Painting Watercolors

All artists have had “firsts”. Every first-time art class or workshop starts with a materials list from the instructor. Every art book begins with a chapter on “materials,” and the artist usually offers his or her own favorite palette colors.

So what should a beginner watercolor artist tools? There are a basic list of watercolor art tools, that will get the new artist painting along in about anyone’s workshop. You can always add something the instructor is demonstrating to your tool box later.

1) Palette – use a large plastic palette with 30 wells and 2 center areas for mixing. Way more than you will need, but get one with approximately 20 wells so that you have room to add colors that you discover as you learn to paint. A ceramic palette is lovely and does not stain but it is also heavy and not ideal for traveling back and forth to class.

2) Paint colors. Here starting with 12 basic colors will get you quite far in your painting endeavors. Here’s best-recommended color list:

Brown Madder
Burnt Umber
Raw Sienna
Hooker’s Green Deep
Azo Yellow
Perm Red Deep (or a good solid primary red)
Quinacridone Rose (or Alizarin Crimson)
Ultramarine Deep
Cobalt Blue
Prussian Blue

Different manufacturers use different names but many are the same. Shop around. You don’t need lots of greens, oranges, purples to start. You can mix many of the colors that you need. This basic palette will give you room to experiment and expand as you want to add other colors like Quinacridone Gold (one of my favorites!) or a lovely Turquoise or Cerulean Blue for interesting skies. Paint is quite expensive so look for sales. You want tube sizes of approx. 14 or 15 ml. The rest are too small to fill the paint wells. You do not need white ,you can use white only for mistakes! Black is not a necessary color either – you can mix lovely darks with the colors listed above.

3) Paper. first purchase is a small pad of what is supposed to be 140-lb watercolor paper. That is a standard weight that many artists use. But you can purchase a much higher quality watercolor block by Arches and it can an “AHA Moment”! The original paper was really much lighter, had poor texture and the paint did not flow and adhere as nicely as with the better paper. So don’t go too cheap with the paper – you will not learn the really paint unless you use good paper.

4) Brushes can make or break your painting too. there is a large selection of all sorts – synthetic, 50%/50% synthetic and natural, and 100% natural hair bristles. Each serves a purpose and creates different strokes. A good synthetic 1 1/2″ brush is perfect for initial washes of color or water. You will want a 1″, 1/2″ and maybe 1/4″ flat brush, and a #4 and 8 round. If you get a good deal on 50/50 brushes, take it.Some of the brushes also have a chisel point end so you can scrape tree branches and lines.

5) Extras – Just a few more things that you will need to complete your tool kit.

Any plastic container will do for water – old Tupperware containers are great.

You will need a roll of paper towels, and a box of facial tissues (do NOT buy the kind with lotion in them! Basic grocery store brands are fine).

Large Spray bottle that “sprays”, not shoots a stream (check home improvement store or dollar store).

Sketchbook. Can’t plan out your painting without one!

Paint Tube Wringer: this is a great investment! Paint is very expensive so you want to wring the last drop out of the tube (like toothpaste… ). Just insert the tail of the tube and wind it toward the front slowly.

Masking fluid – this is rather optional but many instructors will demonstrate this in a workshop. Choose “Temporary” masking fluid, or Drawing Gum. Masque Pen makes one too. Buy a cheap brush to apply the masking fluid or it will ruin any good brush!

White eraser. You can draw with any pencil but purchase a small white eraser – don’t use what’s on the pencil or you will mark your watercolor paper.

Thanks to this locksmith Hillsboro for sponsoring this post!

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