Are you interesting in watercolor, but not sure how to get started or what materials to buy? I've been there and, believe me, I know that it can be overwhelming. After all, there are tons of different types of supplies and techniques that watercolor artist use.
There are no set in stone rules in what materials to purchase. It is all a matter of the outcome you are going for and your personal preference and style.
This post is the first of a series covering watercolor basics. It will cover basic watercolor supplies and following posts will discuss watercolor techniques. My goal for this series is to provide detailed AND easy to follow information.
Let's get started!
The basic supplies are:
First up, paint!
For watercolor basics, paints are an obvious place to start. Watercolor paints come in different grades and forms.
The grade of paint describes the quality of the paint. Professional grades are more expensive and have more pigment than student grades. Generally professional grades are a better value since the color will go farther than student grade. It's good to experiment and see which you prefer.
Watercolor comes in the form of tubes, pans, or liquid concentrates.
Tube watercolors have a creamy texture making it easy to blend.
Pans are solid and compact. They contain glycerin that makes them semi moist and easy to use. Pans come in full, half and quarter sizes.
Liquid watercolor contains highly concentrated pigment. A small amount goes a long way.
Take note that all brands of watercolor paint are not the same. For example, some indigo blues may have more, or less, blues, black, and purple pigments in different amounts. Even student and professional grade watercolors made by the same company can vary as well.
There are many types of watercolor paper and the type you use determines the way watercolor pigment and how it can handle the amount of water used in a painting.
The fiber used in watercolor paper are:
Cotton - Highest grade and made from 100% cotton
Cellulose - low - to mid-grade
Combination - mixture of wood and cotton
The higher the weight the thicker and stiffer the paper. Watercolor paper generally comes in 90, 140, or 300 pound. The most common being 140 lb.
The fiber and weight of the paper are good to know information, but generally when shopping at a craft store, you'll find student grade paper in 140 lb and have the choice of the type of finish the paper will have. There are three types of watercolor paper finishes:
Hot Press - Smooth and hard, not very absorbent
Cold Press - Semi-smooth, absorbent
Rough - Very rough and absorbent
* I had a hard time remembering the difference between Hot and Cold press paper, so I came up with a trick to help me. When you are COLD you get goose bumps making your skin bumpy/rough. Hence cold press is rough and HOT press is smooth.
There are a bunch of different watercolor brushes out there. The basics of a watercolor brush are:
Natural Hair - Natural hair brushes hold the most water and are soft. The most common types of natural hair brushes are: camel, skunk, ox, goat squirrel and pony hair.
Synthetic - Synthetic brushes don't hold as much water or as soft as natural hair fibers. However, they watercolor holds together with less dissipation. Synthetic fiber brushes also are more firm and spring back into shape.
Sable/Synthetic Blend - A happy medium between the two is a mix. A Synthetic Blend holds adequate water and color, is soft and yet has the spring back and control of a synthetic brush.
The shape of the brush determines the type of stroke or mark it will create. The basic shapes of brushes are:
Round - Very versitile. Stokes can range from thick to thin
Flat - Angular and stiff.
Filbert - Useful for blending edges
Fan - Good for foliage and grass
Other shapes that are not pictured are:
Cat Tongue - filbert brushes with a point
Detail - Short tips brushes for very tight details
Sword/dagger - able to create very wide to very thin stokes
The size of the brush comes into play by the amount of surface area you want to paint. if you have a huge area to paint then you'd want a larger brush. Using a small brush for a larger areas to paint can cause the painting to look "overworked."
The most common sizes artist us are 6,8, and 10 rounds.
For details use smaller brushes.
Brush Handling and Care
hold the brush as an extension of you hand. grasp lower on the handle for more control and details.