If you know me, you know that I don’t hesitate spending money on perfume, food, travels and, you guessed it, art materials! (ok, maybe also occasionally on bags, after all, shoes and bags can make or break the outfit, and I am all about aesthetics). OK, I feel like this is now going into shopaholic territory, but I promise you I am very picky about where my money goes!
That being said, good quality art supplies matter! I mainly work with watercolor, and it is a tricky medium to master (I am not there yet but enjoying every bit of the journey to get there). You can guide the watercolor, but you cannot fully control it, and that is the beauty of it, however, it can get frustrating and good supplies can make or break your learning experience.
So, here is the roundup of my favorite supplies.
I currently have 4 favorite paint palettes from Daniel Smith, Van Gogh, Sennelier and White Nights Watercolors. I prefer professional or artists grade paints as their pigments are more vibrant, they mix well together and retain their vibrancy once they dry (as a rule, watercolor dries lighter then when you first apply it). I mainly use watercolor in half pans.
I have also added an introductory set of Ecoline liquid watercolor to my supplies and I’m loving experimenting with it. It’s a perfect medium to create very vibrant and colorful work. I used it to create the series of northern lights illustrations after our trip to Tromso, Norway, where we were able to witness the magic of it with our own eyes. However, Ecoline is based on dyes, not pigments, so it is prone to fading. I usually digitize my work, so the fading aspect is not as crucial for me.
Paper, just like the paints you use, can make, or break your learning experience, especially depending on which technique you are using. It is certainly possible to create beautiful work on low quality paper, but the experience won’t be the same. Watercolor paper comes in different weights (I recommend minimum of 140lb (300 gsm) and can be either cellulose, cotton, or a mix of both. I prefer to use 100% cotton or a mix, but I have also created beautiful work on 100% cellulose. That being said, I certainly noticed positive changes in my work once I switched to a better-quality paper. The paper can be either hot pressed or cold pressed, I mainly work with cold pressed.
Quality paper can get expensive, but I have found academy grade Baohong cotton paper to be relatively inexpensive that allows to get beautiful results.
I have quite a collection of brushes, as it took me some time to experiment and find the one that works the best with my technique. My current favorite is number 6 Princeton Neptune round brush. Most of my work is done with that brush, and you absolutely don’t need tiny brushes for tiny details, a good brush with a Iong pointed tip is perfect for that. I also occasionally use Escoda Ultimo brushes and some no name brushes.
I love ceramic palettes, and a little confession over here, most of my favorites are not from art stores but from lifestyle and home good stores. I don’t like using plastic palettes, as they get stained easily and also make water paddles when I mix the colors. My favorite one at the moment is the artichoke one I bought from a ceramic store in Lisbon, Portugal.
I love adding texture to my work, so I use watercolor pencils. The current set I have from Caran d’Ache is a gift for my birthday from a friend and I absolutely adore the variety and the quality of it.
Other things that I use frequently in my work are the kneaded eraser, as it doesn’t damage the watercolor paper, and a masking fluid from Schminke. Masking fluid is crucial if I want to mask some tiny details, and this one is so far the best one I have had. I don’t use it often, but when I do, it does the job perfectly!
I also have a watercolor sketchbook from Moleskine, that I use for daily painting practice and to sketch out ideas for personal projects.
Exploring and experimenting are important to my creative process, and I enjoy trying new paints, papers, brushes and watercolor techniques so I am sure that my current favorite watercolor supplies list will go through some form of transformation one way or another in the future, but for now this is what I enjoy using both in my personal and professional projects and I hope this will serve you as a guide if you are starting out with watercolors or looking to explore them further.
Until next time!
Much love, Izabel
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