Budget Watercolor Recommendations

It's World Watercolor Month and to celebrate, I wanted to recommend some of my favorite inexpensive watercolors to help get you guys painting! These are all products I regularly use, or have reviewed, and can recommend, and are great for practicing skills. When applicable, I've linked the reviews, if you're interested in more information.

All of these supplies perform well, can be personally recommended, and are quite affordable. They aren't always the best available, and some may prove a false economy as your skills progress, so keep in mind that as your skills develop, you should consider investing in nicer watercolors.

Other Watercolor Gift Guides:

For Young Artists 9-13
Watercolor Gift Guide- Michael's Craft Store
Paper: Canson Montval (cellulose based)- $8.45 for 10"x15" (review) Fluid EZ Block (cellulose based)- $3.82 (4"X6")-$30.68 (18"x24") Blick Premiere Cotton-Rag Watercolor Paper (cotton rag)- $14.25 (7"x10")-$52.33 (18"x24")
Fluid 100 Cottonrag paper (cottonrag)-$4.48-$57.19 (review)
Cheap Joe's Kilimanjaro (cottonrag)-$21.69-$29.39 (pads) (review)

I really recommend you try painting on at least one cellulose paper and one cotton rag paper, because the two handle fairly differently. Cellulose tends to be much cheaper than cotton rag, but can't handle many of the techniques that cotton rag excels at. Experimenting with both will help you decide which to focus funds on.

Canson Montval

Fluid EZ Block
Blick Premiere
Fluid 100

Cheap Joe's Kilimanjaro


Pan Watercolors:
Yarka Student Set - $10.08 (review) MozArt Komorebi Watercolors- $26.99 (review)
Kuretake Gansai Tambi Watercolors-$13.30 (12 color)-$30.21 (36 color) (review)

The Yarka Student Set is a children's grade watercolor set that packs a punch. It utilizes pigments rather than the dyes found in children's watercolors and can be a great, affordable option for watercolorists who want an effective but inexpensive option. Prang watercolors are also quite affordable and perform well, although not as well as Yarka Student watercolors.

Komorebi and Kuretake Gansai Tambi watercolors are both Japanese watercolors and may handle a little differently from Western watercolors, but I heartily recommend either.

Generally, you want to avoid inexpensive watercolors that utilize optical brighteners to create brilliant, inexpensive colors. So if it looks too tempting to resist, and the price is too good to say no, you should probably walk away, or Google around for reviews.

Komorebi Watercolor Set on Fluid 100 Paper

Yarka Children's Set on Fabriano Medeovalis

Kuretake Gansai Tambi on Arches watercolor paper
Tube Watercolors:

In the long run, tube watercolors are generally a bit more economical than their pan and half pan counterparts. I find I can get about three half pan refills from a 15ml tube of watercolor, some brands deliver more. I recommend test and mixing sets as they're an inexpensive way to get high-quality watercolors. Although you can mix almost any color you need with just ten colors, you may opt to add pre-mixed convenience colors as necessary.

Recommended Starter Colors
Cool Yellow
Warm Yellow
Cool Red
Warm Red
Cool Blue
Warm Blue
Burnt Sienna

You may also want a yellow ochre and a tube of white gouache.

Daniel Smith Essential Six- $32.07 (review)
Sennelier Test Set-$12.89 (review)
M Graham Basics- $37.30 (review)

Holbein HWC 5ml tubes set of 12-$24.30 (review)

Daniel Smith Essential Six
Holbein HWC

Brushes: Creative Mark Mimik (black/faux squirrel) (synthetic)-$1.25-$27.99 Creative Mark Rhapsody (Kolinsky sable)-$9.49-$239.99
Creative Mark Squirrel Brushes (squirrel)-$.99-$7.99
Blick Master Squirrel Brushes-$5.59-$86.06 Cotman Mop (synthetic)-$6.22-7.76

Sumi brushes:


Hake Brush

Left to Right: Cotman Mop, Creative Mark Mimik, Blick Master Squirrel, Blick Master Squirrel, Creative Mark Squirrel, Creative Mark Squirrel, Creative Mark Rhapsody, Utrecht Red Sable, Wolf Sumi Brush, Goat Sumi Brush, Goat Sumi Brush, Weasel Sumi Brush
I personally recommend a mix of synthetic and natural fiber brushes in any watercolorist's collection, as both can serve valuable purposes. For artists on a budget, I recommend reserving the nicer natural hair brushes such as Kolinsky for just one or two brushes and using squirrel or sumi brushes for the rest of your natural brush needs. A nice brush is an investment and will last for years if well cared for.

Depending on the size of your paintings, I recommend:
Kolinsky Sable brushes Round Size 4, Size 5
Squirrel Round- Size 4, 6
Synthetic- Round Size 8 and larger
Synthetic- Round Size 1 and smaller (details)
Accessories: Disposable cups Paper Towels Salt
Wax Crayons or candles
Blue painter's tape or white masking tape Large Binder or Bulldog Clips
Chipboard backing from used sketchbooks
Half and whole pans or plastic bottle caps
Altoids tins or other small boxes
Inexpensive baby shampoo (for cleaning)
Inexpensive hair conditioner (to occasionally condition your brushes)

Outside Resources and Second Opinions:
Yarka Student Watercolors-Unbox and Swatch Cheap Art Supplies from Amazo! MozArt Komorebi Unbox and Swatch Colorful Succulents- MozArt Komorebi Etegami Fieldtest Fluid 100 Watercolor Paper Field Test Ya Betta Swatch Yaself- Swatching Demo- Fluid 100 and Fluid EZ Block
Perfecting a Travel Watercolor Palette
Prepping New Watercolor Brushes for First Use


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