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Similar to ink, liquid watercolor is a concentrated dye- or pigment-based solution providing brilliant, transparent color that can be diluted with water to achieve varying hues. Valued for their color strength and fluidity, liquid watercolors are a versatile material used in much the same way as tube and pan watercolors for creating paintings and washes. Some solutions are also suitable for use in calligraphy, fountain pens, and airbrushes. A popular choice for use in classrooms, student-grade liquid watercolor can be applied using a wide range of tools to develop fine-motor skills; it can also be used to dye a variety of materials, making for fun kids’ craft projects and sensory play. Note, however, that a majority of liquid watercolors are dye-based solutions that are not light safe, so be sure to use an archival watercolor if you don’t want your image to fade over time. Our picks below will help you find the right product for your project.
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Royal Talens Ecoline Liquid Watercolor with Dropper
Ecoline watercolor, made from dye and gum arabic, makes bright and crisp tones on the page. Appreciated by watercolorists and calligraphers alike, the smooth-flowing liquid has a uniform consistency that blends beautifully. Although it is fast drying, artists will have some success rewetting the paint and moving it around, which is unusual in this medium. Also notable: these liquid watercolors are available in a vast selection of 60 colors, which include an especially good selection of gray tones. They are available in 30 milliliter bottles that include a dropper and have a wide opening to allow you to work directly from the bottle if you wish.
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Blick Liquid Watercolor
Blick’s dye-based liquid watercolor paints are highly concentrated and quite viscous. This makes them harder to use straight from the bottle, but they last a very long time and are among the most affordable options available. The U.S.-made paints come in 30 colors including fluorescent and metallic shades. Choose from two sizes—the 8-ounce jar packs the most bang for your buck, while the 4-ounce version makes it easy to try new shades.
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Dr. Ph. Martin’s Hydrus Fine Art Watercolor
An issue with most liquid watercolors is that they are not lightfast, and therefore not appropriate for professional work. Dr. Ph. Martin’s liquid watercolors are an exception; they are made from high-grade pigments, as traditional watercolors are, and therefore are indeed lightfast. Note that the highly saturated colors do not lift well, if that is an essential part of your process. Available in 36 colors, these paints are packaged in 30-milliliter glass bottles with a helpful pipette for measurement and application.
Sax Liquid Watercolor Set, 8 Colors
For classrooms, Sax’s sizable set is a sure bet. It includes eight consistent, vibrant colors (blue-green, red-violet, blue-violet, fuchsia, coral, pink, yellow-orange, and yellow-green) that are all AP certified as nontoxic. Sax is honest about how washable these colors are: They will come off clothes and hands, but it may take a few washes. Sold in 8-ounce bottles, these paints will last for project after project.
Buy: Sax Liquid Watercolor Set, 8 Colors $39.99
Sargent Art Watercolor Magic Set, 6 Colors
Sargent Art also makes a respectable student-grade option. The AP-certified nontoxic paints in this set come in six colors: blue, yellow, red, green, orange, and purple. The same line also has groupings with glitter, metallic, and fluorescent finishes that are a fun spin on traditional hues. Even when diluted with water, the colors are vivid and luminous. Parents can rest easy knowing that the eight-ounce bottles will last for quite some time and that the paints wash out of most fabrics with ease.
Buy: Sargent Art Watercolor Magic Set $27.93