My Watercolour Primer

If memory serves me correctly the first transparent watercolour I bought was in Johnston (Vt) at the Vermont Studio Center. It was impossible to pass up a sheaf of paper the size of a small notebook embedded with watercolour.

Photo courtesy of Frantic Stamper

Frantic Stamper, Anima Designs, Paperinkarts and several others carry these sheets. Prices range from $13.95 to $15.00.

These watercolour sheets, together with a water brush are as portable as any watercolour tool kit. I fan out the sheaves, dab them as I go, and keep the brush tip clean with a bit of good quality paper towel. Almost no fuss, and little bother for a quick sketch.

Dr. Ph. Martin inks

Before these watercolour sheets, I used Dr. Ph. Martin's watercolour inks--vibrant colours for the sketches I made of the birds perching on the berry bushes outside our Wickford (RI) farm house.

Perhaps I should have stopped my watercolour purchases there.

I didn't!
Winsor & Newton Compact Set
This pocket-sized, lightweight plastic box is ideal watercolor set for the outdoor artist. The set contains 14 Artists? Watercolor half pans: 

Over the years, I added tube paint from Daniel Smith, Winsor & Newton, Holbein, DaVinci, Cheap Joe's American Journey, a tube or six from Blockx, Rowney, Natural Pigments, M. Graham, Sennelier, Schmincke and Italy's Maimeri Blu.

Holbein Travel Pan Set

Kremer Metal Palette

I also have watercolour pans sets from Winsor & Newton, Holbein, Yarka, Kremer Pigments and a small Koi.

Kremer Pigment Colours

The Kremer set, now doubled in price, comes in a sturdy metal case, but the colours themselves have a tendency to flake. When I first purchased these at their Soho Shop (they've since moved), I had to return my set. They were gracious about a replacement, but when the paints cracked and flaked again, I settled in with the set and moved on because the colours, like all Kremer pigments, are more vivid than any other colours I've used, regardless of brand. If you look closely you can see how highly saturated Kremer's Chrome Oxide Green is in comparison to Daniel Smith's (lower right hand corner).

In addition to tube and pan watercolours, I have little pots of various watercolours I picked up at New York Central--because they were sweet looking. They are not however pigment rich.

My watercolour pencil sets are under more control, and I have 2 sets of Uni-balls, one 12 piece set of Koh-i-nor and a few random pencils from various manufacturers. If I continue to enjoy using watercolour pencils, I may splurge on a set of Albert Durer or select some of their colours from open stock the next time I am near an art supplier that carries them.

Of course I also have some watercolour crayons. I don't remember where I bought these or when but I found them in a retired stationary tin the other day when I was looking for something else.

Winsor & Newton Bijoux Box

Then of course I always thought I'd make my own portable, mini watercolour boxes, like this one, but instead I splurged on a Winsor & Newton Bijoux box.

What I didn't realize when stock piling watercolours is that unlike oil paints, a little bit goes a long way. But, the colours kept seducing me, and the names of some of Cheap Joe's and Daniel Smith's product lines drew me in. I also found myself buying watercolour paints on various trips or long sojourns (New Mexico) hence more than doubling my inventory.
Holbein Metal Palette
If I had to do it all over again, I'd probably restrict myself to two metal palettes (a Holbein & the Bijoux), two dozen colours, one set of watercolour pencils, a set of Schmincke gouache, and 6 brushes.

Odd ball Holbein Palette Colours:
left to right:
DS Phthalo Turquoise, DS Ultramarine Turquoise, MG
Phthalocyanine Blue; WN Perylene Green; WN Caput Mortuum; Grumbacher Warm Sepia; DS Quinacridone Deep Gold; WN Light Red; WN Indigo; DS Chrome Oxide; DS Undersea Green; HWC Vermilion; HWC Opera

But I can't go back in time and it is likely these paints will outlive me: the shelf life of watercolour, especially in tube form, is at least 30 years. A little spritz of water, and they are alive and willing to perform admirably.

On the plus side--isn't there always a plus and minus--I learned which brands suited me best; how to handle both pan and tube colours; and how to integrate watercolour paint with other medium.

Isabey Squirrel Series 6234

My favourite watercolour brand: Winsor & Newton; favourite brush(es): Winsor & Newton #7, size 6; Escoda 1212 and Rosemary's #8.

Dakota Brushes may still be the best source for Escoda; and Rosemary brushes can only be purchased on line here. I believe I consulted with Peter Saw about the right brush from Rosemary.

Although many have complained about the Series #7, I believe my Winsor & Newton is the oldest sable brush in my stash and probably was made many years ago. I picked it up at a close out sale in a second storey art supply store, tucked in between garment racks and fast food vendors in Manhattan's Garment District. Even with moderate abuse the brush has maintained its point and has only suffered from loss of lacquer on its handle. It may be my favourite, or at least the brush I find in my hand the most often. The Escoda 1212, followed by the Rosemary are a close second.

Skip Lawrence Ox Hair Brush

For large washes, I prefer Skip Lawrence's brush--bought at Cheap Joe's. I learned about this brush from Arnold Lowrey. I also have a set of the wonderful Isabey squirrel brushes which, again, I was fortunate to get for a pittance on the 'bay. I have about 4 sizes plus a capped, travel version--this one is sheer delight and travels around with me along with its sister, an Escoda 1214, size 6, often.

I never settled on the perfect palette, and have tiny plastics, large plastics, and of course the metal sets. Many prefer the Pike Palette, but since I generally work tight, such a large palette takes up too much room on my work surface.

Work in progress ©

Now if I am offered a second life-time, all of these watercolour supplies will aid me in painting.


  1. drooling over that brush. Very informative post! I'm dying to try Martha Graham's watercolors. Have only ever used W&N which have suited my needs ... xo

  2. Wow. Thanks for the post...and all the work that went into it!!

  3. Thanks, Diana and Seth for stopping by and commenting.

    Diana, I have an email in draft to you and a gift. :)

  4. Hi, I just came across your blog while researching Kremer Pigments. I'm really interested in getting one of their empty metal/enamelled watercolor palettes. Could you please tell me your opinion on the build quality? While looking online, I came across other reviews on other brands that made the exact same looking palette, only to find that some of them got bad reviews (eg. some were too flimsy feeling, and the enamel was prone to staining). I really like what I see from Kremer for their empty metal palette and the price seems pretty good, so I just wanted to know if I was getting a good product if I were to get one from them. Thanks a lot for the help! Have a happy holiday and take care!

  5. The Kremer palette is definitely worth the $19.00 or so it costs. It compares favourably with the other two metal palettes I have: Holbein and W&N.

    It is not prone to staining and washes out well.

    Good luck, best wishes for the holidays.

  6. Awesome! That's great to hear! I'm definitely going to get one now :) Thank-you so much for the quick reply and the helpful info! Happy holidays!

  7. Just a note to say I'm missing your posts! :) Hope you've had a great holidays. xx

  8. Wishing you a wonderful 2010, and lots of more writing, unhalfbricking.

  9. Thank you for the details introduction on the tools .
    Those stuff are expensive in my country. Hope to try them one day :)

  10. Just a note letting you know that the M on M Graham does not stand for Martha. He is a man who's wife's name is Diana Graham.

  11. There is a Martha Graham artist who is quite talented, but she is not the one who has the
    M Graham paint company.