QUALITY -- I am definitely an advocate of using good supplies -- especially good paint! Please don't sacrifice quality for the sake of economy. I know! Watercolor pigments are expensive, but consider how long they last. Watercolor pigments are used up at a much slower rate than oil or acrylic colors. So, don't worry -- you won't be racing through your tubes of paint as you might in an oil painting class. With proper care, your paints will last a long time, which makes them economical to use after all. Scrimping on paints is generally not worth it.
As a child, you probably played with watercolors -- most likely using the paints that came in the little metal box with a lid, containing the 6 round or square little cakes of paint. Our early, sometimes-unhappy, results in watercolor usually stemmed from using this small set of paints and a crappy little brush. Now, it's time to upgrade to watercolors in tubes, that produce brilliant colors, and a palette with room for mixing large washes of color (and a not-so-crappy brush).
The pigments you use will make a difference in your work. Avoid the student grade paint (Cotman, Grumbacher Academy) -- they just don't have the brilliant color or strength of the professional-grade pigments. The higher quality paints tend to be more brilliant than the lower grade -- especially when mixed together. Lesser grades contain less pigment and more filler, resulting in less vibrant colors.
Fine materials also give longevity to your work -- inferior paints are guaranteed to fade. Today's professional-grade paints are more lightfast than ever.
PALETTE -- You will also need a palette for your paints. I prefer a round, plastic palette, with at least 12 wells, a large flat mixing area in the middle, and a snug-fitting lid. I use a big, heavy porcelain palette in my studio, which I love, but a plastic palette is fine and more portable, which is nice.
BUY TUBES OF PAINT --
I use only transparent watercolor in 14-ml. tubes. They do come in smaller tubes, but try to invest in the larger tubes -- they last longer, and you won't feel bad about squeezing ample amounts of paint onto your palette.
YOUR BASIC PALETTE -- 12 COLORS
My choice of colors has changed over the years. After buying, using, and discarding many different colors, these are the 12 that I think are the best colors to start with:
1 - Aureolin Yellow (a cool yellow)
2 - New Gamboge (a warm yellow)
3 - Quinacridone Gold (a beautiful earth color)
4 - Quinacridone Burnt Orange (an earth color workhorse)
5 - Permanent Red (or Winsor Red, or Cadmium Red) -- (a warm red)
6 - Quinacridone Rose or Permanent Rose (a cool red)
7 - Alizarin Crimson (a cool red)
8 - Quinacridone Magenta
9 - French Ultramarine (warmish blue)
10 - Phthalo Blue or Winsor Blue
11 - Cobalt Blue
12 - Sap Green
With these 12 transparent colors, you will be able to mix almost any color, including black. (That will be another lesson). There is really no need for black, gray, or white on your palette!
BRANDS OF PAINT --
There are many fine brands of paint on the market: Daniel Smith, Winsor & Newton, Rowney, Holbein, DaVinci, Rembrandt, to name just a few.
You can order your paints from art supply catalogs & online art supply retailers, or buy them from your local art supply stores. Shop around for the best price or special deals.
SETTING UP YOUR PALETTE --
Once you've bought your paints, you'll need to arrange them in your palette. I like to set up my round palette like a color wheel, somewhat. With these 12 particular colors, it won't be an exact color wheel, but it will still be helpful.
Start with the yellows at the top, and work your way, counter-clockwise, around the color wheel (with the 2 earth colors between the yellows and the reds.
With the tube colors, I usually squirt about 1/2 the paint from a 14-ml. tube into each well of the palette, spread it with a palette knife so it fills up the bottom of the well, and then allow it to dry.
When I'm ready to paint, I activate it again and again, day after day, with a spray of water, before working. In this way, I have all my colors in "cake like" form on my palette at all times, plus a liquid reserve still in the tubes.
You might find it helpful to label the wells with the names of the pigments, using a permanent black marker, like a Sharpie.
USING YOUR NEW PALETTE OF COLORS
Your washes might tend to "bead up" on a new palette, but -- no worries -- after several uses, they will mix more smoothly.
At the end of each painting session, add a few drops of water to each well of color and close the lid. At the beginning of your next painting session, just mist your paints to wake them up.
COLORS TO ADD LATER
After painting for awhile, you may find yourself wanting to try some more colors. You could easily add a few more paints to this kind of palette, with the extra wells in the corner.
Some colors you might want to add later -- Raw Sienna, Quinacridone Violet, Cobalt Turquoise, Cerulean or Manganese Blue, Winsor (Phthalo) Green, Quinacridone Maroon, Quinacridone Coral.
what do you do to preserve a painting once you have done it please? I used cheaper watercolors as a beginner but I still want to keep my work for sentimental reasons you know. can I spray it with some fixative or put it under glass or anything. thank you for everything. your site is full of great fun..marciaReplyDelete
Hi, Marcia! The best, most traditional, way to preserve your watercolors, is to mat them and frame them under glass, or plexiglass. When I paint with watercolor on Aquabord or watercolor canvas, I spray the finished painting with a fixative, and then a spray varnish. I think the cheap watercolors may fade over time, but it's still worth a shot to try to protect them. Hope this helps, and thanks for visiting my site! patDelete
thanks for your speedy reply. your site is full of fun ideas and projects. I hope you know how much it is loved! you probably have lots of fans who don't register, so thanks for all you do for us wanna be artists.ReplyDelete
Well, that just made my day. Thank you so much, Marcia!Delete
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I just found your website and love it. Today I did the tulips. Thank you so much for these exercises!ReplyDelete
The color pallet... that seems like a lot of blues! On the DS website they even look similar, would you be willing to explain the differences? I was wondering if I could get by without some or sub in some of the "extra" colors? I don't even like blue that much, but maybe I need them for mixing? I probably can't afford them all at once anyway. I can't wait to try those quinacridone colors!
They have 238 colors so thanks for making this list, I keep not buying any because it is so confusing!
Again, thank you for your generosity in sharing these tutorials!
Hi, Carol! Glad you found my blog and I'm especially pleased that you have found it helpful, so far. That's a good question about the blues. I recommend so many because of their different mixing potentials. Check out my post about blues --http://thepaintedprism.blogspot.com/2012/10/top-ten-10-things-every-watercolorist.html.Delete
and that will explain it better. If you can't get them all at once, start with Cobalt Blue and French Ultramarine. Those are the two blues that I use the most anyway.
Yes, all those gorgeous colors can be overwhelming. But, with about 18 beautiful pigments, you can learn to mix all those colors.
Sorry, Carol -- that link that I tried to include in my reply didn't work. Just look at the Archives, under October, 2012 -- and the post, published on 10/6/12, is called "TOP TEN: Ten Things Every Watercolorist Should Know About Blue".Delete
Thanks for your answer, I read about blues and I am liking them better already! This led me to other great things on your site-I have a lot of learning and homework to do!ReplyDelete
The paintings shown on each color top ten were so good it's a little daunting, but I will have fun making art on my more primitive level!
Hi Pat..just want to touch base with you and let you know I have been enjoying your lessons all along. I'm out there! I'm taking a watercolor class at a local gallery after a holiday break and was checking out your palette. I went a little crazy buying Daniel Smith colors this past year and can't possibly fit them on a palette, so thanks for helping me figure out a basic set. did you know you can get 3 big tubes of color and a sketch with mixing instructions for the price of two tubes with free shipping..all triad sets have free shipping . their catalog is like a wish book for me..like dreaming over the sears catalog as a kid. anyway..just saying hi, thanks and know you are not alone. I love seeing your new projects and journal ideas. love to you, your family and doggies.......marcia in Modesto CaliforniaReplyDelete
Always good to hear from, Marcia -- and to know that you follow my blog regularly. It's always fun to take a class locally -- a good way to start off the new year. I know, also, that it's easy to get overwhelmed by too many colors -- even though they're fun to have and to look at. I regularly buy the different sets that DS offers -- they are such good deals! Thanks for being out there -- it helps to know this when I'm sitting at my computer, writing the blog. Glad I have readers like you!Delete
Just popping in to say hi and thanks! This blog has been so inspirational to me along my journey in discovering watercolor. I really enjoy the projects and lessons as well as the way you lay everything out. You make something that is complex seem simple. On days where I feel frustrated and think, "What am I doing?", I come visit your blog, complete one of your projects and it restores my confidence. Thanks for sharing your wonderful insight and wisdom. It is greatly appreciated across the miles here in Virginia! :)ReplyDelete
~ Belinda in VA
Hi, Belinda -- How nice of you to pop in with your comments, and how great that you enjoy my blog and find it helpful. I appreciate your taking the time to let me know!Delete
I, too appreciate your blog and how accessible you make learning about color. I am planning on getting the paints you suggest but my palette is a plastic one with ten on one side and ten on the other. How would you suggest laying out the paints, leaving spaces for the additional colors? thanks!ReplyDelete
There's always more to learn about color, that's for sure! If I were you, Cathy, I would put the warm colors one one side and the cool colors on the other, and then group them in color families on each side. So, in regards to the 12 colors that I have listed, I would put the 2 Yellows, the Quin. Gold, Quin Burnt Orange, Permanent Red, Quin Rose, Alizarin Crimson, and even the Quin Magenta on one side, in that order. On the other side, put all your Blues and the Sap Green. If you have a Violet, you can add that next to your French Ultramarine.Delete
Thanks for your response! I love how you get such beautiful clear colors. I will certainly do more of your tutorials.ReplyDelete
Hi Pat, I love the colors you have suggested, but I cannot find Quin. Maroon in Daniel Smiths's paints. You mentioned it as a color that might be useful later.ReplyDelete
thanks for a great blog!
I'm looking to buy paint, what would you suggest for brushes? Thank you, DianeReplyDelete
Just get a few rounds (the ones that come to a nice point) -- #5 and #8. And, get a 1# flat, and a large mop brush, just for applying water to the paper. These don't have to be expensive Kolinsky sable -- the blends are nice. I'm not crazy about the 100% synthetic brushes -- they just don't work very well. Good luck. (sorry for the delay in this response -- you've probably given up on me.)Delete
I found you when I was drowning in self pity after a disaster of a painting and boy,I am so glad.You have a fan from India.This post was super useful.I do have a very dumb question though. Is it essential to have a lidded palette for watercolours? Is there a workaround for this if one cannot find a suitable lidded one?I am an absolute newbie to art and this medium and struggling with some basic questions,as you can see.:-)ReplyDelete
Hello, Pallavi -- Thanks for your comment -- you made me laugh. With you, not at you. I've had my share of painting disasters, that's for sure. And no, that is not a dumb question. You don't need a lid for your palette. In fact, when my palette stays in my studio, I don't put the lid on it. It's only needed, really, when you are traveling with it. Even then, you can cover it up with a plastic bag or saran wrap. So, I wouldn't worry about that -- it's certainly not necessary.Delete
Thank you.You cannot compare your disasters with mine.I am sure yours are pretty mistakes.I tried your negative painting tutorial and posted on my blog and linked up your blog.You can see for yourself how bad it is.hee hee.I am hoping that it will get better though and feel free to laugh AT me too.I do that myself.:-)Delete
I'm starting a watercolour course next month and am about buy paints (probably Winsor & Newton Artists) and have found your site very interesting and helpful. I notice you suggest having Phthalo Green and Blue or Winsor Green and Blue. However when I look, they both come in 2 shades Blue with red or green, and Green with blue or yellow. Which of the 2 shades of Winsor Blue and Winsor Green would you suggest I get and which would be the closest to Phthalo Blue and Phthalo Green? Thank you for your help, HelenReplyDelete
I would only choose 4 of your coloursReplyDelete
If you are an amateur there is nothing wrong with choosing student quality paints ,, ,ReplyDelete
Hi Pat, just came across your blog... It really interests me... I am 81 and many, many years ago, I had 4 years of art in High School... loved it... I have worked with water colors, pastels, oils, charcoal, pencil, ink, and loved it all. I continued with my art for a few years after school. I did some drawings and artwork for my grandkids. Then I just got too busy and completely dropped it all. Now I find myself with lots of time on my hands after losing my husband of 63 years. Water colors still holds my interest, but alas! I cannot remember techniques, or just how to start. I think I need a refresher course, regarding supplies , etc. your Watercolor Mentoring course by email interests me. Can you tell me more please...also do you ever come to Southern California for classes? my email address is; firstname.lastname@example.org ..I hope you will contact me regarding this issue... Thanks , Joyce SeidnerReplyDelete
Hi, Joyce -- Yes, I'll contact you by e-mail. Thanks for your interest!Delete
I have several yellows already(and access to more through my little art group)and have heard that aureolin is fugitive, what do you think? Is there anything else really similar to that to take it's place? Hopefully one I have haha, but not necessary!Thanks for your blog and tutorials!ReplyDelete
Hi, Carol -- I don't THINK that's true. In fact, I haven't heard of any yellow pigments that are fugitive. However, Aureolin IS expensive. So, for any of those reasons, you could choose another yellow. There are a number of yellows which would be fine substitutes -- Hansa Yellow, Winsor Yellow, Cadmium Yellow.Delete
Thank you! I already have Winsor yellow (I never know what "Winsor" colors equal) so I'll use that.ReplyDelete