Watercolor Paints - DO'S & DONT'S

Jun 7 / Han.A
You love the look of watercolors and you really want to try it. When first starting with watercolors, it doesn’t make sense for you to purchase the most expensive paints at the art store because doubt starts filling your mind…. 
What if it’s not for me?
What if I’m not talented?
What if my painting looks terrible?
What if I waste my money?
As beginners, we mostly just want to have a try to see if we like it, and then decide whether or not to pursue and eventually invest in better quality materials.

But consider the alternative …

What if the low-cost materials produce results that are so bad that you start to think that it is your doing and that you are untalented? And what if without having given it a real go using high-quality paints, you end up giving up? 

In this article, I want to talk about the various options available to you so that you can make the best choice for yourself when embarking on your watercolor journey.

There are various types of watercolor paints available in stores: children’s watercolors, hobby watercolors, student watercolors, and professional watercolors, as well as watercolor dyes, liquid watercolors, tube watercolors, and pan watercolors.
Why don’t we look at each so you can decide which one you should invest in to continue growing your watercolor skills?

Children’s Watercolors and Low Cost ‘Hobby’ Watercolors

These watercolors are made from very little pigment (the substance used to produce color) and a lot of filler together with a binding medium so as to keep the costs low.  While trying a painting with my own children, I realized that these paints get used up very very quickly because you need a whole lot of paint to get intensity in color.  Alternatively, to create the intensity of color, manufacturers use dyes instead of pigments to keep the costs low. The difference between dyes and pigments is that dyes will fade over time, whereas watercolor pigments will last over a lifetime.

Watercolor Dyes

Dyes can come in liquid form or pan form. They are very very bright and intense. However, as dyes are not fade-resistant and light-fast, paintings made from dyes cannot be displayed. They need to be stored safely to be preserved and require scanning to be reproduced.

Student Quality Watercolor Paint

Many watercolor paint manufacturers create hold an artist range and a student range of paints with a significant price difference. Student paints are more accessible and produce very high-quality results. The difference in price comes down to the amount of pigment added to the paints. The color that comes out of student quality paints is very comparable to that of artist paints, and the tubes also last a long time. 

Artist Quality Watercolor Paint

Paint manufacturers do not compromise on artist-quality paints. They are fully pigmented and combined with the highest quality binders to produce paints that are lightfast and transparent. There are several types of artist paints produced:Most are produced from standard pigments that are distributed across a range of manufacturers;Some paints are made from natural pigments while others are made from synthetic pigments;Some paints are made from rare pigments and can be pricey; andSome are made from a combination of pigments that when applied onto wet paper will separate and create an effect called granulation.Watercolor paint also comes in various forms including liquid watercolors, pans watercolors, and tube watercolors.

Forms of Watercolor Paints

Liquid watercolors are premixed watercolor paints that are already quite fluid. Any extra water would only dilute the color intensity. They come in small bottles and a little dropper to get the paint out.

Pans paints are made from paints that have been allowed to dry in a little container, and they require rewetting to be activated. They are handy when painting outdoors and are very portable. They can be very good when working in a tight space and are easy to pack and store.

Watercolors squeezed out of tubes come out fresh and soft, but still, need a little bit of water to be activated. 


It is perfectly fine to have a mix of student and artist paints as well as having all three forms of watercolors as they all are lightfast and durable, and mixing colors can produce very bright and vibrant results.
When I first started painting in watercolors, I had a small pan set of student watercolors, and when I become more confident, I ventured into artist-quality pan watercolors and eventually tubes. Now, I have a whole array of paints from different brands and I love trying and experimenting with the different types of watercolors available.
So, when it comes to beginners, the best option is to go for professional paints. However, if this makes you very nervous, the minimum would be to get yourself some student range of watercolors. In either case, it is best to start with the essential colors, and eventually, once your confidence grows, you may be ready to invest in more colors and/or move on to artist-quality paints.

Don't Get Overwhelmed

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