Visual Arts Centre

Watercolour refers to a painting method that uses pigments that are suspended in water-based solutions, what makes watercolour different from most other paint mediums is the natural transparency of the paint when dissolved in water. This transparency give the paint a luminous glowing effect which enthrals many to the delicate art form. Today, we look at the different materials that are commonly used in watercolour painting.


Watercolour paints most commonly come in two forms, pans and tubes.  Related image


Pans refer to solid blocks of paint that reactivate when they come into contact with water. Pans are recommended for outdoor settings where the solid state of the paint will be easier to handle and clean up considering the equipment restraints when painting outdoors. Pros
  • Easy to transport/ transfer, portable since its dry
  • Less risk of overloading brush with pigment/ picking up too much paint
  • One block lasts quite long
  • Difficult to prepare large amount of paint for washes
  • Troublesome to mix
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Tubes refer to paints in a paste form that are stored in tube packaging. Tubes of paint are recommended for studio settings where paintings tend to be bigger and hence require larger washes, a studio environment also gives you ample space and time to mix pigment colours. Most professionals use tube paints. Some artists like to squeeze their tube paints into a palette and use them like pan paints when the paste paints have dried. Pros
  • Easier to prepare large quantity of paint for washes
  • Easier to mix colours
  • Risk of squeezing out too much paint leads to wastage
  • Harder to rewet the paint, can only be done if paint dries in a convenient manner such as on a palette but the solid state of tube paints does not hold up as well as the pan paints.


The paper is extremely important in watercolour painting as the paint and water behave differently on different papers. It is important to find a paper type that suits your needs. What we especially want to look out for when selecting watercolour paper is the durability, normal paper will crinkle or flake when excessive water is applied, hence in watercolour painting where a lot of water is used, it is important that our paper does not crinkle or flake when a lot of water is used. Here we will talk about the production, surfaces and weights of watercolour papers.


Production of watercolour paper is done through 3 common ways, handmade, mould-made and machine made.
  • Handmade
Handmade watercolour paper is made by pressing the pulp of cellulose fibres such as cotton,linen and hemp into sheets. Because of the tedious work and manpower involved, handmade paper is quite costly, however it is considered to have the best quality, the differences between different manufacturers also results in a wide range of handmade paper properties. Handmade watercolour paper is extremely durable and will not crinkle, additionally the textures are irregular due to the production process and hence attractive to many artists.
  • Mould-made
Mould-made paper as the name implies are made in moulds, the process gives the paper more uniformity than the handmade paper. Unlike the pure cellulose content of handmade paper, mould-made paper is usually made with a mix of cotton and paper fibres. The result is a paper that has the durability and feel of handmade paper but with more consistency in structure. The prices of mould-made paper also tend to be more affordable than handmade. This is what is usually reccomended for its quality and price.
  • Machine Made
This is the most affordable of all watercolour papers, it has a higher ratio of paper fibres to cotton fibres, cheaper variations use wood pulp which causes paper to yellow over time. Machine made papers are also less durable paper and you may risk breaks, flaking and crinkles. Image result for watercolour paper types


The surface of watercolour papers come in rough, hot pressed and cold pressed.
  • Rough- heavily textured in an irregular pattern
  • Hot-pressed-smooth, great for detailed work
  • Cold-pressed- texture is in-between rough and hot pressed, slightly textured


The weight of the paper affects how thick the paper is, there are many different weights of watercolour paper sold but these 2 are commonly used
  • 300gsm – needs to be stretched for heavy washes
  • 638gsm – more expensive but no stretching needed


Watercolour brushes come in many different hair fibres and shapes, they all vary in purpose, price and quality. Watercolour brushes need to be able to hold a good amount of paint/water, distribute it evenly, maintain its shape after use and for some brushes, maintaining a fine point at the tip of the brush is important. Image result for paintbrush hair types


  • Sable – considered to be the best for watercolour, with Kolinsky sable being the most sought after.
  • Squirrel,Ox & Goat– only recommended for wash brushes such as mop, wash and flat square brushed. Not recommended for round brushes due to inability to hold point tip.
  • Hog Bristle – Good for large wash brushes, can hold and distribute a lot of paint, affordable and durable
  • Synthetic – Affordable, varying quality but not as durable as sable. Generally acceptable for round brushes
Not recommended
  • Camel – not actually camel hair but other natural hair blends of inferior quality
  • Combination hairs – Synthetic with sable or other natural fibre, recommended that you research on each model and feel it first hand and quality can vary greatly between manufacturers.
  • Image result for watercolour brush types
    Image result for watercolour brush types


  • Round – an essential in watercolour, the tip makes it good for fine lines and details but the body of the brush holds a lot of water making it good for broad strokes. Get a good round brush
  • Flat – For washes and thicker lines. You can save some money on this one but make sure its durable
  • Spotter and Rigger(liner) – for very small detailing and thin lines
  • Wash – Like a flat brush but bigger and wider, for applying very large washes
Here at Visual Arts Centre, all our materials are provided for our watercolour classes so fret not! Click to check out our Watercolour painting classes!