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The 5 Best Watercolor Kits
If you’re learning how to paint with watercolor, you’re going to need the best watercolor kit to assist you. Watercolor is a fun medium that is accessible for any age, but painting with the wrong supplies can be frustrating. If you want to get started on the right foot, read our watercolor kit reviews below.
In This Article
There are a lot of options when you’re looking for the best watercolor kit, but not all of them are worth the money, and some can make it harder to learn this beautiful style of painting. We’ve done all the testing, and we’ve compiled a list of our favorite paints. Keep reading for the top five beset watercolor kits.
Our top pick for best watercolor kit is the Schmincke Horadam Aquarell Half-Pan Paint Metal Set with Water Container because it offers traditional colors made from the same natural ingredients since 1881.
The Schmincke Horadam Aquarell Half-Pan Paint Metal Set with Water Container is a made by the company that is seen as the gold standard of watercolor. This palette comes with half pans of eight colors: cadmium red light, lemon yellow, permanent carmine, permanent green olive, Prussian blue, sepia brown, and yellow cchre. For 139 years the company has made this best watercolor kit with ox gall, which gives the painter control over where the water paint flows.
If you add a watercolor brush, paper, and, of course, water to this kit, you have the perfect watercolor studio on the go. This kit comes with a palette made from heavy-weight metal about the size of a deck of cards, and it will stand up to years of use. The palette has a white enamel interior, making an ideal mixing surface.
- Perfect size for a travel palette
- Made by one of the best watercolor manufactuers in the world
- Buttery smooth application
- Water can leak if the lid isn’t completely secured
Our premium pick for best watercolor kit is Sennelier L’Aquarelle French Watercolor Paint, Metal Set of 24 Half Pans. Made the same way from natural ingredients for over a century, these watercolors use honey to add life and longevity to the color.
The Sennelier L’Aquarelle French Watercolor Paint, Metal Set of 24 Half Pans are another top name in watercolors and are known for their superior transparency. The paints are made with honey for radiant, luminous, lasting color and gum arabic to make sure the painter controls the flow of the paint over watercolor paper. The black watercolor tin is about 3 by 9 inches, so it will fit easily into a bag.
Because Sennelier paints are made with honey, they’re extremely easy to activate. Just spray or drip a little water into them, wait a couple seconds, and you can start painting. This kit also comes with a travel watercolor brush, so you can get to painting immediately after receiving it.
- Especially vibrant, lasting colors
- Easy to activate because of the honey base
- Transparency makes layering easy without losing any of the transparency
- Paints may be too transparent for some artists
The AEM Hi Arts 24 Tube Watercolor Paint Artist Set includes Paints, Brushes, Paper & Palette is the best watercolor kit because it includes everything beginner artists need to start watercolor painting.
The AEM Hi Arts 24 Tube Watercolor Paint Artist Set includes Paints, Brushes, Paper & Palette was designed as a watercolor starter kit with the needs of young artists in mind. These paints are non-toxic, so they’re safe to give to children, unlike artist-grade paints that are often made with materials that can harm you if ingested.
These paints come in tubes, which can be more fun for kids, but it’s also easy to squeeze out more than you need. For every one of these kits sold, AEM Hi Arts will donate one kit to charity. If you’re buying a gift for a child who loves art, this will make the perfect present.
- Colors are vibrant
- Great gift idea for kids
- Paper is too thin
- Paints aren’t lightfast and will fade over time
Our runner up pick for best watercolor set is the Winsor & Newton Cotman Water Color Paint, Set of 12 8ml Tubes because it’s an inexpensive paint set that is great for students who are learning how to paint.
The Winsor & Newton Cotman Water Color Paint, Set of 12 8ml Tubes is a great student-grade watercolor kit, and many artists say that this was their first-ever set of watercolor. This kit comes in tubes, but you can also get the Cotman paints in pans, if you prefer that format or want a palette that you can take on the go.
Because these paints are student-grade, they use fewer pigments and more fillers, which makes them less expensive, but the overall quality will be less than artist-grade paints. However, if you’re just using these paints for practice, you don’t need the highest quality. Winsor & Newton is yet another top name in watercolors, and that quality shows even in their student-grade paints.
- Great for students
- Colors mix well together
- Comes in tube and pan options
- Known to be a bit chalky due to the lower quality
- Comes with white
The Winsor & Newton Professional 24 Half Pans Watercolour Box Set is the best watercolor kit because it offers high-performance colors with lightfastness that last for a lifetime.
The Winsor & Newton Professional 24 Half Pans Watercolour Box Set offers a balanced spectrum of colors in half pans. Each pan is held in place by a metal frame that you can remove from the tin. Beneath the frame, you’ll find even more mixing space in addition to the wells on the lid and fold-out flap.
If you don’t like the order the paints are in, you can easily take the pans out of the frame and change their order however you please. These artist-quality paints activate easily, so you don’t have to worry about scrubbing at the pans to get pigment out. If you’re an artist who is ready for a step up from your old student-grade paints, this may be the set for you.
- Pans can easily be moved around to order them how you want
- Excellent variety of colors
- Lightweight and easy to carry
- Comes with white
Features to Consider for the Best Watercolor Kit
It’s only natural for painters to agonize over their choice of watercolor paints, especially with all the great choices in our watercolor kit reviews. It can be really confusing comparing brands and colors and characteristics of all the different watercolor supplies.
We understand. You want to pick the perfect paints to capture your artistic vision that work well with your liquid frisket and other supplies. So we’ll give you some simple criteria for choosing the best watercolor kit. Here’s what you need to consider when you are choosing your personal best watercolor kit.
Number of Pigments Used
Paints are made with one, two, three, and sometimes four or more pigments. Each pigment has a unique identifying pigment abbreviation. For instance, PB28 means “Pigment Blue 28,” or cobalt blue. The pigment abbreviations you’ll see in watercolors are as follows:
- PB: Pigment Blue
- PBk: Pigment Black
- PBr: Pigment Brown
- PG: Pigment Green
- PO: Pigment Orange
- PR: Pigment Red
- PV: pigment violet
- PW: Pigment White
- PY: Pigment Yellow
The number that comes after this code refers to the exact chemical in the water color. When the term “Hue” appears in a watercolor name, it means that less expensive pigments have been substituted for the preferred chemical in that shade of watercolor paint. However, some pigments are no longer available due to a variety of reasons from overmining to animal cruelty, so hues are the only way these colors can live on.
The same pigment code may show up on the tubes of different but similar shades of paint. For example, Raw Sienna and Burnt Sienna are both PB7, but the manufacturer treats the pigment differently to make two different shades of paint. Knowing the exact pigment number of your paint can help when practicing color theory and color mixing.
Some paints are more transparent than others. Any watercolor can be made more transparent by adding water, but some paints hide the paper beneath them more completely. Watercolors are usually classified as (○) transparent, (◐)semi-transparent, or (●) opaque.
Watercolors, like many paints, slowly fade as they are exposed to light. There are several different lightfastness rating scales that you can find when purchasing paints. Some range from 1-5, and others range 1-9 or just 1-3. Typically, the higher the number, the better the rating. But some sales, like the ASTM lightfastness scale, a lower number means better lightfastness. Be aware of all these differences when choosing your paints.
Benefits of Using Watercolor Kits
Scientists tell us that painting in watercolors trains our brains to see the world as a whole. Looking at a watercolor forces our minds to see boundaries where none have been painted. Painting with watercolor frees our brains to see the world in a new way.
Watercolors also have emotional effects. Painting is a powerful method of healing emotions and building confidence. It’s also a wonderful way to help other people find joy. It can be a tool to help you meditate or communicate with your world. The best watercolor kit will help you begin your creative journey just as soon as you receive it.
Painting is also a great way for children to explore their creative side. High-quality, lightfast watercolors can be used to make paintings that will last a lifetime, so they can be hung up and shown off without any risk of fading.
Precautions of Using Watercolor Kits
There isn’t a lot that can go wrong when you are using the best watercolor kit, but there are a few tips you should keep in mind for the best results.
Swatch Your Colors Before Using Them
Unlike acrylics or oils, watercolors look wildly different in the pan than they do when they’ve dried. When you get a new set of watercolors, the first thing you need to do after unwrapping them is swatch the colors. Write down the color, pigment information, and any other information that will be useful to you, then lay down a rectangle of color. At one end of the rectangle, make the color as dark as you can, and then gradually pull that color out so you get a gradient leading to your lightest shade at the other end. Then repeat this process with every color.
Having a swatch sheet to reference makes painting a lot easier because it takes the guesswork out of choosing the right colors for your piece.
Start With Your Lightest Tones
With other kinds of paint you start with dark colors and lighten them. With watercolors, the paper is your white color, so you start with light colors and darken them. If you are careful to buy transparent paints, lighter colors will pop when you paint them over dark colors.
Don’t Keep Wet Brushes Upright
One of the biggest beginner mistakes with watercolor brushes is that the artist will finish their painting, wash off the brush, and then put it in a brush holder so it’s sitting vertically. If you do this, the water left on the bristles will seep into the ferrule (the metal piece at the base that holds the hair in place) and erode the glue holding all the hairs together. This will cause the hairs to fall out of the brush, and you’ll need to replace it. And if you have any watercolor experience already, you are well aware that brushes can get very expensive.
To protect your brushes, let them dry either upside down or on their side. Once the brushes have dried completely, you can put them in your brush holder or wherever you like to keep them.
Use Watercolor Paper
You don’t want your paper to buckle when you paint it. Any paper rated 140 lb or stronger won’t buckle under water colors. (Or you can just use the paper that comes with your watercolor paint kit.)
Work With a Quick Pace
One lesson you will learn quickly when learning watercolor is that you need to mix more paint than you think is necessary. When painting with watercolor, there is always an imaginary stopwatch following your every move, because if your paint dries before you’re ready, it may leave you with a harsh edge.
If you run out of the paint in the middle of painting, there’s no guarantee the next batch will have the same hue and transparency. Always mix more paint than you think you will need.
Each of the entries in our watercolor kit reviews is great, but we’ve voted the Schmincke Horadam Aquarell Half-Pan Paint Metal Set with Water Container as the best watercolor kit. These world-renowned watercolors use exactly the same natural pigments used over 130 years ago, providing the same vivid colors, the same transparency and ease of mixing, that made them the preferred paints of great painters.