top of page

All Things Art Supplies


Hello again friends,


I hope you are all doing well.


I have been on this watercolour journey for exactly one year from today! My first painting was of a red poppy (which you will see below) and it was the first time I began to experiment and explore the world of watercolour. I've learned so much about watercolour supplies over the last year and wanted to share a bit about what I've learned with you all. I have grown to really love and appreciate my art supplies the more I learn, experiment and use them.


This is my personal experience and yours might be very different from mine, but I hope some of the information below can be helpful to you. I am still on a journey of experimenting and exploring with different watercolour supplies - the world of watercolour supplies is so extensive and there seems to be no end to what you can try and use! How amazing is that?


In this blog I'll delve into paper, paints, brushes, palettes, sketchbooks and general stationery I have been using and will also be sharing supplies I am eager to try out.

 

PAPER


If I could choose between good quality paints, paper or brushes my choice hands down would be good quality paper. EVERY TIME. The quality of paper you use makes a world of difference.


Up until now I have only painted on Cold Pressed (NOT) Paper but do want to try painting on Hot Pressed Paper.


Below is a list, in chronological order, of the paper I have tried over the last year:

  1. Strathmore 400 Series Watercolour Paper - 300gsm

  2. Daler Rowney The Langton Watercolour Paper - 300 gsm

  3. Daler Rowney The Langton Prestige 100% Cotton Watercolour Paper - 300gsm

  4. Fabriano Artistico Watercolour Paper - 300 gsm

Before I started buying watercolour supplies, I read a loooot of blog posts about what supplies were best to start out with. There were two categories of supplies - beginner supplies and investment supplies. While I believe the two categories have their place, I would recommend starting out with good quality watercolour paper over beginner watercolour paper. That way you can develop your skills and techniques and have a good idea of water control first. I remember reading that beginner/budget paper is better for professional artists as they can easily modify their technique and have better water control to adapt to their supplies.


Strathmore 400 Series Watercolour Paper was the first paper I tried, and it was a highly recommended beginner paper in the artist community and had great reviews on Amazon (4.6 out of 5 Stars!) so I had high hopes starting out. Unfortunately, I found this paper quite difficult to work with - I could not seem to achieve smooth gradients or blends no matter how much I tried. When I first started painting, I wanted to learn how to blend colours out to create smooth gradients and the technique involved dropping a concentrated amount of colour in a certain area and using a separate slightly damp, clean brush to draw that colour out. I tried to modify how much water I had in the colour I was dropping onto the paper and how much water I had in my damp brush, but I could not achieve what I was seeing in tutorials.


In the images below you can see the first two flowers I ever painted! I've highlighted areas where I tried to blend colour out. You can see there are hard edges/lines, patchy lines/areas and a strong difference in tonal values as opposed to a soft gradient in these areas.


Red Poppy Painted on Strathmore 400 Series Watercolour Paper
Orange Poppy Painted on Strathmore 400 Series Watercolour Paper

I stopped delving into watercolour for a while thinking it just wasn't for me until I decided to try out a different watercolour paper - Daler Rowney The Langton Watercolour Paper. I found it was easier (but still quite challenging) to blend colours and create smooth gradients than the Strathmore Series 400 Watercolour Paper. When I dropped concentrated colour onto the paper it would pool and sit on the paper for a while which meant I needed to have very good water control and my gradients were either a hit or miss. The thing I also found difficult with the paper was that when wet, the gradients could seem smooth, however, when dried it would have patchy areas when transitioning from dark to light and I found myself having to go over the painting again with a damp brush. It felt like I had to double paint everything! You can see this in the images below.


Daisy on Daler Rowney The Langton Watercolour Paper
Dahlia on Daler Rowney The Langton Watercolour Paper
Dahlia on Daler Rowney The Langton Watercolour Paper

Over time with practice and a lot of patience my water control and technique improved, and I was starting to learn to work with the paper and achieve smoother blends and gradients for floral compositions. At this point the paper still felt like a hit or miss for me.


English Rose on Daler Rowney The Langton Watercolour Paper
Daisy on Daler Rowney The Langton Watercolour Paper

I did come cross a few other minor issues with this paper. I found this paper was not able to handle layering and multiple washes well and started to pile over time which is a common issue with paper that is wood pulp or partially cotton. The surface of the paper also had uneven sizing and some areas had too much sizing which meant the paper could not absorb the paint/water and pooled on top of the paper. After excess piling, I ended up throwing away a painting I was working on and decided to make the switch to 100% Cotton Paper. You can see the aforementioned issues in the images below.


Floral Composition on Daler Rowney The Langton Watercolour Paper
Floral Composition on Daler Rowney The Langton Watercolour Paper
Petunia on Daler Rowney The Langton Watercolour Paper

Switching to 100% Cotton Paper made a world of difference and I found myself wondering why I hadn't started with it in the first place! I found 100% Cotton Paper much more forgiving and easier to achieve smooth blends and gradients. 100% Cotton Paper can absorb and hold water better than wood pulp paper can resulting in less pooling on the paper surface which is great for beginners developing a sense of water control. It is also much more durable and can withstand much heavier brushing and multiple washes without damage or heavy buckling. Emma Jane Lefebvre has a great video showcasing the difference between good quality and cheaper paper for blending techniques which you can find here: How to Master Soft Blends.


Daler Rowney The Langton Prestige has worked well for me and the colours appear more vibrant compared to wood pulp paper. This paper has more texture compared to Fabriano Artistico but both have been quite good to work with. Daler Rowney The Langton Prestige does buckle a fair bit with multiple washes so it's a good idea to secure the paper down to a flat surface with washi tape before starting a painting.


Medicinal Plants on Fabriano Artistico 100% Cotton Watercolour Paper
Floral Composition on Daler Rowney The Langton Prestige Watercolour Paper
Roses on Daler Rowney The Langton Prestige Watercolour Paper
Medicinal Plants on Fabriano Artistico 100% Cotton Watercolour Paper

I also have the following 100% Cotton Watercolour paper that I will be trying out shortly:

  • Khadi 100% Cotton Rag Paper

  • Arches 100% Cotton Watercolour Paper - 300gsm

  • Saunders Waterford 100% Cotton Watercolour Paper - 300gsm

  • Baohong Medium Watercolour Paper - 300gsm


Watercolour Paper
 

PAINTS


Paints have been my latest obsession (I absolutely LOVE colour!) and I am blown away by the vast selection of paints one can use. I started my journey with the "Winsor and Newton Cotman Studio Set 45" and it has been such a great set to begin with. The paints are vibrant, consistent, smooth and so easy to work with - I would recommend this to anyone starting out in watercolour. I am now slowly running out of a few half pans and have started replacing them with 14mL tubes from the Winsor and Newton Professional Watercolour range. Winsor and Newton Watercolour paints are also lightfast, so you never have to worry about your painting fading over time!


The only thing that might be downside to the Cotman Set is that it can take a while for the pans to rewet, which means it can be difficult to draw colour from, but this is easily resolved by misting your paints and letting them sit for a few minutes before starting to paint.


I have heard great things about other brands such as M. Graham, Maimeri Blue, Old Holland, Sennelier, Schminke, Holbein and Daniel Smith and would love to try these brands at some stage.


Winsor and Newton Cotman Studio Set 45
Winsor and Newton Cotman Studio Set 45
Winsor and Newton Professional Watercolour 14m Tubes

Thanks to Instagram I stumbled across the world of Handmade Watercolour paint and the hundreds of makers out there. Each maker has their own binder recipe, and their paints are unique to them which makes supporting their small business very special! Handmade Watercolour paint is generally a pigment or mixture of pigments dispersed in a binder plus small amounts of humectant, plasticizer and an antifungal to prevent mold growth. Commercial Watercolour paints are a bit more complex and can also include brighteners, plasticizers, extenders/fillers and manufacturing additives. Every pigment has a unique characteristic and texture and I find Handmade Watercolours bring out these characteristics more so than commercial brands. The various textures, consistencies and characteristics in Handmade Watercolours can take a while to get used to if you are used to the consistent and smooth paints made by commercial brands.


I own paints from a few makers and my goal this year is to try out the paints from every maker and document it in my blogs. I love paints so much that I even have a Wishlist of paint makers that I would love to try as I have heard so many great things about their paints!


RuCo Paints
Handmade Watercolour Collection
Handmade Watercolour Collection
Handmade Watercolour Dot Cards
Handmade Watercolour Collection
 

BRUSHES


I have only used synthetic brushes up until now and want to slowly transition over to sable brushes. A lot of artists recommend Winsor and Newton Series 7 Kolinsky Sable brushes, and they will be the first ones I'll try out! I find that synthetic brushes fray easily which is less of an issue with sable brushes. Synthetic brushes also don't hold as much water compared to sable brushes.


I use round brushes as they are suitable for small details and delicate lines, but also for broad strokes and washes.


Below is a list of brushes I have used over the last year:

  • Winsor and Newton Cotman Round Brushes

  • Pro Arte Round Brushes

  • Princeton Neptune Round Brushes

I quite enjoy the Pro Arte and Winsor and Newton Cotman brushes for fine details as they hold a straight point, however, these brushes do not hold as much water and can dry out quite easily compared to the Princeton Neptune brushes. These brushes also fray quite easily, and I have been going through them quite quickly. Although the Princeton Neptune brushes hold a fair amount of water and don't fray as easily, I found them difficult to work with as they bend and curve towards the point.


Winsor and Newton Cotman Brushes
Pro Arte Brushes
Princeton Neptune Brushes
Bend Towards the Point on Princeton Neptune Brushes
 

PALETTES


I started out using plastic palettes and mainly used the mixing space that came with my Winsor and Newton Cotman set. I found that with plastic palettes, the paint would bead and shrink on the surface making it hard to mix colours. Paint on plastic palettes can also behave unpredictably and can be inconsistent.


I moved over to using ceramic palettes shortly after and absolutely loved the transition. I found the paint would form large pools on the surface making it easier to mix the paint and see the colour I was mixing. It was also easier to spread the paint across the palette and I could see separating effects of each pigment.

There are a few ceramists out there that make palettes for artists, so you get to support a small business if you wish!


I have a collection of ceramic palettes from the following makers:

  • Sylvan Clayworks

  • Pottery by Eleni

  • Gazal Ceramics

  • Ann St Clair

Sylvan Clayworks Palettes and Artist Cup
Pottery by Eleni Palettes, Tool Holder and Painter's Dish
Pottery by Eleni Tool Holder and Painter's Dish
Gazal Ceramics Palettes
Ann St Clair Palette
 

SKETCHBOOKS


A regular sketchbook practice is something quite new to me and I'm learning to incorporate it into the working week. I find sketchbooks a safe space where I can create freely without an outcome in mind or fear of "bad" artwork. It is also a space for me to explore different styles and techniques or practice something new I have learnt.


I have only used two sketchbooks over the last year which are the:

  • Winsor and Newton Hardbound Watercolour Journal - 300gsm

  • Etchr's The Perfect Sketchbook - 300gsm

I started off using the Winsor and Newton Hardbound Watercolour Journal and found it quite difficult to work with. The paper would dry out the paint and water very quickly which meant there was very little time to move the paint around the paper surface. Once the paint had dried there was no way to rework/reactivate the area and the paint was completely set. As the paper was absorbing all the paint and water from my brushes it meant my brushes dried out quickly and I found myself having to go back and add more water to my paint and brushes frequently. I now only use this sketchbook for colour swatches and colour mixing.


Etchr's The Perfect Sketchbook on the other hand has been a joy to work with. The Perfect Sketchbook is made using Fabriano Artistico 100% Cotton Paper which has worked quite well for me. I find the paper is great for smooth blends and gradients, the colours appear very vibrant and buckling is minimal.

Winsor and Newton Sketchbook (Blue) and The Perfect Sketchbook (Grey)
Swatches in the Winsor and Newton Sketchbook
Swatches in the Winsor and Newton Sketchbook
Swatches in the Winsor and Newton Sketchbook
 

GENERAL STATIONERY


Miscellaneous supplies that are staple items on my desk:

  • Sakura Micron Pens

  • Geometry Set

  • Washi Tape

  • Color Mixing Wheel

  • Putty Rubber

  • Mechanical Pencil

  • Mi Goals Yearly Planner + Pads

  • Canson XL Mix Media Sketchbook

  • V600 Epson Scanner

V600 Epson Scanner
Sakura Micron Pens
Canson XL Mix Media Sketchbook
Color Wheel
Color Wheel
Mi Goals Planner and Desk Pads
Geometry Set, Mechanical Pencil, Putty Rubber and Washi Tape

Comments


bottom of page