recommendations on basic watercolor supplies for beginners
I finally wrote down some of my thoughts and recommendations on watercolor supplies for students new to the medium. These products are meant for someone that has advanced beyond the Crayola or Prang sets (which serve a wonderful purpose as well) and is looking to start experiment mixing rich color on their own. I linked all the pics to Amazon because honestly, ever since my local art shop left town it's where I get most of my stuff. However I would always price compare with your local place or use those awesome coupons at Michaels or Hobby Lobby if that turns out to get you a better deal. As with most things art, you can really get caught up in the excitement of new materials and those things add up fast (at least that's what happens to me!)
Watercolor Paint is most commonly purchased in cakes or tubes. Generally, artists use cakes (or pan watercolors) when making small paintings and tubes for larger watercolors. However, it just depends on personal preference. In either case, tubes or cakes, you will need water to achieve the right consistency in order to paint. There are many brands of watercolor paint and most can be grouped into children grade, student grade, and professional grade. The difference between the tiers of paint, besides price, is the amount and quality of pigment within the paint. In watercolors pigment is suspended in gum arabic, a non toxic, water soluble solution. It is common to learn with a quality student grade watercolor brand and then purchase professional grade watercolors when you make the leap to sell your work.
Water color paper is very different than the paper that spits out of your printer. It is meant to not only absorb loads of water, but also keep the paint on the surface for a period of time so artists have the chance to manipulate it. Watercolor paper comes in three different surfaces; rough, cold press, and hot press. It is also offered in a variety of thicknesses, referred to as weight. The weight refers to how much the ream of paper weighs as a whole. Most artists work in 140 pound or above for finished paintings, only working on 90 pound for quick exercises or sketches.
There are an overwhelming amount of watercolor brushes to choose from. Generally speaking, I suggest that beginning watercolorists rely on a variety of round brushes for the bulk of their painting needs and a large mop brush for washes. Arguably, the very best watercolor brush you can buy is a Kolinsky Sable brush, made from the hair of a weasel that lives in Siberia ... who would have guessed, but they are expensive. Squirrel, goat, and boar hair all hold their shape well and soak up a lot of water, making them great brushes as well. Synthetic bristles are a great alternative at a much more affordable price. Quality varies greatly so I recommend that you try them out beforehand or read up on other artists opinions before making a purchase.
I like all of the synthetic brush bundles pictured above. They hold up well and keep their shape nicely. The black handled brushes come with an angled end, which is nice to have on hand in watercolors, but not necessary. I find the black handled brushes to be less springy that then the acrylic handled pack first pictured. It all comes down to personal preference though.
The three brushes pictured directly below are a step up in quality versus the synthetic brushes above. They will hold more water and keep their point firmer for a longer period of time. That being said, I didn't make the leap to invest in these until I was selling my work. There is no need to ever purchase these, their are plenty of artists that do beautiful work with synthetic brushes .... however, I find these a real treat and have used them with love.
They make a item to put on a wish list!
Other products that might be fun and helpful as you get going in watercolor are
MISKIT, a rubber cement like solution that is used to mask off areas of your painting
WATERCOLOR PENS, a synthetic brush that has a handle that you're able to fill with colored ink, liquid watercolor, or plain water. Great to use on the go or if you venture down the hand lettering lane of life
WATERCOLOR PENCILS OR CRAYONS, a great tool to help you add textures or just work you out of a painting slump.
This post contains affiliate links. This means that thebeeskneescousin.com makes a small commission based on your purchase. The price you pay for the product or service is not higher, and the commissions I earn go towards the cost of purchasing the yearly domain and web hosting services to keep the blog up and running. Every product that I link to is one that I have purchased myself ,use, and love
Thanks so much!
The very Basics
I put together a small, very short, VERY basic handout on watercolors for my adult class that started this week. And, it got me thinking, why didn't I do this for my elementary students?
I have always felt that more elementary art teachers should be taking advantage of watercolor paint and teaching more advanced concepts to kids, rather than just using it as a paint choice to fill in color. The very basics of watercolor technique, flat and gradient washes, wet into wet, wet on dry, and glazing techniques lend lots of room for great lessons on color theory and paint application that, in my experience, lead to great results.
I talk about using watercolors in elementary classroom here, in this lesson based on Catherine Rayner's illustrations
In hindsight, I should have offered this handout to my younger students as well. I think it would have been a concise way to introduce watercolors and served as a proper introduction to a material that has great potential to be more than just colors. I will use this with younger students in the future as well.
Feel free to click on the handouts above and download the documents from my googledocs if you think they would be helpful.
Another great beginning watercolor activity is a quick watercolor workout. I talk about that in greater detail here. I usually have the kids make the grid themselves, a great way to get some ruler skills in, but if you're pressed for time feel free to use the handout below. Just print it on 90 lb. paper and tell students not to paint over the ink lines.
How do you utilize watercolors in your classroom?
You might also be interested in:
Keeping a variety of art supplies out and available at all times has really encouraged my kids to create all day long.
Our art supplies are on our kitchen island. My kids gravitate there when they need to make something to add to their play or simply to take a break. We had an art supply carousel our old house but switched to the Boon container you see above. I like that the Boon vessel looks stylish and I don't mind having it out all the time. It sorts supplies nicely and holds a variety of materials, and I always have a flair pen when I need one.
Since we aren't directly supervising the art making at all times we keep it to low mess art supplies; thin washable markers, plenty of my favorite pencils, a variety of washi tape, scissors, glue sticks, andthe creamiest colored pencils ever.
I find myself pausing to draw with the kids more, with materials always available.
What sorts of stuff do you always leave out for your kids?
Below are some of my kids and my favorites
This post contains affiliate advertising. This means that if you click a link in the post, I may make a small commission based on your purchase. The price you pay for the product or service is not higher, and the commissions I earn go to keeping the blog online. Thanks so much!
If you've been here before, you might have noticed some major changes. As I transition from teaching art in a formal school setting to a small group setting I decided to utilize my website to keep everything in one place. I will continue to blog about my art education practices and hopefully more often.
It's been a year of transitions as I stay home full time with my family and I've very much looking forward to teaching more in the upcoming year. Cheers to more art time!
Like most people I know there are times my kids need a quiet activity, whether to calm down at the end of a rambunctious game or to help them wake up in the A.M. - I took ideas from a wide variety of schools of thought and started to have these, what some people would call invitations to play out on a table every so often. I think this would also work wonderfully in an art room as an "after activity", especially as a way to introduce new materials or techniques.
Over winter break I started to lay out materials and tools on simple white trays. There were a variety of different activities over the two weeks, mostly seasonal. My kids gravitated towards them throughout the day for different intervals of time.
Whether my kids complete them in the way I intended is up to them. Unlike what I understand to be the Montessori school of thought, I don't care if my kids do what I thought they would with the material. For example, I thought Auggie would enjoy pouring the rice back and forth between the pitchers; which he did. But then when some spilled out he asked for a spoon to put it back into the pitchers, and then he just started playing with the rice as a sensory experience, all A-okay with me.
A collection of items that any kiddo would be jazzed about:
1. Wikkistix, Encourage those little people to build up and out. Art doesn't have to be on paper! These will encourage exploration in three dimensional art for those older kids while entertaining even the youngest (as well as remain mess free!)
2. Pom Pom Beads, I used these a lot in my art ed room and my kids use them a ton at home as well. Easy to thread and adorable as a garland, these provide a relaxing, quiet activity that improves fine motor skills and gives you instant decor that you got free of labor charges. Plus for under $2 for 100 of them - I mean, come on. No brainer.
3. Learning Resources Sorting Tray, My two year old is really into sorting objects. We change it up depending on the season, but he really enjoys seperating out what belongs together in these small compartments. This could also double as an organizing tray for loose parts or craft materials.
4. Craft Supplies, pipe cleaners, googly eyes, sequins, glitter - any variety of these items woudl delight children or all ages, and let's be honest - probably a few adults too.
5. Spin Art, It doesn't get any better than squeezing a bunch of paint on a piece of paper and then sending it whirl around. Plus, this Alex version is hand operated (no batteries to purchse or have run out on you)
6. Playdoh, A classic.
7. Tempera Paint Sticks, These might be my favorite thing this year. A no mess container lets your child paint easily at a kitchen table without you worrying about cleanup but they can still blend colors and get that painterly feel. They dry to the touch after about a minute so no worries about putting htem up to dry. Bonus - it feels like you're painting with tubes of lipstick!
8. Boone Stash Organizer, A little pricey at around $20, but it makes your kid's crayons and markers look organized and at the ready. We keep ours out on our kitchen island at all times.
9. Buddha Board, An exercise in zen, the Buddha Board allows you to paint with water and then watch it slowy disappear, leaving you the opportunity to have another go. My kids really like this and it's such a beautiful design that it stays in our general living space for kids (and adults) to utilize whenever they feel like it.
If you feel like there is something we missed let us know. We are always on the hunt for newest and coolest (and old classics) in the art world.
Do you give suggestions to students or school families about what would make great gifts from the art world?