What Supplies Do I Need to Start Painting with Watercolor?

You know you want to try watercolor, but you don’t know how? Here’s a start.

It will make it easier to get started if you made your supplies easy, inexpensive, and compact.

  • Easy
  • Inexpensive
  • Compact

Easy & Inexpensive

I started out with hand-me-down supplies that my husband’s grandmother graciously piled into my arms after one or two times of sitting down with her to learn how to watercolor. I was able to start so much faster, because I wasn’t agonizing over supplies and what to buy. Then as I keep painting, I could buy things that I knew were more exciting or practical for me and I didn’t have to buy it all at once, which is better for the budget. Also, the lists can be intimidating. If it’s easy, it’s easier to start. That’s why I suggest inexpensive supplies and getting just a couple things to start.

Book Credit: The Joy of Watercolor by Emma Block

Having said that, I’ve learned through a little trial and error which supplies are frustrating to work with. Sometimes the quality will help and will be less frustrating. What’s I’ve listed is what I find most important.

Supply List and Tips

  • One or two brushes, depending on your interests. My most used brushes have been a medium sized round brush (Size 5, 6, or 8). Depending on your interests, you might also like a detail brush and a larger wash brush, like this.
  • A set of watercolor paint tubes. You can either get primary colors and mix, but if you’re not confident mixing, get a set of beginner watercolors from Hobby Lobby or online, or some like this. This one includes a pan where you can squirt a little bit of the tube paint out and mix hues (a little goes a long way!) or you can buy a palette and store the paints more permanently, like I have done for a long time. I am trying different brands and don’t have a preference on brand so far.
  • A watercolor palette. This one has plenty of wells to put tube paints in and let them dry and plenty of space to mix. When you want to paint you simply wet the dried paint and load up your brush! Anything will work, or you can just squeeze a little bit of paint out each time you want to paint until you know what you like.
  • An old jar for mixing. You can use an old jar, plastic cup, old yogurt container. Might as well re-use!
  • 140# Cold press paper. It is much less frustrating when you have at least 140# paper. Look for 140# Cold press watercolor paper. The watercolor doesn’t soak into the paper too much and the result is satisfying. Sometimes 90# will work as well. I’ve tried this brand or the Canson brand at Hobby Lobby and found it to work well for practicing.
  • Masking tape to hold down the paper to prevent warping.
Working on painting a traced image.


Now that you know what you will need, I suggest making the supplies compact and easy to store. It’s nice to be able to grab it out easily, especially if you’re just trying to snag a minute here and there, like I do during the day while I’m with my little ones. I have a case that holds brushes and pens, and I can easily slip some tubes of paint and masking tape in there, if I want to paint on the go. It’s also easier to store and move to wherever you are painting that day.

Another way to keep your supplies compact is getting a travel case for your paints and a water brush. Here is a travel case similar to mine. And these brushes are fun to try and are helpful if you want to be really compact.

Happy painting!! I hope this list was helpful and it will help you start painting, because it’s so fun!

Published by Heather Smith Creates

I have been watercolor painting for 7 years and I'm studying for my masters in art education. One of my favorite things to do is paint, and chasing around my cute kids! If you are interested in original paintings or design work contact me at watercolorbyheathersmith@gmail.com.

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