A while ago, I wrote a post on the entire collection of Prima brand Watercolor Confections, which is an awesome set of inexpensive pan watercolors. But while those cute little sets may be convenient and economical, sometimes you just want to play with the nice stuff—specifically, tube watercolors. My very first set of tube watercolors were the Winsor and Newton professional series, a small collection that I have been adding to and replacing for years. Before using professional watercolors, I had always preferred water soluble supplies, such as Neo Color 2 pastels and watercolor pencils. These types of supplies guaranteed a vibrancy that I did not trust from the less expensive pan watercolor sets. However, using tube watercolors is an entirely different experience!
While a set of 12 Prima brand half-pans of watercolor can cost somewhere around $18, a single tube of Winsor & Newton professional watercolor is usually about $12. However: 1) a tube equals out to about 2 and a 1/3 half pans, 2) has a much smoother consistency, and 3) is much easier to use in order to mix your own colors. I also trust Winsor & Newton professional colors to be truly lightfast and hold their color for much longer than inexpensive pan colors. If you wanted to mix your own colors and fill up 12 half pans, you’d probably spend about $60, but the beauty of tube watercolors is that you don’t have to fill those pans with only 12 colors; mixing from tubes means consistent colors with no limitation of how many colors you can create! Honestly, I wouldn’t recommend buying more than $35 worth of tube watercolors for your first haul, anyway! Three brushes and three tubes of paint in the primary colors will easily get you started! Just remember to use watercolor brushes for watercolors only!
I believe the number one reason why people are afraid of using watercolors is because of the appearance of watercolor paper. When I was younger, I used to hate watercolors simply because every piece of watercolor paper that I owned was so heavily textured. Textured watercolor paper, i.e. cold press paper, is often the only paper presented to us when we are first introduced to watercolor. If someone had told me that other options existed, I would’ve picked up watercoloring far more quickly! If you’re like how I was, please try hot press watercolor paper; hot press paper is smooth, untextured paper made specifically to hold wet mediums without warping! The image below shows cold press paper (top) next to hot press paper (bottom), and the lack of texture is obvious!
Because I am so keen on art journaling, I find using bound watercolor sketchbooks for my watercoloring to be more enticing. It is difficult to find bound watercolor sketchbooks with anything but cold pressed paper, but I’ve gotten used to the texture after years of play. My watercolor sketchbook of choice is the “large” Moleskine watercolor sketchbook. Of course, you can’t confine everything to 5″ by 8″, so I do keep hot press paper around for larger projects. I’ve recently been using a heavy 140 lbs paper by Fabriano, which is a hot press paper and keeps my paints looking vibrant. (Yes, hot press paper causes your paint to dry more vibrantly!) The third paper that I will use with watercoloring is a very inexpensive Bristol paper. This Bristol paper is thin, but is great for rough drafts. This Bristol paper is made to be printed on, making it great for uses like the swatching grid in the first image of this post.
Because you can squeeze tube watercolors into pans, they can be just as portable as pre-panned sets! The only difference between tube watercolors and pre-panned watercolors is more ingredients (usually glycerin or Arabic gum) added to keep tube colors moist. And it’s not usually enough to notice. After panning many paints, I’ve noticed some staying wetter for longer, but it’s nothing that unnerves me. (I’ve found empty half pans to be inexpensive online, but I recommend checking your local store first, as it’s an item that has a strangely varied price.) As long as we’re talking portability, lets hit upon waterbrushes quickly! I own watercolor brushes, including those made by Ranger, Kuretake, and the new Jane Davenport set. Don’t let anyone fool you—they’re all pretty much the same! I’ve never had an issue with leaking, and keep water in all of my brushes almost constantly. If you’d like to get one, try for a medium round tip waterbrush before investing in other shapes and sizes.
Now, it IS Freebie Wednesday, so I do have some goodies for you! For today’s post about watercolors, I’m providing you with two different printables! The first item is your own swatching page, exactly like the one pictured in the first photo in this post. If you want to print this out and use it as is, it’s best to be printed onto thicker paper, like cardstock or watercolor paper. The next freebie for this week is a page of watercolor abstracts. These abstracts were originally painted with Winsor & Newton tube watercolors onto hot press paper; their saturation has been barely altered digitally, so you can see how gorgeous these colors are. They have been rearranged into rows for easy use in mixed media and collage! They are HD images available as full page PDFs. Just click the links below to print and/or download the PDFs! The only thing that I ask is that you not redistribute these freebies or claim an unaltered version as your own. You do not need to credit me if you use these freebies in your art, but I definitely wouldn’t turn down a shout out!
Below, you’ll find some more images of watercolor painting in which I’ve used tube watercolors. These images all portray a mix of multiple colors that have also been layered in order to produce a variety of hues! All three of these paintings were produced in my watercolor Moleskine sketchbook.
Feel free to leave me any questions about this post in the comments below! Happy painting!