Posts in Free Resources
Everything You Need to Start Your Watercolor Painting Journey!

Some of the most common inquiries I receive are questions about what type of supplies I recommend. Today, I am sharing my list of recommendations for beginners who are wanting to explore the world of watercolor painting. You can get started with just a few basic supplies, especially if you are up for mixing your own colors. A lot of artists will only recommend the highest quality of supplies, and while I do agree that you can see a noticeable difference when you are painting with lower quality brushes and paint versus high quality ones, I also realize that not everyone has hundreds of dollars to spend on art supplies — so I am going to share some affordable supplies that I have found to be the best quality for the price, plus a few “splurges” in case you do want the top of the line picks! For ease, I have included links to purchase these items online via Blick or Amazon*.

 
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First up, paint! You can choose between pans (dry) and tubes (wet) for your watercolor pigments. There are advantages and disadvantages to both, and I encourage you try out both to see which you prefer.

Pans: Pan colors are convenient if you like to work on your projects at a coffee shop or outside. They are easy to transport, and you can work directly from the tray they come in. They dry out quickly, so when you’re ready to pack up and head back home, there’s no mess. You will need to add water to the “cakes” to pick up the pigment.

Tubes: You will notice that wet pigments come in teeny tiny tubes and that’s because a little goes a long way. One benefit to this is that you can invest in some nicer quality pigments and mix your own colors. All you need to get started would be a primary red, yellow, and blue — from these three colors you can create a whole world of colors! Stay tuned for our upcoming post which features a refresher on color mixing!

Recommendations: For pans, I use both the Koi Watercolor Pan Set as well as the Angora Watercolor Pan sets. These are both affordable and yield great results. I find the Koi colors to be more pigmented (plus the field sketch sets come with a refillable water brush and mixing tray!), but sometimes I prefer the soft nature of the Angora sets. The Windsor and Newton Professional Watercolor tubes are favorite among watercolor artists and will yield some beautiful colors. They are more of an investment, but remember, these will last you a long time and you can create your own colors so buying your three primary colors is a great option!

Next up, brushes! To get started, I recommend picking up a couple of ROUND brushes. Round brushes are ideal because they allow you to get both thick and thin lines, and can create a variety of shapes that lend themselves naturally to things like leaves and flowers. If you are more drawn to creating your own modern patterns instead of floral designs, I recommend picking up some FLAT brushes as well. You will want a couple of sizes to choose from. Here’s a good list to get you started:

  • Size 12 ROUND

  • Size 6 or 8 ROUND

  • Size 6 or 8 FLAT

  • Size 2 ROUND

Recommendations: You don’t need to get the most expensive brushes out there (watercolor brushes can get extremely pricey!). For beginners, I recommend choosing the synthetic brushes versus the natural hair brushes to get started. The Simply Simmons brand is a nice beginner option as they are affordable and decent quality (especially for the larger sizes!) Once you find a size and style you like best, you can start to invest in a couple of nicer brushes (the Princeton Heritage line is a good option). You will notice a difference in the quality of the strokes when you upgrade to a nicer brush, but since everyone will find that a different size/shape works best for their style, I still recommend starting with some basic brushes first. Some cheaper options do tend to have hairs that come loose easily and stick to your paper which is a total pain, so be selective!

Tips for maintaining the shape of your brushes: Be sure to wash your brushes and reshape them to dry after each use to preserve their shape. Don’t leave them sitting in your water cup as this will squish the bristles and distort their shape (RIP so many brushes of mine over the years!!) Lay flat to dry and store with the bristles facing up.

 
Watercolor florals painted with a Round 8 and 12 brush

Watercolor florals painted with a Round 8 and 12 brush

 

Finally, you will need some paper! A heavy weight watercolor paper ideal - I stick with a 140 lb / 300 g minimum (the weight of the paper is displayed in lbs or gsm— the higher the number, the heavier the paper). You will want to use a heavy weight so that it can handle all of the water being added to the surface without rippling or buckling. There are a few options for surface texture as well. They are:

  • Hot Press: Hot press watercolor paper provides a SMOOTH finish

  • Cold Press: Cold press watercolor paper provides a textured, SEMI-SMOOTH finish

  • Rough: Just like it sounds, a rough watercolor paper has a ROUGH textured finish

Recommendations: The Canson 9 x 12 inch XL Cold Press Watercolor pad is great for beginners! It’s a quality paper, great weight, and inexpensive! You can also buy larger sizes of paper by the sheet - this is a great way to try out some different textures and see what you prefer. They can range in price quite a bit - so try some of the “student grade” options first. For a treat yo’ self options, I love the Arches Cold Press Watercolor Pads. They just feel luxurious and like I am channeling my inner French Impressionist!

You will also need a mixing tray or palette! This is especially needed if you are going to work with wet pigments. You can buy a variety of trays at any art supply store (the butcher tray linked is one of my favorites), or use an old dinner plate (as long as it is white or light colored so you don’t have trouble seeing the colors you are mixing!).

I hope you find this list helpful! Your local art supply store should offer a great range of watercolor supplies, or you can shop directly from the links referenced. We will be featuring more tutorials and exercises soon, so check back for more helpful tools and resources!

*Links to Blick and Amazon are affiliate links. Thank you for supporting the brands that help support The Scribblist.

Pass the Pie.

I am a self proclaimed “Pie Enthusiast”, so Thanksgiving it where it’s AT for me. Every year I bake no less than five — yep, you read that right, five — pies. Don’t get me wrong, I love all of the savory dishes too, but pie is the thing I anticipate the most, and part of the glory of making so many pies is that there are always leftovers. And leftover pie for breakfast is my jam.

Like most holidays, it is important to take a moment to look past the table full of delicious food and consumer gimmicks to get at the heart of it all. What are you thankful for? How do you show your thanks? How do you share your bounty with others? I recapped some of my thoughts on this in my last post, but this year, I really do feel the warmth of thankfulness.

As we move in to the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, I am taking a moment to make a list of all of the things I want to savor this year. Ways to soak in the holiday spirit, give back to my community, and be more thoughtful in my gift giving. I’ve created a festive template to write down all of my holiday wishes, and I am sharing it here with you as a free download.

 
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I encourage us all to enjoy the season and pay attention to all of the little moments that make it so magical. A big goal of mine this year is to find more ways to share that magic with those who don’t have the financial means to do so on their own. If you have any favorite charities, recommendations for ways to give back to the local community, or any other ideas I would love for you to share them in the comments. If you can’t give financially, your time is one of the most valuable things you can give, so please share ideas for ways you can donate your time as well.

I hope you enjoy this template and it inspires you to make the most of the holiday season!

Here are some of the things that will be making an appearance on my list:

  • Go for a walk as a family to look at Christmas lights

  • Donate toys, clothes, or food to a local charity

  • Volunteer at a local shelter

  • Watch your favorite holiday movies (some of ours are “Elf”, “The Holiday”, and “White Christmas”)

  • Do something nice for a stranger

  • Shop from small businesses (this is my go to book for children!)

  • Decorate sugar cookies

  • Bake my mom’s Apricot Braid (a holiday tradition!)

  • Enjoy a hot cocoa date with a friend

  • Spend as much time as I can with friends and family

  • Listen to my favorite holiday albums (even if they are still N*Sync and Celine Dion’s).

  • Get matching pajamas (because my pup Brady in pjs would just be too cute).

P.S. Our Goldendoodle who we love to the moon and back makes a little appearance on the template. I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to add some reindeer antlers to his fluffy head! Click the link below to download yours!

 
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The 5 Supplies You Need to Get Started With Modern Calligraphy

I know the world of pointed pen calligraphy can be intimidating, especially because the supplies alone are a lot to figure out if you are teaching yourself like I did. I have put together a list of 5 basic supplies you need to get started, and have included some resources on where to find them online (links included!). My suggestion here follows the same rule as the illustration supplies, which is to buy the best you can afford. Luckily, calligraphy supplies are relatively inexpensive which means you can try a few things out to see what suits you best!

 
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1. A Calligraphy Pen

I typically recommend a straight pen holder for beginners as they work for left or right handed writers. I love the Manuscript pens from Paper & Ink Arts or the General Pencil Cork Tipped Penholder which features a cushioned comfort grip. Try to avoid the plastic holders (I know—they’re so tempting at under $2 a piece). They really won’t do you any favors, especially as a beginner. I learned this the hard way—once I invested in a nicer, wooden holder I quickly saw much better results.

Another option is the all mysterious Oblique pen. Oblique pens feature a flange on the side (on the left for right-handed writers, and on the right for left-handed writers). It is ideal for achieving a nice slant, particularly for right-handed writers who have more difficulty in that arena. My favorite is the Deco Oblique Holder from Paper & Ink Arts. These beautiful wooden holders have an art deco inspired end. Made in the US, they are sleek and have an adjustable flange. I have this pen and I love it!

Note: Check to see if your flange is adjustable or if it can only fit a specific style of nib! You may need a pair of needle nose pliers to adjust the brass flange.

2. A Pointed Pen Nib

The Nikko G nib is my go to, especially for those learning calligraphy for the first time. It is strong, but flexible and can cold quite a bit of ink so you won't have to refill quite as often. It also fits in just about any pen holder and is sturdy and long lasting. Try a few different nibs out, and see which you like best! They usually range from $1-$2, so you can try a variety without a huge investment. The biggest difference is in the flexibility—some will release ink with just the slightest pressure while some are rather inflexible.

 
The Deco Oblique Holder from Paper & Ink Arts is featured here!

The Deco Oblique Holder from Paper & Ink Arts is featured here!

 

3. Sumi or India Ink

These are both opaque black inks with a smooth viscosity. The consistency of these inks makes them ideal for beginners and they are very cost effective as well! I like to use little glass jam jars to put my India ink in as I often buy a larger bottle that you can’t dip in to. As you branch out and start using other inks (with color!) make sure you don’t get ink meant for a fountain pen. Try Dr. Ph. Martin’s Bombay India Inks!

4. Practice Paper

Your practice paper needs to be heavy weight and smooth so that your ink won’t bleed and your nib won't catch on the paper. Buying a bulk pack of laser jet printer paper allows you to practice freely without worrying about wasting expensive paper! My go to is #32 Laserjet Paper—I just order it in bulk on Amazon so I have plenty to use for practice drills and alphabets!

5. A Cup of Water and a Non-Fibrous Cloth

You will notice the ink can dry quickly on your nib and start to build up. You will want to periodically clean off your nib as you are working. When you are done, make sure to fully clean the ink off your nib and dry it separately from your pen holder. Leaving it in the pen with moisture can cause it to rust.

The cloth is for drying off your nib after you clean it in water. You will want a non-fibrous cloth so that your nib doesn’t catch on any little fibers and then drag ink across your paper. Soft, old kitchen towels work great!

 
Photo from our recent Introduction to Modern Calligraphy Workshop at Tendue in Portland, Oregon.

Photo from our recent Introduction to Modern Calligraphy Workshop at Tendue in Portland, Oregon.

 

Where to get these supplies:

1. Paper & Ink Arts

This website changed the game for me! They have just about every calligraphy supply you could want! A huge assortment of pen holders, nibs, inks, and more- all in one place! I order the majority of my supplies here and love their wide selection.

2. Blick Art Materials

Blick has tons of stores nationwide and a great online assortment. I usually stock up on my India or Sumi ink here, and they have a great selection of colorful inks as well. Avoid the Speedball packaged sets, and instead build your own kit from the materials suggested here! Bonus: They often have weekly promos!

3. Amazon

I think it’s safe to say that we all know Amazon has just about everything these days. I order my practice paper and glass jars for storing ink here as both are available in bulk.

4. Paper Source

Paper Source won’t have your nibs, inks or pens, but they have cards and envelopes in every color under the rainbow! Their paper bar has good quality, smooth options and are my go-to for envelopes! They have a wide assortment of sizes and colors— stock up on a variety, mix and match, and send out some seriously stunning snail mail!

5. Etsy

Etsy is an online marketplace for handmade and vintage items. There are some beautiful, hand painted pen holders available on Etsy and I encourage you to browse around! You can find my shop, featuring some of my hand lettered illustrated prints, at www.thescribblist.etsy.com

Tips for getting started:

Go slow and be patient with yourself! Calligraphy requires us to slow down. The tools will actually rebel if you try to go too quickly! Use your practice time as a chance to relax and enjoy yourself. I like to grab a cup of hot tea, put on some good music, and get cozy when I sit down to practice or work on a project. If you find yourself tensing up or getting stuck on a particularly tough letter, take a break to stretch. The key to learning calligraphy is a mixture of practice and patience. Most importantly, have fun!

If you’re in the Portland area, be sure to check our Events page for upcoming workshops! Learning is more fun with a friend!

Note on Affiliate Links: The links for Paper Source, Amazon and Blick Art Materials are affiliate links, which means The Scribblist profits from you shopping these items through those links. I only recommend products I have tried, used consistently and love. It’s an added bonus that these brands share the love with the people that use and recommend them. Thank you for supporting the brands that support The Scribblist.

Spotlight: Materials for Illustrative Painting

One of the main goals I have for The Scribblist is for it to be a source of knowledge and inspiration for anyone who wants to learn or further develop a creative skill. In addition to my workshops, I’ll be sharing free tips and resources for you here on the blog.

Today I am sharing my favorite supplies for illustrative painting. These are the materials I use to create my hand lettered and illustrated designs, which I sell as prints in my Etsy shop.

 
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1. Holbein Acryla Gouache

Gouache is an all around confusing medium for a lot of people I meet. So what is it exactly? Simply put, gouache is an opaque watercolor paint. Traditional watercolor paints are transparent, meaning you can see the color of the paper through the paint, so you have to work from light colors to dark. Gouache is a little more forgiving (thank goodness!) and it allows you to work from dark to light (if your heart so desires).

You might be wondering, so how is it different from acrylic paint then? Great question! Some gouache remains water soluble, like watercolor paints, after it dries. Acrylic paint, while water soluble when it is wet, dries permanent meaning it now has a closed surface. You can add more paint over it without it mixing, and water will no longer dissolve the paint.

Acryla gouache is like a mixture of acrylic and gouache paint. It is a fast-drying, opaque acrylic based watercolor paint. You can mix it with water, and create different levels of translucency, but it is going to lean towards a more opaque matte finish. Once is dries, like acrylic paint, it will have a closed surface so you can layer more paint on top of it. Bonus, unlike watercolor paint, you can use this on dark surfaces and maintain the bright, punchy colors. It comes in SO MANY colors and you can mix your own as well. I love this paint because it is easy to work with, the colors are fantastic, and I like to be able to layer without having to worry about things mixing together and becoming muddy. A little goes a long way, and the tubes are small enough to take a few with you if you feel like painting out in the world.

 
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2. Princeton Series 4850 Elite Brushes

I use a wide variety of paintbrushes, but lately I have been reaching for my Princeton Elite series quite a bit. My favorite of the moment is the 1/4” Stroke brush which is excellent for hand lettering or anything that needs a smooth edge. These brushes feature synthetic brush hair, which I typically prefer over traditional sable or other hair sourced from animals. They maintain their shape well, which is important if you’re using them for detail work. While this particular series is intended for watercolor painting, I find they work well for my Acryla gouache paints as well.

3. Arches Watercolor Blocks

I also use a variety of papers, but I do love my Arches watercolor block. They are manufactured from pure cotton fiber in France (so you can feel fancy and channel all of those artistic French geniuses while you paint!) and I find the paper to be very durable. They are available in a variety of sizes and surfaces, and the benefit of working on a block is that your paper isn’t going to curl as you are working on it. With water based paints, you are adding a lot of moisture to the paper. You need a nice, heavy watercolor paper to be able to handle the medium.

You will notice with watercolor paper that you have a few surface options, the main ones being hot press and cold press. Hot-pressed watercolor paper has a fine-grained smooth surface. Cold-pressed watercolor paper has a slightly textured surface. You will want to experiment with both to find what suits you and your work best. You will also notice there are different weights available (185 gram, 300 gram, etc). The higher the number, the heavier the paper. That means, it can take more water without buckling.

 
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My general rule of thumb with all art supplies is to purchase the best quality that you can afford. Typically, the more expensive options are more expensive for a reason. They are made with higher quality materials, and result in a higher quality product. That doesn’t mean you have to have the best of the best across the board. Experiment with a few different brushes and see if you notice a difference between the $2 brush and the $20 brush. Try out different papers by purchasing a few “by the sheet” options. Acryla gouache is a mid-range product, but it happens to be my favorite because I like the end result for my particular work. For my brushes, I have a few nicer brushes that I reserve for specific use (detailing, lettering, and hard edges) and I have a ton of cheaper options that I use for applying paint to large areas, less detailed work, and because honestly, I am really rough on my supplies! Don’t buy everything under the sun all at once—try a few things out to get you started, and build your toolbox as you go once you learn which supplies suit your style and needs best.

Most importantly, remember to have fun! I’d love to know what some of your favorites are so feel free to share them in the comments!