There’s always that guy. He’s got thousands of bucks laying around and expects everyone else to have money for expensive equipment. Then of course, he plays holier than thou when some of your equipment is less than gold plated.
Well, I’m not that guy. I realize people have budgets. (I’m definitely with you there). That’s why I write articles like “the most important expenditures in watercolor.”
So, I’m going to prioritize things. I have no idea what your budget is. I’ll just state my argument for the most important expenditure in watercolor. Then, I’ll say what the second most important is. Then, I’ll list the next one. And so on.
That way, you could decide by your budget what you’re going to spend money on.
Also, feel free to disagree. I’m not Michelangelo. I’m just a guy who sells pinup watercolor paintings on the side. I still have a day job.
But, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a guy who loves watercolors as much as I do. That’s my authority right there.
I absolutely love them! Every single day, I wake up early and paint. Then, I rush home and paint. On the weekends, I paint. Actually, you’re simply not going to find someone who loves watercolors more than I do.
Expenditures in watercolor in order
There are only two times I will suggest that you get cheap watercolor paper. When you first start out. And, for your watercolor journal.
When you first start out, you don’t know what you’re doing and you’re going to throw away the first ten paintings anyways. So that doesn’t matter.
As for your journal, nobody’s going to see it besides you. That’s where you do your testing, your experimentation, and also where you take a shitload of notes. My journals actually have more text than paint. I’m always writing in them, describing in detail what to do and what not to do.
But when you first get serious with watercolor, you will need real paper. This isn’t an option.
Cheap paper is cheap paper and it will ruin your paintings. If you have to spend money on one expensive thing and only one expensive thing, you’ll be hard-pressed to find any artist who uses watercolor who would argue with me. Everyone agrees with me for a reason. Cheap paper ruins your work.
Almost everyone uses Arches and it’s for a damn good reason. It’s the standard archival quality watercolor paper.
Arches is not the only archival quality paper. It’s just the one everyone uses. I strongly suggest starting off with that paper when it’s time to get serious.
You may end up liking other papers better. That’s totally fine. Everyone has personal preferences.
But, nobody dislikes Arches. At worst, they say they prefer X brand because of Y quality.
Of the expenditures in watercolor, paints rank second. Cheap paints use less pigment and are often less quality controlled. Here’s the thing – if you want to make money selling a product, you have to charge more than it costs to produce the product.
If you sell a high end product, you can charge a lot. However, if you’re trying to sell a cheap product, you’re going to have to cut corners to make a profit.
With cheap paints, they’re using less pigment. That’s how they make a profit.
You can get by with cheap paints and only the high end watercolor snobs will know the difference if you’re really good. Quality paints are not as important as quality paper. But they’re still important. But once again, if you’re good, you could fool most people with cheap paints. Most people can’t tell the difference.
I swear by Daniel Smith and Winsor and Newton paints. Both brands kick ass. I have no complaints with either brand. In my personal opinion, Daniel Smith paints have a more modern edge to them. Winsor and Newton paints look like they’re from the 1800s. That’s just my personal opinion, but I’m a guy who has lots and lots of paints.
For gouache, I’m falling in love with M Graham. They simply make pretty freaking good gouache.
I can’t suggest low end paints because I’ve never used them. I only suggest products that I’ve used.
I have a confession to make. I use archival quality paper only and only really good paints. But my brushes are the store brand. That’s where I cut the costs.
After over a hundred paintings, only now can I tell you that cheap brushes act like cheap brushes. That said, they’re a pretty good weak link. Nobody, not even the top of the top watercolor snobs, could tell you which brushes you used by looking at your paintings.
So brushes are the perfect place to cut costs if you had to cut costs.
However, when I make a little bit more money, I’m going to reward myself with some good brushes. I can’t recommend which ones because I’ve only used the cheap ones.
I use Kimchi jars for my water. You could use spaghetti sauce jars, or jelly jars, or whatever.
If you’re flat broke, you can use jar lids for your mixing palette until you can afford a real mixing palette. I know that sounds lame, but I know what it’s like to be flat broke and have to make due with what you got available.
I do buy good paper towels as paper towels help you rescue mistakes. Bad paper towels suck. I learned that one the heard way. They don’t absorb enough water and if you have a bad spill, you’re going to wish you bought good paper towels.
I use plain old masking tape when not painting on a watercolor block. Regular masking tape works great as long as you’re not painting on cheap watercolor paper. It will rip cheap watercolor paper. From experience.
You don’t have to buy expensive/fancy masking tape.
So there you have it. If you only have money for one expensive item, buy good watercolor paper. If you have the money for good watercolor paper and good something else, reward yourself with good paint. And if you’re rich, buy good brushes as well.
Actually if you’re rich, please buy my paintings so I can also have good brushes.