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This article is for those who want the best watercolour painting experience but have limited budget.
If you have no problems with budget, then you just buy the best watercolour supplies you can afford. With art supplies, you usually get what you pay for. But that does not mean you can’t find good and affordable supplies. This article will show you which art supplies you should focus your money on.
To paint watercolour, we need paper, paint and brush. The order of importance is also paper, paint and brush.
The best watercolour paper is usually the 100% cotton watercolour paper, and these are usually significantly more expensive than non-cotton cellulose paper.
Not all 100% cotton paper are good because paper has to be treated with sizing before the paper can work well with water, before the paper becomes watercolour paper.
For beginners, it’s alright to start out with cheaper paper. What’s more important is you have to get paper that allows you to practice proper watercolour techniques.
Good watercolour paper will allow you to use wet on wet techniques easily, thereby allow you to create gradations, colour blends easily.
Good watercolour paper should also have proper sizing so that paint and water can remain the the paper surface and blend easily. When paint is on the paper, colours will appear more vibrant compared to paint that’s soaked into the paper.
The paper shown on the right isn’t the best paper because the painted horizontal strokes did not blend nicely and disappear. With some work, you can create smooth colour blends but it’s easier on good quality paper where the water will do the work for you, rather than have you push the paint around with brush.
With lousy watercolour paper, the paint will sink in to the paper and won’t move much. It also affects how vibrancy of the colours, making the colours dull.
Good watercolour paper unfortunately is expensive.
The alternative is to get more affordable paper for practice basic painting techniques, and then get better paper when the paper quality starts to limit your progress. Usually when you’re learning watercolour and you can’t replicate certain techniques, it’s usually down to the paper you use. Paper is the suspect when colours don’t blend well, colours are dull or your work appears patchy.
Watercolour paper recommendation
Below are some watercolour paper recommendations for beginners with limited budget. Whenever possible, I’ve selected those available in jumbo pads AKA with lots of sheets. On average, each sheet is US $0.50 or less, depending on size of course. If that still sounds expensive, note that 100% cotton watercolour paper is usually $1 or more per piece at the same size.
1. Strathmore Visual Journal Watercolour (Blick Art Materials | Jackson’s Art)
This is available as a wire-bound sketchbook. The paper handles watercolour surprisingly well considering it’s not made with cotton. If you want to save money, go with the thinner 200gsm where each piece is US $0.30. Just clip the paper to prevent the paper from buckling too much. This paper is noticeably better than Fabriano Studio and Daler Rowney Aquafine mentioned below.
2. Fabriano Studio (Blick Art Materials | Jackson’s Art)
Fabriano Studio has 200gsm and 300gsm paper option, and thickest pad has 75 sheets. That’s a lot of paper for practice. I kinda like this paper.
3. Daler Rowney Aquafine (Jackson’s Art)
Daler Rowney Aquafine is a brand for watercolour paper and paint from UK and should be easy to find in UK and Europe. Daler Rowney Aquafine Paper is available in jumbo pads with 50 sheets.
Two other brands to consider are Bee Paper and Fluid.
100% cotton watercolour paper
If you have more budget, there’s a huge variety of good quality watercolour paper to choose from, namely from Arches, Fabriano, Saunders, Lanaquarelle and Legion. You can see all the paper I’ve reviewed at https://www.parkablogs.com/tags/watercolour-paper-review
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Personally I prefer Arches, Fabriano Artistico and Lanaquarelle.
Watercolour paint is available in student and artist grade quality. Student grade paint is obviously cheaper and is good for beginners. One area where you can save money is actually with watercolour paint.
The best paint on lousy paper can still make the look colour dull, and make it difficult to use proper watercolour techniques because the paint and water just won’t move on the paper. That’s why paper is more important than paint.
You can just get a few tubes of primary colours of watercolour paint. Some brands to consider are Winsor & Newton Cotman, Schmincke Arkademie, Van Gogh and Jackson’s Art. You can get the first three from Blick Art Materials (US) and Jackson’s Art (UK) from, well, Jackson’s Art
Definitely get watercolour tubes instead of pan because you’ll get more paint.
If you have more budget, consider the better quality paint I recommend at https://www.parkablogs.com/content/best-watercolor-sets-beginners
There are certainly too many types of watercolour brushes to choose from. And there are different types of watercolour brushes made for different purposes.
Generally speaking, a good brush should hold enough water so that you don’t have to reload constantly, and it should produce a sharp point so that you can paint details when required. A good size to start with is a size 6 or 8 which is good for paper sizes A5 or 10 by 7 inches.
Synthetic brushes are usually cheaper than natural hair brushes. You can just start with synthetic round brushes to save money, and get better brushes in the future.
Consider getting brush sets too that have a few brushes at different sizes.
Regardless of which brush you get, make sure to get one that’s big enough and is sharp.
If you need specific recommendations, do let me know in the comments section below, and be sure to let me know the type of work you want to create.
And check out all the art product reviews I’ve written at https://www.parkablogs.com/content/list-of-art-products-reviewed