PJ asked me what I use for watercolors. I’m not brand loyal with watercolors and I’ll try anything generally in a tube form. The biggest part of my “collection” consists of a lot of older Cotman watercolors as well as Grumbacher Academy. I bought them back when I was in college and they represented a good value at the time. They were also easily found. I’m also a sucker for clearance rack stuff and bought a bunch of Academy paints on clearance.
As I’ve used watercolors more and more and I’ve discovered what colors I like I’ve been adding to my modest collection with a variety of higher priced brands, namely Winsor & Newton and Holbein. Mostly because I can walk into Artist & Craftman and peruse the shelf and pick up one color and then put it back and then pick up another and another. I'll splurge and reward myself with a tube of Holbein or use it as a pick-me-up at the end of a rough week.
I keep a list of paints that I’m running out of in my planner so that I always know what colors I need so I never run out. If I’ve got a coupon for AC Moore I’ll use it to replace one of my tubes with the higher priced Winsor & Newton.
I also snagged a sample of Sennelier watercolors through their website. I really like those so I’ll be looking for some of those to add to my collection. (Samples are no longer available.)
I’ve also tried out Koi watercolors both in pan and tube. They are good for student grade colors. They are also very reasonably priced. Van Gogh brand watercolors are another student brand that I like very much. They are also VERY reasonably priced and have great intense colors.
My favorite splurge watercolors are the Holbein. I have them in a variety of my watercolor sets and I like that they always rewet easily. A touch of the brush to the blob of dried paint leaves me with a nice amount of paint on my brush. I don’t need to scrub the blob to get the color going, just get it wet. It’s a really nice feature especially if I’m using one of my mint tin watercolor sets to paint in the cafe or park.
When I’m testing out a new brand I buy one of my 2 favorite colors: sepia or indigo. I can then compare how that brand’s version of the color looks and performs.
I have 3 brands of pan colors: Koi, Angora, and Cotman. I prefer the Cotman over the other 2. The 2 Angora sets I have are the smaller pocket size that they no longer make. I really like the size and portability of these 2 sets. They are the perfect size for sketching in the park or cafe. I was looking for a new version of these and was pretty sad to find they are no longer made. The Angora paints are more like a pan gouache than watercolor. The colors are very chalky and opaque. The Cotman colors are pretty traditional and work very well. I prefer the Pocket Sketcher’s set over their other sets. Their colors are pure and mix well. The koi colors are very bright and I find do not mix well. The colors are nice and bright though. I find the plastic of the koi set to be heavy.
For travel sets I really prefer to make my own and put my own color in from tubes.
My must have colors to always have on hand:
- Cad Yellow light* and medium
- Yellow Ochre*
- Red Earth*
- Hooker’s Green*
- Perm Green (a light yellow green)
- Quin Magenta*
- Cad Orange
- Cad Red Medium*
- Turquoise blue
- Raw Umber
- Cerulean Blue
- Payne’s Gray*
I’ve starred the colors I think are starter colors. If I were suggesting to someone just starting out with watercolor I’d suggest that they purchase those 8 colors and add to the set from there.