The Beginner’s Watercolor Kit

posted by Misfit July 9, 2015

“Begin Anywhere… just Begin.”  I’ve seen this quote multiply times-especially when it comes to art.  I agree with it for the most part, especially when it comes to cleaning my disastrous messy (yet creative) home.   If you have a spec of creativity in your blood then you know the late night urges to unearth every nook and cranny of supplies and lay them haphazardly across the living room and dining room floor and tables.   Proceeding through the creative process is an absolute enjoyment, however after the project is completed and the glitter dust falls…that’s when you realize a tornado of creativity has blown through your home and is miserably unlivable to any other surviving member (including the dog).    All this to say, sometimes you just have to start a process even though you don’t want to.

However, it’s a completely different story when you are completely unsure of where to actually begin.  You see, I know how to clean my house…though at times I really don’t want too.  But taking on something new that you’ve never done before can feel like a trek up Mount Everest.

Watercolor can sometimes feel like this.  There are so many options and so many different brands (not to mention prices) that if you’re starting out in watercolor it can be VERY VERY VERY overwhelming.   So today I’m going to list out the very basic (bare minimum) supplies you need to actually start a great watercolor kit for yourself.  Not only that, but I painted an illustration using only these supplies so you can see that with some practice you can do some pretty amazing stuff with just the basics and not go bankrupt.

This is a close up of two adorable fish from my newest painting called The Mermaid.

This is a close up of two adorable fish from my newest painting called The Mermaid.


(Please keep in mind I bought all of these supplies from our local craft store, Michael’s, but you can also buy similar items on Amazon for about the same price or cheaper.)

My Essential Watercolor Supplies List

For the budding watercolorist, these are the very basic supplies I love.

For the budding watercolorist, these are the very basic supplies I love.

WATERCOLOR PAPER:  So these are my essential supplies for first starting in watercolor.  First, your going to need good paper.  Water and paper don’t mix well, so invest in some good paper that is meant to take abuse.  My go to paper is a thick paper provided in the link below.  Look for Cold Pressed Paper that is 140lb/300gsm.  This just means it’s a thicker paper.  It might be a bit pricey but trust me, working with good paper saves you many a headache later down the road.

Watercolor (Thick) Paper

WATERCOLOR PAN PAINT: Pan Paints have been the go to paint set for watercolorist for years.  If your starting out, I would personally buy a “student” brand of watercolor paints.  (Not to be confused with the elementary school kinds).  You don’t have to spend a ton of money on paint, but you definitely want to dabble in pan paints which are marketed to an artist.  I provided a link below for the kind I suggest (By the way, these are my preferences, I’m not getting any money for mentioning these brands).  I actually started out with these paints some 10 years ago and loved them when I was first starting out and still do love them.  I enjoy having a wide variety of colors to play around with when I was first starting out.  However, don’t allow yourself to continue just using the colors directly from the palette.  Watercolor Paint is meant to be mixed with other colors.  This is what makes your paintings interesting.  Train your mind to mix specific colors and also to do color corrections.  This is a skill the separates great artist from good artist.  If you can learn this skill as a beginner you have paved a road for yourself that is very promising.

Basic Watercolor Pan Paint Set

PALETTE WITH WELLS:  This brings us to our next topic, where do you mix your paints?  Well, in a specific palette for watercolors.  These palettes have “wells” or areas that dip down to keep your paints separated while your mixing.   Most beginning artist (if they buy a set of pan paints) don’t invest in a palette.  I was one of those artist.  I typically just mixed on the plastic lid provided on my pan paints.  BIG MISTAKE!  By mixing on a palette my skills with color hues and paint in general exploded.  I was able to see how the paint interacted better and make calculated decisions because I could see the paint better in my palette than on my lid.  So learn from my mistakes and invest in a palette. They aren’t expensive at all.  The one listed below is $3!

Small Well Artist Palette

BRUSHES: Brushes always overwhelmed me.  There were so many different varieties and I never was quite what to buy.  SO I BOUGHT EVERYTHING!  Learn from my mistake, you don’t have to buy every brush out there.  Start off with a basic set of round, flat, and liner brushes.  Don’t worry to much about the names of the brushes.  Just look for a basic watercolor set and all of those are typically included.  You can find some cheap sets with all of these at a general art store.  Once again I listed the set I used below.   As you get more familiar, you may find yourself leaning toward 2 or 3 specially brushes, which is fine.  Remember that different brushes are used for different techniques.  So, experiment with what you feel more comfortable with.  If you want to know more about brushes, I made a video specially about them.  So check it out below.

Brush Set

FIELD SKETCH BOARD:  Basically something to tape down your watercolor paper to.  This is called “stretching” your paper.  Basically, your wanting to keep the paper as flat as possible while you paint on it.  I tend to use one of these to “stretch” my paper.  But you can also use a piece of wood lying around the house if you don’t want to invest in one.  You just want to make sure the surface of your board (or whatever you use) is flat and doesn’t bend when in contact with water.

Sketch Board

MASKING TAPE:  Lastly, you will need something to tape you paper down.  I use regular old masking tape, but have also used painters tape.  So, if you have some lying around the house then you could also use that.

Okay so here is my next list.  I noticed that not very many artists are listing there favorite inking supplies and if you are like me-you love anything with ink!  I just recently got into this new trend (mixing watercolor and ink) about a year ago.  So, I am using all the basic supplies that I will recommending to you.  Here they are…

My Essential Ink Supplies List

The inking process from one of my newest paintings The Mermaid.

The inking process from one of my newest paintings The Mermaid.

HIGGINS INK (ALSO CALLED INDIAN INK):  Higgins ink is the brand, but I really love how easy it is to work with and that it doesn’t butch once it’s dry.  Now, I will caution you, this stuff doesn’t come out.  So, you may want to wear some grungy clothes when you are first experimenting with it.  Also realize that it reacts very similarly to water as paint does.  So if you want slick lines, WAIT FOR THE PAPER TO DRY COMPLETELY.  However, if you want that cool blossoming look you see in videos, then feel free to mix wet paper with ink.  It’s so mesmerizing!  This is a more professional grade of ink, but it’s not that much different from the cheaper variety and I’ve found it works better for me.

Higgins Ink (Also known as Indian Ink)

INK PENS:  These look almost exactly like those old school calligraphy pens.  But the nibs, or tips, of the pens are just a bit different.  I began working with the micron pens and to be honest I do like those but I have found as of recently I prefer these style pens better.  They allow you to more or less “paint” on the lines; where as the micron pens feel more like writing on the paper.  So just something to keep in mind.  I really only use two of the nibs which come in this set, but I still recommend you buy the set.  It basically gives you a wide range to let you figure out what you feel comfortable with.  I really enjoy the largest nib and the smallest,  But you may prefer the more medium nibs.  So experiment and just have fun with it.

Speedball Sketching Pen Set

So that’s all the bare basic supplies I recommend.  As always, these are my preferences.  Art is one of those things that you just have to discover what YOU like.  These are only guidelines of what I have found worked for me.  So, of you find something else that works better for you then FANTASTIC!  You are learning your trade and discovering who you are in the Watercolor World.


Thanks Again and Love You ALL!


Carrie Luc

Finished painting of The Mermaid. By Carrie Luc using only basic watercolor supplies.

Finished painting of The Mermaid. By Carrie Luc using only basic watercolor supplies.


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