Paints, brushes, paper. That's all you need to get started. But which ones? Having the kit most suited to the painting style makes a big difference so here you'll find my recommendations on what I find works best.

There are buying links below if you're ready to purchase. But you might find you have some suitable kit already, or may have friends prepared to lend you some while you try this out. So don't feel you have to buy it all to make a start.

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Look for:
  • Professional (or ‘Artist’) quality paints as they're brighter and better for layering than cheaper Student's quality ones.
  • 'Transparent' colours which are better for layering. Even within watercolour paints there are more transparent and more opaque ones and the description of the paint should state the grade.
  • Small tubes or half pans. My method uses small amounts of paint. If you buy tubes, you can squeeze a little out at a time and let it dry onto your palette to use so it's dry like a pan. There's no waste.

The essential range

I recommend starting with a range of 10 colours, which will allow you to complete the beginner level tutorials in my online school. If you'd like to see if they're a match to different paints you already have, check the pigment number and substitution information I've provided on my equipment PDF.

All are Winsor & Newton 5ml tubes:

The rest of the paints

Once you have the essential paints, you can add to your collection gradually so you have all the colours I have in my palette. All are Winsor & Newton 5ml tubes unless otherwise stated:

The full paint set

Click here to buy the full set of all the paints I use from Jackson’s in the UK.

Watch this video for more information about choosing the right paints.


Look for:
  • Small sizes - numbers vary between brands but I use a size 5, 3, 1, 0 and 000
  • Short-hairs and a rounded teardrop shape (sometimes known as ‘spotter brushes’)

British brushmakers Rosemary & Co make the Anna Mason Brush Set. You can buy the set directly from Rosemary and Co. in the UK by clicking here. They ship, affordably, worldwide. Rosemary and Co. also sell a top-up set of my brushes which you can find here.

If you’d prefer to buy from the US, Wind River Arts stock my Rosemary & Co. brush set. Alternatively this is a good set from Amazon US.


Watch the video below to find out more about what to look for in your brushes and why I recommend the paintbrushes that I do:


Look for:

  • Hotpressed surface, meaning it's smooth and better for capturing fine details
  • Thick - ideally 300gsm (140lb) so it will take the paint without buckling too much or needing stretching
  • Around 9" x 12" will be big enough for most of my tutorials

A sketchbook is ideal when you're starting as it takes the pressure off your painting and allows you to track your progress. The Stillman & Birn ZETA series is great:

Jackson's UKAmazon US

Paper pads

As your skills develop you may want to work with higher quality paper.

Bockingford make a great paper at under £1/$1 a sheet  Jackson's UK | Amazon US

Arches is a premium paper but a favourite:

9 x 12" block  Jackson's UK | Amazon US

12 x 16" block  Jackson's UK | Amazon US


Watch the video below to find out more about what to look for in your sketchbook:

Watch the video below to find out more about what to look for in your paper:


A realistic painting starts with an accurate drawing. These simple and inexpensive tools are just right for the job.


For drawing and tracing, I like to use a mechanical HB pencil with a 0.5mm lead.

Jackson's UK / Amazon US



A polymer eraser like this one is ideal for use on hot pressed paper.

Jackson's UK / Amazon US

Tracing paper

In the my watercolour tutorials I always supply a traceable line drawing:

Jackson's UK / Amazon US




I use a flat, ceramic palette so I can see how the colour mix will look on the paper. I squeeze my paints out around the edge.

For this, I use a square plate like this one.

Buy from UK / Buy from US



Once you're painting lots, you'll find that using an easel makes painting more comfortable.

The easel that I use and recommend is the Daler-Rowney ArtSphere

Amazon UK / Amazon US


iPad Holder

When you’re painting from a photo, you’ll need to keep it nearby for frequent reference. The best way to look at your reference photo is on an iPad, as the screen shows the colours well, and you can zoom in to look at the details.

To position your tablet in just the right spot for painting, try one of these stands.

Amazon UK  / Amazon US


Daylight lamp

If you paint into the night, or in a spot without much natural light, a daylight lamp will really help you to see colours properly. Having this bit of kit can really extend the length of your painting sessions.

Jackson's UK / Amazon US