Watercolor For Beginners: All About Paints

The first thing you need to know about watercolor paint is that it comes in either pans or tubes. Pan paints might be what your first think of when you imagine watercolor.  They typically come in sets with a little palette, or you can buy the colors individually.  Tube paints function the same way as pan paints, but you set up the palette yourself.


You can rewet both pan and tube paints

A common misconception is that tube paints are worse after they dry, but I haven’t found this to be the case. I work from several palettes with paint that has dried and been rewet over the course of years, and the watercolors work as well now as they did when I first put them on my palette!

I personally prefer to use tube paints, because it allows me more flexibility in customizing my palette with different colors and brands of paint.

Your paints can either be student or artist grade

Student grade paints are less expensive because they have less pigment, more binder, and aren’t necessarily made with high quality materials. If you can afford to, I recommend working with artist grade paints, because they behave a bit differently and this is ultimately what you will want to be using.


The brand and quality of watercolor paint you use will impact what you can achieve

Holbein is an excellent brand, and they sell artist grade sets of small tube paints .  Since watercolor is built up in transparent layers, a small amount will go a long way! I exclusively worked with these little tubes for the first several years that I did watercolor.

In addition to Holbein, I highly recommend Daniel Smith and Sennelier watercolor paints.  Sennelier has a great starter set of 12 colors for a reasonable price. You can start with the basic colors, and then expand your palette a few tubes at a time.  I will warn you that the expansion never ends, I buy more colors every time I’m in an art store!

Remember, it’s better to start now than wait until you have the perfect supplies, so don’t hesitate to work with what you’ve got and build your palette over time!


If you’re just getting started with watercolor and want to learn more, consider taking my class on Skillshare! Sign up with the link below to get your first two months free.