Basic Materials For Watercolor Painting

These Will Get You Started And Work Well For Even The Most Advanced Watercolor Artist

Supplies and Materials List

Our Basic Supplies and Materials Page will help you get only what you need to get started and how to get set up to paint.  The list includes only what is necessary, including a basic, limited set of “primary” colors to help minimize cost. Although it seems minimalist, this set of supplies will serve you well for a long time.

It includes a checklist of materials to use when shopping online or in your local art supply store. 


The Essentials: Paint, Palette, Brushes, Paper

 Watercolor Paint

Keep It Simple!.  Especially if you are just starting out.  Working with a limited number of colors from the start will help you develop a sensitive eye for color and lead to exceptional color mixing skills.  

The best advice is to start with professonal grade paint.  The way it looks and works is more than worth the cost.

CIGN Codes: Every manufacturer attaches a name to the colors they sell. These names are descriptive but they are not necessarily comparative. The only way to know exactly what color you are getting is by knowing the CIGN Code.  Download Basic Materials List for more info on CIGN Codes.

Palette For Your Watercolor Paint

You’ll need something to hold and mix your colors. Any large – at least 10” x 12”- sturdy, white plastic palette with a cover will do.  Make sure it has large wells for the paint and a large mixing area in the middle. There are many manufacturers that produce good, low-cost plastic palettes that will perform well for many years. 


A handful quality synthetic or synthetic/natural blend brushes are really all that are needed to do the trick. The most important characteristics are ability to hold lots of paint and water, and to have a responsive “touch”.

Brushes can be made of either synthetic materials or natural hair.  Natural hair brushes are generally quite expensive. They are great, but you can get along just fine with a set of quality nylon brushes. The bristles of nylon brushes can be either white or golden brown in color. Modern synthetics are also quite soft, mimicking the feel and responsiveness of natural-hair brushes.  

Watercolor Paper

Do not skimp on watercolor paper – there are great differences in quality and working characteristics between professional grade and everything else.

The recommended paper for everyone, especially Beginners is Arches 140lb Cold Press paper.  It is durable and will help you manage those very fluid washes that bring out the best in watercolor.

Support For Paper When Painting

Watercolor paper needs to be supported while painting. A recommended product is known as “Gatorboard”. It is thicker version of foam-core board made from plastic materials to prevent warping.  It is light, sturdy and durable. Paper can be taped, clamped or stretched to Gatorboard.  

If you have a piece of scrap masonite, plywood or luan laying around, you can use that. Just remember that any wooden board needs to be sealed with several coats of varnish to prevent warping

A Few More Painting Supplies You’ll Need

You’ll also need some rags for blotting and cleanup. Paper towels are popular and absorbent but old T-shirts, sheets or bath towels cut into rectangles is the more environmentally friendly way to go! You can use one or two water containers With two containers, it is easier to keep one relatively clean so as not to sully the colors on your palette. Don’t buy anything specially for this, just re-use old plastic containers.