Watercolour Basics – Paints & Brushes

A back to basics look at paints and brushes, an ideal overview for anyone new to the wonderful medium of watercolour and an insight into my favourite paints and brushes.

Watercolour Paints
There are a wide range of choices out there and in my personal experience a box of 12 – 18 half pans will be enough to get you up and running quickly and inexpensively.  I personally use Winsor & Newton, other brands are obviously out there, but it is tricky once you start with a brand to suddenly switch from something you know to something unknown!

Half pans 
These are solid blocks of concentrated paint.  You tend to get what you pay for; I liken it to orange squash in the sense of the more concentrate you add the stronger the drink. Think about the half pans the same way, the more expensive versions usually have a higher pigment content and ultimately a greater depth of colour richness.
Half pans are my choice due to the fact that you don’t waste as much paint as you would using tubes.  This is particularly true when all you need is a little colour for one small area.  

Tube paint
I do have some tube watercolours, mainly for using with large backgrounds where I need to mix up a much larger wash.  I would recommend having a few of your frequently used background wash colours in tube format should you be able to.

Now I know another minefield and all I can do is let you know my preference in brushes. The brushes you buy will depend on the type of painting you wish to do and the budget at your disposal. Bristle types tend to fall into a few basic categories. 
Sable – expensive but lovely to use and has a natural taper giving it a good point to work with, the most coveted being kolinsky sable – the ultimate purchase for any artist!! 
Other natural fibres – each with their own unique properties in their favour.  For instance a hog brush is very stiff and generally used for oil and acrylics, whereas squirrel brushes are soft and often used in watercolours instead of sable as they are cheaper!
Mixed blends – as their name suggests a mixture of blends which brings out the most useful properties from both fibres to give the artist a much more versatile brush.
Synthetic – man made fibres, often more durable and usually a little kinder on the wallet!

Brush Sizes
As for the size of brush, it will depend on your subject.  Should you wish to paint large wash and in a loose style then obviously a large brush from say a size 18 down to a size 2 rigger (long and thin) may be your preference.
However, for the finer style of painting, as in the way I paint, then a size 8 down to a 00 (very small) would be ideal.
There are many different manufactures out there and I can only recommend the brushes I use – they are a bit like paints, once you get used to a particular make and style of brush it is difficult to break away from the comfort of familiarity.  Occasionally I will test out some different brushes and ultimately this may lead to a change in my favourite, but it doesn’t happen very often!

My Favourites
Everyone has their favourites, but here are some of mine.  I may earn a small commission at no extra cost to you from the links below.  I hope you find them helpful.
Winsor and Newton Professional Pans
Winsor and Newton Student Cotman Pans
Cotman Watercolour Tubes
Winsor and Newton 00 Brush
Winsor and Newton Size 5 Brush
Mop Brush
Rosemary and Co – Spotter Series Brushes Size 1 & 5
Finally, thank you for following my blog, do leave a comment if there are any other subjects you would like me to ramble on about!   
Until the next time, keep those brushes (sable, animal hair, synthetic, blended, large, medium or small), wet!
Paul 😉

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