How to choose the right watercolor paint

Read my previous posts about a basic watercolor set and what watercolor paper to buy.


What are watercolor paints?


“Watercolor paint consists of four principal ingredients: a pigment; gum arabic as a binder to hold the pigment in suspension; additives like glycerin, ox gall, honey, and preservatives to alter the viscosity, hiding, durability or color of the pigment and vehicle mixture; and evaporating water, as a solvent used to thin or dilute the paint for application.” - Wikipedia.


Watercolor paints can be in tubes and pans. Pans are a dry format of liquid paints.


What kind of paint should you buy?


It depends on your style and goals.

If you paint small pictures or do sketches with watercolor, it’s enough for you to have pans.

If you create big pictures, tubes are more convenient for you.

If you practice small sketches and paint big pictures, it's a good idea to have both - tubes and pans.


Tip: you can buy tubes only and put some paints into a sealed palette:


Watercolor paints can be both student and professional quality.


Professional quality paints include more pigment. That’s why they are more expensive.


For example:


Student version - tubes and pans


Professional version - tubes and pans




With both types of watercolor, there is important information to pay attention to with a pigment or pigments inside:


  • Name of pigment or pigments

  • Level of lightfastness (how resistant to fading it is when exposed to light)

  • Level of transparency (opaque, semi-transparent or transparent)



If you do not see these characteristics, it’s not very good paint.

If you just started to see what watercolor is, you can purchase a basic set.

However if you want to continue watercolor painting you should purchase at least student quality paints!


What about colors? How many should you buy?


Pans: usually a small box includes 12 colors and it is enough.

Tubes: buy at least 6 colors

  • cool and warm yellow (lemon yellow and cadmium yellow)

  • cool and warm red (alizarin crimson and cadmium red)

  • cool and warm blue (ultramarine and prussian (or phthalo) blue)

In addition, you can buy earth colors - raw sienna, burnt sienna, sepia.

Then you can purchase more if you need it.


Watercolor is a very economical medium so you do not need to buy paints often.


Tip: do not wash paint leftover out from your palette, just add a bit water if they are dry and paint!


In the meantime, watch my video with a quick watercolor sketch and stay tuned for a tutorial: