Over the years, I’ve painted countless watercolor designs -- florals, architecture, landscapes, sunsets, patterns, wedding designs, food icons, city maps, animals, quotes -- the list could go on and on. It is truly the unexpected joy of Flower and Vine that I get to work with such a huge array of projects, and the variety keeps me both on my toes as well as inspired!
It’s interesting with watercolor painting (and painting in general) that there seems to be a barrier to entry. Understandably, painting has the stigma of expense -- the expense of materials, paint, paper, brushes. One might walk into an art store, determined to upgrade from their crayola 12 circle watercolor block, only to feel overwhelmed by the $25 per tube section and paper that'll cost you in the double digits per page. While I do believe in high quality materials, I also think that there is a great range of affordable materials that work great for most projects. As my practice of painting has grown, I’ve been able to hone in on which materials are my favorites, and have found out the hard way those materials that are less than satisfactory. I hope these suggestions help as you build your watercolor supply collection!
MY GO TO MATERIALS FOR WATERCOLOR PAINTING
1. Winsor & Newton Watercolor Block. This is the staple tool for my business, and I can say that without this watercolor painting palette 95% of the products for F&V would not have been painted! This is a high quality brand, great for beginners or “experts”. The basic pallet encourages you to create your own variety of colors -- to mix either on the top section of the pan or use a separate palette to mix the colors. Here is an option similar to the set that I use, with 12 color blocks. This is my top recommendation.
If you’d prefer to have more of a variety of pre-mixed colors, they also offer this larger option -- more expensive, but will give you a very comprehensive selection to work from. Winsor & Newton Watercolor Block with 45 Paints
2. Reeves Watercolor Tubes. In addition to the watercolor block mentioned above, I’ve been using the same set of 20 Reeves Watercolor Tubes for years. I use these occasionally to add a dot of color on the main watercolor pan set (from above), or assemble additional colors and hues in a palette. I’ve tried several different brands of tubes of paint, and unless you’d like to spend an arm and a leg on separate tubes for each color, this is the only brand i’d recommend for a bulk set of watercolor tubes. **Really**. I actually took back a set of tubes once, because the paint completely dried on my palette and slid off the side like jelly.
There are tons of brands of paper, and my general mindset is to aim for the middle of the line with papers. Occasionally, it might be fun to use one of the expensive pads, but I do not see the need to worry too much about an overly priced watercolor pad and have yet to see a noticeable difference in the results of my artwork. With that said, I also do not recommend aiming too low on the spectrum, as too poor of quality will result in paper that folds on the edges or bubbles up. Note** because you’re working with WATER, the paper will naturally warp somewhat, but the goal is to find paper that still maintains its integrity as much as possible (while still staying affordable of course). Here are my recommendations.
1. Strathmore Watercolor Block. One thing that I suggest looking for is a “BLOCK”, meaning that it’s glued on at least 2 sides (sometimes on all 4) so that when water is added, the paper has time to dry and not warp before it is separated from the other sheets. This is my favorite paper, one that is reasonably priced but also holds a high quality. Sometimes this can be difficult to separate the papers from one another, so you may need to use a sharp edge or a kitchen knife to wedge the edge between the papers. Once you buy this, you’ll know what I mean. Not complicated, just don’t be surprised if it takes a bit of effort to separate the pages. This is because it’s serving the purpose of keeping the pages taut until you’re ready to take the paper off the block.
2. Fluid Watercolor Block. This is also block of paper, meaning that it’s glued on 2 sides so that when water is added, the paper has time to dry and not warp before it is separated from the other sheets. This is my second favorite paper, and is easier to separate one sheet from the other. This is because the pages are only glued on two sides. Hence, you may experience a tiny bit of bubbling/warping, but the painting will still end up great.
Some use ink with their watercolor designs, some don’t. I initially stumbled into the practice of using ink while filling up a sketch book of designs -- something about the crispness of black ink really resonates with me. If you are adding ink, you MUST make sure that the ink is waterproof, otherwise the second your wet paint brush hits the ink lines, black smudges will permanently be a part of the design…
1. Micron Black Pens. The sizes of these range, but typically I use .005, .01, or .02 sizes. Here’s a great sample pack. These will last you for a long time, so despite the cost this is a great investment.
2. Sharpie Fine Point Pens. A cheaper solution, I find they work GREAT, still biased towards the Micron Pens, but these get the job done too. Make sure you’re using the sharpie PENS, not just the fine point markers.
Good luck as you paint! The most important thing is to enjoy the process, be creative, and have fun!