Monday, September 21, 2009

Getting Started In Watercolor

Here is a list of basic materials to get you started in watercolor. Art materials are expensive. No doubt about it. So, I'm suggesting some good quality materials that are less expensive than most. You may substitute materials of your own choosing, though it will be helpful down the road to maintain the split palette of primary colors— 3 cool primary colors and 3 warm primary colors. It's amazing how much fun you can have with just three colors— red, yellow and blue! 

You'll notice the first thing on my list of materials is space. It is essential for beginner painters to have dedicated space to work in. Create a work space that is yours and yours alone! It can be as simple as a card table in a corner of your kitchen, as long as that space remains dedicated to painting and you can leave your projects there without losing track of them.
Take care of your brushes, paints and other materials as though they were your own eyes. Periodically wash your brushes in warm, soapy water, clean your palette with a damp sponge, wipe the lip of each tube of paint before capping it. Pay attention to how you handle and store your materials. It can't hurt to give thanks for all living beings— earth, human, animal— who have brought these art materials into your life.

Materials List

Space— Create a space for yourself that is dedicated to painting

Pigments— Van Gogh Watercolors 10 ml tubes
    Reds: (cool) Quinacridone Red and (warm) Permanent Red Lite
    Yellows: (cool) Permanent Lemon Yellow and (warm) Gamboge
    Blues: (cool) Cobalt Blue and (warm) Phthalo Blue

Palette— Cheap Joe’s Original Palette 

(12-1/2" x 9-1/2" with 17 color wells & lid)

Brushes— Cheap Joe’s Starving Artist Brushes
    Flats: 1" and 1/2"
    Rounds: #6, #8 and #12

Paper— Winsor & Newton Watercolor Paper
    5 sheet pack of 140# Cold Press 22" x 30"

Paper Support— Gator Board- 16" x 23"

    Magic Rub eraser                                         sketch book
    pencils- 2B                                                     natural sponge
    water container (ice cream bucket?)        hair dryer
    spray bottle                                                    masking tape
    paper towels & Kleenex                               ruler
    black permanent waterproof marker       old toothbrush

    Cheap Joe’s Art Stuff 1-800-227-2788 or
    Art Materials Inc. 612-872-8088
    Daniel Smith 1-800-426-6740 or
    Dick Blick 612-593-5588
    Penco 612-333-3330
    Wet Paint 651-689-6431


  1. I've all the materials for years now, yet I can't start. How exactly do you start learning to paint?

    I once asked my gifted 8 yr old niece how she draws, she told me, "It's easy. You look, then you draw. You look, then you draw."

    I still have no idea, but watercolors are something I want to do. At this rate, maybe in my next lifetime, haha.

  2. Dear Hadv,
    Your niece has good advice! I think to get started, you play with the water, brushes, pigment and paper, seeing/noting how they interact. Then paint what's important to you... and use all of your senses, not just your eyes.

  3. What a wonderful post, I wish I would have found this when I first got started, would have save me some time and $$. Thanks for sharing and I LOVE your work! it's fantastic!
    Oh, will you one day do a posting about the giclee process? how does an artist go about getting their work into a giclee? Thanks!

  4. Dear Sheila,
    Thank you for your kind words! Briefly, regarding giclée prints— you first need a good quality scan of your painting. Usually the giclée print maker will do that. Then they will make color corrections until you are satisfied they have matched your original painting. I would visit more than one shop and "interview" them before selecting a print shop. You want to make sure you receive a copy of the color-corrected scan of your painting!

  5. I haven't worked much in watercolors - but i've always admired the technique and the beautiful subtleties. Thanks for providing all these helpful resources and information for the beginner.

    BTW - your work is wonderful!

    A fellow Etsian and VAST Team Member,