Hello there! This post is the second part of a three post series about all the materials I use on a regular basis. The first part was about paper, this second part is talking about paint, and the third shall be about brushes & tools.
I love buying paint almost as much as I love buying paper. I spend a lot of time choosing paints from huge displays in shops (what is always a very hard task). I also love trying new mediums, but by now when working on jobs, I have to be a bit more focused and practical. I know what I like and what I dislike when making my trips (and cranking up the bill) at the art supply shops.
Let’s start at the beginning: I used to work with oil paints when I was younger but after developing an allergy to that medium I stopped painting for a really long time. This changed around five years ago, when on my birthday, a dear friend gave me a water color set (thanks dear Leticia!!!!) as a gift. I started painting again, only as a hobby, and realized that I was missing out! The set was the Sketchers’ Pocket Box from Winsor & Newton Cotman. It comes with 12 colors and it’s great for beginners. The price is also very affordable, the quality of the colors is really good, and the size is super compact, so it’s perfect to take with you. Even today, after trying out different brands, I still like this palette a lot!
The second palette I got was another Winsor & Newton, but a much bigger version called the Watercolour Studio Set. It came with 24 whole pans, with a very good variety of colors, and again the price is quite good for what you get. One thing I don’t find so appealing is that often it’s a bit uneasy to use because of it’s size. At home it is okay but even there I can barely fit it open on my desk without feeling overwhelmed. To take on travels it is definitely too bulky. Also I found that after you get used to using and mixing colors from a smaller palette the larger one seems a bit unnecessary to use.
Third palette was also a gift, a Sennelier Aqua-Mini, which is the tiniest set I own. Only 8 colors, but highly pigmented. I took this set with me in my last travel to Italy. I must say that even though I loved the quality of the colors, the pan itself is a bit of a disappointment: no place for color mixing and the color pans are not removable so whenever you use one color completely there is no way to exchange them for a new one. In the end I would still choose the Winsor & Newton over of this one!
If you are working mostly from your studio or from home, consider getting some watercolor tubes as well. I actually like them better than the sets because you get a bigger amount of paint out and can mix them easier to get the shade you need. For the tubes I recommend the Winsor & Newton Professional Watercolour. They are quite expensive so consider to get them as an investment on your trade.
After trying out these watercolors sets I wanted to see how would I do with another medium: gouache. Basically, gouache is an opaque watercolor. It’s ticker than your usual watercolor which I like, and when it dries, it gives you a flat, matt finish. I find it nice to mix them with other sorts of paint in the same illustration. Often I use watercolors for things that I want to make more fluid (think nature, flowers, plants, skies, water, soft textiles, etc) , and gouache for things that are more solid (architecture, details, heavy textiles, etc).
The gouache I got first was from Schmincke, which is produced in Germany and easily available here. I got the Designers’ Gouache which they are only sold in tubes so you get to choose your first batch of color to take home. I got some primary and secondary basics plus whites (yes, they have 2 different whites, one for mixing, and the other a pure white that is super heavy) and black. The Designers Gouache from Schmincke is really nice to use and the price is still affordable. If you are starting to use gouache now I would tell you to really go easy on your first shopping trips. Choose a few tubes and try them out to see if you like before investing too much money on a medium you might not like.
From the same brand they also offer an even higher quality one: the Horadam Gouache. The pigmentation is even more intense but it’s also pricier.
After trying out those mediums, I got my first Dr. Ph. Martins as a gift, which is essentially a liquid watercolor. They come in tiny glass bottles, and are super fun to use. I always feel like a chemist while using them. The pros are: great colors, transparent shades, super saturated pigmentation and they are easy to use. Also, they are awesome for bigger pieces because the ink dries without leaving any brush mark if you manage to work fast. By now I use this ink in almost all my works! Even though the colors are great there are a few cons: for one they are not the best medium to carry with you out of your studio since the bottles are quite hard to transport (glass containers can be quite heavy). Another issue is that this inks are very hard to find in Europe. I always order them from friends who live in US or in Asia. Nevertheless I could not live without the Dr. Ph. Martins inks anymore!
As a side note I find important to say that I love the ‘Radiant Concentrated‘ rather than the ‘Fine Art Watercolour‘ type of ink. The first, is very intense but the second is a bit patchy and not as brilliant.
The last medium I will share with you is my go to golden paint: Artists’ Acrylic from Schmincke! They have beautiful shades, but I mostly end up using the Renaissance Gold or the Rose Gold for small details.
So, these are my thoughts and advices about paints. I use mostly gouache and liquid watercolor when in the studio, and take watercolor sets when travelling. But in general, you should try them out as well to see which one you like better, but I hope that after reading this you know some key information about the different types, sizes and uses of watercolor ink and paint.
The probably most important thing I can tell you is: take care of your paints. Clean you palettes or leave them in a closed place (I leave mine inside a drawer) and make sure you close the caps properly. Don’t let your tubes and bottles dry out or any dust get into your palettes. This is not only because paints are expensive, but also because this will improve the quality of your work in general.
I know it’s a long post, but hope you enjoyed it, that you got some useful information and that you come back next week to check out the last post of this series. If you have any recommendation about a brand or a medium that you like, let me know in the comments!