Watercolor for Beginners: Intro to Paints

Firstly: quality matters, unfortunately. I’d love to tell you that all supplies are the same and that expensive paint is just a scam pushed on us by Big Art, but I am bound by my blogger oath to tell the truth.

That being said, what is most important is to get supplies that work for your budget and just start! All you’ll need to begin are paint, paper, and brushes. Today, let’s talk paint:

 

Types of Paint

Water color paint comes in several forms. All of them get the job done, but they have different advantages.

Tubes:

This paint comes in little tubes that you can squeeze out. Since it’s already semi-liquid, it’s easy to mix colors. However, it’s easy to squeeze out too much, and then you’re in a real get-the-toothpaste-back-in-the-tube scenario. A little goes a long way. 

Also, be sure to close those tubes tightly! The paint will dry in the tube, and then you’ll be very sad. Not that this has ever happened to me. I am perfect in every way. 

 watercolor tube paints

 

Pans:

A “pan” is just a solid block of dried paint. If you’ve ever gotten one of those dollar store water color kits, it was pan paint (not to worry, there are much nicer pan sets out there). 

Pan paint needs to be mixed with a bit of water. This means it (usually) lasts longer than tube paint. It also makes it easier to travel with, it case you’re planning to trounce out to a field and paint the sunset, as we all do.

Pan paint is best for medium-or-smaller paintings because it is difficult to mix enough color for a big painting. Do not try to paint a 12 x 24 inch canvas, which, again, I have never done.

 watercolor pan paints

 

Liquid:

Liquid water color is just a highly concentrated mixture of paint and water. Basically, they’ve done a step for you and mixed the paint. But you’ll probably want to dilute it a bit.

Regardless of paint type, you’ll need a surface to mix your paint on. This surface is called a palette or mixing tray. Good news: here is one area where you can really be a cheapskate! It’s just a piece of plastic, so no need to get fancy. You CAN get mixing trays made out of ceramic or other nice materials, but you can also get toilets made out of gold, so don’t be fooled.

 

HONORABLE MENTION. Watercolor Pencils:

 Okay, watercolor pencils aren’t really a paint, but they turn to liquid when you add water. Nifty!

You can use water color pencils entirely on their own. Personally, I use them with other watercolor paints as a way to add detail.

 watercolor pencils

 

Different grades

Every kind of paint has a different grade, or quality. Like everything in life except pizza, the lower the quality the lower the price.

Classroom Grade

Imagine the paint you used in kindergarten. This is that paint. Like me, you are probably imaging a certain brand. Legally, I can’t say the name, but it rhymes with “Mayolla.” 

These paints are cheap but very low quality. They can be hard to mix and annoying to use, honestly. It will be tempting to buy them, but please don’t. You’re worth it. I promise.

 

Student Grade

The middle road! The “just right” porridge! The third comparison!

Student Grade costs less that than Artist Grade paint, but still has good quality pigment. This grade of paint is perfect if you’re getting started with watercolor.

 

Artist Grade

Finally, we have Artist Grade. This is the highest quality you can get, but that comes with a higher price.

I’d wait until you’ve experimented with the other paints before buying. Learn what types/colors of paint you prefer before investing in this.

  

The best way to start is just to jump in! Start experimenting with paints, discover what you like, and have fun. It sounds hokey, but the great thing about art is that there’s no wrong way to do it as long as you’re enjoying the process.