Basic Watercolor Materials Art Nebula

Let's start with the necessary tools for watercolor painting as every artist must have his or her tools ready even before creating.


There is a multitude of different paints available today. It is important that artists secure paint that offer reliability and great performance but how do you identify which paints available are for students and artists?


Student-Grade Paint

However, some, such as Sennelier La Petite, have been formulated to let serious students afford good quality paints for inexpensive learning. These watercolors are made with varying amounts of lower-grade pigments and fillers to increase paint volume. Some brands of student-grade paints may not be as vibrant as the others and they are fugitive (impermanent).


Artist-Grade Paint

Artist-grade watercolors are professional paints that assure artists of high-quality ingredients with no substitutes. They contain pure pigments and are vibrant even after years of shelf-life. Paintings made with such can withstand lifetimes without fading. Sennelier extra-fine watercolors is the artist-grade line of Sennelier. They combine the best pigments and most refined gum agents with honey resulting in vibrant, luminous, and lively watercolors. 

If you would like to know more about the nature of watercolor paints, head over to: Getting To Know Watercolor


Artists are always on the lookout for the best tools. Watercolor brushes in particular, should be able to endure years of use whilst providing excellent performance and retaining original shape. It is first important to know that there different types of hair for paint brushes for watercolor.

Natural Hair

Natural fibres from different animals are utilised to create various brushes. All natural hairs have ridges or pockets in each strand. These hold and retain water, letting the brush load more paint at a time.

  • Kolinsky (Sable)
    The Kolinsky Sable is the "best" kind of natural hair available harvested from the tail of a male specie of mink (weasel). It is known for retaining shape and holding a lot of water. Red Sable is more common and shorter than Kolinsky hairs. It is almost like Kolinsky and is identified as fine-artist hairs for paint brushes too. 
  • Squirrel
    Squirrel hair is one of the most used hairs especially for both student and artist grade brushes. They are very supple and allows for smooth and even applications of paint.
  • Ox, Goat, and Camel Hair
    Ox and Goat hair are the more common and cheaper fibres for brushes. Their fibres are coarse and may not alway retain their original shape especially for round brushes whereas camel hair is a term for different natural hairs blended together. They are cheaper but are fine for learning use. 
Synthetic Hair
There are many brushes that use synthetic hair but their quality vary from manufacturers as some companies have developed high-performing artificial hairs that mimic natural hair.


Raphael Petit Gris
Round Brush
Fibres of this brush extend to a pointed tip. The round brush is the most commonly used tool of watercolorists for both big and small paintings as it is used for washes as well as fine detail. The brushes above are (from top to bottom) a Raphael Kaerell (sythetic) brush made for fluid painting, a Raphael Martora (red sable hair) for washes and details, and the Petit Gris (squirrel hair) which is the softest of the three. Varying sizes of these brushes make it easier for artists to create big applications and fine details. 


Soft Aqua Mop
Raphael Lavis Pointed Mop


The mop brush is somewhat a bigger version of a round brush but with a fuller base. It is primarily for larger paint applications as it can hold more water. It is great for both floral brush work as well as background painting/ blending. The Raphael Soft Aqua Pointed Mop (top) is a synthetic mop that is at par with natural-haired mop brushes while the Raphael Lavis Pointed Mop (bottom) is made with pure Kazan Squirrel hair, making it one of the softest mops available. Both are fantastic for broad washes and blending.


Flat Brush
The flat brush is a wide shaped tool that is built for even applications of paint. It not only is handy for big washes or long strokes but it may also be tilted to create thin linear lines. The Raphael Lavis Flat Brush is very soft but durable. It is made with squirrel hair and a  nickel-plated ferrule. A variation of the flat brush is the Hake which is typically bigger in size and has a long wooden-handle. 
Rigger/Liner Brush

The rigger or liner is a thin brush with long fibres. It holds more water and paint making it easy to create continuous lines without having to re-dip the brush. Shown above, the Kolinsky Gold Rigger is a brush that will always retain its shape giving you the best performance as you paint long, fine lines.


Oval Cat’s Tongue

This brush is like the flat brush but with its fibres leading to a pointed tip. Simple strokes with this brush creates effortlessly perfect petals and leaves for flowers. It is also good for laying down washes. The Raphael Lavis Pointed Cat's Tongue Brush is made with pure squirrel hair, making it easy to handle due to its hairs' supple texture.



These are specially-made papers for watercolor absorption. This kind of paper lets colors sit on the paper surface to accurately show full vibrancy of all hues. Watercolor papers are made with either cotton, wood pulp, various woven fibres, or cellulose. Cotton rag watercolor paper is the best in terms of durability and absorption. Watercolor papers come in mainly three forms:
Pads like the Bee Paper pad (left) is handy because they have multiple sheets attached to one body. It is hardbound and easy to carry around. Blocks like the Sennelier Block (middle) is a set of watercolor papers attached (on all four sides) by adhesive so that artists don't need to "stretch" their papers and can paint intense washes without worrying about buckling or warps. Loose sheets are also great for painting in the studio or outdoors without the weight of a full pad or block. Student-grade and artist-grade papers are available as well like Canson loose sheets (student-grade) and Bee paper cotton watercolor paper (artist-grade) as seen on the right. 


Palettes are for mixing or storing your watercolor paints. They come in different forms and materials. The most affordable material available is plastic but strong colors stain this material. An open flower palette (middle) is great for mixing your colors in big portions. The Mijello Fusion Watercolor Palette (left) is great for storing squeezed paints as it seals in moisture and will keep paints from drying or cracking. Metal pan- palettes like the Sennelier metal palette (right) is great for keeping colors in halfpans without them falling off. Metal palettes do not stain as much as plastic. Palettes made with porcelain do not stain but are heavy and fragile.

Fortunately, we here at Art Nebula PH take the time to offer testers of all our products when we have our pop-up shops. Click here for our next events: Take Me To Your Pop-Up Shop

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