#CheckThisOut: Affordable watercolor supplies to help you get started on painting

Julian Cirineo
#CheckThisOut: Affordable watercolor supplies to help you get started on painting
Looking to try watercolor painting? Here are the tools you'll need.

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When I was a kid, I saw my sister copying a drawing of an anime character. I was so amazed with how close she got to the real thing, so I decided to do the same. That’s how my journey with art began.

Through the years, I would try different kinds of mediums and styles while trying my best to express my thoughts and emotions. I hated watercolor because as opposed to pencils, acrylic, and digital art, watercolor was too difficult to control. It was only until 2018 that I realized how watercolor flows and sets, how you need the right kind of paper that can hold water well, and that there was beauty too in having little to no control.

I still wouldn’t call myself a “painter,” or any kind of artist for that matter. I’m half decent at best, and I have my highs and lows when it comes to drawing or painting just like anybody else. But if you’re looking to try watercolor for the first time or want to switch to different paints and tools, I’ve tried a bunch of different brands and made a list to give you a helping hand.

Below are some of the paints and tools I’ve tried that may interest you.

Sakura Koi Watercolor Pocket sets

I started with hundred peso watercolor paints when I was younger, and absolutely didn’t enjoy the experience. The paints were either too strong or had a weird texture when they dried up. But when I picked up the Sakura Koi Watercolor paints, I fell in love. Not only were they pigmented enough, they also dried up beautifully. I also love adding layers and layers of paint, and this set can take all the layering I want to do without colors being lifted off the paper or looking muddy. The set comes with a sponge and a good quality water brush pen since they’re also designed to be travel size. I still use the 12-color set (which I bought back in 2018), but the bigger set with 36 colors also comes with a slot for a small sheet of watercolor paper so you can paint almost anywhere.

Kuretake Gansai Tambi

This was my second watercolor set, and I still think it’s such a steal. First of all, the packaging is gorgeous. It comes in this flat green box and looks so premium. As opposed to the Sakura Koi sets, the pans are  large, and you get a wide array of colors. I bought the 36-color set which includes metallic shades that glimmer like silver, bronze, and gold. The main differences between Sakura Koi and Kuretake Gansai Tambi is that the latter’s paints are more pigmented and they also lift more easily. In my experience, Kuretake Gansai Tambi is great for broader washes and brighter colors, but you can’t layer the paints because they easily lift off of the paper. If that’s more your style, then this set is good for you. If you like layering, however, I would stick with Sakura Koi.

Water Brush Pen

I still prefer conventional brushes that come in different shapes and sizes because you can do a lot more with them, but water brush pens are very convenient which is why they made this list. Water brush pens have plastic filaments as tips, and they have a cartridge at the back that you can fill with water. So instead of having to rinse or dab your brushes in a jar of water, you just have to squeeze the pen instead. I like water brush pens for when I travel, but they’re also easy to use when you’re testing color swatches or thumbnails.

Watercolor paper

The biggest revelation I had when I revisited watercolor painting was that the thickness of the paper made all the difference. I used to paint on whatever notebook or paper I could find, and they would immediately warp, bend, or tear. When I found out that there was paper specifically for watercolor, it blew my mind. There are of course expensive kinds and other considerations like whether you want cold or hard pressed, all cotton or a blend and more. But if you’re just starting out, these cheaper ones by Corona and Canson are great.

A6 watercolor notebook

I love watching sketchbook videos on YouTube, and I also like painting small pieces of art, so this notebook was a great find for me. If you’re looking for a good quality watercolor notebook, I’ve had a good experience with this one. Mind you, it’s very tiny.

Handmade watercolor notebook

If you want a slightly larger notebook, there are ones by Moleskine and other brands that you can buy, but they can cost a hefty sum especially for a beginner. If you have some change to spare but don’t want to overspend, you can opt for ones that are handmade like this one from BluandmadeCrafts. These are hand stitched in vegan leather and can come in portrait, landscape, or square.

Painter’s tape or washi tape

The secret to clean edges when you’re lining the sides of your painting? Tape! Masking or painter’s tape is sticky enough that paint doesn’t seep through it, but is gentle on the paper so that it doesn’t rip when you peel it off (as long as the paint has properly dried). Taping the borders of your paper is helpful because it keeps the paper from warping too much. Yes, even some watercolor papers can warp depending on how much water you use. Sometimes I use washi tape too just to add some more fun in the process.

Masking fluid

Another product great at keeping paint off certain surfaces is masking fluid. It’s fairly simple to use. All you need to do is apply the fluid on parts that you don’t want paint on. You can use sticks or toothpicks, or a brush that you no longer use because the fluid can ruin it. After you let it dry, you can paint around and over it, and the surface underneath won’t get painted on. Then you rub it off when you’re done.

Colored pencils

Last on this list are colored pencils. When you’re painting with watercolor, it’s sometimes hard to define sharp corners or edges, and pigments also tend to soften or desaturate as it dries. One way to add in some vibrancy or contrast is to use colored pencils (sparingly). I personally prefer Prismacolor pencils because they’re very bright and they don’t break easily when you sharpen them, but they cost more than my paint set. If you want something more affordable, I also enjoy using Colleen since they are colorful enough for the job.

Watercolor painting, or any form of art, really requires a lot of experimenting and practicing. These are the tools that worked well for me through the years, and I hope they work for you too. If not, don’t sweat it. It’s all about knowing what you like and finding something that addresses your needs. Happy painting! – Rappler.com

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Julian Cirineo

Julian is a senior content producer for Rappler's BrandRap. Before joining the team, he worked for an NGO focused on plastic pollution, and was also a managing editor for a magazine. He started his career as a producer and writer for a TV news network.