FIRST THINGS FIRST…
Talking about supplies can be a tricky matter (especially if you are beginner just curious about what is needed to venture into watercolor). This is why I want to state very clearly and plainly –
YOU DO NOT NEED EVERY ITEM I WILL BE LISTING BELOW.
I’m going to post a separate article – specifically about the supplies I recommend for beginners. This post is rather just a summary of the supplies I use on a daily basis as a professional artist – which I have collected for over a decade. So if you are curious about what I use and why I use certain supplies then continue reading. However, if you want a brief overview of what a beginner should invest in – this is not that article. (Although, I will be putting together an article on that subject very soon). :D Okay, now that that is out of the way. Let’s jump into this!
Paper is by far my most crucial and essential supply I own. I can say from experience that Arches (and yes I know it’s expensive and can be difficult to find) but Arches is the best watercolor paper I’ve ever painted on. There are two reasons for this…
- WEIGHT: You’ve probably seen a lot of watercolor artist throw this number around (140lb) but what does it actually mean? Well, without getting into to much detail – remember how paper used to be made by hand and then pressed for a specific amount of time before one could actually use it? Same concept – but it’s much more modernized now. Basically, this number refers to the amount of weight for a specified number of papers being pressed at one time. The heavier the weight the thicker and sturdier the paper. Now, there are other brands with this thickness, so why chose Arches when other brands are cheaper. Well, as the saying goes, “you get what you pay for.” Arches paper is so thick with cotton fibers that when I try to fold it you can actually see the fibers starting to tear apart. Since I can visible see these fibers – that means my paper can take A LOT of water and even scrubbing abuse – which tends to happen A LOT if you are learning. Basically this paper is very VERY forgiving.
- TOOTH: What in the world? Paper has teeth? Well, not quite – though it is a funny thought. A paper’s tooth refers to the bumps along the surface of the paper. COLD PRESS means there are A LOT of bumps (think if you are cold you get goosebumps). HOT PRESS means the paper is smooth to the touch with little to no bumps. I’ve used both types of paper and have enjoyed both throughly. But after a year of working with Hot Press, I’m finding myself drawn again to COLD. The reason is because COLD PRESS allows me to achieve textured washes (because of the bumps and absorbency of the paper) that I struggled to achieve with HOT. That being said, if you are thinking about making prints of your artwork – you may want to consider painting on HOT PRESS. It’s smooth appearance is fantastic for taking pictures without the shaded bumps appearing in your photo.
BRISTLE ME THIS
I have a huge assortment of brushes that I’ve used throughout the years range from kids brushes, to craft brushes, to professional watercolor brushes. My first bit of advice I would tell you is never EVER EVER throw away your brushes. I don’t care how ratty and nasty they look! Those brushes are GOLD for texture painting! But I’ll get into that in another article. My favorite brushes that I use on a daily basis are as listed below…
- 4 ROUND BRUSHES: This is by far my favorite type (or shape) of brush to work with. That’s why I own 4 different sizes! I use a size 10, 6, 1, and a 00 (this one can also be called a liner brush). These brushes are (hence their name) round and stubby yet very delicate point. They are great for controlling large washes with odd intricate edges – yet they are also great a line work and details. I own several Winsor and Newton Brushes as well as my new favorite brand Grumbacher. Note these brushes can be super pricey – and I wouldn’t recommend them if you are a beginner. Simply stick with a beginner watercolor set. I used these for years and still use my old worn out brushes for texture painting. :) So you won’t loose your money purchasing cheap brushes.
- FLAT BRUSHES: I own several very large flat brushes (size 12 and 16). I don’t often use these brushes except for when I need to paint large background washes – such as skies or washes with no real edges. These brushes hold A LOT of water and make them perfect for those nice elegant watered down washes. Like I said earlier, I rarely use these types of brushes and thus only own the cheaper student variety of these sets.
- ACRYLIC BRUSHES: What what?!!!! You’re a watercolor artist and your using Acrylic brushes? Yep you heard me right! These brushes aren’t the best to paint if you desire smooth washes or gradients. However, they are awesome for splatter effects and intricate dry brushing textures. I simply buy the cheap variety in the craft store and often allow them to become…well yucky and matted with paint. They only become better with age. :) My current acrylic brushes I’ve had since I was in middle school and love them dearly.
Since I’m classified as a MODERN Watercolorist – I don’t just use one set of paints. Rather, I use a HUGE variety! So, first let’s break down my watercolor supplies…
WINSOR AND NEWTON COTMAN WATERCOLORS
The very first set of paints I will be talking about are Winsor and Newton’s Cotman Watercolors. These are a student grade paint – meaning they are cheaper than most watercolors yet (in my opinion) have great pigment for their price. I’ve been using them for years and love the assortment of colors you can buy as well as achieve from mixing them. The only down side I find in these paints is many can be very opaque – meaning they can leave a film on white or even mix into duller hues due to the amount of filler/binder (or glue) used in these paints. If you are interested in just playing around with more pigmented watercolors these are pretty nice.
The next set I use are Winsor and Newton Professional Watercolors. These paints are awesome for achieving super bright pigmented colors and come in a wide variety of colors to begin with. I love these paints but will say they are fantastic at achieving really nice pastel color palettes – but struggle at mixing super vibrant colors without becoming muted and dull for my overall liking. I’m finding myself starting to veer away from these due to price and the overall look that I am trying to achieve. However, I still love to use these for minor details and rosy pinks and other pastel colors.
The next set of watercolors in my collection are watercolor concentrates – also known as liquid watercolors. This set was the first set of liquid watercolors I ever own and I absolutely love the way the paint and how vibrant they are. The only down side is that these are mainly for illustrating purposes – meaning they fade over time. Thus, after you have finished painting with these you immediately need to make a print and keep the original in a safe place if you want to preserve the colors. However, in my own personal observation, this fading is not drastic and takes place over years of time – (unless you place it in in direct full sun light outside.)
And I saved the best for last! These are by far my favorite watercolors I’ve ever owned! I’m pretty picky about my overall desired look – when it comes to mu illustrations. My criteria of what I like is as follows…
- LIGHT & TRANSPARENT IN APPEARANCE (as if the paper were dyed)
- VIBRANT IN COLOR
- YET ABLE TO ACHIEVE LIGHT WASHES
- EASY TO PAINT INTRICATE LINE WORK (similar to ink)
- MIXES WELL WITH OTHER COLORS WITHOUT MUDDYING
For me, PH. Martin’s Hydrus paints do just that and more. They are easy to paint with and I’m always pleasantly pleased with the overall turnout of the painting.
If you can believe it, I picked this guy up by accident and so glad I did! This white gesso paint is very thick yet easier to paint over compared to actual acrylic white paint. This makes it great for achieving snow splatter paint or correcting mistakes.
I’ve used this brand and Folk Art brand for metallic acrylic paints. I love using acrylic gold paint when I need more opaque golden accents on animals in stars or whatever else my brain decided to paint. :)
AN ASSORTMENT OF INKS
Almost! I promise just one me category after this one :) My next set of supplies are inks. I own three types that I use regularly.
I’m constantly asked what kind of pens I use for inking my drawing and adding the smallest of details. My answer is Sakura Micron 005 Ink Pens. These are the smallest tip pens I have found and work perfectly for adding the smallest touch of black details without worrying about your ink smudging when painting over it.
I don’t use black ink often, but when I do PH. Martin’s Black Star Matte is my go to. Most black inks that I’ve worked with have a slight shine to them. This ink appears and behaves more like watercolor – meaning it has less of a shine and actually looks more like a black watercolor ink dying the paper. The next question you may be asking is how is this different then form watercolor black? Ink and watercolor behave very differently when introduced to water on a page. So it really depends on what look you are going for. Personally, I really like the whimsy and unpredictability of black ink mixing with watercolor – but that is just me.
If you are looking for more of a golden shimmer hue to your illustration Liquitex Ink is by far the best! This ink gives a slight shimmer, or holographic, in texture to your watercolor without overpowering your illustration. I use this to add slight glimmers to snow or other light pastel colors – since it simply coats the color rather than hiding the color under it.
LAST BUT NOT LEAST
We’ve reached the end but there is still a long list of random items that I find crucial for my painting purposes. Let’s start with probably the most basic – and one you probably thought I had forgotten.
Believe it or not, I actually love using a glass plate over a plastic palette. The reason is because I like to paint (always have) with fresh watercolor paint. When using paint directly form the tube or bottle it is at it’s most vibrant. Even though I own several plastic watercolor palettes – I’m usually drawn to the simple white plate.
When I’m painting a landscape, I always tape my watercolor paper down to prevent warping. I use simply masking tape that you can pick up in any craft or hardware store. Nothing truly special about it. :)
These are my trade secret tool for correcting mistakes! I have this bad habit of making things way way way to dark. So these little guys are always close by to blot up my mistake and put me back on the right track. :)
This can get pretty confusing, but liquid frisket and masking fluid are the same thing. :) If you have to save white on your page – this brand is the best I’ve come across.
And finally, the last key supply I own is… drum roll please…… an old towel to clean/dab excess water/paint from my brushes, or even dab up mistakes off my paper. Why do I use a hand towel rather than paper towels. It’s only personal preference – first it’s cheaper and second I feel like it’s easier on my brushes.
And that is a list of the supplies that I use regularly and the reasons why I chose the one’s I did. Hopefully I didn’t bore you or overwhelm you too much. Like I said earlier, if you are starting out in watercolor you DON’T need all of these supplies. I will be putting together a beginner’s key items in the near future. So be on the lookout for that!
Happy Painting and Lots of Love!