flat brushes. You can expand later on as you continue exploring and finding your painting style.
The hairs on low-quality brushes tend to come out while painting, and fail to distribute the paint evenly across the paper.
For further detail on choosing your paintbrush you may want to read this blog post here.
Paint! You have the brushes and the paper…. but you can’t do anything until you’ve got the paint.
Different paint quality
Watercolor companies usually manufacture two different levels of paint, artist grade, and student grade.
- Artist Grade– Also known as professional grade watercolors.
- High in terms of quality.
- Artist-grade pigments are usually a lot easier to mix than student grade
- Student Grade- Lower quality than artist grade
- Great if you want to try out watercolors and are not sure if you want to stick with them as a medium.
- You can always start out with using student grade then upgrade to professional watercolors later on
- Tip- One of the ways you can discover your favorite watercolor paint is by slowly collecting colors from different companies over a long period of time.
Paint comes in two forms “tubes and pans”
- Tubes– tubes contain watercolor in a creamy consistency that has to be squeezed out onto a pallet.
- most watercolor tube paints can be reactivated with water after they dry out. In this case, it may be useful to purchase a palette.
- The pigment in tubes tends to be richer in pigment
- Tubes are however harder to take with you on the go. You can however squeeze them into a palette and take the palette with you instead.
- A common beginner mistake when using tubes is using too much paint without realizing it. You can avoid this by practicing water to pant ratios
- Pans– These watercolor paints come in different qualities.
- Most of the cheaply priced watercolors are of lower quality and tend to be chalky. These paints ruin your painting; you’ll find particles in your painting and the colors won’t be rich.
- Pans can be great for beginners learning to control water to paint ratios.
- Pan watercolors tend to be cheaper than tubes in general, and they are much easier to travel with on the go.
Overall the choice between tubes and pans also depends on personal preference. There is no wrong choice.
Along with your paint, brushes, and paper, the following supplies will come in handy to you when painting:
- Two jars of water– try rinsing the brush twice every time you change colors by using two jars of water. One to clean off your brush (for dirty water) and one for clean water to use for painting
- Watercolor palette– If you are using watercolor tubes you may need to set up a new palette.
- Hb pencil/ kneaded eraser– A Hb pencil comes in handy when drawing light sketches to guide your painting. Meanwhile, a kneaded eraser is much more effective than traditional ones as they do not wear away the paper you are working on.
- Tissue or sponge- Tissues and sponges are used to pick up pigment off the paper in order to create interesting textures. They are also handy in dampening or wiping excess paint from your brush.
- Pipette- Pipettes come in handy when adding small amounts of water to thin down a color on your mixing palette. With a pipette, you don’t have to keep rinsing your brush to add water.
- Water-adhesive tape– It’s important to have tape to stick down your watercolor paper until it dries so that it does not crinkle and become crooked. (This is called stretching)
- Masking tape- An alternative to water-adhesive tape is masking tape. In order to prevent it from ripping your paper, try sticking it to your jeans or a cloth before stretching your paper.
If you enjoyed this article, found it helpful or you have any questions leave a comment below! Click here to learn about the beginner watercolor techniques to get you started with painting!