Supplies Guide

This is a roundup of the watercolor supplies I’m using now. 




My favorite artist-grade watercolor paint brands are Da Vinci and Holbein. Winsor & Newton, and Daniel Smith are also good. See: What’s the best artist-grade paint brand for beginners?


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):

  • Dark blue or gray
  • Yellow
  • Magenta
  • Cyan
  • Earth orange
  • Gold or earth yellow
  • Violet or violet-blue
  • Green
  • Scarlet or orange

See Also



Holbein Artists’ Gouache (or Irodori) and Winsor & Newton Designers’ Gouache are my favorites. M. Graham and Schmincke Horadam Gouache are also good. 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 pop colors where maximum opacity is desired, Holbein is best; for dark or highly pigmented mixing colors, M. Graham works well.


These are my most-used gouache colors:

  • White for lightening colors
  • A dark color for darkening colors – either Payne’s Gray, Perylene Black, or just plain black
  • Ultramarine Blue – great for skies
  • Yellow
  • Magenta/cool red, e.g. magenta, rose, Permanent Alizarin Crimson 
  • Cyan/green-toned blue e.g. Phthalo Blue, Cobalt Teal, Prussian Blue
  • Burnt Sienna
  • Yellow Ochre or Naples Yellow

See Also:



  • Loose paper: My favorite is Arches Cold Press Bright White 140lb/300gsm. Saunders Waterford Cold Press High White is also good. Right now, my strategy is to buy loose sheets as small as I can get them (usually a quarter sheet) and cut them up.
  • Blocks: Blocks are a good alternative to loose paper but less flexible in terms of size. My favorite is Arches Cold Press 7.9″ square.
  • Travel sketchbook: Lighter-weight paper in a sketchbook is handy for travel. I like Moleskine Watercolor Album.
  • Practice: Canson XL.

See also: Watercolor Paper 101


I’m less picky about paper for gouache. I like hot press (a smoother surface), but it doesn’t need to be Arches. Canson XL works well, as do cheaper block brands such as Fluid.



  • Storage (Everyday): Art Toolkit Folio Palette
  • Storage (Travel & Plein Air): Art Toolkit Pocket Palette
  • Ceramic mixing palette, with wells: Sugarhouse Travel Palette with easy-to-clean glossy finish (I use two travel palettes instead of one standard because I find the smaller sizes more flexible to arrange, clean, and store)
  • Ceramic mixing palette, without wells: Sylvan Minimal Palette #2

See also: Which watercolor palette should I choose?


  • Storage: TBD, right now I work exclusively 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.



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


Synthetics work best. All good: Princeton Velvetouch, Rosemary Beginner Brushes, Etchr gouache brushes, Wonder Forest.

  • Standard: 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 or Deleter Neopiko-Line-3. I use size 01 for travel sketchbook or 05 for everyday.
  • Waterproof brush pen: Zebra Zensations or Tombow Fudenosuke

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 brush pen (this comes with the Art Toolkit!) Using a water brush means I don’t need a water container.
  • Waterproof liner: I like to draw outlines in my travel sketchbook because it’s harder to build up contours and values without using layers. Sakura Micron is waterproof, and Size 01 is a good size to go with an A6 mini sketchbook. 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: Travel Sketches: Nova Scotia

Misc Studio/Desk Supplies

  • Clipboards: To work on multiple pieces at once, I like to tape my paper to a clipboard. I use basic plastic clipboards from a big box office supply store. I find plastic ones easier to wipe clean than particle board. The clip part doesn’t matter because I have to tape them down on all sides anyway; any portable hard surface you don’t mind taping/dirtying will work. If you work larger than 8.5×11, consider drawing boards from an art supply store.
  • A credit card is useful for multiple purposes (physically, I mean, not just its ability to buy art supplies). It can be used to detach paper from a watercolor block, or to make marks in paint. I keep an old transit card in my art kit for the purpose. 
  • Paper cutter: I use Cheap Joe’s Handheld Paper Cutter to cut large sheets of watercolor paper into the smaller sizes that I like to paint on. A large swing-arm cutter would be more effective, but I like this glorified letter opener because it’s small, easy to store, and can handle any size of paper.
  • Tape: Holbein Soft Tape
  • 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. 

See also:

Learning Resources


Books on Color

  • 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

Miscellaneous Painting Books

  • Powerful Watercolor Landscapes by Catherine Gill
  • Wilderness Watercolor Landscapes by Kolbie Blume
  • The Laws Guide to Nature Drawing and Journaling by John Muir Laws

Online Resources

Learning About Color

Free Online Tutorials to Get You Started



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