Every artist knows that having high-quality supplies is an essential aspect of every creative process. But having to decide what specific things you need in a sea of different types of paintbrushes, paint, paper, support panel and palette can leave you confused, if not a bit overwhelmed. This text is meant to help clear out some of that confusion for you.
Choosing paintbrushes for watercolours, like so many other painting equipment, comes down to personal choice. Your decision is based on your watercolour technique, the amount of money you’re prepared to spend, and simply how these brushes feel in your hand. That’s why there are so many options of standard and handy water brushes available at the art supplies stores.
A good brush should be able to hold a significant amount of paint or water in its belly, keep a fine point, and distribute the medium smoothly and evenly across the surface. After each dab, the brush should bounce back to its normal shape and be able to keep that shape for as long as possible.
Most painters prefer brushes with softer tips, and both sable and goat hair brushes are a popular choice. Sable bristles offer more “spring” than goat hair, giving the artist more control. Sable brushes are used in a variety of brush types, but they work best in round brushes that need to hold a point and keep their shape. Goat hairs are ideal for mop and wash brushes, while ox hair’s tough yet gritty texture makes it ideal for flat, square-cut brushes.
Synthetic fibres, which are often comprised of nylon or polyester, are intended to mimic the structure and function of genuine hairs at a far cheaper price. They do not last as long and can’t hold as much paint as natural hair brushes, but if you can’t buy sable, synthetic fibres are a wonderful option for round brushes since they can hold their point better than most natural hairs.
Made of a bunch of bristles at the one end, and a reservoir designed to hold water on the other, these water brushes are ideal for use with watercolour paints. A water brush’s bristles are damp but not soaking wet. The water seeps down into the bristles gradually and continually from the water reservoir, keeping them hydrated at all times.
To get more water into the bristles, you just press the water reservoir. The amount of water dripping down onto the bristles depends on how hard and long you squeeze the handle. With some brushes, the water seeps slower than others, so it is best to try out the different brands of water brushes available and see what works best.
If you’re adding more water to paint that’s already on your canvas, don’t squeeze too hard or you’ll end up with too much water on your paper. If this happens, sponge up the extra water with a corner of a clean towel or a dry brush. With practice, you’ll quickly be able to estimate how much water you’ll need. Hold the water reservoir under flowing water or dunk it in a small container of water to fill it. If you don’t mind splashing a little, you can even do it with a little bottle of water while painting outdoors.
A water brush is perfect for use with watercolour paints since it removes the need for a separate water mug. To use the watercolour paint, just dip the brush into the paint, just like a regular brush, and you are good to go. If you need a quick splash of colour, simply touch the brush against the paint, and the moisture in the bristles will “activate” the dry pan paint, giving you colour right away.
You will require watercolour paint. However, deciding which brand and kind to use is a matter of personal preference. First, a word about low-quality paint brands. There are several low-quality brands of watercolour available. Watercolour may be created extremely inexpensively, and the pricing of poorer grade products reflects this. The money you spend will be reflected in the quality of your artwork as well.
Using low-quality paints can only lead to dissatisfaction, so avoid the less expensive ones. Watercolour comes in two varieties: tube and cake. Watercolour is made up of pigment, a substance such as gum arabic, and water, as well as additional elements that are added to make the paint last longer.
The watercolour paint in tubes is rather thick. It is squeezed out onto a palette and diluted with water to make transparent applications. When tube paints dry, they can be reactivated in the same way that cake or pan watercolours can. Tube paints are ideal for vibrant colours. The colour is naturally more intense than in the cake form. Because contamination is less frequent with tube paints, “muddied” colours are less likely to appear. Colour mixing is also a little easier.
Cake watercolours are concentrated pigment and binder blocks. The colour is triggered when water is introduced. Colours are pulled from the pan and splattered over the surface. Cake watercolours are suitable in many scenarios. Cake watercolours are an excellent choice for “on-location” painting or “sketching.” They are simple to maintain and operate. One disadvantage of pan watercolours is that colour can quickly become polluted while moving from pan to pan without cleaning your brush.
The surface on which you work is just as vital as the brush and colours. Watercolour paper is absorbent, allowing for numerous washes to be applied without buckling. Watercolour paper comes in a variety of styles, but there are three primary types: cold press, hot press and rough. Each type of watercolour paper is classified based on its production technique and weight.
The majority of artists choose to attach their canvas or paper to a support. The support can be any hard surface with a thick backing to which the watercolour paper can be affixed. Masonite panel is a good option, as it can be purchased at any local hardware shop for a reasonable price. When using support, the piece can be raised up on an easel. A support panel allows you to lift and tilt the painting, guiding the wet paint to flow into desired places on the surface, if you want to work on a level surface.
If you’re going to use tube paints, you’ll need a nice palette. Disposable palettes, such as palette paper, can be used, however, they are rather wasteful. Manufacturers provide a wide range of palette options for watercolour artists. I prefer to use a sealable plastic palette. Palettes with a sealable lid keep the paint wet for a considerably longer amount of time. However, as previously stated, this is not always essential with watercolours. Plastic palettes are water-resistant and allow for easy paint removal when dry.