Best Watercolor Tools and Supplies for Beginners

I started out in watercolor pretty recently, and have become completely obsessed. These are the tools and supplies that got me started and keep me going.

Porcelain watercolor palette

This ceramic palette is a nice and sturdy base from which to paint. I prefer the surface tension of the glazed porcelain to the plastic tray type palette. The downside of this design is that it must be covered to avoid dust settling on your paints.

Winsor & Newton starter kit with brush pen

This amazingly compact case comes with every color you need to get started, as well as some places to mix them. The added brush pen is a super fun thing to have if you want to paint from life on the go.

Foamcore board covered in packing tape

I picked up this technique from Danica Sills. A foamcore board wrapped in packing tape is the perfect substrate on which to paint. It’s lightweight but sturdy, so taping paper to it means you can move the board around to get a better angle on what you’re painting than you could if the paper were taped to your table.

Masking tape

I re-use the same strips of masking tape for multiple paintings, so it tends to last a long time.


It’s important to have at least one big wash brush and one tiny detail brush, and something in between.

Sakura Pigma Micron pens

These bleed-proof pens in different sizes are perfect for linework with watercolor. The ink dries permanent and won’t smudge or bleed when you paint with watercolor over it. This pack in particular comes with one of each of the most commonly used thicknesses.

Squeeze-squirt water bottle

Watercolor folks often tout the value of having two vessels of water: one for dirty water and one for clean water, since you need to clean your brushes but you don’t want to use dirty water to create new colors. My solution for clean water keeps the dust out too, and doubles as a small plant waterer and soldering iron sponge-wetter. It’s a squeeze water bottle that can deliver precise delivery like a pipette but with more volume, all the while keeping the water clean for much longer than an open-top vessel.

Watercolor paper

100% cotton watercolor paper is the way to go for this hobby. If you’re looking for a place to scrimp, don’t let it be on the paper you use. Using the right paper makes a huge difference in the experience and result of watercolor painting.

USB light box pad for tracing

I love this thing! Forget old bulky fluorescent light boxes (if you’re even old enough to remember them), this LED tracing pad is super thin and powers up over USB. I use one of these to trace drawings from my sketchbook onto the watercolor paper for painting.

Mixed media sketchbook

Speaking of my sketchbook, this is the one. It can take whatever you can throw at it, and is a joy to use.

Heat gun

I originally got this heat gun for electronics (heat shrink tubing), but it works brilliantly for drying watercolor in between layers. Unlike a hairdryer, it blows the air relatively slowly, so you won’t be blowing your supplies off the table just to speed up your wait time.

Brush pens

These nifty brush pens hold water in the handle reservoir, making it easy to create gradient effects by picking up some color and then gradually painting until only clear water is left. They’re very fun to use.

Mars eraser

This has been my go-to eraser since art school way back when. I use a Staedtler eraser to remove the graphite after I’ve done the pen line work for a painting. It removes all the graphite completely, without disrupting the paper. You can even use it to clean your paper when you get it dirty with your hands (depending on what was on your hands).

See all my watercolor faves in my Watercolor list on Amazon.

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