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What do I need to start painting with watercolors?

Are you just starting your watercolor journey? Are you overwhelmed with the choice of different materials and brands all around? (They also could cost a fortune, I know!). Have you already bought tons of painting stuff but do not really know what to do with all this treasures? (I‘ve been there, too!)

How often have you postponed painting just because you thought that you do not have the exact colors/paper/brushes?

In this post, I will share with you my approach which could be called “Keep it simple” and show you the basic and affordable materials you will need to get your first results and just enjoy painting without spending a monthly salary (and cluttering your house).

I have a YouTube video where I show my beginner sets as well.

To get started with watercolor painting, you will need these 3 essential watercolor painting supplies: paints, paintbrushes, watercolor paper. All the rest like palette or water jar you will easily find in your kitchen. But let’s circle back to this later.

Picking the right suppliers at the start will help you to enjoy the process and love the results. And when you do well and keep learning and exploring different techniques, you'll get a better feeling what kind of suppliers you need to add to your basics.

There are many discussion about what’s better - watercolor paints in pans or in tubes (Canon vs Nikon story, right?)

I would say, as long as you paint in a small to medium sizes (up to A3) and do not need glazing the whole surface with colours (aka painting seascapes), your best choice will be watercolor in pans.

Here are some reasons, why I recommend paints in pans:

  1. You do not spent extra time to get the paint from the tube (tubes of some brands are really touch to open, I always have pliers nearby, kidding aside)

  2. For gentle floral painting, for layered transparent technique, for botanical illustration and even for painting in more loose and abstract manner on white background, the amount from pans is just enough

  3. Pans are cheaper and usually have the smaller size. So, if you don’t like it, that will be less wasting of money.

  4. Paint quality is EXACTLY the same! To make your watercolor in pans ready for painting - just sprinkle a bit of water before beginning. Easy!

I could recommend you to buy a ready watercolor kit with no more than 12 colours in it.

Usually brands already thought through all matching and mixing combinations within a set, don’t overthink it!

I personally against sets with 24+ colours. The more paints, the more complicated it will be to keep everything in mind and understand the colors and mixes. Once you know you style and colour preferences better, you could add those paints you actually need to you basics.

For most of my YouTube tutorials I use a pretty basic palette with limited colours .

Here you could download my mixing guides.


Sometimes a fear of a blank paper is just a fear of a blank expensive paper.

You could paint beautiful pictures on a simple set of watercolor paper from kids crafts section. No doubt that professional watercolor paper is pleasant, is helpful and just pleasant to paint… but…

When I just started my painting journey I heard from many artists that “you should buy only the best materials”…. It was very frustrating.

I remember I went to an art store and was starring at Arches paper….

I felt very small and greedy as I wasn’t carrying it immediately to a cashier and doubting if I was good enough for this?

My story would not end in a way that now I am a cool artist and paint only with high-brow materials.

I am a full-time artist and many of my illustrations were made on a no-name paper from a household store. I have a freedom for making mistakes, for trying out something new, for experiments and just for having fan without fear of a blank paper. And once you catch that flow you will be able to paint on everything, starting from a backside of a wallpaper to premium league materials, which are also fun and great pleasure!

Anyway there are few moments which are reeeeaaaaly important

1. Paper weight should be not less than 200g, otherwise it will not keep the water and just started to wave.

2. For transparent technique, which I share at my Art Soul membership I would insist on 100% cotton paper as it should be able to bare many layers. Same for complex botanical illustrations and landscapes with full page glazing.

3. Choosing cold pressed (textured) or hot pressed (no texture) paper depends on your style and preferences. Try both and you will feel what is right for you. The main principle - the more fine details there will be painted, the more smooth (hot pressed or satin) texture should it be.


Almost in each and every tutorial on my YouTube Channel I get this question - “Which brushes do you use?”

First of all - why brushes are soo important? (Are they important in principal?)

I would say - yes, they are. A bit less important than the right paper, but the convenient brush sometimes “paint by itself”.

Do you need a good brush? 100%!

Do you need an expensive brush? - not really

For my style of painting (mix of traditional botanical illustration and loose techniques) the one, the most important detail I need - is a fine brush tip!

I tried out dozens of different brushes, including high-end brands and…. came to an interesting conclusion.

Many branding brushes do not keep the it’s fine tip long enough. After a few pictures you could give the brush to your kids. Or keep painting in loose and free-hand technique with fluffy edges.

I tried… IKEA…

Yep! Those round short brushes with white tip from kids section. And they were actually very nice! The tip is great and they saved me a lot of custom orders. The only minus - they were not convenient in adults hands.

After a while I finally found my treasures - the synthetic brushes from Søstrene Grene and they were really good for most of all loose and botanical techniques. Not sure if they are available world-wide though. As a international friendly brand I would recommend Princetone Synthetics.

For my painting technique I usually use 2 brushes at the same time. My favourite sizes are #6 and #10. For super-fine details sometimes I use #2.

And that’s all. With one really good brush you could paint the whole picture just like this!


1. You will need a ceramic palette to mix the colours. If you prefer more watery style - buy so-called “flower” with deep holes.

I will tell you another tip - white ceramic plates (greetings from Ikea) are just great!

Never, never, NEVER use plastic palettes! The colours are not mixing smoothly, you can’t really clean it and there will be colour stains from your previous works.

Kneaded eraser. Magic thing to remove pencil lines without destroying paper surface. It soaked the peril marks and leave just a very light marks which are just enough for painting.

Another advice I would give to you - if you are not happy with your materials - check out kids or hobby stores or something local. There are might be real treasures in there!

I prepared a list with my favourite suppliers for beginners, organized into three price-range categories. All the items were carefully selected and are perfect for starting painting right away with affordable and quality materials.

To SUM it up

My DO’S and DON’TS for beginners sets


1. Watercolor in pans

2. Paper 200-300 g, hot pressed

3. Round brushes with fine points

4. Ceramic palette

5. Kneaded eraser


1. Big watercolor sets with 24 + paints

2. Rough paper

3. Fluffy, bad-pointed brushes

4. Plastic palettes

5. Too many doubts)) My pre-made watercolor beginner set with three price-ranges from 37 to 97 usd

The best watercolor supplies are the ones that do their job fine and serve you well for a long time.

When choosing, keep it simple, and choose the best quality items you can afford.

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Beginner-friendly but with some advanced tips. 

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