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  • Writer's pictureUlaş Yeğiner

Watercolor supplies #1: Colors

If you want to get started with watercolor or if you have just started out, you may have thought about which paints and what kind of brushes you should buy. You may be confused as there are many different brands of paint, a wide variety of brushes and paper types/brands that you can use for watercolor technique. Like many people, I experienced this situation as well when I first started watercolor. I created a custom paint-brush-paper set for myself when I started watercolor, by searching on the internet and comparing the materials used by different painters, Then I changed and developed this set according to my needs, price and material quality. In this post and the next two ones, I will list the materials that I have used most frequently, that I am happy to use and that I am not so much.


Perhaps the most important material for the watercolor technique is, of course, watercolors. Various watercolors can be found in art supply stores. We can basically divide watercolors into two categories based on pigment quality: Student grade watercolors (also known as studio watercolors) and artist grade watercolors. Let's take a look at both of them.

  • Student (Studio) Grade Watercolors

Student grade watercolors usually have less pigment compared to artist grade watercolors and therefore they are more economical. In addition, student grade watercolors often have less mixing and fluidity properties compared to artist grade watercolors. These watercolors are also more likely to result in muddy mixtures and "cauliflower" effects. However, they are a good choice for watercolor beginners. Winsor & Newton Cotman, Royal Talens van Gogh, Maimeri Venezia, St. Petersburg Sonnet, Daler Rowney Aquafine etc. watercolors are some of studio grade watercolors. You can buy these watercolors as single pans, tubes or sets according to your preference.


When I first started watercolor, I bought van Gogh set of 15 and St. Petersburg Sonnet set of 24 and both were very satisfactory (I still use both of them). The paints in the van Gogh set are half pans and their lightfastness can be said to be quite good. The paints in the St. Petersburg Sonnet set are full pans, and I can say that I especially liked the vividness of the paints in this set. I can recommend both watercolors for beginners. For beginners, it may make sense to buy watercolors as a set, because it is usually more economical and you can use the covers of these sets as mixing palette. You can also easily complete your depleted colors in the set by purchasing tablets, which are sold individually.


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Royal Talens van Gogh set of 15 and tube watercolors.

Since I haven't tried the watercolors I mentioned above except for these two sets, I really can't say much about them. Yet, since they are all good quality brands, I can say that these watercolors will probably be enough for beginners. As time passes and you become more familiar with the watercolor technique, you can expand and customize your palette with pans and/or tube watercolors according to your personal preferences and needs.

  • Artist Grade Watercolors

You can get softer transitions and brighter colors with artist grade watercolors. These watercolors are often more resistant to light. Since artist grade watercolors are more expensive than studio grade watercolors, they are mostly recommended to be used after reaching a certain level in watercolor technique. Royal Talens Rembrandt, St. Petersburg White Nights, Schminke Horadam, Maimeri Blu etc. are some examples of artist grade watercolors.


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St. Petersburg White Nights Set of 24 (with Sonnet watercolors in between).

Of the artist grade watercolors I have mentioned above, I had only tried St. Petersburg White Nights watercolors and I can say that I am quite satisfied with it. I use White Nights watercolors for my watercolor paintings most of the time and I can recommend it to you as well. Since I haven't tried the other artist grade watercolors I've mentioned before, I can't say anything about them, but as you can see when you search them on YouTube or Google, all these watercolors are of very high quality and will give satisfactory results for your watercolor works.


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Color swatch of St. Petersburg White Nights set of 24.
  • Pans vs Tubes

You can find both student and artist grade watercolors as pans or tubes, as I mentioned earlier. As far as I can see, there is not much difference between the pans and tubes in terms of brightness, lightfastness, mixing and pigment density. Yet, as far as I have observed, some tube watercolors can dry a little later than pan watercolors. In addition, pans can dry out if they are not used for a long time, and it may be necessary to wait for reactivation by dripping water on them. Pan watercolors can be sold in two different forms as half (1/2) and full (1/1) pans; so, I recommend to paying attention to whether the tablets are whole or half when purchasing. Economically, buying tube watercolors can often be the more logical choice. Tube watercolors can also be more easily absorbed by paper.


As a result, creating a color palette you like that you will use for the paintings is a bit of trial and error. It can also depend on your painting style and on your budget. Nevertheless, I can definitely say that it is always better to have a watercolor set of good quality with few colors than to have one of bad quality with more colors.


I hope this post was helpful about watercolors for beginners. Thank you for your time!


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