Supplies Guide

This is a roundup of the watercolor supplies I currently recommend. I am not a brand ambassador for any brand, do not use affiliate links, and have generally avoided linking to specific products (unless they’re otherwise very hard to find).


Watercolor Paint


My favorite artist-grade watercolor paint brands, in order of preference:

  • Da Vinci (DV)
  • Holbein (HO)
  • Winsor & Newton (WN)
  • Daniel Smith (DS)
  • Mission Gold (MI)
  • Schmincke Horadam (SH)

See also:


What specific colors you need is so subjective, and my personal faves are always changing, but here’s the basic formula I use when building a watercolor palette (roughly in order of importance):

  1. Dark blue or gray
  2. Yellow
  3. Magenta
  4. Cyan
  5. Earth orange
  6. Gold, yellow-orange, or earth yellow
  7. Violet-blue or or violet
  8. Red or orange
  9. Green or turquoise
  10. Earth tones that match your natural environment

See also:

Some specific watercolor palettes I’ve built:

Gouache Paint


My favorite gouache brands, roughly in order of preference:

  • Holbein Artist’s Gouache
  • M. Graham Gouache
  • Winsor & Newton Designers’ Gouache
  • Schmincke Horadam Gouache

One thing to note is that Holbein is the thickest/creamiest, and M. Graham tend to be more on the thin/watery side, and WN and SH somewhere in the middle, which influences which colors I choose from which brands. For coverage colors where maximum opacity is desired, Holbein is best; for dark or highly pigmented mixing colors, M. Graham works well.

See also:


These are my most-used gouache colors:

  • Titanium White
  • Ultramarine Blue
  • Any dark color (e.g. Payne’s Gray, Lamp Black, Perylene Black)
  • Primary Yellow
  • Primary Magenta
  • Primary Cyan
  • Burnt Sienna (WN is my favorite)
  • Yellow Ochre
  • Warm yellow e.g. HO Marigold
  • Scarlet e.g. SH Vermilion Hue

See Also:


Watercolor Paper

At home, I prefer to use loose paper taped to a board or clipboard, so I can have several going at once. I’ve determined that the most pleasant and cost-effective brands & format for me is Arches cold press 140lb/300gsm gluebound pads. If the paper size is too large for the painting I want to do, I will draw a box or cut the paper down with a Cheap Joe’s Handheld Paper Cutter.

On the go, I use a small travel sketchbook; the smallest Moleskine Watercolor Album fits nicely in my Art Toolkit.

I rarely work in a studio sketchbook at home, but when I do, I enjoy the Etchr Perfect Sketchbook. It’s spendy but the paper is really nice.

I use inexpensive pads for practice and swatching; typically Canson XL.

See also:

Paper reviews/comparisons:

Gouache Paper

I’m less picky about paper for gouache, but I prefer a smoother surface than for watercolor paper. I typically use Canson XL or any cheap hot press pad/block.


Watercolor Palettes

  • Storage (Home): Art Toolkit Folio Palette
  • Storage (Travel & Plein Air): Art Toolkit Pocket Palette
  • Mixing (Home): Sugarhouse Travel Palette with easy-to-clean glossy finish. I love how light these are. The thinner sizes (e.g. travel or 8-well) are easier to clean because I can fit them in my bathroom sink. I prefer having wells to mix in because it keeps my colors separate.

See also: Which watercolor palette should I choose?

Gouache Palettes

  • Storage: None, I work from the tube
  • Mixing: Mijello Peelable Palette. It’s plastic and thinner paint tends to bead (ceramic would be nicer), but with gouache I don’t find ceramic as essential and I like having more mixing space to work on. As large as this is, I’m often running out of space. A ceramic palette of this size would be very heavy. I don’t prefer wells for gouache because the paint is thicker so it doesn’t run together.



  • Standard: Rosemary Red Dot Collection round size 6 or 8
  • Skies & Large Areas: Isabey 5235 Petit Gris oval size 4 or Rosemary Sienna oval 1/2″
  • Swatching: Princeton Velvetouch round size 4 or 6


Synthetics work best.

  • Standard: Princeton Velvetouch round size 6 or 8
  • Skies & Large Areas: 1/2″ flat shader

See also: Watercolor Brushes 101

Other Supplies

Drawing Supplies

  • Pencil: a 2mm lead holder
  • Eraser: a soft kneadable eraser
  • Waterproof liner: Sakura Micron. I use size 01 for travel sketchbook or 05 for everyday.
  • Waterproof brush pen: Zebra Zensations or Tombow Fudenosuke
  • Ruler: any

See Also: Which drawing pens are the most waterproof?

Plein Air/Outdoor Kit

  • Carrying case: I use an Art Toolkit.
  • Water brush: I use a medium Pentel Aquash brush pen (this comes with the Art Toolkit!) Using a water brush means I don’t need a water container.
  • Waterproof liner: Sakura Micron 01. I don’t tend to bring a pencil/eraser or brush pen on my travels, it’s quicker to sketch directly in pen and I don’t overthink it as much.
  • Travel palette: I use an Art Toolkit Pocket Palette, stocked with a selection of paints designed for whatever location I’m going to.
  • Travel sketchbook: I like Moleskine Watercolor Album, 3.5″ x 5.5″, preferably in landscape. This comes with the Art Toolkit!
  • Brush cleaning cloths: At home I use old washcloths or paper towels; in my plein air kit, I keep reusable painting towels from Etsy sellers such as ArrayedInGrace or HerArtsAndCrafts, or Hamamonyo Gauze Pile Handkerchiefs.

See Also:

Misc Studio/Desk Supplies

  • Water cups – I like mason jars because they’re see-through (so you can see how dirty your water is) and hefty enough not to tip over. 
  • Rags or paper towels for brush wiping, cleanup, and lifting.
  • Clipboards to work on multiple pieces at once – any random office supply clipboard works if you work under 8.5×11. Masonite boards for larger paintings.
  • Tape to hold down loose paper onto the clipboard. Holbein Soft Tape is the best.
  • Paper cutter – I use Cheap Joe’s Handheld Paper Cutter to cut large sheets of watercolor paper into the smaller sizes.
  • A credit card can be used to detach paper from a watercolor block, or to make marks in paint.

See also:

Learning Resources

Online Resources

Free Online Tutorials to Get You Started



Online Resources for Learning About Color

Arranged roughly from beginner-friendly to intense.


Tutorial Books

  • Kolbie Blume’s tutorial books: Wilderness Watercolor Landscapes, Stunning Watercolor Seascapes, Mastering Light in Watercolor (@thiswritingdesk)
  • Stunning Watercolor Skies by Rachael Mae Moyles (@proximae.artistry)
  • Bold and Beautiful Watercolor Skies by Zaneena Nabeel (@aurorabyz)
  • Vibrant Watercolor by Geethu Chandramohan (@colourfulmystique)

Books on Color & Light

  • The Secret Lives of Colour by Kassia St Clair
  • Exploring Color Workshop by Nita Leland
  • Making Color Sing by Jeanne Dobie
  • Urban Sketching Handbook: Working with Color by Shari Blaukopf
  • Local Color by Mimi Robinson
  • Color and Light by James Gurney

Books on Landscapes, Nature, & Misc

  • Painting Beautiful Watercolor Landscapes by Joyce Hicks
  • Powerful Watercolor Landscapes by Catherine Gill
  • The Laws Guide to Nature Drawing and Journaling by John Muir Laws
  • Step-by-Step Guide to Botanical Drawing and Painting by Hidenari Kobayashi
  • Really anything in the Urban Sketching Handbook series

What Next? Paid Subscriptions & Places to Find Classes

  • Adventure Art Academy – Claire Giordano creates monthly on-location plein air tutorials in wild places; access to an informative forum.
  • Artist Co-op – Kolbie Blume holds monthly live workshops; access to a lively and supportive forum.
  • Art Toolkit – generally one-off workshops/single classes, more expensive per class, curated with excellent teachers (but no subscription fee!)
  • Shelby Thayne offers workshops on layered mountains and night skies
  • Skillshare is full of classes, to the point I found it overwhelming. Since there is no time limit and no social features, it’s probably worth it only if you plan to do a lot of tutorials (it’s so easy to let a subscription service chunk on without using it).
  • Your local community college, adult/continuing ed program, or community center. Nature centers sometimes also have nature journaling workshops. These have the benefit of being in person and allowing real interaction with a teacher and fellow students, though they are often more expensive.