What should a beginner in watercolor buy?

Actually, it’s simple: Buy the best you can get. Unfortunately, it is quite expensive to buy only the best. The beginner may not want to start by spending hundreds of dollars on materials.

Therefore, here are some tips that can help you buy right:

  • Do not trust the seller: I got a very bad suggestion when buying my first watercolor materials. Staff in artist shops do not seem to know their stuff, do not listen to them
  • Buy online: Better selection and lower prices. (I do not know how it is in other countries, but in Sweden it is like this, the large selection and the low prices are online. The local shop is often small and has high prices.)
  • Buy good paper, without a good watercolor paper it is impossible to paint.
  • Buy good but few colors
  • Brushes are not very important.

The paper

In my opinion, a watercolor paper must meet three requirements: 1 It must be made of a durable material, usually cotton 2. It must be “handmade” (genuine handmade is expensive, more common is so-called mold-made). 3. It should have sizing, surface gluing.

Only good and therefore expensive paper meets these requirements, but it is still possible to avoid excessive costs. Buy cotton paper that is less thick e.g. under 100 lb, it’s cheaper. Buy sheets and divide yourself, it’s much cheaper than blocks (and better, really) A large watercolor sheet (22 X 30 inches) can be divided into eight parts. Then you get 8 small sheets, almost as big as Letter-sized for a cost of $ 4-6 (that’s what a good watercolor paper about 90 lb. cost per sheet)

The colors

Most Painting Sets have a good choice of colors, it’s OK to buy one. I think you should avoid so-called. Student Watercolor Sets. They cost half of what artist paints cost but they also contain half the amount of pigments and the finest pigments are replaced by cheaper ones.

If you’re from the US, I’m sorry, I checked out some prices online, it’s awful how expensive it is with watercolor paints in the US. a small box of Schmincke Horadam 8 half pan for $ 130! In Sweden you can buy a larger box from the same manufacturer with 12 colors for $ 60. Even the Russian St. Petersburg is expensive in the US. My advice is therefore: ignore the foreign expensive imports and buy domestic, Daniel Smith is an excellent choice, they may be a little expensive but you can buy fewer paints. They are available in half pan sets nowadays as well.

The brushes

Avoid the expensive Sable and squirrel brushes, buy synthetic. Synthetic brushes are really good nowadays. A large and a small round brush is good enough. Sizes 12 to 16 are suitable as a large brush, a small one should have a size of 4 to 6. Among the synthetic brushes there are both very cheap and quite expensive, and you get what you pay for, but keep in mind that it is not very important. Good paper is much more important than which brush you use.

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3 years ago

I purchased an Arches 140 lb block and Fabriano in sheets. I cut the Fabriano as you suggested and I do stretch it, or use it even to practice or make swatches. I have purchased Daniel Smith and Da Vinci both American watercolors. I do have warm and cool primary colors, burnt sienna and burnt umber and ivory black. However, I don’t know what to do when I need raw umber. I can buy one, no problem, but when some tutorials for beginners ask for names of colors that are not familiar to me, I really don’t know what to do. I don’t want to have 248 colors to get the right color. Something else, pans or tubes? I like how you mix directly from the tubes but you always use two or three colors for your exercises, unlike MOST instructors. I wanted to take a course via Zoom, all levels and 15 colors. I knew I was going to be lost with that many colors so I chose not to buy the course. Why would a neophyte in watercolor need 15 to get started?

Reply to  Erik
3 years ago

That sounds good, indeed. A beginner palette that is realistic. You don’t plan to open a Patreon account, do you? Probably not

Reply to  Erik
3 years ago

Lol, who needs money when you can paint, right?

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