Oh the assumptions people make about watercolor! Some of these misconceptions seem like common sense, others are myths that people like to throw around, but neither are based on experience. I want my students to experiment and make discoveries, but these false beliefs prevent them from experiencing their full potential. Here is a list of these misconceptions followed by the reality that I routinely witness in my classes and with my own painting process.
New watercolor students should purchase the cheap materials since they aren’t good enough for the better quality products. Cheap quality watercolor materials are tempting, especially since the initial investment can seem expensive. But really cheap materials are cheap for a reason. Nobody wants paintbrushes that shed hair and paint you can barely see on the paper. It breaks my heart when new students blame themselves when their pictures don’t turn out well, and it’s clearly due to bad paint or paper. Nobody should use the really cheap quality stuff, and the better stuff doesn’t have to cost much more, especially if you know what to look for and where to shop. I will give you tips on how to spend less and still get decent materials below.
Buy an inexpensive set of paint with big tubes and lots of colors, the more the better. It’s a better deal to buy a 24 color set for $10 than a set of 12 colors for a little more. Students who buy the big cheap sets soon discover that the paint doesn’t dissolve easily in water, looks streaky and pale when you paint with it and the colors become muddy when you mix them together. Better quality paint contains better quality pigment and is more concentrated with fewer fillers, so a smaller tube will mix better and may even last longer than the big cheap tubes. My students who buy cheaper paint often express regret when they see how much better the good quality sets behave. I resent those chalky, pastel looking kid sets, Reeves and Sakura Koi brands of paint for frustrating so many of my students. I recommend they buy a better quality student grade paint set by Cotman, Van Gogh, or Academy. These aren’t as pricey as the professional brands, but they are produced by and behave similarly to professional companies like Winsor and Newton, Sennelier, Daniel Smith and M. Graham. It is also important to search around for deals on www.cheapjoes.com or www.amazon.com. Only shop at Blick and Michael’s if there is a sale to avoid paying too much. Good sets can cost the same as the bad ones if you find a good deal. Don’t get stuck with paint you hate!