A Beginners Guide to Watercolor Materials

Ready to start your watercolor journey but feeling overwhelmed with where to start? Let me help!


Hi there! Welcome to my blog. I’m new to this (and very awkward) so bear with me.


My name is Kaylee and I am the artist behind Moonstruck Creations. If you are unfamiliar with my work I teach watercolor workshops and paint and sip events in the Boise, Idaho area.


I love teaching and empowering people to let go of limiting beliefs and embrace their creative power. My favorite way to do this is through watercolor. Watercolor is such a fun medium because it truly has a mind of its own. It pushes you to let go of control and ride the wave brahhh. There are truly SO many life lessons to be learned through watercolor and I personally feel that everyone should do it as a form of therapy, but that’s just me ;)


Anyways, at this point in growing my creative biz I am so fortunate to be seeing so many artists return to my classes- and let me tell you, I am HERE FOR IT!! I know some of you budding Picassos are wanting to get into watercolor at a deeper level at home, so I wanted to create a resource for all my peeps to get started on your watercolor journeys. I have curated a list (after many years of trial and error) of my favorite watercolor materials to kickstart your artistic adventure.. Let’s dive in.


Brushes:


Ahh brushes. I remember getting so overwhelmed in the aisle at Michaels looking at all the fun brushes, but also having no clue where to start or what the heck they all do. I’ve come to realize that when it comes to brushes, less is more - especially as a beginner. Personally, I have an enormous bowl of brushes and I legitimately use the same 3-4 ones consistently. Here are my recommendations for watercolor brushes:


Round brushes - these are my go-to’s for nearly everything. Mountains, trees, flowers, leaves, all the goods. I think if you have 3 sizes of round brushes you are golden. Also for brushes I’m a firm believer in quality over quantity. Invest in one nice brush vs a pack of brushes that are meh.


Princeton’s Heritage series is my absolute favorite line of brushes. Relatively inexpensive, good longevity, and a nice snap back to its original point. 10/10 recommend this entire line.

My go to brushes from this series include:

  • Size 6 is 100% my most frequently used brush of all time

  • Size 16 I love for bigger pieces and larger florals

  • Size 2 for the smaller details and little outlines


Flat Brush - Crucial for landscape painting or wet on wet in general.

1” flat brush is super versatile. I have these at every single one of my watercolor workshops because I think they are just that useful. They cover a lot of surface area fairly fast which is great especially when you want to utilize the wet on wet technique.

A bigger flat brush is fun if you get super into landscapes or larger pieces, but a 1” is a good place to start your collection.


And honestly, that’s it. If you have these 4 brushes, you’re golden. It is fun to add new brushes along the way, but these will for sure get you off the ground.


Paint/ Pallets:


As far as the actual paint, there are SO many options out there. I’m not an expert on all the brands on the market, as much as I’d like to be. But I have done my fair share of market research. Here are some of my paint suggestions:


Windsor and Newton has an amazing assortment of paint. The cotman level is awesome for beginners, and their professional series is what dreams are made of! Holy Cow.


The colors in my Windsor and Newton Professional Watercolor palette are: Scarlet Lake, Opera Rose, Cadmium Orange, Lemon Yellow Deep, Yellow Ochre, Permanent Sap Green, Cobalt Turquoise Light, Phthalo Turquoise, Cobalt Blue, Prussian Blue, Ultramarine Violet, Burnt Umber, and Mars Black.


The colors I use in my watercolor workshop pallets are Windsor and Newton Cotman Watercolors and they are: Permanent Rose, Cadmium Orange Hue, Prussian Blue, Ivory Black, Sap Green, Dioxazine Purple, Lemon yellow Hue, Cadmium Red Hue, Burnt Umber, and Turquoise. They also have some awesome half pan pallets for a reasonable price.


Personally I like to buy the tubes, fill the wells of my pallet with paint and let them dry for 24 hours before using them. You can use the paint straight out of the tube! I just find it wastes too much paint for my liking. Shiz ain’t cheap. Plus I think it’s easier to get the right ratio of pigment to water if the paint is dried before using it.


HOWEVER - that is a lot for a beginner so maybe just play with what feels best to you first. The half pan pallets are a really great place to start.


I also seriously love these Prima Watercolor Confections Pallets. They’re fairly inexpensive and have some striking pigments! They also just have a cool vibe about them and their themes. Here are a few of my favs:

These smaller pallets are amazing for painting on the go. When I traveled I took one of these tins with me EVERYWHERE.


Paper:


As far as your canvas, watercolor paper is simply the best. I LOVE that watercolor paper is smaller, and therefore easier to store than an acrylic canvas. Depending on the brand, it is also less expensive. Double bonus!


There are two types of watercolor paper, hot pressed and cold pressed. Hot pressed is much smoother where cold pressed has a bumpier texture. Personally I prefer cold pressed because I like the texture it gives. With hot pressed paper I feel like the water pools up easier and you can get some funky dry lines. But this is totally a personal preference kind of thing. Play with your style and see what you like!


For a budget friendly but still quality paper, my go to is Strathmore. When I want to splurge a bit on some super quality stuff, I opt for a Legion Stonehenge Watercolor Block. Using a watercolor block is awesome because it keeps your paper super flat and prevents pooling.


Another thing I LOVE is watercolor sketchbooks. There are some great portable ones for travel. But lately I’ve been using them more to take some of the perfectionist pressure off of creating. I also just recently purchased a huge amount of cheap watercolor paper thinking I could use it for my watercolor classes. Turns out that’s a hard no. The paper is too thin and would buckle wayyy too much for me to even dream about giving to my students. BUT, at the same time I kind of fell in love with this cheap paper for my own personal use! It’s just a good addition to my painting process. I can use this paper to scribble some ideas out, or to make marks on before committing to a piece. It’s relatively cheap, coming in at a total of $30 for 250 sheets.


Misc:


OH! And one thing I almost always use, washi tape! I love creating a border with washi tape for a couple reasons.

  1. To keep the paper from buckling too badly. *If you use a watercolor pad/ block you won’t have this problem.*

  2. That SATISFYING tape peel you get once you’re finished. It’s just *chefs kiss*


There are some things that are super fun to play with too, like watercolor inks, masking fluid, gouache, etc. But those are topics for a different day ;)


I hope this helps some of you in beginning your exciting new (or not so new) watercolor/ artistic journey! Let me know what else you’re hoping to learn!


Thanks for reading

xo,

Kaylee


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