Choosing your essential watercolour tools

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The Watercolour artist’s toolbox will consist of a number of items, but is much less expensive to get started in than oils or acrylics. Brushes, watercolours and paper to paint on are essential, and most other equipment can be found lying around the house anyway. 


If you can’t afford a full set of brushes, get a no. 8 red sable watercolour brush. It is a good all-round brush, and will be adequate to learn the basics. As you get more advance, add a 1” flat brush, which is useful for large washes and a no. 4 round brush for adding detail. You should buy the best synthetic brushes that you can afford. Many manufacturers offer starter sets which will contain these brushes, or suitable alternatives.


water 300x199 Choosing your essential watercolour tools

You can choose between cake or tube paints. Cake (also known as moist pan) watercolours usually contain an adequate selection of colours to get you started. Tube sets are also available and usually include a suitable selection of colours to get you started. Tubes are more expensive than cake watercolours, but you can use ‘student’ or ‘academic’ grade paints before upgrading to the more expensive ‘artist’ grade paints.

Your colours should include are range of 8 to 10 bright colours across the range including yellows, reds, blues, greens and browns. Watercolours should contain pure semi-transparent or completely transparent pigments such as those available through As you get more experienced, you’ll be able to add other colours, and work-out what your favourites are. 

Any watercolour block, pad or loose paper can be used to create your masterpiece on. Unlike oils and acrylics, you don’t need to invest in expensive canvases. The thicker the paper is though the better. Heavier paper is less likely to bulge and become misshapen under the dampness of the paint? Any store that sells art or craft supplies, even those for children, will have a pad that you can use in the early stages. Try out different textured paper, and find what you like to paint on.

Other Items

The next thing you’ll need is a palette to mix your paint. Some pan and cake sets come with a built-in palette which may be useable. If not, a dinner plate will suffice, or you can buy cheap plastic palettes with wells. As you get more serious, and start using tube watercolours, you can buy a covered plastic palette which is more convenient and results in less waste.

You’ll also need a jar or two of water to rinse your brushes in and to dilute the paints. If your tap water is overly hard or overly soft, consider using bottled water for the best effect and consistency. You also need a pencil, an eraser, paper towels or tissues, a board to place your paper on, and a pair of large metal clips to hold the sheet in place while you create your masterpiece.

If you’re looking for inspiration check out exhibitions by the Royal Institute of Painters in Watercolours. Apart from upgrading your watercolours to ‘artist’ grade, adding the odd brush or two, and purchasing some archival quality paper, that’s all the equipment you’ll need to become a top watercolour artist. Watercolour painting really is one of the cheapest hobbies available.



Image credits: FreeDigitalPhotos.netposterize


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