Best for Beginners

As a beginner, it’s easy to get overwhelmed with all the choices in your local art store. Thankfully, you don’t need that much to get started with watercolours. I recommend you start by investing in your kit in this order: paints, paper, brushes, extras and then palette. Buy the best you can, but remember many excellent choices are available if you’re shopping on a budget.

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Paint & Palettes

Start by focusing on your primary colours. You can either build your palette around the modern primaries, or the traditional primaries. I love this Daniel Smith set, as it combines both the traditional primaries with the modern primaries, giving you the best of both worlds. If you’re looking for a cheaper alternative, I recommend Paul Ruben’s 24 colour watercolour set.

If you want a great animal-free brand, I strongly recommend Holbein’s Watercolours. I learned with these, and I still use them while teaching today.

Paul Ruben 24 Colour Watercolour Set
Daniel Smith’s Split Primary Tube Set
Holbein Watercolours, Tube Paint Set


As a beginner, you’ll want a cheap block of paper that you can practice on without worrying too much about the cost. If you want a paper to just practice drills or brush strokes, you can use a cheap paper like Canson’s XL (although I wouldn’t recommend this if you are working on a painting that you’d like to frame). Strathmore’s 300 series is another great workhorse.

If you want to keep your printing, I always recommend looking for 100% cotton and acid-free papers. Bockingford papers are one of my all-time favourites. This will prevent your papers from yellowing over time, and cotton paper buckles least. Don’t skimp on paper – it’s the foundation of your painting, and it makes a big difference to how your paint performs. I learned to paint on Daler-Rowney’s Langton paper; I also recommend Strathmore’s 400 series.

Pads of paper are more expensive than ring bound, and sheets are the cheapest. Just remember, if you choose to use sheets you will need to stretch your paper. For this, you’ll need a wooden board, tape and a way to cut the tape away.

Bockingford, cold-pressed paper, 140lbs
Strathmore, 400 Series, Mixed Media Pad,
Daler-Rowney, Langton Watercolour Paper

Paper Stretching

Jackson’s Art, Wooden Drawing Board
X-acto Crafting Knife with replaceable blades
Handover Gummed
Paper Painter’s Tape


In general, synthetics are less expensive than natural haired brushes – but with all the advances in technology, the gap in performance between natural and synthetic filaments is ever narrowing. I highly recommend Jackson’s Art Studio Synthetic Brush (it’s rumoured to be made by Escoda!). Princeton’s Neptune line is also fantastic. If you do want a natural-haired brush, I’d suggest Silver Brush’s Black Velvet line. I’d suggest starting with a small size 2 and a larger size 6. You can add other brushes to your collection later.

Princeton Neptune, Series 4750
Silver Brush, Black Velvet, Series 3000s6
Jackson’s Art, Studio
Synthetic Brush


You’ll often hear artists talk about masking fluid and artist’s putty erasers. Jackson’s art has you covered with an excellent masking fluid; just remember to store it on its head (it stops oxygen from getting in and keeps it good forever). Apply with wood, or old synthetic brushes – never with natural hair.

You can also substitute artist’s putty erasers for blutack, which you might already have at home. If you’re on a budget, use the pencils you have. If you need a darker pencil (a 4B is very versatile!) you may prefer to buy them individually.

Jackson’s Art, Liquid Masking Fluid in White
Jackson’s Art Studio Artists’s Putty Eraser
Staedtler 100, Mars Lumograph Pencils

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