What Supplies Do I Need for Modern Watercolor?

The Starting of a Grand Adventure………………

Perhaps you’ve heard the quote – “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” No matter how cliche it sounds – the statement is true.   Starting a grand adventure begins with the smallest of actions.   My problem is I usually try to take on too much too fast and soon find myself crashing from either lack of knowledge, creativity, or just pure exhaustion trying to figure out what’s rightsize up and upside down.    

This is why before you start a journey – you first need to know what to pack. Or in our case – what supplies you really need to start painting with watercolor. Think of it similar to packing for a vacation – you have the essentials and then what I like to call “add ons.” Just like packing for a trip – modern watercolor supplies are the same. There are some supplies you can’t live without – while others just make life easier or more fun. So below are what I consider the essentials list for Modern Watercolor and the “Add Ons.” Enjoy!

The Essentials

Watercolor Paper

Watercolor Paper is in my opinion the most important supply you will purchase. Watercolor paper can either make or break you when it comes to watercolor. Hence choosing a paper that is 100% cotton at a decent weight of 140lb is key. Paper texture would be your next important choice. If you are an absolute beginner – make sure to choose a Cold Press Paper or a Hot Press Paper that can take some abuse.

My Recommendations for Student Grade Papers

My Recommendations for Artist Grade Papers

Watercolor Palettes + Mixing Trays

Since you will be working with both watercolor paint in addition to inks – make sure to not only pick up a watercolor palette – but also a nice smooth white plate for mixing. The reason for this is because inks (especially India Ink) are permanent and thus can ruin your palette. So best to keep these separate. Plus – mixing trays (or plates) are great for mixing pools of watercolor for larger washes.

My Recommendations

Watercolor Brushes

There is a wide assortment of brushes available to the modern watercolorist – but for 90% of the time, you will be using a good set of Round brushes and flat wash brushes. I recommend purchasing a good set of round brushes in sizes 0, 1, 3, 4, 6, 8, 10, and 12. Plus one good flat wash brush size 1in.

My Recommendations

PURCHASE 1st: Round Brush Set

PURCHASE 2nd: Detail Brushes

PURCHASE 3rd: Flat Brushes

Masking Tape + Art Tote Board

Next, you are going to need something to “stretch” or hold your paper flat while painting. This could be an art tote board for a larger painting, a cut sheet of lumber for extreme watery mixtures, or a wooden clipboard for smaller paintings. Just make sure to secure the paper down flat with masking take to keep it from buckling while you paint.

My Recommendations

Mini Clipboard – Hardboard Pack of 3 for Small Paintings

Artist Sketch Tote Board

Masking Tape

Watercolor Paint

Lastly – you will be needing watercolor paint. As you’ve probably already seen – there are thousands of colors available. But technically you only need twelve as a starting place. These twelve fit perfectly into the color wheel and the colors I recommend include…

The “Add Ons”

Now that our essentials are covered – let’s look at our “add ons.” These (as the name implies) can be added or removed based on your preference and personal art style. The list below contains the supplies I use for my style of modern watercolor in nearly every painting or drawing I do.

Ink + Pens

I love adding ink elements to my paintings – hence why I own so many different types and brands. My favorite include Sakura Micron pens in size 005, Ph. Martin’s Matte Black Ink, And Ph. Martin’s Bombay Line of colored India Ink. I’ve recently even started working with a dip pen for even finer line work in my paintings.

My Recommendations

Dr. Ph. Martin’s Bombay India Ink – Favorite Colors: Magenta, Bright Red, Tangerine, Orange, Golden Yellow, Yellow, Grass Green, Green, Aqua, Teal, Violet, Red Violet from set 1 and set 2

Dr. Ph. Martin’s Black Star India Ink Black, Matte

Sakura Pigma Micron Ink Pen, Black, size 005

Speedball Sketching Dip Pen Set – 2 Penholders w/ 6 Pen Tips

Masking Fluid

Masking Fluid is a must for me when it comes to my add on’s. I love using bold colors but preserving my white paper with this supply. I use Incredible Frisket – Liquid Masking Fluid as my brand of choice.

Grafix 4-1/2-Ounce Incredible White Mask Liquid Frisket

Acrylic Paint

Turner Colour Works Acryl Gouache Artist Acrylic Paint – Titanium White


I hope you found this list informative and enjoy the supplies I listed. Remember you can always subtract or add supplies when it comes to modern watercolor. So really the decision is all up to you! If you would like to learn more about watercolor or specifically more about watercolor supplies. I have a whole 2 hour + beginners watercolor course going into even more detail on these supplies as well as others. So make sure to check that out below :)

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?

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