I made this page mostly for myself. I use it so I remember what I use or where I bought it. I will send this info when people ask me these questions. Copy and paste my description in a web search. Enjoy.
|Paper – WC and
Water Soluble Colored Pencils
|Brushes||Covered Palettes||Painting Boards|
|Drawing Charcoal and Sanguine Red Conté / pastel pencils||Gray Cards|
||Mat Boards & Framing|
Paper – Watercolor
Most artists agree that paper is most important to the success of a WC painting (followed by brushes, then paint). Those new to WC will use cheaper cellulose paper because it is ‘cheap’ and say, “oh, I am just practicing and don’t want to spend money on good paper.” Then they wondered why their washes don’t look like mine and those on YouTube and get frustrated!!?? It’s not them, its the paper!! I now insist that my students buy good 100% cotton paper for my classes. Granted!!, experienced artists can adapt to cellulose paper after having experience with knowing what the water is doing, But start learning on good paper!
Watercolor paper – Painting must be 100% cotton rag (read para above). I have been using Bright White, though there is not much difference between bright and natural. I like cold press 140# (300gsm). Many portrait artists use 300# Hot Press; not me, yet. I like the texture I get with cold press paper. Here are my paper reviews…
Kilimanjaro from Cheap Joes. I am liking this paper! Added to the quality of the paper, I like the convenience of the blocks. With full 22″x30″ sheets, I buy 10 sheets (for price break) and rip them down as needed. When ripped into 1/4 sheets they are 11”×15”. I like to paint to a 10.5×13.5 mat. That makes it pretty tight. I could go bigger and odd ball sizes, but portraits work well in ~11×14″. I like and use both the Kilimanjaro 10×12 and 12×16 blocks (bound on 4 sides) (pads bound on 1 short edge). They travel well! They are a fair value. (For what it is worth, I have heard Fabriano makes this paper)
Arches. It’s good classic paper. It was bought out by Canson several years ago (you will see that on the label when you buy 10 sheet bags.) I have heard and read that the quality of the sizing has diminished. I still have bulk paper I bought several years ago. The pads are ridiculously priced – I used to buy them from Michael’s when they had 40% off coupons!
Saunders paper. This paper is OK if I had to use it. I probably won’t buy it anymore. I have not yet seen a good deal, or noticeable difference to make me leave Arches or Kilimanjaro.
Stonehenge Watercolor Paper. I tried the 300# paper. I don’t like this at all. The paint seems to bead up on the surface, and if you put any tape or masking on it, it will rip the surface. If someone gave me a piece I would try the 140#, but I don’t see a reason to buy it.
Fabriano Artistico Watercolor Paper. 140# Cold press. I don’t like it at all! Paint soaks in too fast, I can’t float paint like I want for my washes. I can’t lift like I want, and it is too soft for my style of painting.
Cheapjoes prices as of 16 Apr 23. This was NOT a sale price! Blocks are sealed on 4 sides, pads on one side. The paper goes on sale a couple times a year.
20 sheets Kilimanjaro Original Bright White Watercolor Block, 140 lb., 10″ x 14″ KMB11014 $29.69 (was $ 30-26.) I like Kilimanjaro paper. It is about the same as Arches.
20 sheets Kilimanjaro Original Bright White Watercolor Block, 140 lb., 12″ x 16″ KMB11216 $33.59 (was $35-33)
20 sheets Kilimanjaro Original Bright White Watercolor Pad, 140 lb., 11″ x 14″ KMPD11114 $29.49
10 sheets Kilimanjaro Original Bright White Watercolor Pad, 300 lb., 11″ x 14″ KMPD31114 $? (was $31.79)
Watercolor paper – Sketching
Doing sketches in books, plein air, or painting with light washes. (not normally considered for framing). The issue is too wet and the inexpensive paper will breakdown and pill. Also the light weight (90-100#) will buckle. Note: When you are home you can open the book and iron the backside of a warped sheet flat with an iron and a towel on a hard surface.
Canson XL Mix Media Pad, 11″ x 14″ 702-2421 (C-Joes) $17.49 ($15.29) I like this for sketching and light watercolor washes. It is made from cellulose, it is not watercolor paper! But it is inexpensive and fun to play with.
Bee Paper Aquabee Super Deluxe Sketchbook. I like this paper too. Bit more expensive.
Here are a few sources for more info of some OTHER paper.
– Paintcrush with Kristy Rice. The Best Cheap Watercolor Paper Will Shock You!
– Search for “TheStudioManager.com Best Mixed Media Sketchbooks and Drawing Pads” to see a good review article of many sketchbooks.
Brushes See my article on Brushes
I have a photo of all of these and more detail and opinions on different brushes for different uses. I am NO EXPERT, everyone has their take. See my article on Brushes
Silver Brush Black Velvet Series. These brushes are a blend of squirrel and nylon. I regularly use a #4 round for soft blending details, Silver Brush Black Velvet Series 3007 Script, Size 4 SB3007-4 $7.79. I also use the #10 and #16 rounds. I have a jumbo round medium and an oval wash which I seldom use.
Raphael SoftAqua Synthetic Squirrel Watercolor Brush, #4 Quill, Black ~$22 on Amazon. (not in photo) Note this #4 Quill is about a #12 normal scale. I really like it for soft moppy strokes yet it has a firmer tip and you can still use it for details, and it doesn’t bend sideways when almost out of paint like a sable!!!
Raphael Kolinsky Sable brush 8404, #14 – around $200+! I use to think about buying a #12 or #10, next time. This is the industry standard, but it is really not functional for the way I paint. I don’t use mine! BUY THE Raphael SOFTAQUA ABOVE!
Escoda Perla White Toray Synthetic Series 1430, # 6 $7.00. Used for small detail and detailed lifting. I use this on every painting.
Robert Simmons 1/4, 3/8, and 1/2″ Angle Shader, short handle, Sapphire brushes: Used for lifting, it is a very helpful tool. I use one of these in every painting.
Loew Cornell 7020 (Manufacture discontinued). I have Loew Cornell 7020 (pointed series) for detail, I understand the KingArt are just as good. I have the LC 7020 #6, #10, #14. Used only for details, not lifting. Very pointed, almost to a fault. (You don’t need a #14)
KINGART looks to be a substitute for Loew Cornell. They bought out LC.
KINGART Original Gold 9020 Series, Golden Taklon Ultra Max Round (Pointier for detail) #14 ~$14. Kingartco.com They have two types of tips. Comparable to Loew Cornell 7020 Ultra Round. The 9020 Max Round shape is longer and leaner compared to a standard round 9000 shape brush.
KINGART Original Gold 9000 Series, Golden Taklon Round (rounder tip for moppy strokes) #14 ~$11 Comparable to Loew Cornell 7000 Ultra Round. This one is less pointed as the 9020 Note both the KINGART 9020 and 9000 have a gold band!! Taklon is the type of bristles.
Mimik. (These brushes are “animal friendly” I bought two of them. They are good and inexpensive to start with. Amazon had a #10 2pac for $15. and http://www.jerrysartarama.com Item #87238 Mimik Synthetic Squirrel Watercolor Brush Round #10 ~$7, #12 ~$8. Item #87247 Mimik Synthetic Squirrel Watercolor Brush Washmate Brush 1-1/2” wide ~$12. A brush set- Item #: 87257 Mimik Synthetic Squirrel Watercolor Brushes Value Set of 8 ~$25.
Pentel Aquash Water Brush Round, Large (not the medium if you can choose). I have started using this regularly when I paint. If you want to apply a clean wash or to soften an edge with clean water, just pick up and use this brush/tool.
See my article on Portrait Washes & Flesh Colors & Palette. I use Winsor Newton, Daniel Smith, and Holbein. Only buy professional paint if you are serious. Student grade paints have more fillers. Those who are just curious may wish to use student grade paints such as Grumbacher or Cotman brands which are MUCH cheaper. Note: If paint looks dull and chalky on your palette, IT WILL LOOK DULL ON YOUR PAPER!
White Pens and Water Soluble Pencils
White pens and pencils are not for a “traditional” watercolor painter as they are opaque.
– White pen: A very nice and common opaque white pen for adding white highlights to plein air sketches is the Uni-ball Signo Broad UM-153 Gel Pen – White Ink. Accept no substitute (there may be substitutes but be careful)! It is part of my travel kit. They are sold in most art stores for about $3. Don’t buy too many, the pen ball tip dries up…
– White water soluble pencil could be used to add a glint to an eye or jewelry rather than using opaque white paint. CaranD’Ache Museum Aquarelle Pencil – White, $4.40. Blick is one place that sells them. Not common in art stores. (pronounced Kaa.raan daash not Koran or Karen)
– Black, water soluble pencils. These are nice for a black & white sketch with blending shades. There are many inexpensive brands available locally. General’s Sketch and Wash is cheap and very common, Derwent, Lyra, etc.
– (Blackish) Water Soluble Marker/Pen. A fun one is Speedball, Elegant Writer calligraphy fine tip markers. It bleeds when brushed with water and makes interesting washes. It is mostly black but will blend into interesting a hint of green and purple. After it dries it is permanent, you can just add more if you want it darker.
– Colored Water-soluble pencils. Marks made by these pencils will dissolve and blend when brushed with water. There are many brands of water soluble colored pencils available. Derwent Inktense is a good option. Inktense are more expensive but have rich color for those who plan on sketching with color. Here is a YouTube review on Inktense.
Original John Pike Palette – 15”x10-1/2”, 20 paint wells ~$28 A common classic pallet
Frank Webb Watercolor Palette, 25 wells “dam-free” ~$20 If you like dragging your paint out to mix instead of dipping it out of a well.
– My thoughts on small cheap folding watercolor palettes. 1) I don’t think you need or want paint wells on both side of the palette. Very messy when you close them. 2) not sure you need more than 12 colors in a portable palette. 3) I would rather more mixing area then excessive paint or spaces wasted for holding ONE brush. 4) You will likely use more than one brush when you paint and have a plan to protect all of them…
– Loew Cornell 950B 8.375″ x 10″ Folding Watercolor Palette with 12 paint wells (they say 17, it includes mixing spaces). ~$4. Walmart sometimes sells them. I use this palette ALWAYS when I do a portrait. See my article on flesh for how I use this palette.
– Jack Richeson Folding Watercolor Palette Tray 9″ X 9 1/2″ opened up. ~$7 A search comes up with two sizes, choose the smaller one with paint wells on one side and NO wasted space for your brush! These are thicker than the Loew Cornell ones. (I just looked and can’t easily find them…??)
Painting Board. What works nice are political yard signs. Light and free! You can cut them to size with a knife but table saw is better. I wrap the edges with white duct tape to cover the rough edge and it covers the lettering on the edge of the sign. Use Bulldog clips or tape to hole your paper. I use Blu-Tack poster tack to hold my paper to the surface. See erasers below.
Full yard sign is 24″x18″. To get 1/2″ space on edges, cut to 23×16 for 1/2 sheet; 12×16 for 1/4 sheet. Full 8’x10′ melamine sheets can be cut into 6 full sheet size boards. Home Depot will make 3 cuts for free so you can get them home. Same dimension cuts as above for 1/2 and 1/4 sheets.
Drawing Charcoal and Conté (Classic Sanguine color)
General’s Charcoal Pencils, 2B Medium, Pkg. of 12 GPC557-2B $11.79
General’s Charcoal Pencils, 4B Soft, Pkg. of 12 GPC557-4B $11.79
General’s Charcoal Pencils, 6B Soft. These are really soft, probably too soft for life drawing.
I like Generals Charcoal rectangular jumbo Sticks, #960-4B Medium, box of 6, ~$7 box. I provide them in my drawing classes. I score the middle and break in half. Then I will rub the long edge on medium sandpaper to create a gentle rocker shape so you don’t get a hard edge when drawing on the side.
If you like the classic sanguine red color I love the Stabilo CarbOthello Pastel Pencil – Caput Mortuum Red SW1400/645. They come indiv and in boxes of 12. DickBlick and Amazon sells them. Very smooth and wonderful. ~1.80 ea in bulk
I don’t like the sanguine Conté à Paris brand Sketching pencils or sticks. They are scratchy, like there is some grit in the mix! Drives me crazy. Don’t buy Michaels Conté like sticks either. They call them crayons or pastel. They are hard and scratchy, waste of money!!
Erasers Read my article on erasers
Moo Professional Eraser, 2 per pack M300DB $3.99 Sold at Hobby Lobby
Blu Tack by Bostik. BEST kneaded eraser and all purpose poster tack. Not readily available in the US. Buy several online and give it to your friends! ~$3.50 (Make no substitutions!)
General’s Kneaded Eraser is the classic kneaded eraser and sold everywhere. It is OK for charcoal drawing.
Gray Card Read my article on Photo Gray Cards
Golden Heavy Body Acrylic, Neutral Gray N6, 5 oz. G1446-5 $13.64 This is paint to use for a gray reference.
Also 18% Gray Card. Sold at every photo store. I cut them into little squares and put in my camera bags. You only need a little piece to reference and make color adjustments with Photoshop or equal.
Mat Boards and Framing
Matting and framing is the biggest issue I have with painting with watercolor. It always costs $80 – $120 or more to have it professionally framed… Oil and Acrylic painters can just paint the edges of the stretcher, add a wire and be done. It’s a Gallery Wrapped painting. You give someone a nice watercolor portrait you painted and have to say, “Oh by the way, it will cost you $100 buck to frame this “gift” I gave you.
– You can stretch WC paper on a wooden frame and paint it! It works great! See my article on stretching-watercolor-paper-on-frames.
– MatboardPlus.com is one place a friend buys mats and bags. She always paints to standard mats and frames. Why not?? Mark your paper to those dimensions FIRST! Then compose and paint.
– AmericanFrame.com is another place I have used. Good prices, good quality. You can get custom sizes not stuck to standard.
– For Giclée prints see this article of mine. (to get that é, press Alt 130, to get © it is alt 0169)
Updated: May 2023, Mar 2022 edits from Kate R, Dec 2021, added Mimik brushes and other updates, Created: 31 Dec 2020