Whether you’re looking for a way to express your artistic endeavors or want a stress reliever that focuses on gentle brush strokes, watercolor painting should be at the top of your list of new hobbies. Watercolors can be an intimidating medium to approach, but with the right tools, you’ll be creating your own Cézanne or O’Keeffe in no time.
Watercolor paint combines pigment and a water-soluble base to create a paint that gives an opaque finish. Artists (that’s you!) can control how vibrant or subdued the colors are by adding more or less water, with the paints and water blending together to create a different look and feel with each brushstroke. We included both watercolor tubes and pans on our list, with tubes allowing for more mixing of colors as well as a larger quantity of paint in a set. We also included pans because we like that they are slightly less messy and more portable.
When using watercolors, it’s recommended to use paper that is absorbent and has a thick texture, like cold press paper, which is designed to soak up the paint. Paper that is white or cream is preferred by many artists who allow the paper to show through in instances where they want to include a white area in their painting.
If you’re new to watercolors, any brush will work, including brushes made from acrylic and natural hair, but since acrylic paint is harder on brushes than watercolors, it’s best to use separate brushes.
Now that you’re ready to enter the wide world of watercolors, here are three watercolor sets we love.
1. ARTEZA Watercolor Paint
Use only as much paint as you need and never worry about it drying out with the ARTEZA Watercolor Paint in tubes.
Pros: The ARTEZA set comes with 60 highly pigmented colors that are individually packaged in tubes, allowing the user to only squeeze out the exact amount of paint they need either onto a tray or directly onto a canvas. ACMI-certified for safety and non-toxicity, ARTEZA paint is safe for artists of any age. We like that the ARTEZA set is made from high-quality paint that can be used by seasoned artists, but also includes a guide with pigment information and transparency and lightfastness indicators that will help beginners, as well.
Cons: Because the ARTEZA is packaged in tubes, users will need a separate tray for mixing the paint. Customers note that the paint dries quickly after being squeezed out of the tube and caution against using too much paint at once.
2. Kuretake Gansai Tambi 36 Color Set
A Japanese-style watercolor set, the Kuretake Gansai Tambi comes with 36 bright colors that are made from traditional sumi inkstick manufacturing, which results in clean and beautiful blending.
Pros: Designed for professional and novice painters, the Gansai Tambi set is perfect for sketching, painting, sumi-e and more. The paint is designed to be quick dissolving in order for the desired color and blend of colors to be applied with vibrant results. The non-toxic paint comes packaged in individual pans for easy use.
Cons: Some customers found the metallic colors, especially gold, were not as vibrant as the other colors. Others noted that the pans were only filled to the halfway point.
3. ARTEZA Classic Watercolor Paint
Packaged in a watercolor pan and with an easy to use self moistening brush, the ARTEZA Classic Watercolor Paint is perfect for artists on the go.
Pros: The ARTEZA classic set comes with 36 opaque watercolors in individual pans. The water-soluble, non-toxic set is an ideal starter set for anyone new to watercolors, with the collection including a self-moistening brush. We like that the ARTEZA comes in a lightweight and sturdy plastic case that is great for storage and cuts down on mess.
Cons: Some customers found the paint chalky and note that there isn’t a place in the kit to store the paintbrush when not in use, which isn’t ideal for travel.