Using the right tools for any job is crucial. You know the frustration of trying to do a job with subpar supplies. Ever try to cut through jeans with dull scissors? You get it. Painting with cheap art supplies is a similar experience. During a recent conversation with an artist friend, she said "It's amazing — using better art supplies instantly makes me feel like a better painter!" And I couldn't agree more. Using the right tools will not only make painting with watercolor easier, it will make it WAY more fun!
So let's talk about using the right supplies — I'm going to share a few of my favorite watercolor materials in the paragraphs below. Throughout my years of painting, I have used MANY different brands and supplies, varying in both quality and price. My goal in writing this blog post was to share some products that I have found to be good quality, as well as affordable.
Let's get started!
1. Use (at least) 140 LB Paper — I have learned the hard way how important it is to get this part right. I recommend never get anything under 140 lbs. The thicker the better when it comes to watercolor paper! If it's too thin, the water will make it dry wavy and warped ("buckled"). So always make sure to pick out something sturdy. I use lots of different brands of paper, but I've been a fan of Strathmore paper for years. They have lots of different sizes and styles, but I recommend starting with one of their "blocks" of paper.
Watercolor Blocks have a thin layer of glue around the entire notebook, which bind all the papers tightly in place. You paint directly onto the top sheet, and then peel it away from the block when it's completely dry. Your finished painting will be pancake flat and professional as it gets.
Canson is another great starter brand for watercolor painters! Their paper is affordable and good quality. When I first started painting, I went through stacks and stacks of their paper!
Note: If you aren't using a Watercolor block, I recommend using masking tape to firmly secure all your paper's edges to a sturdy surface before you start painting. This will help to keep your paper from buckling.
2. Buy A Few Good Quality Brushes — Ugh. If only you knew how many brushes I've gone through over the years. Investing in a few quality brushes at the beginning would have been much cheaper than going through dozens of cheap brushes.
In addition to picking a quality brush, make sure you aren't just using any type of paintbrush — You'll want to use brushes that are specifically made for watercolor. I recommend investing in a few good quality round brushes (I love Princeton Brushes!). A (quality) round brush will hold water well, and the hairs should come together into a nice point, which will allow you to do more detailed work!
WATERCOLOR BRUSH CARE TIPS:
— Never leave your brushes in water as you paint. It will weaken the glue that holds the hairs together, as well as misshape the bristles.
— When you are finished painting — Gently cleanse your brushes and form the ends into a point so that they can dry in their correct shape.
As I mentioned above, I definitely don't recommend cheap brushes — However, there is one line of cheap brushes that I can't help but love! Although I haven't used them in a while, when I first started watercolor painting, I was hooked on Pentel Waterbrushes! They are so much fun to use, and are convenient for traveling, or painting on the go. The water is inside the brush, so you don't need to have any water jars with you as you paint (just gently squeeze the brush as needed). All you'll need is a napkin to clean off the paint and water between color changes.
3. Winsor & Newton Paints — This is my favorite art supplies subject to talk about. I have probably used almost every cheap set of paints that Walmart, Hobby Lobby & Michaels has to offer, and I have found nothing that compares with the quality of Winsor & Newton. Winsor & Newton is an English brand with a legacy of quality that is over 100 years old! I first started using their paints 3 years ago, and have stuck with them since then!
One reason I love Winsor & Newton is that they have options for paints that will work with any budget. I started off with the Pocket Kit (I ALWAYS recommend this kit for beginners!) A year later, I moved up to the 12-Tube Set. Both of these paint sets use paint from Winsor & Newton's Cotman Series, which is their budget paint line.
These days I use a mixture of their Professional Series and Cotman Series paints. Because the Professional Series has an even higher concentration of pigment, these paints are significantly more expensive. (You will absolutely get what you pay for though!)
4. Use More Than One Glass of Water — For some reason, this is something I didn't do for a really long time. I would just run over to the sink to change out my mirky paint water every 20 minutes. Having two glasses of water is so helpful — Clean off your brush in one jar, then get clean water to wet your paints from the second jar.
That's all for now — Thanks so much for reading! Please don't hesitate to ask any other questions you might have!
Also, if you found this post helpful, it would mean to world to me if you'd share it to your social media/pinterest! ♥
Much love —