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  • Writer's pictureleocharre .

On watercolor.

The quality of your watercolor is important.

While you can do good artwork with the cheapest of watercolors, as you get the hang of the materials, it is worth investing in high quality paint.

What is watercolor paint?

This is where I once again remind you, all paint is the same thing. Be it watercolor, acrylic, oil, even a freaking marker. The only difference is the medium. The pigment, the thing that gives it color, is always the same exact thing, chemically etc. What is inside a watercolor paint tube is the pigment, and gum arabic. Gum arabic is a gooey organic substance that dries solid and becomes wet again with water, it comes from a tree. You can squeeze watercolor off a tube into a surface, let it dry, and revive it with a brush a water, the gum arabic helps this along.

The point I want you to take away here, is that burnt umber watercolor, and burnt umber acrylic, oil paint, etc- are all the exact  same color. Because they use the exact same chemical substance.

The difference between Sennelier and Utrecth and Windsor and Newton paints, should be very little. What you are paying for is the reliability that when you buy a certain color, it really is what it says it is on the label.

Why spend the extra money on quality watercolors?

  • It’s actually not a lot more expensive than cheap paint. Quality watercolor has a lot of pigment (the ‘color molecules’, in a way). So less ammount of paint, will actually go further. Don’t forget, the medium here is water- you can add a little more water and extend the strokes, etc. Maybe you’ve tried loading a brush off a cheap pan of watercolor, and you have to really soak it in there to pick up color, and it may still leave you wanting. With quality paint, this will happen less.

  • Quality watercolors are more vibrant. They use real colors. For example Cadmium red hue, is not cadmium red. Same as Cadmium yellow hue, it’s not cadmium yellow. These are cheap knock offs that come close to the real thing. Instead of paying $3 for cheap Cadmium red hue, pay the $12 for the read thing, which will be labeled simply Cadmium red. This stuff will last longer, and be much brighter than the fake shit.

Where to buy watercolor paints.

I use almost exclusively Dick Blick arts for my art supplies. This is because they have a huge range of inventory, for the cheapest possible prices. The catch is you must spend at least 70 to 100 bucks to get free shipping. If you buy this much stuff at a time, I suggest you stop looking for a source of art supplies and go there.

I live in the Augusta County area of Virginia. Here we have a Michaels, which will likely not have the quality materials I am mentioning. However, we also have a couple of small art supply stores run by actual art people, so they have serious professional inventory. In Staunton, VA we have Staunton Art Supply. And in Harrisonburg Va, we have Larkin Arts for art supplies.

Here is a list of useful colors to have. The links provided are to small tubes, you will likely not need larger tubes for a while. These prices are approximate. I suggest Windsor & Newton professional watercolors, get the 5ml small tubes.

  • Winsor Orange $6.50

  • Cadmium Red $9.50

  • Prussian Blue $6.50

  • Raw Umber $6.50

  • Yellow Ochre $6.50

  • Rose Madder $9.79

  • Lamp Black $6.50

  • Cadmium Yellow $9.79

Mixing watercolors

My more intricate colors come from combining the above colors in small containers.

  • Purple: Rose Madder and Lamp Black. This is a very good tone for figure shadows.

  • Green: Prussian Blue and Raw Umber. This is a deep subtle green color, not a neon green at all.

  • Indigo: Prussian Blue and Lamp Black. This will give you a night sky deep blue.

  • Deep red: Cadmium Red and Rose Madder. This is a blood red look.

On White

Also I suggest a highly opaque white to do detail with as a last step to artwork. I don’t suggest watercolors, as they are transparent. You have two good choices for white.

  • White Gouache, Windsor & Newton, 14ml, $6.99. This stuff is very similar to watercolor. It is opaque mainly because it uses white pigment, in this case Zinc White. This stuff dries but is not waterproof, it will dissolve again with water. If you know what you’re doing, you can do white transparencies with this stuff, and mix it with other watercolors to do witchy things.

  • White Acrylic ink, Daler Rowney 6oz, $11.75. This stuff dries waterproof. It will not dissolve in water again. You can apply this stuff with speedball nibs, brushes, and rapidograph pens. This stuff is an acrylic white paint that has been diluted to a prime point for using as ink. Be aware that unlike with watercolors and gouache, if you use a brush and let it sit, it will fuck up your brush, just as acrylic paint would do.


You can apply watercolor with a variety of things. Brushes, waterbrushes, even moist q tips. I strongly suggest using a medium sized waterbrush. They are cheap, 5 to 10 bucks, and will revolutionize your watercolor life.

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