Selecting your Brush
Watercolor brushes are most often found to be made of the red sable hair that comes from the same pelt as the sable coat. Many artists have tried many different brushes and it has been determined that the finest watercolor brushes are made of the hair found on the tips of the Russian male Kolinsky red sable’s winter coat. This particular hair has become renowned for the ability to hold a lot of paint and keep a resilient, sharp, and durable point, that always snaps back.
More recently, synthetic brushes have been introduced to the art providing a more cost efficient product with little compromise compared to the sable hair.
The trick is knowing what you want to watercolor before selecting your brush. What is your topic? Like most tools, you wouldn’t want to use a hammer to do the work of a screwdriver. Know what you want your art to look like helps to determine just which brush(es) you will select.
have a round full body that holds just the right amount of paint and taper to a sharp (sable) or near sharp (synthetic) point.
hold a large amount of paint and are useful for coloring in large areas.
have a large quantity of soft hair for moving a large quantity of paint in a loose manner and blending wet areas. Mops are best used for wetting paper and painting large, soft, fluid passages such as skies.
lacking a sharp point, are great for foliage work due to their oblong blunt ends.
are flat pie-wedge shaped brushes used for blending in oil or acrylic painting. The bristle fan is good for scrubbing out linear strokes in watercolors.
are noted for their long pointed length that holds a lot of paint. Used for fine details and expressive line work. This brush was first designed to paint the rigging on boats in nautical paintings.
are stubby brushes with a fine point. Used primarily for photo retouching, they are excellent for miniature and detail work.
Select a paint set of cake or moist pan watercolors if you prefer them. Most have a good selection of basic colors you’ll need for transparent watercolor painting. You will only need 10 colors to start watercoloring, adding more colors to your palette as you learn.
Select paint to practice with that isn’t too expensive. Once you get your feet wet in watercoloring, and get out of the ‘kiddie pool’, you can consider the more professional brands of artists.
The colors below can get you started with sky, trees, water and so many other topics for your first art. Here is a list of palette colors for beginners:
Cadmium Yellow Light Pthalocyanine Blue
Cadmium Yellow Medium Pthalocycnine Green
Cadmium Red Medium Hooker’s Green
Alizarin Crimson Burnt Sienna
Ultramarine Blue Burnt Umber
Finding The Right Paper
Use any watercolor pad or loose paper with a weight of #140 or higher. The heavier the paper, the less likely you’ll have to deal with warping of wet paper while painting.
Cylinder mould made papers will always have two deckle edges. Hand-made papers will have deckle edges on all four sides. You can cut or tear these full sheets into smaller size sheets for smaller paintings. You can also buy larger sheets (up to 40″ x 60″) and even larger rolls of watercolor paper.
The paper will have a specific surface, ranging from smooth to textured. A surface in between, and one I recommend for beginners, is heavy and slightly textured.
Watercolor paper can come in a variety of weights as well as textures. Most range from 90 lb. to 300 lb. Student grade is 90 lb. This paper is too lightweight to do any scrubbing or surface rubbing without ruining the surface of the paper. Try 140 lb. paper in blocks or sheets.
Remember: The heavier the paper, the more it will be resistant to damage while you learn the art of watercoloring!
Arranging your Palette
Cake and Pan watercolor sets can come with built-in fold out palettes that are helpful when you are creating your watercolor.
Tube watercolors are easily mixable on any smooth flat surface such as a dinner plate or you may purchase inexpensive welled plastic palettes commonly used for Easter egg decorating.
A covered plastic palette is the most recommended for least waste and convenience if you are using tube watercolors. Once you decide that watercoloring is for you, consider buying one.
Plenty of Water
Water is the main ingredient in watercolor! Use two clean glass jars while water coloring. One to rinse between colors and one to set clean water on the paper while you watercolor.
Keeping your brushes can be as easy as you make it. To preserve the life of your brushes, keep them clean and dry when not in use. Cleaning watercolor brushes is as easy as running clear water through the bristles or hairs until all traces of watercolor is removed. Try to keep the metal portion of the brush dry if you are able. Glue attaches the hair to the underside of the metal band of the brush and too much water can disturb the glue.
Additional Watercolor ‘Tools’
Additional tools are helpful when rounding out your kit. Pencils, erasers, tissues, towels and clips to fasten your painting to a board will help you on your way to watercolor masterpiece!
Remember, art is what you make it. Have fun, be creative. Let your talent lead you. With these simple steps, anyone can watercolor!
Watercolors are soothing visually and extremely fun. Creating your own masterpiece can be easy with a few tips for beginners to this timeless art. Take some time for yourself and begin an inexpensive hobby creating beautiful works of art.