Your Watercolour Toolkit: Must-Have Supplies for Beginner Watercolourists
Article may contain affiliate links.
Welcome, dear friends, to a world awash with watercolours! I’m Liv (@livpaintsbuildings), a watercolour house portrait artist from Norwich, UK. If you’re a beginner artist eager to get started with watercolour painting, I’m here to help! Here’s my beginner-friendly must-haves and top recommendations for watercolour painting supplies.
Let’s get straight to it - the most frequently requested recommendation that I get is for a great quality but beginner and budget friendly watercolour paint. There are thousands of options on the market, and it can be really overwhelming trying to work out which is going to be best for you. At first glance the cheap options may be tempting with their bright and vivid colours, but they won’t be capable of achieving the lovely blending and bleeding effects that watercolour does best.
The first thing to consider is whether you’d prefer working with pans or tubes. Let’s take a closer look at each one.
My favourite, and personal recommendation, is using paint pans (or cakes). Cakes are compacted, concentrated blocks of watercolour pigment that are typically arranged in small rectangular compartments called pans. They are easy to use, relatively mess-free, and quick drying to easily pack away or transport, making them perfect for outdoor (plein air) and on-the-go creativity. The pans are dried and the paint is reactivated using a spritz of water or a damp brush. They are a great choice helping to master basic techniques and experimenting with colours without the need for extensive setup or cleanup.
A travel palette is the perfect starting place for beginner watercolorists! A perfectly curated small selection of paints allows you to mix a whole spectrum of colours without investing in a huge amount paint. A limited palette will also help you to refine your colour-mixing skills and give a coherent tone to your paintings.
Windsor & Newton Cotman Travel Palette - These paints are student grade, giving great quality for their relatively low price point. The set contains every colour you need as a beginner They are still some of my most reached for paints when I’m painting for leisure.
Daler Rowney Aquafine Mini Travel Set - Coming in with the lowest price on this list, this compact set contains warm and cool tone colours for unlimited mixing possibilities, and also includes a paintbrush and space for mixing paints.
Art Philosophy Watercolour Confections - ArtPhilosophy offers various 12 pan watercolour sets, curated into different themes. It’s worth noting that it takes a couple of these sets to build up a base of core essential colours, but the quality and uniqueness of colours available more than makes up for the investment.
A watercolour tube is a container filled with watercolour pigment in a paste-like form. Tubes provide more intense and vibrant colour, making them great for creating bold and expressive artworks. They are particularly useful when working on larger projects that require a significant amount of paint, and can often be better value for money too. If left exposed to the air, the watercolour paint will dry into a solid mass that can be reactivated just like watercolour pans. A lot of artists choose to fill their own pans with paint from a tube. This gives them the benefits of having a portable easy-clean setup using pans, with the economic advantage of using tubes.
Senellier La Petite Aquarelle Tubes - Senellier create amazing professional quality paints, and have changed the game with these super affordable student grade versions for beginners
Winsor & Newton Cotman Tube Travel Set - A tubed version of my favourite beginner paint pans
ARTEZA Watercolour Tube Set - A great budget-friendly option for those looking to start with tubes
Whist finding the right set of paints will set you on a great path towards creating a masterpiece, you won’t get very far with paints alone. A balanced toolkit of good-quality supplies will bring out the best in your creativity!
Controversially, I am of the opinion that you don’t need an amazing quality paintbrush to create amazing art. After years of creating professional commissioned pieces, some of my go-to paintbrushes are the one’s I’ve had since day one. That being said, there are benefits to investing in great-quality brushes designed for specific uses within the watercolour craft.
EtchrLab Watercolour Brush Set of 10 - My all time favourite and most used brushes come from this set. Whilst slightly higher in price, these brushes will stick by you through your beginner and professional artist life.
Winsor & Newton Foundation Watercolour 6 Brush Pack - A compact pack of brushes with everything a beginner could need. This set contains a variety of different sizes and shaped brushes for endless creative possibilities.
Paper, in my opinion, is the most crucial element for a watercolour artist to get right. I spent forever using a cheap paper thinking it didn’t matter, only to be constantly frustrated that my paintings didn’t look like the tutorial said it would. It was almost a dealbreaker for me and I very nearly gave up on watercolour altogether until I reached for something better.
This is the only instance where I would recommend stretching your budget towards the top quality products. The type of paper used can have a very dramatic effect on your painting and cause the paints to react in very different ways. Choosing a heavy cotton paper over a cheap printer paper is well worth the investment for more workable paints and a more enjoyable painting experience.
Watercolour paper is most commonly available in Hot Pressed (smooth) and Cold Pressed (textured). Most good-quality papers are available in both finishes and the choice is totally down to the artists’ preference. Hot Pressed papers are more commonly used by mixed media artists as pens and pencils take better to the smooth paper, whereas Cold Pressed is the usual choice for botanical and landscape watercolour artists as it enhances the natural granulation of the paints.
Daler Rowney Aquafine 300gsm Watercolour Paper - This watercolour paper from Daler Rowney comes in a variety of sizes, textures and quantities, so you’ll be sure to find the perfect paper for you. I regularly use this paper for my personal projects.
Canson Moulin du Roy 300gsm Cold Pressed Watercolour Paper Pad - A 100% cotton paper that works perfectly to showcase the best side of your watercolour paintings. A slightly higher price point, but well worth the investment for a huge improvement in workability.
Arches Watercolour 300gsm Cold Pressed Pad - A top-of-the-line professional 100% cotton watercolour paper that will really change the game for you! I use this paper every day in my commissioned works, and would recommend it to anyone who can fit it into their budget.
4. Mixing Palette
A spacious, easy-to-clean mixing palette is the perfect sidekick to any watercolour paint palette. The wells hold multiple different colours and prevent them from mixing, whilst a larger mixing area can be used to get the perfect shade. Plastic palettes work just fine but can stain over time, whilst a ceramic palette will last much longer.
Wady Plastic Flower Shape Paint Mixing Tray - A cheap and cheerful plastic mixing palette to get the job done. The small size and lightweight material make it perfect for painting on the go.
MEEDEN 12 Well Round Porcelain Palette - A slightly elevated mixing palette experience provided by this perfectly balanced of small and large mixing wells. This is my current favourite mixing palette and I use it every day!
HEALLILY 5 Layer Stackable Ceramic Palette Set - This stackable set is perfect for those looking to mix larger amounts of colour. The five individual wells can be moved around or put to one side and stacked to suit a smaller working space. I often reach for one or two of these alongside my larger mixing palette for any time I need a larger amount of one colour.
5. Masking Tape and Masking Fluid
Masking tape and masking fluid are the secret weapons for preserving the areas of the paper that you want to keep bright and white. Apply it to the paper before you paint and remove it once the paint is dry, revealing the untouched paper beneath. You can also layer the masking tape or fluid on top of dry paint and repeat the process to create intricate layers of colour and detail.
Frog Tape Yellow Delicate Surface Painters Masking Tape - This is, in my opinion the best painter’s tape on the market! The Frog Tape brand uses a special solution on the edges of the tape that mixes with the water in the paint to create a waterproof seal. The yellow colour tape is made specifically for delicate surfaces, which works perfectly for watercolour paper.
Revell Masking Tape - Revell brand masking tape is designed for model makers and miniature painters. It comes in a variety of sizes, including some of the thinnest on the market. I use this tape frequently for masking out smaller paintings.
Winsor & Newton Masking Fluid - A large container of masking fluid, perfect for masking large and organic shapes. The fluid is painted on and then peeled off once dried.
PEBEO Drawing Gum Marker - A portable, travel-friendly version of masking fluid, perfect for on the go painting and nailing those tiny details.
Remember, watercolour painting is a journey that requires patience and passion - unfortunately there’s no stoppable link for this one! Embrace the mistakes as opportunities for growth and let your enthusiasm guide you as you explore the endless possibilities of watercolour!
As you embark on your new watercolour journey, these essential supplies will be your new companions. Whether your painting charming house portraits like me, or expressing your own unique creativity, these tools will help you to create beautiful artworks. Now let the watercolours flow!
For more watercolour inspiration, advice and tutorials, follow @livpaintsbuildings on TikTok, Instagram and YouTube. Share your creations using #livpaintsbuildings