watercolor art supplies

What do you need for watercolor painting?

  • These are the watercolor art supplies I use for my watercolor paintings. They are tried and true and they will work for you, too.
  • What materials did I use to start painting watercolor? What do I use today and why?

you may be asking;

We will answer these questions and cover the basic watercolor art supplies.

The watercolor art supplies I use and why - artist Carol MayWatercolor Painting On Paper

These are the materials I use for my paintings. As both an Amazon Associate and a Blick Art Materials affiliate I earn from qualifying purchases. There is no additional cost to you.


what are the best watercolor paints?


artist quality paints vs. student paints

  • Artist quality paints contain more of the pigment colors, so they cost more to produce. They have more concentrated, intense color.
  • Student paints contain less pigment, so they are less expensive. 

Winsor & Newton Cotman paints are great for students. They contain the most pigment of all the student paint brands. They are a good way to start painting and hold down the cost.


pan vs. tube watercolors

  • Pan watercolors are dried into small forms. They require a lot of water to reactive the color for painting. Adding all the water dilutes the color. They are handy for travel, painting outdoors and other small paintings.

  • Tube watercolors are in a semi-liquid form packaged in tubes. They require a little water added for painting. Add a lot more water to paint washes on large areas. They are good for both small and large paintings.

my favorite watercolor paint

  • Winsor & Newton is a very reputable English paint company. They have been the standard of paint quality since the 1800s.

Winsor & Newton artist watercolor tubes paints are my favorite watercolor art supplies. Tube paints are the only watercolors I use. They make it easy to get the bright juicy colors that are the hallmark of my paintings.

There a quite a few other reputable brands of watercolor art supplies.

  • M Graham is favored by many artists today. They strive to make their products as environmentally friendly as possible.

They have a nice set of basic colors. I recommend starting with a set of the basic colors to hold down your initial cost.

  • Daniel Smith is a United States based company that has many interesting colors made naturally from various mineral and rocks.

Their set of five basics colors is great for the artists who are learning to mix colors.

  • Winsor & Newton Cotman watercolor paints are great for students. They contain the most pigment of the student paints. They are a good way to start painting and hold down the costs.


artist watercolors

Winson & newton
tube watercolors

Winsor $ Newton artist watercolors

m graham
environment friendly

Daniel Smith
good starter set


student watercolors

winsor & newton
cotman tube set

winsor & newton
half pan set

Winsor & Newton
Cotman Plus Set







what can i paint watercolor on?

Water color paintings are traditionally done on watercolor paper.

Now-a-days we have more options for watercolor art supplies. There is watercolor canvas. There are also hard-boards that are treated to receive watercolor paint.


what paper do you use for watercolor?

Watercolor papers are available in Hot Press, Cold Press and Rough Press.

  • Cold Press is the most commonly used watercolor paper. It has a bit of texture that looks good and helps to pull the paint off of your brush onto the paper. Paint slides around on hot press paper. Rough Press doesn't let the paint move very well.

Watercolor paper comes in different weights 90, 140 or 300 pounds, the weight of 500 sheets of paper. It is sold in 22"x30" sheets, tablets or rolls.

  • The 140# paper is often used, but it must have its edges fastened down (stretched) before painting to keep it from waving and warping as you paint.
  • Watercolor paper in blocks that have the edges fastened together to keep it from warping while you are painting. When the painting is dry you then remove the painting from the block.
  • The 300# paper is thicker and it will stay flat when you paint on it.


Arches is the standard paper for watercolor with an excellent reputation. When I first started doing watercolor painting I used Arches watercolor paper. There are many other good watercolor papers.

Watercolor paintings on paper must be matted and framed under glass to protect the painting.






my watercolor story

When the paintings started running out of my extra room, my husband suggested outdoor street festivals.

I matted and framed my own watercolor paper paintings and prints under glass.

disaster struck

At an outdoor festival on the Gulf Coast of Florida the winds started gusting up to 60 MPH. Some of the artist's tents on the end of the row blew down.

We were afraid to allow customers into the tent. There was a chance they could be injured by broken glass, if the tent went when they were inside.

The paintings were in danger, too. If paper watercolor paintings get moisture behind the glass, they may be water stained or grow mildew. The painting could be damaged permanently.

i had to find another way

After we came home from the festival I started searching catalogues and magazines for watercolor art supplies. I came across Ampersand's Claybord. It is hardboard covered with pH neutral kaolin clay. It makes an excellent archival support.

When the painting is thoroughly dry, I apply 2-3 coats of a UV resistant fixative. I use Krylon spray fixative. You may also use this spray to protect canvas watercolor paintings.

The painting is then framed without glass. It has many advantages over watercolor paintings framed under glass. They are much lighter weight, resistant to dirt, moisture and mildew.

Oh, the beauty and ease of modern watercolor art supplies!

  • I have been using Claybord, now Aquabord for more than 15 years. I am very pleased with it! Now-a-days Aquabord is always on my go-to watercolor art supplies list.





can you do watercolor on canvas?

Another surface for watercolor painting is the modern watercolor canvas. The canvas is specially treated to receive watercolor paint. Fredrix makes a canvas specifically for watercolor.

  • Before you paint, you should wet the canvas with plenty of water with a large brush to break the surface tension of the canvas.

Let the extra water evaporate before you start painting. Then you are able to control the paint when you apply it.

  • The dried canvas watercolor painting needs to be sprayed with a fixative to protect the paint. Use the same UV resistant Krylon paint used on Aquabord paintings.

The watercolor painting is then framed without glass and they are so light-weight.

Modern technology is wonderful. It has given artists such a great variety of watercolor art supplies!


watercolor supports

aquabord
by ampersand

Ampersand Aquabord

arches
watercolor block

fredrix
watercolor canvas

Fredrik's watercolor canvas





what are the best brushes for watercolor painting?

The watercolor brush you use for painting is largely a matter of personal preference. The favorite brush of one artist may be considered useless by another.

how may brushes do you need?

  • When I first started painting with watercolors someone gave me a couple of Loew-Cornell angular shaders a 1/2" and 3/4".

That is all I painted with for about the first year of watercolor painting. The tip of the angle was good for fine details. And the flat side covered more area.

Actually I only used the 3/4" occasionally for the backgrounds. Everything else was painted with the 1/2" brush. So you don't need a bunch of brushes to start out with.

  • It's amazing what you can do with just one brush.
Monarch butterfly watercolor painting on paper

Painted with Loew-Cornell 1/2" angular shader

Ruby-throated Hummingbird watercolor painting on paper

and backgrounds - a 3/4" angular shader


what brushes do i use today?

  • After painting with the angular brushes for quite a while, I decide to try some other brushes.

I went all out and purchased expensive sable watercolor brushes. Since I really like Winsor & Newton paints, I got a WN Series 7 sable round brush. I could never make it work for me.

After trying a number of different brushes I ended up taking the plunge and invested in some Isabey sable brushes, four sizes of flats and five sizes of rounds.

When I purchased the brushes I thought I would need smaller brushes for detail. I was wrong.

Large brushes with good points can be used for small details. The small brushes have been sitting in my brush holder unused for years now.

  • Quality sable brushes will last for a life-time. They are an excellent investment for a serious artist.

what is a good quality brush on a budget?

  • There are so many good quality synthetic brushes that work just fine. Every artist has their own favorites.

A good quality brush on a budget is the Loew-Cornell - Golden Taklons. They are reasonably priced. A round brush in a size #10 or #12 would be an excellent choice.

Many watercolor artist paint almost exclusively with round brushes. You can paint almost anything from details to washes with a good round brush.

Like I found out you don't need small brushes for details. You just need a brush with a good point.

  • There is no need to spend a lot of money on watercolor art supplies to start. Get some painting experience and see what you like the best.

A good brush does not make a good painter. Good painting comes with lots of practice.



watercolor brushes

isabey
red sable

Isabey red sable brushes

Loew-Cornell
Golden Taklon

Loew-Cornell
1/2" angular






additional supplies

Krylon UV Spray

masking fluid

covered palette




your supply list

  • Choose your own brand of artist paint.
  • Choose paper, canvas or Aquabord
  • Start with a few brushes.
  • Use a covered palette to keep your paints fresh.
  • Drawing materials and graphite transfer paper
  • Masking Fluid is optional.

You will also need water in a container and rags or paper towels for clean-up.

get you watercolor art supplies

These are the watercolor art supplies I have used over the years.

I have always lived in small town areas that generally don't have good art supply stores.

So for years my art materials came from catalogues.

now-a-days we shop on line -


how handy is that!


  1. Home
  2. Watercolor Supplies

What's New

  1. Paint a Hummingbird with Oils

    How to Paint a Hummingbird with Oil Paints

    Learn to confidently paint a hummingbird with oil paints. Follow the step-by-step tutorial and paint the beautiful iridescent colors of the Broad-billed Hummingbird.

    Read More

  2. Oil Painting Art Supplies

    Oil Painting Art Supplies

    Find answers to your questions about oil painting art supplies. What do you use for oil panting? What are the best oil paints? What brushes are best for oil painting? What are the basic colors for o…

    Read More

  3. Learn the basics of oil painting

    Learn how to oil paint with artist Carol May

    Find the answers to common questions beginners have about how to oil paint. What do you need to oil paint? What paints should you get and what brushes? How do you use oil paints? How long do they ta…

    Read More

  4. What is the advantage of Painting Daily

    Sunflowers, a daily painting

    Can painting daily really make you a better artist? Paint more often and don’t always strive for perfection. Artist Carol May shares how painting regularly will put your painting journey into overdr…

    Read More

  5. Learn a mixed media method to make "Awesome Paintings".

    White Peacock Butterfly painting by Carol May

    I did a series of awesome art paintings. When I took them to shows people would just rave. "What awesome paintings." They would ask me, "How do you do it?" You can do this easy painting technique an…

    Read More