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Watercolor Art Supplies

This watercolor materials list contains everything I paint with and use every time. I do not recommend throwing out all your old materials. I do recommend buying good materials in the future. The most important material in watercolor painting is the paper. The next most important is a good brush.
You can't paint good paintings with bad paper or flimsy brushes unless you really really know what you're doing. If you're an excellent artist, then you can paint with anything - there is no magic tool!
My lessons are always about making learning to paint easier and fun! Good materials are part of that.

Watercolor Art Supplies

Disclaimer: Jennifer Branch Gallery is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertisting fees by advertising and linking to I receive a small rebate for your entire order (starting at 4%) if you choose to purchase through Amazon. Most items can be bought multiple places and I highly recommend local art stores if you have one! Any other recomendation links I receive no compensation for.
These referrals help me support this website, and I thank you for any purchase you make through them. I will never recommend a product I have not used frequently and believe is the best tool for the purpose!


Student grade paints are cheaper for a reason - they contain less pigment and a lot of filler (kaolin, glycerine, etc). So you actually end up paying more for student grade pigment than just getting artist grade paints in the first place. You might as well buy paints in the children's department as well as some student grades - it's the same thing and you'll pay a lot less.
Also, to get rich bright colors, you need to go over the same area many more times with student grade paints. So it's almost impossible to prevent mud when you're using paints with a lot of filler (um...kaolin=clay=mud.) Please keep in mind that some so called artist grade paints are called that by their manufacturers not artists, so stick with reputable brands. Standards are improving, but aren't there yet.

Don't forget that a lot of paint colors are proprietary mixes. So different colors may have the exact same name with different manufacturers. I tend to use colors that are as close to single pigments as possible for less mud.

These are transparent watercolors, not gouache.

Brands I recommend:
M. Graham & Co.
Beautiful pigments mixed with honey. My favorite by far! Family company, made in the USA, fantastic quality!

Also very good pigments:
Daniel Smith

I use a Winsor and Newton Cotman palette for some plein aire work. I love their little palette and replace the marginal cake paints with M. Graham ones.
Winsor & Newton Cotman

I don't paint finished paintings on location. I do sketches!)

M. Graham watercolor paints

My Palette

Azo Yellow
Quinacridone Gold
Cadmium Red
Quinacridone Red
Maroon Perylene
Cobalt Blue
Ultramarine Blue
Cerulean Blue
Cobalt Teal
Pthalo Blue
Pthalo Green
Burnt Sienna

Here is a video that shows my palette layout. It changes frequently, but the basic idea is the same.


Painting at home is very different from on location, so you need different papers. Let's talk about your studio first.

Art Materials Twinrocker paper is wonderful! It's handmade in the USA, has lovely feathered edges and just makes every painting start out a masterpiece!
Twinrocker paper has just the right balance of texture and slickness to really have paints glow. I've been using it for years and never fail to be impressed. And no, they don't send me free paper! Unfortunately...

For more relaxed painting - trying out a new technique, a difficult piece, etc. I'll use Arches 140# cold, rough or hot press paper. It's a solid paper. The sizing seems to vary per batch a bit, so be less aggressive until you know what the feel of the batch is.
For a workshop situation, always bring at least 2 stretched sheets ( at least 8" x 10") a day. More is better. If you're learning (which is what workshops and sketching is about) then you should be whipping through paper. Blocks are good - no stretching. But bring 2 blocks so one painting can dry while the other is started.
Different teachers will recommend differently, but I've had students run out of paper trying new techniques which is just frustrating. I've had students show up with practically postage stamps to paint on and a #38 brush. Not going to work. Blocks are great for workshops. I like about 10" x 14", small enough to transport and finish in a day. Not too devastating to start over.

Use at least 140# paper. A lighter weight will be very difficult to work with. I use a variety of sketchbooks.

A Pencil / Charcoal Sketchbook is always useful for value sketches.

Note on Paper Purchase: Several art stores( ie: Cheap Joes) use product stickers that leave residue on watercolor paper. You don't always know about it until you're well into the painting. Whenever possible, buy in groups of whatever the minimum is (usually 5) to avoid the sku sticker. Otherwise one side is unusable in a corner.


I've found it's easier to keep brushes down to a minimum once you've found out what works best for you.
I highly reccommend beginning with one good size 14 round brush. A synthetic is fine to start - or even to finish!

Stay away from flats and go toward rounds. Flats have only one stroke possible. Rounds are limitless.

  • #14 Round Sable (Isabey)

  • #14 Escoda Squirrel Round

    Squirrel is awesome for sketching! Holds lots of water and skims the surface.

  • #1 Rigger Sable (Isabey)

  • Kolinsky sable is hard to find right now in the United States. Most more popular sizes are sold out. US Fish and Wildlife has seized (and returned some) from most European suppliers that couldn't comply with the new USFW standards for labeling.

Other Stuff


John Pike Palette
I just changed to a big wells John Pike palette. Love it!

I also use a handmade wooden palette (my clever husband!) with Nalgene containers for the wells. I use this mostly on extended trips.

I use cotton washcloths for blotting.
Paper towels shed and have a harsh texture and smooth rags don't have enough texture. Don't forget to wash painting washcloths separately - paint stains! Also, don't use detergent or softeners, just hot water. Residue transfers to your paint in awkward places.

Wax Resist

I always use wax crayons on location. They make it easy to do bold washes and not worry about the little details.
Here is my lesson on using wax resist!

Masking Fluid

I use Incredible White Mask.

Pencil and separate white eraser

I use the pink one on the end of the pencil for painting and removing masking fluid. The pencil eraser will destroy paper quickly if you use it on art paper - it's meant for tests, not art!

A large mouth water container

I use an old Tupperware. It needs to be big enough to not damage your brushes. For in studio, I use one water container and change to clean water constantly. For outside painting, I use 2 containers, one clean, one dirty.

The last, but one of the most important things is lighting. Outside, it's constantly changing, so be aware! Inside, I use 2 studio lamps aimed at opposite directions to reduce shadows. I have blinds I can angle to control natural light. When your painting time is limited, you want to be able to paint early in the morning or the middle of the night! Don't let your lighting let you down!

The most important thing is paint lots and enjoy painting!
Happy Painting!

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