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Supply Guide for a Watercolor Artist

posted by Misfit March 23, 2016

So you want to be creative? Express yourself in a way that helps you process who you are and communicate that part of yourself to the world.   At home, it’s easy to have this feeling of confidence and assurance that you can do anything (you know while pinning on Pinterest or watching YouTube).  But…. that confidence can quickly dwindle upon walking into any art supply store.  There are so many stinking choices, you’ll probably find yourself either buying everything that strikes your fancy and immediately feel regret upon seeing the bill.  Or like most of us, just walk out defeated and empty-handed.  So, for all of you creative adventure seekers…let’s break down what a watercolorist’s art bag actually contains.

the Explorer

THE EXPLORER:

The first artist on this list is the Explorer!  This person, is curious about dabbling in the art field but not wanting to break their wallet.   They usually like to try many different fields of art, such as oil, knitting, scrapbooking, even filming but haven’t really made up their mind yet whether they want to really take the plunge into one art form.   

This is one reason why I love Watercolor.  Because, when you are starting out you don’t have to really invest your whole life’s savings to just explore this art form.   It’s not that much of an investment but you’ll still get an idea of what watercolor is all about. 

The Explorer (or BEGINNER’S) artist’s bag includes…

  • +Sketchbook: Strathmore Mixed Media (for brainstorming your thoughts and practice painting)
  • +Pencil: Basic Mechanical Pencil
  • +Paint: Angora Watercolor set 36
  • +Paint: Reeves Fine Watercolor Tube Paint Set
  • +Paper: Strathmore Watercolor paper
  • +Palettes: one old white plate (free)
  • +Brushes: cheap set of watercolor brushes (I bought the cheapest at Michael’s Craft Store)
  • +Board: Just use a flat surface (such as a table) that you don’t mind getting wet and masking tape

(This is roughly about a $50 investment)

explorer's bag

I used this set for years and it served it’s purpose.  This set is cheap and allows you to feel free with experimenting and playing around without the guilt of wasting expensive quality supplies. 

However, keep in mind that with this set, your quality of paint won’t be that good.  This is just to wet your palette (pun intended) of creativity with watercolor. If you are desiring more quality paints without the budget buster prices…then check out the next bag…

the settler

THE SETTLER:

The second artist on our list is the Settler!  This person, is in love with the field of watercolor and very dedicated to perfecting the craft.   However, they may not have the means to really go all in-whether it be a time factor or a money factor.   Their bag includes…

The Settler’s ( or INTERMEDIATE) artist’s bag includes…

  • +Sketchbook: Strathmore Mixed Media (for brainstorming your thoughts and practice painting)
  • +Pencil: Basic Mechanical Pencil
  • +Paint: Winsor and Newton Cotman Watercolor Tubes Paints and Pan Paint Set
  • +Paper: Strathmore Watercolor paper
  • +Palettes: cheap plastic palette from any art store.  
  • +Brushes: cheap set of watercolor brushes (I bought the cheapest I could find at Michael’s Craft Store) (I still use my cheap brushes even at this stage)
  • +Board & Masking Tape: The Board I use is a $5 square board form the wood craft section.  It’s pretty thick so it won’t warp with water.  I painted it with acrylic paint to give it a wood grain appearance…but seriously this thing is cheap ?

(Roughly about a $100 investment)

settlers bag

I used this set during my college years and after graduation.  I loved it and still use most of the supplies I have here.  These supplies gave me a decent quality and allowed me to get a taste of what professional watercolor was all about ? 

But if you want to go all out…then check out the next bag!

the conqueror

THE CONQUEROR:

 The third artist on our list is the Conquerer!  Someone who is so invested in this form their life literally revolves around watercolor to the point it may appear a bit crazy.   This artist is willing to do anything to further their knowledge of watercolor and willing to try anything even if it may be absurd (pulling out old toothbrush).     

The Conquer (or ADVANCED) artist’s bag includes…

  • +Sketchbook: Strathmore Mixed Media (for brainstorming your thoughts and practice painting)
  • +Pencil: Basic Mechanical Pencil and a more professional pencil such as a 4H which is one of the hardest pencils you can find.
  • +Paint: Winsor and Newton Professional Watercolor Tubes Paints
  • +Paint: PH Martin’s Watercolor Concentrates (NOT LIGHTFAST-meaning the color will fade with time)
  • +Paint: PH Martin’s HYDRUS Watercolor Concentrates (LIGHTFAST-meaning the color will NOT fade with time)
  • +Masking Fluid: Incredible White Mask Liquid Frisket (Seriously the best stuff for preserving white paper if you desire it)
  • +Paper: ARCHES Watercolor Paper 140 lb weight (I use Hot Press mostly because it looks better on film, but I also really like their cold press paper set as well)
  • +Palettes: cheap plastic palette from any art store.
  • +Brushes: cheap set of watercolor brushes (I bought the cheapest I could find at Michael’s Craft Store) PLUS I invested in a Large Flat brush for washes (about $20) with real hair and some ultra small liner brushes from Winsor & Newton (sizes 00 and 000)-I use these for detailed line work. 
  • +Board & Masking Tape: Still using my board from earlier. 
  • +Pens: Calligraphy Sketching Set and Sakura Micron Pens (especially the 005 pen which I use for all my inking)
  • +Ink: Higgins Ink and recently I’ve really liked the Dr. PH Martin’s Black Star Waterproof Ink

(Roughly about a $250 to $300 investment)

conquer's bag

(Disclaimer)

Before you start typing away at the comment below about how I didn’t mention this or I didn’t mention that.  Please realize that these are just my opinions and these are supplies that I’ve used in my artist journey.  This video is just meant to be a guide and help break down all the supplies that I use on a daily basis and which I would recommend for someone starting out or trying to really advance their craft of watercolor. 

Now you may be thinking we are done…but actually there is one more thing that every artist must have in their bag of assorted art gear.  It’s the one thing that evens the playing field between the novice and the professional and it also is the most challenging to obtain.  And that is imagination in the form of story-telling. 

The main purpose of art is to communicate one’s feelings or self to the world around them.  This one element is the hardest to perfect and achieve yet also the easiest to spot.  Think in your mind of all the artist you admire.  In some facet or form their art communicated something to you and that’s the reason why you admire them so much.   

So, why am I saying this…because the first step of being a great artist is learning how to work with what you have.  For years, I was an artist explorer-using the bare minimum to perfect my craft.  By learning to use the very basics, it strengthened my creativity when I could afford the more expensive elements of watercolor. 

All this to say, if you are just starting out in watercolor, never be ashamed of your beginnings.  Those are the moments that shape you into who you are going to become in the future. 

signiture white bkgd

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4 Comments

Bekki Mundy Page March 23, 2016 at 5:29 pm

I like how you broke this down. Love, love the Strathmore Multimedia sketchbooks–great paper and not super expensive. I was surprised how much my painting improved going to Arches and how little difference expensive brushes made.

Reply
Misfit March 23, 2016 at 10:23 pm

I completely agree! I love the Strathmore Sketchbooks and yeah, brushes in the long run don’t last long. So I tend to just stock up on the cheap ones. Glad you liked Arches paper! I am so in love with them now! It has made such a difference in my painting as well! Thanks for the comment! 😀

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Jennifer June 18, 2017 at 12:38 pm

Could you please recommend an artist/masking tape?

Reply
Misfit June 26, 2017 at 10:59 pm

Hi Jennifer, I use basic masking tape that you could get from any craft store or even Target. I’ve never used artist grade masking tape before.

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