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  • Sara

Start Better


It's overwhelming when you walk into the art store and visit the painting aisle. SO many brushes, paints, and papers to choose from. Which ones do you go with?! Why is everything so expensive?! This is just a hobby, it shouldn't be this confusing!!

Believe it or not, it's not you, it's the materials you use when learning watercolor.

🔔 Important Fact: When painting in watercolor you're using an earth element. Water. Most pigments are also created using ground up minerals from the earth.


Most of the "cheaper" supplies that lure you as a beginner are made with synthetic elements. Mixing something natural with something synthetic rarely gives great results. Add your own apprehensiveness and well, the painting looks like mud and you give up. But hey, little money wasted right?

To make good watercolors it takes natural materials. Just like good food takes fresh ingredients.
Watercolor painting mermaids at Mary Rose's shop
Watercolor set up at La Poste, Perry Iowa

I'm going to give you my list of the bare bone supplies needed to start off successful with watercolor. If you're willing to hang in there with me, and trust me, you WILL find your mark and method within this medium!


Buy the best materials you can afford & choose quality over quantity

Most academic and student grade materials are full of fillers such as glues and plastics which hold back the true nature of the medium.

  • This applies to most art supplies.

  • Working with academic grade materials will inevitably frustrate you and make you think you can’t paint in watercolor.


It all starts with the paper!

Arches, Blick, and Winsor Newton watercolor blocks

Student grade vs Artist grade paper

  • Student grade paper is made:

  • wood pulp or a combo of wood and cotton.

  • Not acid free or archival, generally

  • Can not take the abuse most beginners have on paper

  • Best student grade paper

  • Fluid 100

  • Artist grade paper is made with:

  • 100% cotton

  • Acid free

  • Cotton has long fibers to help absorb water and hold together

  • Best artist grade paper

  • Arches, Windsor Newton, Blick Premier

Pad vs. Block vs. Sheet

  • Pad

  • Glued on one side, typically student grade

  • Will need to peel off, baptized and taped down to board then left to dry before painting

  • Block

  • Glued on 2 or more sides

  • Sheet doesn’t need to be removed to be painted on

  • Transportable

  • When done you have a folder for current WIPs

  • Loose Sheet

  • Challenging to transport

  • Must cut down to a more obtainable size for exercises

  • Will need to be sized - baptized and taped down to board then left to dry before painting

Hot Press vs. Cold Press

  • Hot Press

  • Smooth surface

  • Very thirsty paper

  • Tight fibers

  • Great blooms

  • Cold Press

  • Textured surface

  • Holds water longer

  • Looser fibers than hot press

  • Can take a lot of water and abuse

We will use cold pressed paper to start


On to the paints!

Watercolor tubes by Daniel Smith, Winsor Newton, and QoR

Student grade vs Arti