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Watercolor Illustration Supply List & Recommendations

One of the most frequently asked questions I get on Instagram is about the tools and supplies I use for my illustrations. Three years into doing creative work professionally has given me a good feel for my preferences and favorites. So here it is, my official supply recommendation list - including the one tool that I can’t live without!

PAPER

If I am free painting, I love working with a watercolor block. With a block, all four sides of the paper have been glued, removing any need to stretch the paper. These blocks are my favorite and the price point is great for something high quality.

​When I do commissioned work, I stick to the brand Arches. Arches has been making paper since 1492 - this is literally the stuff Van Gough used. It is pricey, but worth the investment for finished pieces. I buy these blocks and then cut them apart to run through my printer (more on that later).

Regardless of brand, I recommend using 140lb paper as it will hold up better to water. I also prefer cold press (rough texture) to hot press (smooth texture) paper, although if I am digitizing a piece, hot press is often a better choice as the grains aren’t visible when digitally reproduced.

It may seem like an investment, but buying high quality paper will make all the difference in your watercolor illustrations. Cheaper papers will not blend or hold color in the same way as a high quality paper.

PAINT

I used these paints for years, primarily in a brush lettering or calligraphy application. While they work well for lettering and are very reasonably priced, the quality is not great for illustration. But, if you are just starting out and want something to learn with, these are my top rec!

M.Graham is my new brand of choice. These paints rewet well, mix well, blend well, lift well, and the colors are beautiful. The quality that makes watercolor aesthetically pleasing is the translucency, the ability to see through the paint. These paints almost seem to “glow” because they have such wonderful translucency.

Here are the eight colors I keep on my palette:

Quinacridone Red

Red Iron Oxide (similar here)

Azo Yellow

Sepia

Azo Green

Payne's Gray

Prussian Blue

Ultramarine Blue

PALETTE

Speaking of pallette…I switched to this smaller, travel sized palette after my second kiddo to simplify my tools. I wanted something that could fold up quickly and fit into a purse. This palette is amazing. I have found it very enjoyable to work with fewer colors and learn how to confidently mix my own colors. You can create every color imaginable with these eight colors.

BRUSHES