Watercolor Class

Watercolor Tools

Just Exploring
The Next Level

You're Getting Serious

Additional Reading

It would be nice to say buy this and get that, and your watercolor tool needs will be covered. The reality is that your skills will change; your target audience will change; and sometimes you'll just want to experiment.

With that attitude in mind, here are some of the options.

Just Exploring

When you're starting out, the biggest challenge is to capture striking images before you forget them. It's difficult to predict when opportunity will arise.

Portability is critical.

Key items:

-- Sketch pad. A nice size is 7" by 10". The paper should be index stock weight. Most stationary stores and office discounters carry these books.

-- Pencils. Number 2 pencils will work.

-- Paint. A beginner's palette includes the basic colors and is portable.

-- Brushes. A beginner's set of brushes includes a fine, medium, and broad brush.

In a fix, any paper and pencil will do.


Anne said, "If a beginner doesn't get a couple of sable brushes, they will hate watercolor and never come back."

Linda said, "I think that everyone should start out with low end equipment. It's cheaper, and when you step up to the next product level, the tools seem luxurious. I love my sable brushes because I used the synthetic ones before."

Hmm... Opinions differ on equipment. Sable brushes do hold paint and water better than others.

The Next Level

As you develop your talents, it's natural to upgrade your supplies.

-- Paper. Watercolor paper varies widely. Some sheets absorb color like crazy; others seem waterproof. Sample packets of paper let you experiment. Art supply stores should stock these.

-- Pencils. Softer, #1, pencils create more striking images and score the paper less. Automatic pencils with Pentel 9mm, 2B lead produce very nice lines. (Those trained in professional drafting environments swear by the harder leads even though they are hard to see and cut up the paper. Whatever works best for you.)

-- Paint. Pre-mixed tubes of watercolor paint are a joy to use. They are so much better than trying to mix your own from the base pigments. (Purists call me a wimp on this one.)

-- Brushes. Sable brushes really hold paint and water. Get a fine and medium. Pick up a couple of inexpensive 1" brushes for washes and background effects. Be flexible, i.e., try using an old toothbrush for splatter and spray effects.

You're Getting Serious

When you become serious about your art, it's time to use the best every time. In watercolor, less than the optimum has a direct impact on your work. Using a paper, for example, that dulls your colors could be covering a highlight of the painting.

-- Paper. Spend the money. Get rid of all the old paper leftovers. Each time you use less than the ideal paper, you spend your time coping with the paper effects and not your creative vision.

-- Pencils. Soft pencils are still the best for quick sketches.

-- Colored Pencils. When you're moved to the final painting, use colored watercolor pencils for planning and sketching the design. You don't have to clear up the black lines, and they eliminate gray spots in the wrong places.

-- Paint. Experiment with the new colors.

-- Brushes. If you need a new brush, buy it.

-- Images. Get an inexpensive digital camera. Because you don't need to worry about film, you capture more images. Even if you erase most of them, you increase your chance of catching that special scene.

-- Better images. Look into getting a good 35mm camera. You'll want to move your paintings to slides for competitions and as a record after they've sold.

Shopping for watercolor equipment can be a lot of fun. There are always new brushes, the latest colors, and special spray bottles.

Additional Reading

Watercolor by Barron. Ten Speed Press, 2002.
* The Barron's people are incredibility organized. They break out tools by function and personal preference.

| AWSS Main | Next Section | Feedback: Patricia Bason