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Materials for Beginners

When I chat to people about painting one of the most frequently asked questions is about materials. What to buy, what works, does more expensive mean better? If I spend more will it improve my art?

So I decided to write this blog to address some of the most common queries. It is primarily aimed at beginners who are wondering where to start and I hope you find it helpful.


Who ever thought paper could be so complicated?

If you've ever been to an art shop to buy watercolour paper it can be overwhelming.

Brands, size, colours, weights, composition all affect the price and performance.

Watercolour paper comes in a huge variety.

I am not going to go into lots of details as there are many blogs and videos already covering this I am just going to make a couple of recommendations.

Paper is the place I believe you really get what you pay for.

Bockingford make great value watercolour paper that performs really well, and is a great place to start.

I often use Bockingford 250lb NOT paper in my workshops (although 200lb is also good). It is a thick and strong paper that can take a lot of water without buckling.

250lb refers to the weight and thickness of the paper.

NOT means not hot pressed and so it has some texture. I buy it in a pack of 20 sheets measuring 15 x 11 inches (approx A3 size) which costs about £25 from Ken Bromley.

This is much cheaper than buying a pad and you can then cut it to size.

When I am painting my own work I mostly use Saunders Waterford 200lb or 300lb which costs between around £40 and £60 for 20 sheets of 15 x 11 inches.

It is really beautiful paper if you fancy upgrading.

Just a note to say I absolutely do not stretch paper before painting - life is too short and I find if I use good paper it does not need stretching even when I use a lot of water.


You can buy some beautiful and expensive mixing palettes or you can use a white plate that will work just fine. In my workshops I use white plastic plates which I wash and reuse and they work just fine.


There is a huge and mistifying range of brushes available out there. I would suggest not spending a lot to start with. I use Daler and Rowney graduate brushes in my workshops and in my own painting.

They are great. The most used in my set is a round size 10 which i use for most things. But you may want a smaller one perhaps a 4 or 6 depending on the amount of detail you like to paint. They are £3 each at hobbycraft and work really well.


Again watercolour paint can vary in price massively. More expensive brands have more pigment and so are more intense and a tube lasts longer than cheaper brands. I love using Daniel Smith paints they come in some beautiful colours and last ages.

However, they are expensive and you don't need to spend lots when you are just starting out.

In my workshops we use Winsor and Newton Cotman watercolour paints in tubes. They cost around £5 for a 21ml tube from hobbycraft which will last ages and they have some great colours.

You can start with just 3 colours - a red, blue and yellow - and mix to create a huge number of colours.

I've used Ultramarine blue, cadmium yellow hue and cadmium red deep hue to create a colour mixing chart to show you just some of the colours you can create.

You will notice I have also added in a permanent rose which I often switch out for a red as I like some of the mixes it creates.

Red and yellow = orange

Red and blue = purple

Blue and yellow = green

Red, blue and yellow = neutrals (browns or greens depending on the mix).

Please note I made a mistake on the chart second row from the bottom the permanent rose/ Ult blue and cad yellow/ult blue mixes are switched!

I have also just discovered Van Gogh tube paints which have some gorgeous colours and cost around £2.50 for 10 ml from Ken Bromley.

So all in all you can kit yourself out with a basic set up for less than £50. Of course once you walk into the art shop you will undoubtedly spend more when you see all the goodies available but it's good to at least have a goal of only buyin the essentials!

I would love to hear your views - have you found any cheap materials that perform really well? Please do share your thoughts and finds with me.

Please note I am not sponsored by any of the suppliers or manufacturers mentioned. I have bought all of these myself from the places mentioned and I am sure you can buy them in other places too. I just like to buy locally if I can.

All my views are based purely on my own experiences and hopefully this will save you from making some expensive mistakes. Now let me see if I can organise my onewn overflowing art supply cupboard!

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