My Watercolour Materials

Rather than give a full explanation of what you should or should not have and why, in this section I will give a run down of the equipment I prefer to use and a few essential pointers.

Watercolour Brushes

I love my brushes, I have all sizes of sable upto 12, a large and medium squirrel mop, a couple of riggers, a couple of flats, a broad wash brush, a hake, toothbrush and a scruffy house painting brush, even a few sticks.

Sables and mops hold a lot of water which help produce smooth continuous flows of paint, and most importantly should have fine points. Allegedly these days some synthetic brushes are just as good as sables and much cheaper. Do not leave them standing in your  water pots any longer than necessary and make sure they are left somewhere thay can dry properly.

My Limited Watercolour Brush Selection:

If I had to choose just a few brushes they would be as follows:

 Squirrel Mop Size 0 – Pro Arte : Renaissance (£8)
Round sables Nos 1, 2, & 6  – DaVinci – maestro series 10
(£10 – £20 each)

A No 1 rigger – Daler Rowney Synthetic D99 (£5)

then later add a Jackson’s Raven Mop Size 6  (which is quite large), (£17)
and a tooth brush!
29/11/2019  black friday –  Jacksons had a sale on brushes and free delivery overseas on orders over £20

Note the beautiful fine tip on this sable.

fresh watercolour paint
watercolour brush
board sizes

Watercolour Paper

Watercolour paper is beautiful.

I mainly use Cold Pressed Watercolour paper (also called ‘Not’ because it has not been pressed by hot rollers) which has a slight texture and use 140lb which equates to 300gsm.

I always stretch my paper as i hate when the paper expands and goes all lumpy, producing puddles.

The thicker paper for example 300lb is difficult to stretch and also absorbs the paint in a different way. Many artists use this weight of paper and do not stretch it all, it all depends on how much water you use. This paper will also buckle but much less than other lighter papers.

There is also watercolour board which will not buckle at all but can cost £10/sheet.

I use good quality papers: Arches, Saunders Waterford and Fabriano, I like them all. Good paper will not absorb the paint too quickly or too slowly and will take a good amount of scrubbing without breaking up. You can also choose extra white in some papers.

Sizing – Papers have a gelatin sizing  to avoid the pigment being absorbed too quickly.


I prefer to use Tubes of watercolour paint not pans as it is easier and quicker to get a good brush load of paint .

I use ‘Professional Quality’ Daniel Smith and Winsor and Newton mainly but there are many other good quality paint manufatures.

I try to stick to:

Transparent rather than opaque pigments.

Lightfast pigments – i.e. they do not fade.

Non Staining pigments that i can remove if need be.

There are even granulating and non granulating pigments.

Don’t worry too much about all this, that will come with time.

Joseph Zbukvic can produce wonderful paintings with watered down Nutella!

Colour Theory Pages coming soon!

Watercolour Pans

watercolour pans

Watercolour Tubes

Studio Equipment

Large wooden Easel,

Angle poise lamp with daylight bulb, hairdrier,

For my boards i have a couple slightly bigger than A1 and around 15mm thick.

  1. One is a real piece of wood from the top of a wardrobe which is my favourite.
  2. The other is a piece of plywood which i had to give 2 coats of varnish to stop a brown colouring seeping out of the wood into the paper, i belive this can also be done with gesso.

Large water pots that hang on clips, on the board.

table for brushes, table for laptop, printer.

Large Palette, spare tubes, large water spray bottle, towel, kitchen roll.

Test paper: scraps of old watercolour paper for testing colours and consistency.

Reference books by other artists.

Music, Coffee, Incense Burner.


watercolour brushes

Brush & Tackle Roll

  • I like to have everything i could possibly need at my fingertips in and out of the studio. All this tackle sits in the roll opened up in the studio, then a quick roll and it pops into my medium weight kit rucksack. When youu watercolour paint you need to find what the brush or tool you need instantly. I have in my kit as follows:
  • TOP ROW: palette knife, sticks,dip pen, masking fluid, sharpener, scalpel, templates, water spray, business cards.
  • MIDDLE ROW: all brushes.
  • BOTTOM ROW: credit cards, ear buds, white gouache, pencils, pen, spare lead, salt, wax, sponge.


painting brushes
watercolour brushes rolled

Plein Air Equipment

I have two Plein Air Rucksacks:

Full Kit: 1 x medium rucksack:

full roll of brushes, waterbottle and lanterns with bulldog clips for hanging, large palette, masking fluid, tripod, folding lightweight stool 300g, hat, suntan lotion, mosquito repellant, food, rain cover for rucksack, 2 x lightweight coreflute boards with tripod fixings 440g each and with rain covers, sun hat or beanie,  fingerless gloves, phone with camera.

Ultra Lightweight Kit:

1 x small rucksack, A4 pencil sketch book,  A4 watercolour sketch book, pencil, rubber, small palette, medium mop, No6 sable , rigger.


I have always used 6mm MDF boards with a special mounting plate on the back so I can use them on tripods.

I am currently experimenting with ‘Coreflute’ and ‘Gator foam’ trying to find the ultimate lightweight material.




Board Size :

Make sure you buy/make your board about 6cm longer and wider than your paper to allow for brown tape around the edge.

You could also allow another 3cm to attach a handle, to make carrying easier.

board sizes

A3 (= 30cm x 42cm) is a good size for a starter paper, therefore your board should be at least  36cm x 48cm x 1cm thick plywood.

If you allow for a handle add an extra 3cm to the width so:

39cm x 48cm

Your Board

This is actually not as straight forward as you may think.

The Brown Parcel tape used for stretching paper does not stick very well to shiny surfaces, although you can try adding carpenters glue to the water and paint it onto the tape. Or permanently glue a sheet of Card or thick paper onto the board.

Wooden boards can leak a staining colour into the paper leaving a brown stain, so the should be treated first, with 2 or 3 coats of polyurethane varnish.

Thin boards can bend with the force of the stretched paper.

For the studio – if you use plywood, get Marine Ply if possible and coat with Polyurethane Varnish , give it at least two coats and gently sand between coats. 3/8″  (10mm) is a good thickness. 1/2″ is too heavy, 1/4″ will bend. You can staple onto this board for stretching.

I had 1/4 inch MDF boards for travelling which bent a little but i dont remember having staining issues, they are also quite a bit heavier than the alternatives below.

Gator Board & Coreflute, which are light and strong , but shiny and wont hold the brown tape, to get round this problem, you can glue a piece of card (the card they use to make picture mounts would be good) on top and then use the brown tape on top of this.

foam board which is foam covered with lightweight paper stock.

Gator Board / Gatorfoam is a lightweight, rigid display board with a polystyrene core and white surface. The core is very dense and firm and the surface is a wood fiber veneer laminate impregnated with resin for water resistance. seems to come in 5mm or 10mm.

There is a lot of discussion as to the different types and brands of this type of material, if they bend or hold tape and staples ( see –


Plastic Folding Palettes

I love these palettes as they are relatively cheap and very light, and they dont rust like the metal ones that can contaminate your paint.

However the paint does not want to leave the brush and stick to the plastic very well. So i rubbed the surface of the wells a little with sandpaper and then painted the entire inside of the palette with white enamel paint.

Apparently plastic surfaces differ and if you can get one made from ‘styrene’ the paint will sit better on the palette. (JOHN PIKE PALETTE STYRENE unfortunately i could not find a folding one with a thumb hole)

There are also Aluminum Folding Watercolor Palettes , sturdier and no rust.

I also read its a good idea to wash them with soap and scrub them with a green slighly abrasive dish washing sponge type thing.

I also wanted more wells inside the palette for mixing so i glued some strips of plastic in the middle of the wells and then using a good silicon i sealed any gaps and built up a little divider.

I also glued in a few empty pans and half pans for extra colours.

Downside: The hinges break if you drop them!

When you open the palette before painting give it a little spray with your atomiser the loosen ‘activate’ the pigments.

My Palette

my watercolour palette

The Basic Equipment

It is possible to produce a great painting with only a handfull of items of equipment, please see me recommendations on my ‘Lima Valley Aquarella’ page.

Soft Putty Rubber

These are great, they avoid damaging the paper, I like this one from Koh-I-Noor because it comes in a nice little plastic box and seems to last forever.

soft putty rubber