Top 10 Watercolor Supplies for Beginners: What You Do and Don’t Need

Okay, it’s time for me to open up my tool box and share my favorite supplies. Have you ever wondered what supplies are necessary, least expensive, and best to paint with watercolor? Well, it turns out that the answer is not as simple as it may seem, but I will do my best to answer any questions you may have. The truth is that there are tons of options to choose from, you probably know this already.

When it comes to choosing the right watercolor supplies for beginners, you need to consider many things, including your budget, applying various watercolor techniques, skill level, and painting style. So, let’s dive in to watercolor materials and hopefully I can enlighten you on a few ways to save money and get the best out of your studio time.

Favorite watercolor supplies video

Here are the top 10 watercolor supplies for beginners

The first step in choosing the right watercolor supplies for beginners is figuring out what you need. Generally, there are a few basic items that all painters should have: paints, brushes, paper, and a firm board or other type of support to paint on. However, there are also many optional items that can make your painting experience more enjoyable which I will discuss later on.

Best watercolor paint for beginners
Holbein Watercolor Paints – Best of the best

#1 Holbein Professional Paints

Holbein is a fantastic artist grade paint that delivers high quality results. It’s the brand I use all the time and have been for over two decades. Be sure to view this article to learn more about recommended watercolor paints for beginners. Always go for quality over quantity.

You only need 8 hues to mix hues; yellow ochre, cadmium lemon yellow, ultramarine blue, cerulean blue, alizarin crimson, cadmium red light, neutral tint and burnt sienna.

Best watercolor brush for beginners - Silver #2 quill
Silver Jumbo Medium Wash

#2 Silver Black Velvet Jumbo Round (Medium) Brush

Watercolor brushes come in a variety of shapes and sizes, with each one designed for a specific purpose. Some of the most common brush shapes are rounds, flats, brights, and filberts.

The Silver Jumbo is your go-to wash brush. When you need to apply paint to a large area, pre-wet the paper, and so on, this is the tool for the job. And the great news is you don’t need a huge budget to add it to your kit. As I’m writing the article it’s priced around $53 US.

Best large pointed round watercolor brush for beginners
Princeton Neptune no. 12 pointed round

#3 Princeton Neptune Pointed Round no.12

You will need a larger round to lay in medium size washes, trees, and so on.

The beauty of the Princeton pointed round #12 is that it can handle the job and has amazing longevity. I’ve had mine for 3 years and it still has a great point and lost very few bristles.

For the price you just can’t beat it. At the time of this article the cost is $13 US.

Best small/medium pointed round watercolor brush for beginners
Princeton Neptune No.6

#4 Princeton Neptune Pointed Round no.6

You will need a smaller pointed round to lay in details and really small washes. The Princeton Neptune pointed round #6 is my go-to brush for such tasks. It’s been around for several years, takes a beating and keeps on ticking.

For the price you just can’t beat it. At the time of this article the cost is $8 US.

Best watercolor brush for beginners - Princeton 1/2" dagger
Princeton Neptune Dagger 1/2″

#5 Princeton Neptune Dagger 1/2″

This one may seem excessive but trust me, once you have tried this beauty you’ll never be the same. The Princeton Neptune dagger is so versatile that you could paint small and medium size works with just this one brush.

It can handle medium size washes, deliver a variety of brushstrokes and detail work that makes this a MUST have. The fine line work it can produce is amazing. All this for $12 US.

Best Watercolor Paper For Beginners
Fabriano Artistico Paper

#6 Fabriano Artistico Paper 140 lb. Cold Press

Watercolor paper comes in two main types: rag and synthetic blends. Rag paper is made from cotton or linen fibers that have been treated with an alkali to make them absorbent. Synthetic blend paper is made from wood pulp and isn’t as absorbent as cotton/rag paper. If you have ever painted on cheap watercolor paper you know it just doesn’t create the same results as quality paper.

In short use a good professional grade paper, but AVOID really heavy expensive options.

Fabriano Artistico 140 lb cold press has all you need and cost effective. Buy in bulk and save some bucks, you’ll need the paper so it’s never a waste of money.

Best watercolor palette for beginners
Masterson Palette

#7 Masterson Aqua-Pro Palette

Having a dedicated watercolor palette is essential. I’ve tested many and found the Masterson Aqua-Pro palette to be the best. It gives you optimal mixing area for small and large washes, and easy to store when you aren’t painting.

32 paint wells surround the outer edge, while three divided mixing areas in the center keep your color ranges neatly separated. The lid snaps down tightly on the base for transport, and can be used as an additional large mixing area when inverted.

The Aqua-Pro is made from highest-quality, stain-resistant, injection molded resins. It measures 1¾”H × 15½”W × 11½”D.

Best painting board for watercolors
Gator-foam Board

#8 Gator-foam Board

When painting with watercolors, it’s important to use a firm board or other type of support. Many prefer masonite drawing board but I always found them a little heavy and flimsy.

Gator-foam board is useful because it’s lightweight gives you a very sturdy backing. I recommend buying a large 32″ x 40″ piece and cut it in half. This way you have two boards that will accommodate an 11″ x 15″ sheet of paper.

The core is very dense and firm and the surface is a wood fiber veneer laminate impregnated with resin for water resistance.

Best white gouache paint for beginners
Holbein White Gouache

#9 Holbein White Gouache

Highlights! It’s a must have for me because it’s such a great way to add some icing on the cake. Yes, you can opt for Chinese white but I found gouache to be thicker and more impactful. Holbein white gouache does the job!

Another likable quality is the matte finish. And if you want to spice it up you could opt for the Jaune Brilliant #1 hue. This works well with a really sunny scene.

Buy Holbein White Gouache at Blicks

Plastic watercolor art storage bags
Clear Storage Bags

#10 Plastic Storage Bags

Raise your hand if you are guilty of stuffing your watercolor art in a drawer. Only to come back months later and see them ruined.

These bags are perfect for protecting your precious artwork from fingerprints, moisture, dents, dings, wind, dust, and other hazards, Art Display and Storage Bags are a simple, safe, and economical way to transport, display, and store your artwork.

Buy Storage bags at Blicks

Other tips for buy watercolor materials

Here are more suggestions for purchasing watercolor supplies. This should help answer any questions you may have when adding items to the cart:)

Paints Watercolors come in two basic forms: tubes and pans.

Watercolor paints are made by mixing dry pigments with a binding agent, such as gum arabic or gum tragacanth. The resulting pigment is then pressed into a pan or tube and dried until it forms a solid cake or block.

  1. Tube paints come in three main types: student grade, artist grade, and professional grade. Student-grade watercolors are less expensive than artist, or professional-grade paints, but may not be as lightfast or permanent. Artist-grade paints are designed for artists who want better quality and more intense colors. Professional-grade paints are the highest quality and most expensive type of watercolor paint.
  2. Watercolor pans are small metal dishes that usually hold about half an inch of paint. They can be either round or square, with a variety of designs on the bottom surface. Pans are generally less expensive than tubes but can put additional wear-and-tear on your brushes because you have to constantly agitate them so they become soft.

I prefer tube paints since they are soft and easy to use. Be careful with pans as they can wear down brushes because they need top be softened abd agitated before using.

What supplies don’t I need?

Now that you know what the basic watercolor supplies are, it’s time to talk about the items that you don’t need. While some watercolor beginners may find these items useful, they are not necessary for producing quality art.

  • Top of the line brushes; Brushes have made significant advances over the past 5 years. There are so many natural and synthetic blends that work just as well as natural bristles. Why spend hundreds of dollars when you can opt for something that works just as well for a fraction of the cost?
  • Excessive paints; I discussed why you only need 8, or 9 hues here. But in short you can save yourself a lot of headaches and money by using a limited palette. This will make color mixing less confusing and you can invest the cash in other areas.
  • Heavy, expensive watercolor paper; Stay away from 300 lb papers. It’s an overkill and usually isn’t suited for beginners. Heavier paper can take more abuse but it’s really designed for multiple layering techniques. Trust me, if you struggle on Fabriano Artistico 140 lb paper and think 300 lb is the solution, you’re wrong. The issue can be found somewhere else, but it’s highly unlikely the paper’s fault.
  • Storage containers; Watercolor paints and brushes can be stored in any airtight container, such as a ziplock bag or Mason jar.
Final Thoughts

That’s a wrap! Now that you know what the top 10 watercolor supplies are for beginners, it’s time to get creating!