9 Watercolor Supplies Every Beginner Must Own

Watercolor for the absolute beginner can be very daunting – especially when it comes to supplies. There seem to be a million options and even more variations of things to buy. But when it comes down to it – there are really eleven watercolor supplies you absolutely have to own.

And they include…

THE BEGINNERS SUPPLY LIST

#01 – WATERCOLOR PAPER:  

Paper is crucial when learning watercolor. If your paper is made of poor quality – chances are your paintings won't look great. The best type of paper you can purchase is watercolor paper that is 100% Cotton. Believe it or not – this is the key to creating beautiful looking paintings – since the cotton absorbs the paint evenly and thoroughly – like a sponge.

Personally, I like Soft Press and Hot Press Paper over Cold Press Paper. But the texture of your paper is totally up to you.

HERE ARE SOME SUGGESTIONS I LOVE:
#02 – BRUSHES:

Brushes are another watercolor supply that can be super intimidating.  There are hundreds of different types, kinds, and brands of brushes available to you. But you are an absolute newb to this art form – I recommend starting with just four. First, get a good set of round brushes – you will be using these for nearly everything you paint. Second, make sure to pick up a nice flat brush that is about 1in in size. These are great for painting smooth flat washes or laying down lots of color for backgrounds.

HERE ARE SOME SUGGESTIONS I LOVE:
#03 – PALETTE:

 Palettes are the next big supply on our list. We are going to need a way to store our paints. I personally love to use a porcelain palette – since they allow your paints to pool beautifully and keep your paints wetting for longer. But these can be quite pricey – so if you can't afford it just pick up a handy foldable travel palette.

HERE ARE SOME SUGGESTIONS I LOVE:
#04 – MIXING TRAY:

The next supply you might find surprising is what I refer to as a mixing tray. Since I consider myself a Mixed Media Watercolorist or Modern Watercolorist -I like to use inks and other supplies that I don't want to contaminate my palette. Instead, I mix all my mixed media art supplies on a small White Porcelain Plate.   You can pick these up at thrift stores or kitchen supply stores. They don't have to be fancy – just white with a smooth surface.  

#05 – WOODEN BOARD:

Next, you are going to need something to stretch your paper on – or basically tape it down flat while you paint.  I personally like to use Birch Wood sheets from my local hardware store and cut them down into small sections for use. But you can also purchase a small art tote board and do practically the same thing.

HERE ARE SOME SUGGESTIONS I LOVE:
#06 – MASKING TAPE:

Yep, you will definitely need masking tape! Especially if you plan on painting large or watery backgrounds.

HERE ARE SOME SUGGESTIONS I LOVE:
#07 – PENCILS:  

I have to admit -for years I’ve used my basic #2 mechanical pencils from school – you know those cheap one's you can get just about anywhere. But for those of you wanting to level up your sketch skills – I recommend the Pentel GraphGear 500 Automatic Drafting Pencil Black (PG525A).  It’s a mouthful – but I love it.   It has a really hard lead and a small tip – making it easy to create fine intricate and light lights – which is great for allowing your watercolors to shine through.

#08 – PAINT:

Watercolor paint of course is a must – but where to start? Well, it's really based on personal preference – some people like pan paints, others watercolor concentrates, and others like tube paints. Personally, I prefer using tube paints mixed with watercolor concentrates – but if you are an absolute newb I recommend starting with tube paints. In my opinion it's the easiest to start with and break down into water to paint ratios (or values of your paints). As for colors – I recommend sticking with the primaries – magenta, yellow, and blue and then adding on your secondary colors – orange, green, pinkish/purple.

HERE ARE SOME SUGGESTIONS TO START WITH:
#09 – WATER:

And finally you will need water. I recommend using two containers – one for dirty water to wash your brushes out with and one for clean water to apply to your paint and the page.

AND THAT'S IT!

I hope you enjoyed this post and it helps give you a jumping off point to start painting.

About Author

Hi there! My name is Carrie and I'm a Watercolor Misfit! What's a Watercolor Misfit? Well, anyone who is willing to try new things and not afraid to get their hands covered in paint! So what do you say, are you a Misfit-ian?

11 Comments

  • Jan
    May 4, 2018 at 12:19 am

    Thank you so much! I love knowing what supplies my favorite artists find works best. It definitely helps since there are so many different brands and overall supplies to purchase. The additional links in your article are missing though and I would love to read more about porcelain over plastic as well as the insight on tracing paper.

    Reply
  • Laura
    June 27, 2018 at 6:56 pm

    What a nice list. I love your way of making the complicated not so complicated. I think I’m going to have to hunt down that pencil. I’m hoping it comes in a variety of harder leads as I tend to be too heavy handed with softer leads and yeah, in my ham fist the standard HB can be too soft and leads me down the road of lines that are hard to erase.

    Reply
  • April
    June 27, 2018 at 9:18 pm

    Hi there..
    I wanted to say I love your work. Not only do I enjoy watercolor but I quilt too. Buying fabric is one of the most enjoyable parts of quilting, and I think your art work would make beautiful fabrics. Art Gallery fabrics is one of my favorites. They have a website with look books for inspiration. Moda is another. If you go to spoon flower.com you can see what your artwork looks like on fabrics and people can purchase your artwork printed on fabric from You on spoon flower. I can see you as one of the designers for Moda..or art Gallery fabrics… just a thought! God Bless!

    Reply
  • Sarah Jarmon
    June 27, 2018 at 9:42 pm

    Total newbie here! So yes, more info on the tracing paper, what’s it for?
    Side note, my dad was in at school eons ago.. like 50 years ago.. and when I mentioned I was enjoying watercolors he escaped to his workshop and presented me his WATERCOLOR SET. kid you not, 20+ tubes of paint (that still work!), Probably 15 brushes (mostly Grumbacher!), An enameled porcelain moving tray, paper books, and some pieces he had done in school. I ’bout died. I figured someone here would understand my excitement!

    Reply
    • Darlene
      September 6, 2018 at 6:23 pm

      Hi Sarah,

      When I first showed an interest in painting in my late teens my mother presented me with her old kit of oils . Probably 40 years old! I didn’t try to use it til 20 years later because I was into acrylics. But when I did everything still worked. More or less. ? I still really never got into oils. Now I’m taking an interest in watercolor, and found thisnlist to be very valuable, indeed! Happy painting!

      Reply
  • Kristine
    June 27, 2018 at 9:43 pm

    I just LOVE those Graph Gear pencils! I recently got an new one that is from the 1000 series. The “pocket” clip is an alligator clip that will retract the fine metal tip up inside the barrel. Very cool.

    Reply
  • Joan
    June 29, 2018 at 12:28 am

    Hi from Ontario, Canada..Enjoy watching your video’s . They are fun and full of great ideas. Thanks for all you do.

    Reply
  • inky
    July 2, 2018 at 9:29 am

    thank-you!!! so much for all you have taught, sooooo much to learn!
    thank-you inky

    Reply
  • Danielle
    July 6, 2018 at 7:58 pm

    Hello from southern Oregon (Trail, OR)

    Reply
  • Cathy Astuto
    July 10, 2018 at 10:19 pm

    Hi Carrie,
    I just moved to a beautiful part of the Hudson Valley. I enrolled in your class about three moths ago to learn how to paint the fox. I now will finally stop unpacking boxes and paint! I so enjoy your vids on YT. I love your style drawing animals and your art is beautiful.

    Reply
  • Sara
    May 20, 2020 at 12:58 am

    This sounds all amazing! But, I just wanted to know on what would you use the tracing paper for.

    Reply

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