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my favorite watercolor supplies

Watercolor has long been my go-to art form and it’s no surprise why. Not only is it beautiful and organic the way the paint moves and blends and dries with such pretty transparency, but it is appropriate for all skill levels. I love that I can pull paints and it is something the kids can do right along side of me with equal levels of success. In fact, did you know that my very first free watercolor printable was created at our kitchen table six years ago while the kids and I were passing time? It was near the end of the school year and we had summer on our minds so we all painted summery things and mine ended up as a delightful summer essentials art print.

That little painting was such fun that I created a whole series including autumn, winter, Christmas and spring. I even made one for Joanna Gaines for her first shop before her show skyrocketed her into celebrity-dom. All because I needed something to occupy the kids for a few minutes!

Last spring I put all my watercolor knowledge to use to record videos and teach projects in my Simplified Watercolor class. It was such a fun class to work on and hundreds of you have already enjoyed it (thank you!). If you want to explore watercolor or brush up on your skills (pun intended) or if you just need something that is productive, satisfying, relaxing and mindful, I invite you to join me for the online watercolor class. You’ll find all the details HERE.

In addition to being great for all skill levels, watercolor is also fantastic because it doesn’t require a ton of space or supplies. You’ll just need paint, paper, a few brushes, a paper towel and water and a flat surface to work on. As you saw in this post, I keep my daily supplies on a little shelf and clear a space on my computer desk for daily sketching.

For a great primer on watercolor supplies, please enjoy a lesson from the watercolor class that talks you through each of the items and how to use them. Then keep reading for links to my favorite supplies.

I hope the video was helpful! I am linking all of my favorites below to help you stock up on the appropriate supplies.

Again, please remember that you can get super fancy and spend lots of money or you can go very cheap and shop in the children’s art supply section but I suggest finding a place right in the middle. You don’t need to go with the highest quality supplies – especially if you are just practicing. No use wasting expensive paper! But, you’ll have better success and enjoy the process so much more if you use decent supplies right from the start. All of my supply recommendations fall in that middle zone.

The links go to Amazon, which is a great place to shop for art supplies, but if you have the time you’ll likely save a few dollars by going to your local craft store (don’t forget to look online for a coupon before you go … there is almost always a 40% off coupon!).

PAPER

Don’t use regular printer paper! Always paint with paper specifically made for watercolors. Watercolor paper is less absorbent which will keep the paint from instantly drying and will allow it to move and blend in its beautiful watercolor-y way. You can find tablets, single sheets, extra large pieces and blocks. Aim for a step up from the kids’ craft supplies for better quality. My favorite paper is Strathmore 140lb cold press.

8×10 Single Sheets | 5.5×8.5 Pad | 9×12 Wire Bound | Arches 7×10 Block

BRUSHES

You will want a set of round brushes with synthetic or natural bristles in several sizes. I most often paint with sizes 1, 2, 6 and 10. A liner brush is great for tiny details.

Princeton 5 Piece Set | Liner Brush |  Size 1 | Size 6 | Size 12 | Size 16

PAINT

The better quality paint, the more saturation, permanence and transparency you will get. Instead of the typical student’s watercolor set, look for an artist’s quality professional set. The few extra dollars will be worth it.

Alternately, you can use individual tubes of watercolor paint. If you prefer to work with this paint, find a kit with an assortment of basic colors to get started. To work with tube watercolors, put a small dab of each color on a clean, white palette (see below for details) and allow to dry overnight. Just add water to reactivate and it will allow for better control when mixing and painting.

Prang Professional Set | Windsor & Newton Small Pan Set | Windsor & Newton Tube Set | Kuretake Pan Set | White Gouache | Gold Gouache

PALETTE

You will want a clean surface to mix colors. You can use the inside lid of your watercolor set or a separate palette. Find plastic palettes in the craft store or – even better! – use a white ceramic dish from your kitchen cupboard or the thrift store.

Round Palette | Rectangular Palette

WATER

You’ll need a wide-mouth container of clean water to rinse your brush and add water to the paint.

PAPER TOWEL

Use this to wipe your brush between colors, to dab off excess paint from your brush or from your painting.

PENCIL + ERASER

If you are sketching first (which I almost always recommend!), use a pencil that is easily erasable. You’ll want to sketch very lightly and then decide if you like the pencil marks showing through the watercolor and leave them, or erase at the end.

Mechanical Pencil | Eraser

When you are finished with your watercolor session, clean up is super easy.

There is no need to wash your palette – just let the watercolors dry and they will be ready to re-use next time by adding more water. Make sure you rinse your brushes with clean water and let them dry. Store the brushes either in a jar with the bristles pointing up (you don’t want to smush them and lose the nice pointy tips!) or on their side. I keep my daily supplies on a shelf near the desk where I paint and all of the extras (like tubes of watercolors, extra paper and old palettes) stay in a drawer nearby.

More than anything, I hope you feel encouraged to just give watercolors a try. You don’t need fancy supplies or a beautiful studio space to create – you just need a few basics, a flat surface and time to take a deep breath and let your inner artist come out :)

Did I miss anything? If you have any other questions, feel free to leave a comment and I’m happy to answer!

10 thoughts on “my favorite watercolor supplies”

    1. It is! I read recently that watercolor doesn’t bead up as much on ceramic so I found this little dish in my cupboard and have been using it as my palette.

  1. Hey there Emily
    I truly love watercolour myself.
    I am from NZ and was wondering how I get hold of all these supplies you are using.

    Thanks so much
    Amy

    1. If you can not order from amazon, just jot down the names of products and check your local art store. I’m guessing there are different brands but I’m sure the clerk can help you choose the correct items!

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