Best Art Supplies for Watercolor, Gouache, and Digital Art
I've tested out the best art supplies for watercolor, gouache, and digital paintings so you don't have to. And I've included links to all the products so you can find them really easily without wondering if you've found the right one. Some are affiliate links, some aren't, but regardless, they're things I use to get the results I get.
King Art Finesse Kolinsky Sable Synthetic Blend Premium Watercolor Artist Brushes. This all purpose set is really great for getting a variety of shapes and sizes. I think everyone needs a couple good round brushes, so getting a couple sizes is a great option. I tend to use mostly a 4 or 6, so consider that. You'll also get a great liner, a wash brush, and a couple of shaders which are nice for different purposes. I love that these brushes are a good price for the quality and variety you get. What I especially love is that they have a good amount of snap without being too firm and I love the way they keep their shape and form. I feel like I can get a consistent outcome from these brushes over and over again.
King Art Golden Taklon Filbert. If you want to paint flowers, I definitely recommend getting familiar with filbert brushes. They're so good at creating soft, delicate shapes with rounder edges and they make gorgeous petals. Again, this is a brush type I like to have a couple of sizes for--my favorites being a 6 and a 10. To be honest, I've tried a lot of cheap brushes because I always think it will be fine, but brushes make a ton of difference. So even if you only want to start small, don't go too cheap.
Canson XL cold press. I love how this paper reacts with pan and tube paints. It's cold press paper that can take a lot of washes and lifting, which I love. It's not too textured, and good thick quality paper for a reasonable price. I often cut the paper down for smaller paintings, so it goes pretty far.
Hahnemule Watercolor Block hot press 12 x 16" This hot press paper has less texture than a cold press, and is fabulous if you're going to be scanning and cleaning images digitally after you paint them. I buy the bigger pad and cut down the sheets into smaller sizes to make it more economical, but you can buy smaller sheets as well.
Best Watercolor Paint
Gansai Tambi Watercolor 36 Colors Set. This pan set has rich, highly-pigmented colors with lots of paint in each pan. They go on the paper beautifully and I've been really impressed by them.
Winsor & Newton professional water colors. I started with this set of 12, then added more colors that I love. These are professional grade paint, but man are they worth it. The colors are rich and vibrant and easy to mix. Just know that the Winsor & Newton Cotman paints are a student grade and not the same thing. They're a great place to start if you're just getting started though. My favorite colors include: Payne's Gray, Undersea Green, Buff Titanium, Yellow Ochre, VanDyke Brown, Alizarin Crimson, Neutral Tint, and Olive Green.
Watercolor palette with 24 empty half pans. This durable palette is compact, holds 24 half pans, andI love that the inside is a white enamel so you can really see the colors you're mixing and it doesn't bead up like some plastic palettes do. You can also get it a version with 48 half pans, which I will be getting soon since I recently stocked up on more Winsor & Newton colors.
Holbein Artist's Gouache. Starting with a set of basic colors like this one is a great way to figure out how to use gouache and is perfect if you like mixing your own shades. This gouache comes in a many other colors in individual tubes as well. Some of my favorites include Amber, Smoked Bamboo, Pine Tree, Iron Oxide Red, and Russet Green. Many of my motifs start as single-color gouache paintings that are scanned and digitized. I love that with gouache you can still get a watercolor-esque feel while taking advantage of the more opaque qualities of gouache.
Best Art Supplies (Miscellaneous)
Micron Pens. These pens are an industry favorite for a reason.The tip is super fine for great details, it won't bleed if you watercolor over what you've drawn. Plus they are smooth and reliable. The ink is also archival quality so they don't fade over time. Basically, they're awesome.
Masking Fluid. When you want to preserve the original color of the paper but will be using washes, masking fluid is a great way to keep crisp edges and details. Just paint it on before you add other colors and let it dry. Then paint right over the top and it peels off the paper when you're ready. It's pretty awesome stuff. Just make sure to clean your brushes REALLY well or they'll get gummed up. I typically use a brush I don't care about anymore.
Sketching pencils. When sketching for watercolors, you definitely want to keep it light because anything you paint over, you can't erase. Use a hard-lead pencil (I like a 2H) or even a red colored pencil to lightly sketch before starting your painting.
Kneadable Eraser. These come in handy if your sketching was a little too dark to lift some of the pencil color and again at the end to clean off any stray pencil marks that are visible.
Best Digital Art Supplies
iPad and Apple Pencil. I didn't know I needed a tablet until I tried drawing with an iPad and Apple Pencil. It's pretty amazing what you can do when drawing digitally. I also love that I can use it to mirror my computer screen when I'm doing detail work in Adobe Illustrator.
Procreate App. Procreate is a powerful drawing app that has SO many capabilities. You buy the app once through the app store, but it's well worth the $9.99. I love that it's not a subscription and that there are SO many brushes and tutorials out there that you can buy but it also comes with a great selection to get started with. Available in the App Store.
Creative Market. Procreate comes with some amazing brushes, but there are also amazing brush packs out there. I also use Creative Market for fonts and occasionally for mockups. There are so many great resources here.
Best Pattern Making Supplies
Adobe Creative Suite. Specifically Illustrator, but I find I use Photoshop, Lightroom, and InDesign regularly as well for other reasons in my business so it makes sense to get the whole suite. But if you're on a budget or just want to dip your feet in, you can get Illustrator on its own for less.
Astropad. Great for being able to mirror your computer monitor to your iPad. However, if you have newer equipment, you can use Sidecar to do the same thing. I'm just working with an older computer and iPad so this is a great way to be able to draw digitally straight into Illustrator or clean images in Photoshop.
So there you have it--my favorite best art supplies for creating both physical and digital art. I'd be happy to answer any questions you may have about the supplies listed here, just send me a message.