Watercolor & Acrylic Painting Supply Recommendations
A trip to the art store can often leave you feeling overwhelmed by the number of options. Here are some of my recommendations to get you started with painting. As you practice and experiment with different supplies, you’ll develop your own personal preferences. Here are the tools that I love in my personal art & teaching, with a range in price points to find what works for you! I always recommend heading to your local art store for supplies, but I’ve also included links to shop online.
Nova Color: excellent quality of color vibrancy and durability. I use these for paintings on canvas and murals. They only sell directly from their warehouse, making them much more economical for professional-quality paints.
Liquitex: The Basics line is excellent for learning and affordable too. If you don’t mind spending a little more, the professional grade paints have stronger pigmentation, which means brighter colors! I prefer the soft body paints for a smooth finish, but if you enjoy texture in your art, you might like the heavy body paints. Find them in any art store and online.
Golden: I have never used them personally, but they are popular among artists. Similar to Liquitex.
Blickcrylic: the brand from Dick Blick stores. I purchase their quarts and half gallons for paint nights & paint pouring. The color & consistency is good, and the price is right if you’re going through a lot of paint!
While there is a wide array of pigments to choose from, I generally keep it simple in my practice and stick to a small palette. I encourage you to incorporate new pigments here and there; there are so many luscious ones to choose from! Here is a list of starter pigments:
- Payne’s Gray
- Yellow - Cadmium, primary
- Primary Magenta
- Phthalo Blue
- Ultramarine Blue
- Turquoise/Aqua (only because its one of my favorite colors to use)
- Burnt Umber
- Burnt Sienna
For watercolor painting, I recommend getting a set of professional quality pan paints or tube paints. It’s convenient to have an array of pigments to work with for beautiful effects. Windsor & Newton is a quality paint company. I also love my Sakura travel watercolor set. ZenArt makes some lovely palettes. I have found it really worth investing in the better quality paint. With watercolor, a little bit will last you a long time. The cheaper paints tend to not have the same performance as professional quality ones.
Gouache is a type of watercolor paint that is opaque. I got a small set of Caran d’Ache paints in primary colors & am happy with them.
The brushes I use for my classes are the Blick Wonderwhite brushes. They are great for all mediums, economical, and of nice quality. They are great for learning with and are versatile too. You can use them with both acrylic & watercolor paints. Brush sizing is inconsistent among brands, but here is what I suggest to start with. You really don’t need the whole array of sizes, just a handful for different applications.
- Large flat brush (1 inch, size 24) for filling in areas quickly & doing washes.
- Medium flat brush (1/2in, size 12) for more detail & texture
- Small round brushes for detail (size 6 is my go-to do-everything brush with watercolor. Size 2 or 4 for small details)
There are many brands of brushes to choose from. If you can invest in one tool, it should be the brushes. The quality of your brush will make or break your experience. The cheap flimsy ones make it too difficult to control your paint. Check how well the bristles hold their shape. Do they spring right back when you bend them over? I recommend purchasing your brushes in person so you can see the actual size, test the bristles, and get a feel for them in your hand.
If you want to step up your watercolor game, a good brush will really make a difference. Look for natural hair bristles like Sable. These will hold a lot of water in their body, come to a fine point at the end, and maintain their shape over time. So you’ll have more fun painting & they will last a long time. I have been loving my Blick Masterstroke size 6 round. I literally use it for every part of a painting.
Brush care is also essential for keeping your tools in good condition. After every session, give your brush a good cleaning with a brush cleaner like Pink Soap or Masters Brush Cleaner.
For acrylic painting, I recommend using stretched canvas or canvas board, which are available at any art store and in various sizes. If you are following along with our paint nights on Patreon, 11"x14" is a manageable size. Try 16"x20" if you want to go a little bigger.
Watercolor paper: Look for heavy weight 100% cotton, 140lb paper. The Canson brand has been popular with our group of painters. I also love the Blick Brand, Fabriano, and Fluid. My favorite form of paper to work on is the block variety, where the sheets are bound together and peeled off to get the next sheet. These tend to not buckle as much and don’t get damaged as easily when traveling. You can also buy paper in pad form, as loose sheets and rolls.
So hopefully that helps you get started with some supplies! Once you’re all set up, join us on Patreon for a regular schedule of fun paint nights, art inspiration, and other tutorials!