I bought my first watercolour kit many years ago, but never really used it. After starting Drawingº in 2020, my interest in watercolour and painting in general returned. I like a lot of things about watercolour - it's affordable, portable, easy to clean up and has it's own unique set of techniques and required skills. With that said, it is quite difficult.

For me, a lot of the fun with watercolours is learning about colours and paper - but I've always loved tools and how they are used.

Recommendations for complete beginners

If I was getting started again, and just wanted to improve at painting (and not research tools a ton) I would recommend:

  • a $25 Winsor & Newton Cotman kit (12 colours)

  • A bigger brush or two than what comes with the above kit (just get a cheap one from a kraft store)

  • A micron fine tip archival pen (something like 0.1 - 0.3 in width)

  • A Stillman & Birn Beta sketchbook

None of the above are particularly the best of their category, but they give you want you need to get going! I include the micron because I found working with ink & watercolour more encouraging for me as a beginner as I had trouble creating distinct forms with just paint - and it can be a bit more fun to start with outlines and then learn about colours and mixing and just have to "paint inside the lines".

More on picking colours

Another options is to go for an even more limited palette then the above as it will really help you get to know select colours and how they mix before you choose to expand your resources. When I was ready to upgrade my paints I bought this kit:

With the following colours:

  • Hansa Yellow Light, 5ml

  • New Gamboge, 5ml

  • Quinacridone Rose, 5ml

  • Pyrrol Scarlet, 5ml

  • Phthalo Blue Green Shade, 5ml

  • French Ultramarine, 5ml

It was a pretty good purchase, but after spending plenty of time with it I think I might have gotten one of the M. Graham starter kits (I believe there's one with Ultramarine, Azo Yellow, Burnt Sienna, Alizarin Crimson, and Sap green). I find that Pthalo blue is a bit strong a colour for me (haven't had a lot of use with it yet), and the DS french ultramarine dried up like a brick (which hasn't happened with what the Holbein Ultramarine I replaced it with). The M. Graham paints stay quite soft (reportedly too soft in some climates, though). I like the idea of having have had just three primaries, and two secondaries (green/brown) when starting.

If you go this route, you'll still need some kind of palette or case to put your paint in when you're painting (you could find an empty portable palette or a cheap plastic one to be economical to start). To save some money, you could also go to a second-hand store and looking for ceramic dishes to work as a palette. Don't fall into the trap of thinking you need a $50 ceramic dish made for watercolours.

All in all, if I was to start again, I would probably have gone with a limited palette until I absolutely could not paint with it anymore. I've read many talented artists saying that beginners can be easily distracted by buying more and more colours.

Useful Resources

I would recommend scanning some of the videos in these channels: