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Introduction to Watercolor Painting Supplies For Beginners

A palette of watercolours and a brush.

Image via Wikipedia

Watercolor is probably the most convenient of all the painting mediums. All you really need to get started is a box of paint, a few brushes, water and some paper. There are no toxic solvents or mediums to be concerned about and your brushes can be cleaned with a little soap and water.

This convenience makes watercolor one of the most economical painting mediums as well. This article will provide an introduction to the more popular supplies that a beginner should consider investing in.


Watercolor paint is made by mixing powdered pigments along with a water soluble binding medium. In the beginning you will do fine by using a cheaper brand of paint, but you will definitely enjoy a much better painting experience if you use artist quality paints.

Artist quality paints use more high quality pigment and are noticeably richer and more vibrant. After you become more comfortable working with watercolors, you should then consider upgrading to artist quality paint. Paint is available in both pan and tube form. The main difference between the tube and pan paints is that the tubes have more glycerine and they tend to be more water soluble.


There are generally two types of brushes that are available to artists: your soft hair brushes like natural sable and squirrel hair and your hard hair bristle brushes. Soft hair brushes are the most popular choice amongst artists and highly recommended. Bristle brushes are sometimes used with techniques that require you to scrub the paint into your paper or other support.

Among the soft brushes used by artists, sable is the most popular. These soft hair brushes are resilient and effective at holding a lot of paint. Because of the high quality of these brushes, they also come with a high price tag. This of course leads artists to seek a cheaper alternative.

This cheaper alternative comes in the form of synthetic soft hair brushes. As the name implies, these brushes are not made with animal hairs. They are made from man made materials and consequently, are not of the same quality as the sables. They are still a pretty good alternative and many artists use them.


Now that you are a little more familiar with the types of hair brushes are made with, lets us cover the shapes brushes are available in.

Round Brushes

As the name implies, the hair of these brushes are round and can be shaped into an excellent point. Depending on the size of the round brushes, they can be used for detailed work or for applying washes.

Wash Brushes (or Mop Brushes)

This is a brush that forms a mop like shape and is used primarily for applying washes.

Flat Wash Brush

The flat wash brushes are square and flat in shape and closely resemble the brushes you use for house painting. These brushes are made for applying washes over large areas and can also be used for modifying existing washes.

Large Flat Wash Brushes

The large flat wash brush looks very similar to the regular flat wash brush only its a little larger, usually about 2 inches wide. This brush is also excellent for laying down washes over large areas.


Watercolor paper comes in a variety of different sizes, weights and textures in order to accommodate the various preferences artist have. Whatever paper you decide to use, it needs to be very strong and have a certain degree of absorbency to prevent breaking and tearing.


Watercolor paper is made to have certain degree of absorbency depending on the amount of sizing used in the manufacturing process. The more sizing used, the less absorbent your paper will be. If you are not happy with the level of absorbency in your paper, you can always purchase your own sizing and apply it yourself.


You should look for papers that are acid free with a neutral PH. This will lessen the darkening of your paper as it ages.

Weight and Surface

Watercolor paper is available in three different surfaces: Hot pressed, cold pressed and rough. Hot pressed paper has a smooth surface, cold pressed paper has a semi-rough surface and rough paper has, you guessed it, a rough surface. The weight of the paper refers to the weight of a ream (480 sheets) of paper.?

Ralph Serpe is webmaster and founder of two very popular websites for artists. Visit the links below for more free lessons and tips: Creative Spotlite – Click here for more free watercolor instruction & techniques. The Art Instruction Blog – Follow this link for more free watercolor lessons, tips & demonstrations.
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