Watercolor Professional Starter Set

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Ever get intimidated by all the different tubes of watercolor there are for sale?  I know I do!  I frequently get asked which watercolor professional started set of paints I’d recommend.  This post has links to my most used colors, as well as my favorite style of palette. 

Professional Illustration and Surface Design

As a professional illustrator and surface designer for the last 17 years, I understand how much art supplies cost!  I also know that investing in quality supplies saves you a lot of heartache and TIME in the long run when they behave the way you want when you are trying to paint!  I’ll be honest; it’s better to have fewer supplies and have good solid ones that produce reliable results.  I enjoy trying out ALL the things, and I’m constantly finding new loves.

Professional Watercolors

This is the current top drawer of my desk which holds all my Watercolor and Traditional Gouache tubes.  I keep my Acryla Gouache in a different place. I keep swatches of every color in a pretty bowl on my desk and pick colors for paintings based off those swatches.  You can see the swatches below.  I write the color name and brand on the back so I can easily find them in the drawer.


What are the best Watercolor colors to buy?

What are the best watercolor colors to buy?  Clearly everyone you ask will have a different answer, but these colors have been my go to for several years now and I frequently add different colors in but these are the basic workhorses in my studio.


Primary Colors

I start with my primary colors.  I actually consider Opera Rose part of my primary since it’s a tricky color to replicate in watercolor and I use pink a LOT in my work.  But this pic below shows several of my non-traditional favorites.  If you’d like something slightly more traditional swap Cobalt Turquoise for Prussian Blue – it’s a nice dark blue that can make a wide value range since it’s so dark.  Add water to make it lighter.  Cobalt Turquoise is an unusual color like Opera Rose and hard to replicate and mix so I always include it in my palette.

Top 5 Watercolors

This next picture shows my top 5 watercolors.  I love the way they interact together, and the way they mix.  The brightness of the pink and red make each other pop especially well when mixed or used as colors to “tap” in.

Watercolor Half Pans

My Half pans get pretty dirty; especially my Lemon yellow.  After I took these pics I spent a little time cleaning and refilling my pans.  The yellow doesn’t bother me too much since clearly I use it most to mix with my greens.

Secondary Colors

I have very non traditional recommendations for secondary colors as well.  I always mix my own oranges.  I do own several oranges including my own mixed pans of specific oranges I find myself mixing over and over.  But I really only use the oranges I mix myself.  So my secondary color recommendations are: Holbein Brilliant Pink, Holbein Jaune Brilliant 2, and Holbein Lilac.  All three of these color suggestions are beautiful pastel colors that I use frequently.  The look lovely mixed with water, as well as with white gouache for a more opaque look.  They blend together well, and are not easy colors to find.

Filling Watercolor Pans

I fill most of my pans myself with tubes.  It’s cheaper this way, and also gives me the ability to make custom color mixes as well (more on that soon).  I basically squeeze the paint into the halfpan trying to eliminate bubbles.

How to fill Watercolor Half Pans

Then I tap the half pan on the table several times until the paint has leveled out and bubbles have come to the surface and popped.  I also use my favorite palette knife for this sometimes too!

I tend to overfill my pans because they shrink when drying and I also love to have the pigment close to the top of the pan.

Best Brushes for Watercolor

I have a whole post on the Best Brushes for Watercolor so be sure to check out that post too.

Come hang out!

Be sure to find me on Pinterest and Instagram for more fun artwork, tutorials, products,  and tips!

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