Basic supplies to get started with watercolor

To get started with watercolor, you will need some basic supplies. I recommend buying professional grade supplies than the entry level student grade supplies because the quality of your material will significantly influence your results and confidence.



There are many types of watercolor paper and it comes in different sizes, weights and different surface textures.

The weight is directly reflecting the thickness of the paper. It is measured in grams per square metre (gsm) or pound per ream (lb). The higher the number, the thicker the paper. Common weight are 190gsm (90lb), 300gsm (140lb), and 638gsm (300lb).

190 gsm paper is thin and it is more for students or beginners.

300 gsm paper is most commonly used among serious painter including professional artists.

636 gsm paper is much thicker like cardboard.

The surface of the watercolor paper has different textures including rough, medium rough (also known as cold press) and smooth (hot press). Different surface texture will give you very different result so you should try them out and determine which give you the desired effect. Rough watercolor paper will add texture to your washes. When you apply a lot of paint, the paint will settle in the little wells of the paper and if you apply dry brushes, it will give you the roughness of the surface which is very nice for rough wall. The hot press paper with its very smooth surface, tends to give you brighter, more vivid color.

Rough          Cold press     Hot press


You can also use the back side of your paper if the different surface is what you like.


Normally watercolor pigment comes in two forms: pan or tube. Pans are more convenient but it is more difficult to use for large wash as it is more difficult to gather enough paint. With tubes you can squeeze as much as little pigment as you like.

Pigment is one of the important factor that affecting your final painting. There are some student grade pigments which are much cheaper. However, the color of these watercolor pigment usually are less saturated you will need to apply a lot of pigment to achieve the result. Student grade watercolor paint also usually will fade over time. It is recommended to go for professional grade watercolor paint if you are serious about watercolor painting.


Watercolor brushes come in different shapes and sizes. They are made by different materials. Some use natural hair like sable and squirrel, some use synthetic. The best and most expensive ones are the sable brushes which have good spring and can absorb a lot of water.

You only need a few brushes to get started. A small round brush either number 4, 5 or 6 for general use, a medium fat brush (1/2 inch) for square shape, a large big fat (1-2 inch) or round brush (#8 or 10) for washes will be sufficient. If you like paint detailed work, a smaller round brush will be useful.

Sable or squirrel brushes are good and expensive. They hold a lot of water and give a very good sharp point. However, synthetic brushes are getting better nowadays and are much more affordable.


They come in many different sizes and shapes. To get started, you can buy some inexpensive 12 or more welled plastic palettes with a few large mixing areas like the one below.



Find anything from a glass, or jar, or small bucket to hold clean water (tap water is fine). You could also buy container designed specifically for watercolor that has more than one compartments and has holes to hold your brushes.

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