Watercolours: Your Basic Gear Guide

Watercolours, Gecko, Gear Guide
Watercolours, Gecko, Gear Guide

Watercolours: Your Basic Gear Guide

Watercolors are a whole different beast, bursting with vibrant colors and the magic of wet-on-wet washes. But before you unleash your inner Monet, let’s talk tools – the essential weapons in your watercolor arsenal.

Tubes vs. Pans

Watercolour paints come in two main forms: tubes and pans. Pans are like the ultimate travel buddies, tucked away in neat little boxes, always ready for action. They last surprisingly long, even with heavy use. Tubes, on the other hand, are the lone wolves, needing their separate case and a bit of squeezing to share their colour magic. 

Whichever team you choose, remember one golden rule: artist quality only! It might seem pricier, but trust me, those rich, pigment-packed colours are worth every penny. They’ll blend like a dream, letting you create washes that shimmer and glow.


Brushes: Finding Your Perfect Tools

Watercolour brushes are like your artistic extensions, so finding the right ones is key. They come in all shapes, sizes, and hair types, but let’s focus on the big three:

  • Rounds: Your go-to guy for delicate details and smooth washes. Think of them as the Swiss Army knives of the brush world.
  • Flats: These broad-shouldered buddies excel at laying down even washes and covering large areas. Perfect for dreamy skies and dramatic landscapes.
  • Mops: Imagine a fluffy cloud that holds tons of colour. That’s a mop brush! They’re ideal for creating soft textures and dreamy gradients.

As for hair, you’ve got three main choices

  • Sable: The king of the castle, known for their amazing springiness and color-carrying capacity. They’re like luxury cars for your art but be prepared to treat them with care.
  • Synthetic: Don’t underestimate these workhorses! They mimic many of Sable’s qualities at a fraction of the cost. Perfect for beginners and budget-conscious artists.
  • Squirrel: Think of them as the gentle giants of the brush world. They hold tons of colour and are super soft, making them ideal for big, fluffy washes.


Other Mark-Making Marvels With Watercolours

  • Sponges: Add texture and unexpected patterns with a gentle dab.
  • Toothbrushes: Splatter, flick, and create tiny details with these spiky wonders.
  • Cotton buds: Perfect for tiny corrections and reaching those tricky corners.
  • Bubble wrap, cling film: Create unique textures by pressing them onto the wet paint.
  • Sea salt: Sprinkle some on wet washes for a mesmerizing granulation effect.
  • Spray bottle: Keep your paper damp and create dreamy drips with a gentle mist.
  • Small palette knife: Lift colour, scrape off stubborn paint, and mix on a small scale.
  • Wax: Resist the flow of paint and create cool patterns with this magic barrier.


Paper: Where Your Watercolour Come Alive!

Watercolors deserve a stage that does them justice, and that’s where paper comes in. Most watercolorists paint on white paper, which allows the colours to shine in all their glory. But there are different textures to choose from:


Hot pressed: Super smooth, ideal for botanical illustrations and intricate details. Think of it as a blank canvas for your inner miniaturist.

Cold pressed: Has a subtle, natural texture, perfect for most styles. It’s like the middle child of the paper world, not too rough, not too smooth.

Rough: This one’s got a serious personality, with a bumpy texture that grabs onto the paint and creates interesting effects. Perfect for bold, expressive strokes.


And don’t forget about weight! It’s like the paper’s muscle mass, and it determines if you need to stretch it before painting. Thin papers (around 160gsm) might buckle under the weight of wet washes, while thick ones (400gsm+) can handle heavier washes.


Bonus Tip: Most watercolor papers have a watermark on one side. That’s your cue! That’s the side you paint on. Remember, the most important tool is you and your creativity! Don’t be afraid to experiment, mix colors like a mad scientist, and have fun!



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Annie Dalton

About The Author

Wildlife artist and illustrator, Annie Dalton is fueled by a love for nature and fun stories. Inspired by classics, folklore, and a dash of humor, I hand-draw animals with traditional techniques (pencils, ink, watercolors) in both whimsical and conceptual styles.