This is the post I wish I’d been able to read when I first decided to start watercolor but before I’d bought anything. What’s the minimum, yet best, materials to get started?
No affiliate links, just my honest recommendations based on things I’ve tried.
Caveats: These are my best “all around” choices for the newbie who doesn’t want to spend a ton, but doesn’t want to waste money, and hasn’t decided on their style or anything yet. If you already have some supplies on hand, even if they’re not my recommendations, use that! But if you are just starting out and literally have nothing, here are the exact items I would advise my former self to buy.
Brushes: Princeton Heritage Professional Series 4050 Set of 4, and I’d augment this with a round size 6 [~$40 total]. Basically you want a small (<2), a medium (6-8), a large (10-14), and a big wash brush for quickly slapping down water for a wet-on-wet wash. Be sure to learn proper brush care so you don’t destroy them.
Paper: Canson XL Cold Press Watercolor pad [~$13 for 9×12] is the best bang for your buck. If you want an upgrade, get a 100% cotton cold press block from Arches.
Palette: I use an Art Toolkit Pocket Palette [$32], which I like because it’s super-portable and rearrangeable with magnetic wells, but there are a ton of options in all price points.
Total Cost: ~$120. Which I guess sounds like a lot for a starter kit, but this stuff is professional level, will last you a long time and give you fantastic results without needing to upgrade due to quality.
Other Stuff: Most of this you can probably find around your house.
- Two water cups (dirty and clean). Mason jars work well.
- Paper towels or rags for wiping your brushes and mopping up paint.
- A paint mixing surface. An old plate works well.
- Masking tape to hold down your paper (unnecessary if you use a paper block).
- A board (like a clipboard) to tape your paper to. (Again, unnecessary with a block. You can also just use your desk.)
That’s it! That’s the minimum. Now you can get started.