The Best Watercolour Paper, Paints, and Brushes
When I first started painting with watercolours, I was using whatever supplies I had collected over the years. In the beginning, that worked well, but as I continued to explore the medium, I started investing in better supplies to build an art kit that supported my needs and style. After finding the right supplies, I realized how much your tools play a role in bringing your vision to life: affecting the types of washes you're able to achieve, the texture of your piece, and the level of detail in your painting. You can absolutely create with anything, but the right supplies can make that so much easier and more achievable.
Whether you are just dipping your toes into watercolour painting or you’re hoping to invest in better supplies, these are my favourite watercolour papers, paints, and brushes to help you on your journey!
Your paper is going to make one of the biggest differences in the look and feel of your painting. If you have ever tried using watercolour paints on regular sketchbook paper, you know what I'm talking about! Watercolour paper is specifically designed to prevent warping and maintain the vibrancy of your pigments. When you’re looking for a watercolour paper, you want to look for three things:
1. Cold press: This gives the paper a beautifully textured surface that is more absorbent, which is important when you’re working with watercolours to avoid warping and maintain vibrancy.
2. 100% cotton: This means that the paper can handle more water and layers without warping.
3. Acid-free: This will ensure your paper doesn’t age over time, which is especially important if you’re going to be selling your original art.
Depending on the look I’m going for, I have two favourite watercolour papers:
This paper came so highly recommended to me and for good reason! As my most used watercolour paper for all types of projects from highly detailed architectural pieces to landscapes with large washes, I love how well it both highlights small details and provides a great surface for even and vibrant washes.
When I am going for a more elevated look, I love using Indigo Art Papers. These eco-friendly papers are handmade using cotton rags, recycled water, and no harmful chemicals, not only making them more sustainable but also giving them a luxurious texture and weight with a natural deckled edge that feels thoughtful and artistic.
For some projects with a lot of detail, I find this paper more difficult to use because of that heavy texture, but for floral pieces and landscapes, I love how much this paper adds to the overall painting.
For watercolour paints, I use Winsor and Newton’s Cotman watercolours. Their colour payoff is unmatched and I love how they dry with more vibrancy and are super easy to blend using different techniques. I use their 24 half pan set and it contains more than enough colours for me to mix for the types of paintings I create, but they have multiple sets with fewer and more colours, including travel sets!
If you’re looking for paint that is more vibrant or you tend to create paintings with large washes of colour, I would recommend investing in a tube set rather than a pan. These can be a little bit harder to use, but they have some benefits over watercolour pans depending on what you’re going to paint. Tubes make it easier to mix a larger quantity of colour, which is great if you’re painting larger washes like in a landscape or background. In addition, you can create a more saturated colour!
On my personal wish list are handmade, plant-based paint pigments. I am currently saving up for paintstones from Beam Paints and small batch watercolours from The Stoneground Paint Co. I highly recommend investing in these companies if they are in your budget!
In my experience, I reach for four types of brushes the most: a larger tapered-edge round brush, a medium-sized tapered-edge round brush, a detail brush, and a square brush (optional depending on what you want to paint — I find this essential for architectural pieces but wouldn’t necessarily reach for it if I were painting a landscape).
For my larger and medium-sized round brushes, I use Princeton Artist Brush Co.’s long round brush in size 8 and their round synthetic kolinsky in size 6. The larger round brush is amazing for both larger washes like skies and grasses, while its tapered tip allows me to stipple in paint to create shading and different washes. I reach for the size 6 round brush when I’m painting florals, where I still need to cover a larger surface area but need a smaller brush to create a few finer details.
2. ArtistsLoft™ Vienna Brushes
For detail brushes, I use Artist’s Loft™’s spotter brush for the veining on flowers and tiny flowers in landscapes or small details in architectural pieces. I reach for this brush more than I thought I would, so I would definitely say that a small detail brush is essential!
I also like to have a square tip brush in my kit because I paint a lot of buildings with bricks and sharp angles, so this allows me to paint in those details and harsher lines with more accuracy. I have the Artist’s Loft™ vienna shader brush in size 0 for this reason!
Whether you want to try watercolours and don’t know what supplies you need to get started or you’re well into your watercolour journey and are hoping to elevate your kit, these paints, papers, and brushes are beginner-friendly and tried and true to create paintings that give you the look and feel you envision no matter what your skill level. Happy painting!