Making an international move this year had me narrowing down my belongings to only what I could fit into a couple of suitcases. I've never been a hoarder, but as an artist it's inevitable that there's a lot of supplies that come with the job.
I began art school 12 years ago, and since then I attended 3 different schools as well as had employment in art supply stores, framing shops and teaching art. I've now been working professionally as an illustrator since 2014, so I definitely acquired a TON of supplies over the years.
Opening up all my art storage boxes to sort through what I would take with me allowed for me to see what supplies I have as my essentials for creating.
I work in a few different mediums and methods, so I'll be writing a few different blog posts on my favourite art supplies, but for this first one I thought we should start with Watercolour Painting. You can click the product titles or images to shop any of them, but you can also see my full list of recommended art supplies by clicking here.
These are my favourite paints by a long shot. They are very highly pigmented liquid watercolours and the colour saturation is UNREAL.
Sadly I cannot find them here in Brazil, so I stocked up a ton before I moved, and will buy more when I'm back home in Canada visiting.
Because of the high pigment, these stain fast, so there's no fussing with them. It's really a one time shot for paint application. A solid idea of where you're going with your piece is essential. For a beginner water colourist they may prove difficult to use, so you might like to start with a watercolour pan (see below for my recommendations with this).
Also if you're buying these in store, some batches come with a lot of sediment on the bottom, so shake up the bottle and take a look at the contents inside before purchasing. Nobody likes dried paint bits messing up a good wash.
These are another great option, they're very similiar to Dr. Ph. Martin's paints, and I can actually buy these ones here! WOO.
Some of the older versions of the product come without the eye dropper lid, so they lose points for that. But other than that, I'm a fan and they're a great alternative to my favourites.
**A note on both these paints. Due to the high pigmentation, they are really NOT lightfast. This means they will fade overtime, and especially if exposed to direct light. They're best used for illustration work that will be scanned and saved digitally as the originals will dull down. You can delay the fading by framing the pieces under UV protected glass. (A post on framing soon to come!)
These are pan watercolours, so they come in dry “cakes” fitted individually and are activated with a wet brush. Personally I find them a little easier to control, and therefore better for beginners than the liquid watercolours. Also it's amazing for live sketching, but more on those supplies in another post.
These paints and both affordable and great quality, a combo that's hard to find when it comes to art supplies. I have the 24 colour set, but it comes in 12, 36 and 48 colour sets as well. These are traditional watercolours so they're not as highly pigmented as the previous paints I listed, but the colours are still very beautiful. Unlike the previous paints, these are light fast.
If you're new to watercolour I'd recommend a set like this, as poor quality paints can make it difficult to learn, but you also don't have to invest in expensive watercolours like Winsor & Newton.
These mix well with the liquid watercolours above too, so I often use both together.
I have a variety of brushes I like to use, some synthetic and some natural hair, my favourites being my sable brushes, which unfortunately are quite expensive, so I'm linking a few different price points if you're not ready to invest in high end brushes yet.
Also, I use almost exclusively round brushes for painting in watercolour, as the shape holds water the best. Also make sure to have a variety of brush sizes to work with. Using tiny brushes for large areas will leave your paintings overworked and streaky with too many brush strokes. Using large brushes for small details will be clumsy. I like to say, use the biggest brush possible for the area.
These are really the best brushes around. They have a long history and are a familiar favourite among artists! The hair on these brushes is sable, so they maintain a perfect point and absorb a lot of water so you can keep a nice flow while you're working.
Unfortunately high quality brushes come with a higher price tag. However if you're ready for an investment, these brushes will last you forever with proper care. The set I have listed here is actually a great value.
Another sable brush, these are also a beautiful brush to work with. I have a travel set linked below that will give you a great variety of sizes to get started with and also with short handles making them easy to bring on the go, and perfect for live sketching.
You can also find decent imitation sable brushes, but real sable is the best hair to paint with. You can also use squirrel hair for large washes, but personally I don't like my squirrel brush that much. I find a soft nylon brush can also be fine if you don't yet have a variety of sable brushes to pick from. Just stay away from any coarse hair brushes.
Speaking of nylon brushes, here’s a perfect set. They're a much lower price point than natural hair brushes and a great option to start out with. They tend to not last long, so make sure to take proper care of these brushes to get the most use out of them you can. A big tip is to never leave your brushes soaking in water as this can expand and then shrink the wooden handles and cause the brush head to fall off. Also always leave your brushes laying flat to dry.
I use hot press paper, because as an illustrator I scan my work to create digital files so cold press and rough press paper are too textured for me. Arches is a beautiful 100% cotton high quality paper. I use it for special projects only as it's much too expensive for me to be using on a daily basis as I go through a TON of paper. The least expensive way to buy this paper is in large sheets, but you can also get pads and blocks.
This is labelled as a Cold Press paper, but the opposite side of it I find smooth enough for illustration work. I started out using this paper for live sketching events, as I was going through so much paper, cost was key. I was impressed with the value of this paper, and have ended up using it quite often in studio as well because I've always got a huge stack of it and don't have to worry about wasting.
Fabriano also makes beautiful paper, this option is for a watercolour block instead of a pad. A watercolour block is basically a pad of pre stretched paper.
This means the paper is glued down on all sides, so it doesn't warp or buckle as much when painting, and dries completely flat. Good watercolour paper is cotton, so think of it like cotton clothes, the fibres shrink when they go from wet to dry. A watercolour block is great for anyone that uses heavy washes and a lot of wet-on-wet technique.
When you're done with your painting there's usually a corner or small strip on the side that has no glue on it. You can slip in a razor blade or small exacto knife and slide it along the edges to detach your paper from the block.
Last but not least, you'll need a paint palette for mixing. Plastic is used for watercolours, and personally for me, the bigger the better. I like this Darice palette as it also has a lot of flat space for mixing colours. I'm not a fan of palettes that only have the small round wells, however every artist has their preference. Palettes are white because watercolour paper is white, and therefore it's easiest to compare colours from palette to paper, so it’s best to replace your palette over time as it gets stained.
Other than that, just some paper towel and a water cup, and that's a wrap on my favourite watercolour supplies! Let me know if you have any questions in the comments below or share your favourites with me!