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Equipment

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You’ve heard the saying “a poor workman blames his tools." But this is simply not true when it comes to watercolour painting.

The difference between having the right and wrong kit is like night and day.

Buying the right equipment can be a bit of an investment, but it will last you AGES as well as giving you the best chances of success with watercolour.

Download a complete list of the equipment I recommend here.

Keep reading for more information on why I recommend this equipment, and links for buying it online from the UK and US.

Not in the UK or US? Don’t worry, most of the suppliers we link to here offer international shipping.

*Please note, though the price charged to you stays exactly the same, some of these online retailers give us a small % of every purchase made via the links on this page, and as an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. The small commission earned from these affiliate links is a sort of referral fee, which we put towards maintaining this website.

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Paints

Buying the right paints is the most important investment in watercolour that you’ll make.

To get the best results, you need Professional (or ‘Artist’) quality paints. This is because they are more transparent, whereas student quality watercolours are more opaque and don’t layer as well.

The brand of paints I use and link to below is Winsor & Newton, although Daniel Smith paints are a great alternative.

The full paint set

Click here to buy the full set of all 21 colours that I use from Jackson’s in the UK.

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The essential paints

If you’d rather start with fewer paints (and a smaller investment), you can begin with the below range, which is my ‘essential’ selection. Many of the step-by-step tutorials in the School are painted just with these colours.

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 in my recommended palette. All are Winsor & Newton 5ml tubes unless otherwise stated:

Important note: If you’re buying a different make of paints to Winsor and Newton, be sure to choose by the pigment colour (which is on my equipment PDF) and not the name of the colour because annoyingly, even if they have the same names, paints from different brands don’t always look the same.

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

Brushes

It’s so much easier to achieve realism in your paintings when you use the right brushes.

I use small, short-haired, tear shaped brushes which are known as ‘pointed spotter brushes’.

British brushmakers Rosemary & Co make the Anna Mason Brush Set. These brushes are made to the exact specifications that best suit the painting technique that I teach. You can buy the set directly from Rosemary and Co. in the UK by clicking here. They ship, affordably, worldwide.

If you’d prefer to buy from the US, Wind River Arts stock my Rosemary & Co. brush set. Alternatively you could buy brushes such as the size 4/0, 0, 1, 4 and 6 brushes from Blick.

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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:

Paper

For my style of wet-on-dry watercolour painting I use hot pressed paper. Hot pressed watercolour paper has a smooth surface, which makes painting details much easier.

I recommend paper that comes in a glued block. This means the edges are all glued together, which helps the paper not to buckle or wrinkle when you apply paint.

It’s also important that the paper is white and acid free.

The make of paper I use and recommend is Arches. The 9 x 12″ block is a great starting point for working in this style and is used for 90% of the School tutorials. Alternatively the 12 x 16″ block is the larger size that a few of the tutorials are painted at.

Buy 9 x 12” block from UK
Buy 9 x 12” block from US

Buy 12 x 16” block from UK
Buy 12 x 16” block from US

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Watch the video below to find out more about choosing the best paper:

Sketchbook

I highly recommend keeping a sketchbook alongside creating your main paintings on a paper block.

There will undoubtedly be times when you want to test something, experiment, make notes and capture inspiration.

For this, I recommend ‘mixed media’ sketchbooks, as they have smooth, robust and thick paper.

I’ve tested out several sketchbooks and you can see my review of them here.

The winner for me is the Stillman & Birn ZETA series.

Buy from the UK / Buy from the US

Sketchbook

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

Drawing Aids

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

Pencil

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

Buy from UK / Buy from US

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Eraser

When I’m painting, my eraser is never far away! A polymer eraser like this one is perfect for use on hot pressed paper.

Buy from UK / Buy from US

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Extras

Palette

I like to mix my paints on something that’s flat, white, and ceramic, so that I can see the colour mix on the palette and know how it will look on the paper.

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

Buy from UK / Buy from US

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Easel

You can place your paper straight onto the table or desk to paint, but you’ll probably find that using an easel makes painting more comfortable.

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

Buy from UK / Buy from US

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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 true colours very 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 great stands.

Buy from UK (affiliate link) / Buy from US

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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.

Buy from UK / Buy from US

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