Last time I posted about the tools I use was 2015 and looking back, it made me realize one thing: through time, you get to filter out the materials that you REALLY REALLY need for art. I always tell my students to learn how to utilize and maximize their brushes, for example, before they buy another one. Mari Kondo would be proud, perhaps, as I have evolved from a clueless art hoarder with a million brushes to someone who has a few brushes left in her art drawers!
With this said, I want to share with you guys an updated version of the tools I use for watercolor painting with hopes that you get to explore and see what fits you best in order for you to create your art.
Watercolors are the first paint medium I used when I was starting a creative career. It took me a while and lots of practice to figure out the ones that are best for what I normally paint (botanical). As a reference, the old post listing 10 types of watercolor is here but I narrowed my list down to these four brands that I use. I’ll be posting a more detailed comparison with swatches of some watercolor paints in a future post.
Mijello Mission Gold, SRP for Set of 36 with palette Php 6,099.75
As soon as this Korean brand made it’s way to my desk, it pretty much trumped all of the brands I was previously using. The colors are very saturated and vibrant. The Gold series is their top of the line, artist-grade paints so I decided to get the set of 36 that comes in a palette. It’s expensive, as with any artist-grade and high quality paints but since these pigments are rich in color, you don’t need much when you paint. I use this as my main paint for all commissioned works.
Finetec, SRP Php 1,200 - Php 1,700
My Finetec palette is the old version (4 years ago) but it still sparkles like magic! I keep this handy when I want to add some metallic details to an artwork. I have both the set of 6 (not in photo) and the set of 12 pearlescent colors (see photo). These high-quality mica paints are opaque so they can be used on dark colored paper.
Zig Transparent Watercolor Set, SRP Php 399.75
My go-to palette for quick brush calligraphy drills. It’s student grade but has good pigmentation. The case is so small (like make-up) so it’s easy to bring wherever. Probably not ideal for big or commissioned artworks. For journaling and personal use, this one serves the purpose.
Daniel Smith, SRP Php 270 - Php 1,500
These 5ml artist-grade paints are not a joke. They’re expensive but super worth it. I like how most DS pigments have grain, so it’s good for adding that extra texture to the artwork. The prices vary on the pigment you are buying.
Using the right paper for the right medium definitely has an impact on your artwork. I remember buying those super cheap sketchpads and as soon as I brushed some watercolor paint on them, the paper started to buckle and the fibers came off! Although, using the same sketchpad for a pencil artwork will do just fine. Watercolor papers come in cold press, hot press, or rough press but I just use cold press for the most part (will dive into a more detailed explanation of paper types in another post). All of the papers I use have archival quality to preserve the artwork longer. Also, they can be used for other mediums as well!
Arches, SRP for 9x12in block Php
Arches. Cold press, 300gsm.
This is my favorite watercolor paper to use. It’s manufactured from pure cotton so the quality is really good. You can also buy this paper in sheets (Php 330/sheet).
Fabriano Artistico, SRP for 9x12in block Php 2,850
Acid free. Traditional white, cold press, 300gsm.
100% cotton so good absorption for water-based medium. This paper is relatively whiter than Arches.
Awagami Bamboo paper, SRP 9x13in block Php 1,620
Acid free. 250gsm. No specification if hot press or cold press.
Made from bamboo and recycled washi, so it’s sustainable! It has a smoother surface than Arches.
Khadi Paper, SRP for A4 size Php 900
Acid free. 320gsm. No specification if hot press or cold press.
This is a handmade paper from India that’s made from 100% recycled cotton rags. It gives a very good texture to the artworks. I love it’s deckled edges but the overall texture is a bit rough so normally I spray this paper with water first before painting. There’s a small notebook version which I use for my plant journals and it has a lower gsm than the individual sheets (210gsm).
It helps to have at least 2 different sizes of brushes so that you can do washes or details. I normally use round brushes for watercolor because they are all-around and more versatile compared to the flat ones. This is a personal preference based on what I normally paint but you can explore other types of brushes based on your need. Ideally, the “natural-hair” brushes are best for watercolor because they hold more water in the bristles allowing you to have more versatility when painting. They’re a bit more expensive than synthetic ones. However, even if you have the most expensive natural-hair brush but you don’t know how to maximize it to it’s full potential, then you are just wasting your money. Also, proper care for brushes will make your brushes last longer and in the end, you won’t need to buy new ones! I wash my brushes every use and store them upright so I don’t destroy the shape of the brush.
Generic Bamboo brush SRP Php 50-250
This brush is very affordable and has a long handle. The bristles are synthetic and can keep a pointed tip when wet. Nice for calligraphy also!
Escoda Aquario Mop (Size 10) SRP Php 1,590
Made from squirrel hair, this round mop brush holds a lot of water. I use it for larger artworks and for washes.
Escoda Reserva Kolinsky Travel Brush (Size 6) SRP Php 1,230
The bottom part of the handle is removable and converts into a brush cap so it protects the bristles while traveling. I have this in other sizes because it’s ideal for traveling. It’s made from Sable hair so it has good fluid retention.
Escoda Versatil (Size 2) SRP Php 460
If you want a good brush without putting a hole in your pocket, then this brush is for you. It has synthetic bristles that mimics an actual Kolinsky Sable brush.
Raphael Series 8394 (Size 4) SRP Php 360
This is my go-to brush for all of my watercolor paintings. It’s synthetic but has a good spring! It also keeps a very pointed tip when wet so even if I just have this, I can do tiny details as well.
Escoda Reserva Kolinsky (Size 0) SRP Php370
Since the brush tip size is small, I only use this for details.
All of the tools listed here are based on my personal preference and are not mandatory purchases. Try to experiment and utilize the materials that you already have before planning to buy! It’s good to invest in good quality materials that are sustainable and will last long to cut down on trash in the process.
If you find this article helpful, feel free to share it to other creative enthusiasts! Happy painting!