My Favorite Products for Watercolor Newbies

If you're brand new to painting with watercolors, first of all- welcome! There is so much to love about watercolors- the unpredictability of the pigments, the magic that happens at the end of your brush, the effects created that no other medium can match. 

When I first started painting, I chose watercolors because I thought they were cheap and easy.

Wrong and wrong.

The fact is, like most things, there is a wide range of price points and often, you get what you pay for. Many of the less expensive products are inferior quality and they can be super frustrating to learn with. Cheap paints can have fillers in them and cheap paper feels like you're painting on plastic.

But as a beginner, I completely understand not wanting to break the bank on a new hobby. So I've compiled a list of affordably priced resources that are good enough quality to use as you learn. There are many Student Grade options out there that perform very well. When you progress to the point that you are painting works to gift or sell, make sure you upgrade to Artist Grade materials.

1. Doodle Hog Watercolor Paint Set  

These are student grade colors with excellent vibrancy and water reactivity. They act very similarly to professional products so there won't be much of a learning curve when you're ready to upgrade. The palette comes with 36 half pans and several travel brushes. It's small enough to pop in your purse and I still use it as a travel palette for plein air or vacation painting.

2. Dugato Watercolor Brushes

Confession: I've ordered way more expensive brushes since this set and I keep coming back to these. They hold a lot of water and the various sizes are great whether you're painting broad washes or tiny details. They may not last as long as some of the more expensive brands but at that price point, who cares?

3. Hake Brush

If you're interested in learning a looser, big brush type of painting, buy a Hake brush! This tool is a centuries old Japanese calligraphy brush and is ridiculously inexpensive. The only drawback is its tendency to shed on your work but hey, even Monets have brush hairs stuck in the oils.

4. Arches Paper

Paper is a hotly debated topic in the watercolor world but the consensus is if you can only spend money on one thing, spend it on paper. Everyone has their favorite and Arches happens to be mine. It is not cheap at all but Lets Make Art consistently has the best deal on it. Other affordable options include Bee Paper and the Strathmore Travel Series .

The important thing is to make sure you're using 100% cotton paper with no cellulose. Cellulose doesn't absorb the paint like cotton does and take it from my experience, trying to learn on cheap paper is a nightmare.

5. Extras...

I like to keep the following on hand:

Washi tape or scotch tape to stretch my paper

Spray bottle filled with water

Mason jars for rinsing brushes

Paper towels

Coarse ground salt for effects

Pencil and eraser

Magic Eraser- I've used these to repair mistakes on paper, clean up spills, wipe splatters off my walls... those things are legit MAGIC.

Inspiring music... I'll share my favorite painting playlists another time!

I hope this little list helps you get started with watercolors! I also highly recommend checking out Sarah Dandelion Cray's courses at Lets Make Art. She sells subscription and individual boxes with everything you need to take one of her classes.

Happy painting, friends!

1 comment

  • Nice site! Cool seeing your recommendations! Looking forward to seeing more or your art.
    ~From a fellow watercolor lady.

    Ali Ballard

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