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Before You Buy Watercolor Supplies

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If you're about to start painting with watercolors, you'll need to get a basic set of good-quality paints, a range of papers (so you can test for yourself how each works), and a few brushes. If you're wanting to experiment, try out some mediums.

Watercolor Art Supplies List

Watercolor Paints

Paints come in tubes or pans (small blocks). Pans are cheaper, easily accessible, but tend to dry out. Pans are ideal for small areas of color and watercolor sketching. Paint in tubes has to be squeezed onto a palette; it's easier to use for large areas of color. There's a big difference between student and professional paints; rather buy a few quality paints than many cheap colors.

Watercolor Paper

Watercolor papers come in three surfaces: rough, which has a textured surface; hot-pressed or HP, which has a fine-grained, smooth surface; and cold-pressed (or NOT), which has a slightly textured surface and is the paper used most often by watercolor artists. The thickness of paper is indicated by its weight; paper less than 356 gsm (260 lb) should stretched before use.

Watercolor Brushes

Sable brushes are considered the ultimate in watercolor brushes because of the fine point the hairs reach, their ability to spring back into shape, and the amount of paint they hold. Less expensive options are brushes with a mixture of sable and synthetic hairs or 100% synthetic brushes. Unlike choosing paint, start with the cheaper brushes and upgrade as you become more proficient.

Watercolor Mediums

Mediums are added to watercolor to create special effects. Aquapasto is a gel medium which thickens washes and provides texture. Gum arabic increases paint transparency and gloss. Ox gall improves the flow of washes over hard papers. Masking fluid blocks out sections of a painting while you paint further - it's removed by rubbing it off the paper when the paint is dry. Iridescent medium adds a sparkle. Granulation medium produces grainy colors rather than smooth.
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