Thursday, 12 January 2012

My Favourite Art Materials | Watercolour Illustrations

I've had a few people asking for advice on techniques etc (I'm amazed this is happening to me!) , so I thought I'd take a moment to list my favourite art materials that I use to produce all my work. I always used to struggle with what to buy - budget being a HUGE factor - and have been disappointed so many times with my purchases. So now, after many a trial and error, I have my 'kit', and I'm sharing it with you!

1. Winsor & Newton Cotman Watercolour Tubes

I've tried many different watercolour sets, but have found using these tubes the best, and most cost effective. You only need a really small amount (about the size of a pea) of each colour on a paint palette, and even if the paint dries, it can be softened with water to be used at another time. I'd guess an 8ml tube lasts roughly a year for me.
I've also found colour mixing much easier with tubes as opposed to pans, as you're not mixing directly onto a pan so you can see the colour clearly.
I'm not saying this range is the best you can get, but if you're on a tight budget (as I am) these will fulfil your needs. That being said, the pigments used are cheaper alternatives to the rest of Winsor & Newton's range, so if you're creating an extra special painting, or if you have more money in the pot, I think I'd explore other options as well!

2. Pro Art Prolene Plus Brushes

These are cheapish (of course!) but slightly more expensive than what I was using before. As a result, they hold paint well and keep their shape. Another plus is that the varnish doesn't crack off the handles onto my hands and subsequently get wiped all over my face. (This used to happen. A lot.)

3. Langton Watercolour Paper 140lb /300 gsm NOT cold pressed

Again, this isn't the cheapest option for paper, but it's the cheapest I would go, if you want quality paper. I think its a good weight for me as I apply paint quite thickly and without much water. I'm not quite sure how this paper would fair with heavier, water soaked washes, but for smaller, illustration-style paintings it's ideal, and detail doesn't get swamped in texture. I get an A3 pad and an A4 pad - and I would avoid ring bound books.

4. Winsor & Newton Designers Gouache Gold 30ml 

I've recently started adding this to my paintings, it's a really clean gold colour, not yellowy or brown like some gold paint. It has a lovely metallic quality without being too thick and so contrasts nicely with watercolour.

Do you have any materials to recommend to fellow artists? Anything you can't be without?
Please share below!


  1. I have to say I'm a pan kinda a girl, and I bought an artist quality version when my uni tutor told me it would be worth it... and it is! (I also worked in an art shop, so got a discount as they are MUCH more expensive, but the colours are so much nicer) Although if I used tubes, I may not have done the jump, as I think you can get stronger colours quicker with a tube, but I prefer pans.
    My tutor also recommended sable brushes, so bought some when they were on special offer. You can get some quite decent for not too much (more than normal brushes, but not much much more). They are lovely, my favourite one that I have is a W&N pointed round 8. I find it more versatile than the round ones, as the tip is minute but the body quite thick so you have an amazing range of strokes.
    But again, they are more expensive! A good alternative I found is the Sceptre Gold range, they are mixed sable and synthetic. The point isn't as fine, but they hold paint very well, and are cheaper than pure sable.

    Paper wise, I'm a hot press fan, and 300gsm is also my preferred weight (for my budget) I would love thicker stuff but it is so much more expensive! my favourite paper is saunders waterford but as it's not cheap, I only have a few sheets of it - I found it the best paper to handle masking fluid. I've recently tried a "gallery" watercolour paper, and that is a lot cheaper, but still 300gsm hot press, and it's lovely too! haven't really tried masking fluid on it though, so can't say if it's as strong as the S/W one.

    After writing this, I realise none of it is as cheap as what you suggested, and it makes it quite obvious why my bank balance is in the state it is!

    and this is only part of the supplies I own, which I should really start using again!!

    Thanks for another great post!!

  2. I like to use Daler Rowney systerm 3 paint brushes...they're black and yellow and are pretty great. I always make sure to dry them completelty after an incident when I left my Daler Rowney aqualine paintbrush in water and the varnish cracked!

    I also use Dr.PH Martin watercolour inks which are expensive but are wonderful.

    I save up for my art supplies but i'd like to give the tools you have used a go :)

  3. Thanks so much for this, I've always wondered about the water colour paints in tubes. I really like using water/ink colour pencils but branching out on getting some other materials wouldn't hurt. I don't know about you but whenever I buy new art materials I feel like a kid again, collecting all the supplies for my pencil case ha.

    I miss painting, before university I used to paint non stop. I still draw though as it keeps me sane! I do a fine art course which is so contemporary so a beautiful painting in my tutors eyes isn't good enough, which is sad really. I'm in my last year and doubting the course, I keep thinking I would have been so much happier on an illustration course. Hopefully something good will come out of it though.. hopefully!

    Also the painting of the paints is ace! :)

  4. It's always great to know what equipment a successful artist is using. I remember when I used to like painting with watercolours myself. It was never good enough as I wasnt patient enough. How much time do you roughly spend on a painting?

    I love the detail on the paintings above. It just amazes me so much how detailed they are. You didnt miss a thing! And you get the lightning so well and beautiful!

  5. Another great post. I agree it's so expensive experimenting with different brands, so it's good you've found your favourites! I have cotmans too! Really love your illustration!!