Watercolor Basics: The Supplies

By Nicole Tinkham

It’s that time of year again – students are going back to school and exciting workshops are coming to Keeton’s! When looking at the upcoming events on The Artist’s Corner, you will notice many watercolor workshops. This could be the perfect opportunity for beginners to get their brushes wet and learn some new watercolor techniques! Some instructors have easy, straight forward supply lists while others may not even have a list. Whether you’re planning on attending a workshop this fall or learning solo, this blog will help you gather the basic supplies needed to begin a watercolor painting.



Keeton’s has a large selection of watercolor paints in both student and artist grades. Student grades are fine for starting out but as you get better, you may want to switch to artist grade. If you’re unsure which brand to go for, we suggest either Holbein or Winsor Newton. While artist grade paints may cost a few extra bucks, you really don’t need a whole lot when beginning. Start off with a few basic colors (listed below) and add to your collection as you advance. With time, you’ll discover which colors you like working with.

  • Cadmium Yellow Light
  • Cadmium Yellow Medium
  • Cadmium Red Medium
  • Alizarin Crimson
  • Ultramarine Blue
  • Pthalo Blue
  • Pthalo Green
  • Hooker’s Green
  • Burnt Sienna
  • Burnt Umber

With these watercolor choices, you will have a well balanced palette to begin with. If you have a supply list for a workshop you’re attending, paint colors may differ from the list above. No worries if you can’t find a particular color you’re looking for though. Our art specialists are more than happy to help find what you need!



The Simply Simmons brushes available at Keeton’s are an excellent choice for beginners. They are reasonably priced and great quality. There’s no need to purchase the whole display though, you only need a few to start. As with paint, you can always add to your collection later on. If there’s one brush to get, it’s a #8 round. You may also want to add a smaller round and flat to your selection. Once you find a great brush, it’s important to take care of it so it can be used for many years. Check out our brush care guide for more information on cleaning and caring for your brush.



Watercolor paper comes in 3 forms: sheets, pads, and blocks. Pads and blocks are ideal for traveling but you will most likely be using sheets in a workshop. Keep in mind large sheets of watercolor paper can be easily cut down to smaller sizes. There are also different weights to consider: 90lb, 140lb, and 300lb. The heavier 300lb paper is very durable and can withstand reworking. Texture is another option you have. There’s hot pressed (smooth), cold pressed (moderate texture), and rough (most texture). When it comes to choosing a watercolor paper, we suggest trying a few out. Once you see the differences between the various types, you will be able to determine the best choice for your project. For more information about your options, check out our blog post dedicated to watercolor paper



When purchasing a palette, you want to look for one with a lid. This way you’re not wasting your paint plus it’s convenient when traveling to and from workshops. You will find many different suitable palettes at Keeton’s but the Mijello palettes seem to be the most popular (see photo above).

Other supplies

There are a few other supplies to have on hand but most of them you probably already have around the house somewhere.

  • Container for water (anything will work)
  • Pencil and eraser
  • Paper towels
  • Board to work on (tape your watercolor paper to the board)
  • Masking tape (to attach work to board)
  • Storage bins: If you’re traveling to and from workshops, it might be a good idea to store paint, brushes, and other supplies in storage bins.

Now that you have your basic supplies, you’re ready to take the first step towards creating your masterpiece! Don’t stress about the supplies needed, this is simply a guide to help you get started. Our art experts here at Keeton’s can help you find everything you need.  

What do you want to hear about next? Leave a comment below and mention a topic you’re dying to learn more about. It may just be our next blog post!

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