Watercolor Materials

August 13, 2017

I have always strongly preferred online shopping to in-person shopping, because I am easily overwhelmed by too many choices- I can spend up to an hour in the grocery store wandering around aimlessly because I can't remember what I'm looking for, and if I go shopping for a swimsuit, it's likely that I'll leave with a beach bag and cover-up, but never what I went for in the first place. Art supply shopping is no different for me, and unless I make a list and stick to it, there's a good chance I'm going home empty-handed.

Here's a list of the supplies I use for watercolor painting- I've tried out a couple of things over the past five or six years, but these are what work best for me, and for what I do-  that's totally not to say that these are the best supplies out there, but they're relatively inexpensive and work well, and will give you a good starting point if you want to pick up watercolor painting, but get as distracted as I do by all of the options out there!

I'm going to try and link to each supply at the lowest possible price point I'm able to find. For online shoppers, Jerry's Artarama has really great prices, but if you need something in a pinch, Michael's is always a good option (and gives a 15% teacher discount for any teachers out there). I also love the Plaza Art Supply stores in DC. They give a member discount, offer very reasonable prices, and don't lock the watercolor tubes and pens up in glass cases (this is my #1 issue with Michael's). 




I use Strathmore Mixed Media Paper (the 400 series with the brown cover). The surface is much smoother than your typical watercolor paper, while still giving you a sturdy surface that won't get flimsy with the weight of the paint. It also scans really well (I'll do another post on supplies for digitizing artwork/etc. and will include some more info on my scanner, in case anyone is interested). 





For tiny details, I use Prismacolor .005 and .01 Fine Line Markers in black. I am going to be totally honest- I have about 300 of these empty dried out markers because they run out so quickly, but I can't find a waterproof pen with a finer tip. The wonderful store owner at Plaza suggested the Copic Multiliner SP 0.03, which I loved (it also has refillable cartridges so you don't have to keep buying new pens!), but the tip broke after a couple of uses (but that could also just be me being too aggressive with my art supplies). 

I also like the Pigma Micron pens and just found a link to a .005 option on the Michael's website, so that could be my new small-details front-runner!

For fake calligraphy and larger details, I love the Faber-Castell PITT Artist Drawing Pens. For anyone who doesn't like to draw as super tiny as me (which would probably be almost everyone!), these are such great pens, and they last for such a long time. 





I use a mechanical #2 pencil with .5mm lead. You can buy them at most grocery/drugstores, and because they're all over the place, I won't link to one.





For watercolor brushes, the most important things to look at (for me, at least) are the size of the brush, and the brush type. I don't have any one specific brand of brush or type of bristles that I go with, it's honestly usually whichever is on sale/whatever the store has in stock that is marked as a "watercolor" brush. 

For painting lines and details, it's good to get a brush marked as "round." I usually use size 0000-0 for the tiniest details, size 1-4 for details like small florals and tree leaves, and size 5 or larger for trees, details on larger paintings, and shadows. One of my favorite brushes is my largest round brush- the Robert Simmons #10 White Sable brush. I bought it for a large scale painting series I was working on, and use it now for large textured areas on 8x10 paintings, too. 

For painting large, smooth, solid-colored areas (sky- especially sunsets!, grass, sand, water), I use "flat" brushes that are usually size 6 or larger.





I mentioned this in the last post, but I use mostly tube watercolors (again, I can never remember the actual name for these!!) with some pan watercolors. I always buy Winsor & Newton Cotman Series 1 tubes- the series 2, 3, and 4 paints are more expensive, but the series 1 paints have always worked perfectly for me. It's always fun to experiment with different colors, but my "go-to" colors are the following:


Titanium White, Lamp Black, Payne's Gray, Van Dyke Brown, Sepia, Burnt Sienna, Cadmium Red, Cobalt Blue, Yellow Ochre, Cadmium Yellow, Hooker's Green, Sap Green, Indigo, Cerulean Blue, Permanent Rose, Lemon Yellow, and if you want to go really crazy, Phthalo Blue (this "blue" is so, so bright and will easily take over your palette, but it's also pretty fun to use). 


I'll do another post soon on which colors I've found are good for different things/mixing different colors for hair colors/skin tones/shadows/bodies of water/etc.


Finally- I love these so much that I have two, and am hoping to buy the full set soon- but if you don't feel like investing in so many watercolor tubes to start out (which would be totally understandable- it can get pricey buying so many tubes!), I love these Winsor and Newton Cotman Water Color sets. They are perfect for traveling, painting outdoors, and they're super easy to clean up (you just let the palette dry out for a couple of minutes, close it, and you're finished!) The individual "pans" look like little pieces of candy and come individually wrapped which sounds annoying but is actually kind of exciting- it's like opening a bunch of little colorful presents. They also last forever- I bought one of my compact sets in 2014 and it still hasn't run out. 


I think that that's about it for now- hope that this helped someone out there in some way, and definitely let me know if you ever have any questions about watercolor supplies- I'd be more than happy to speak with you! 






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