Is watercolor expensive?

One of the most important questions, before starting a new hobby, is probably the price. How expensive is it? How much do I have to pay for quality materials?

Starting with painting watercolors is pretty cheap compared to other hobbies like skiing for example. I would say that you need around 25$ to start with fairly good supplies. In comparison to other art mediums like acrylics and oils, watercolor is at the lower end on the price spectrum. You just need cheap watercolors, a brush and a few sheets of paper and you’re ready to go.

But how much does it actually cost? What should you invest more money and what’s a perfect starter setup to begin painting with watercolors?

What’s the bare minimum you need?

So you’ll obviously need watercolors to begin with. Maybe you still have some from when you were a kid and you used them in school, but if you dont some cheap ones will be totally sufficient to test it out and see if you like it.

Also you’ll need at least one brush, but I strongly recommend at least 3 brushes. They don’t have to be of a high quality or expensive at all, but having 3 of different sizes and maybe forms definitely helps.

For paper you should not use the normal paper you put in your printer, as it’s too thin and won’t be able to absorb the water without changing its form drastically. So that’s something where you can’t go super cheap, but for a couple bucks you can get a pretty good amount of good quality paper (LINK)

To store your water that you need to dip your brush into, you can just use an empty jar or glass. It doesn’t really matter too much as long as it’s clean.

One last thing you need is maybe a pencil but I guess everybody has one of those at home. You don’t need it necessarily, but it’s quite helpful to make a rough sketch of your picture before you start painting, as you can’t erase the paint if you got some proportions wrong etc.

What are essential supplies?

watercolour, yellow, orange

Of course you’ll need some watercolors that offer a wide variety of color grades. What do I mean by that? Well, either you just buy a pack with a lot of different colors in it (LINK) or you really dive into how colors work and just buy the elemental colors and maybe a black and you can mix any color with those.

I would advise you to just buy watercolors with a lot of different color variations, as that allows you to focus more on the painting part and less on trying to get this color to turn out as I want and writing down how I did it.

Also I think a wide variety of brush sizes and forms are really important to get everything done exactly how you like it. I think you need a mixture of really really small detail-brushes, some smaller ones for tinier areas, a medium one and a large one for background etc. You should also try out which type of brush form fits you best as it’s a pretty individual thing.

Every brush form has its pros and cons but in the end it just depends on what you feel most comfortable working with and what fits your style the best.

The next thing on the list is high quality paper. This is one of those things where you just get what you pay for. Do you just want the cheapest kind? Well, then better set your expectations low. I think paper really can make a big difference. I’m not saying you have to pay a large amount of money for it, but just open up in investing a little bit more. I think around 30-40cents per sheet is a reasonable price where you can expect a good quality.

Buying better paper will essentially lead to you having more fun painting as your paper doesn’t get in a wavy form as it can’t absorb all that water and also doesn’t clump up. Your paintings will just look way better.

I mentioned earlier that sketching out your painting beforehand can make your life immensely easier, so I would also suggest buying a good pencil that doesn’t leave a lot of graphite on the paper as that is gonna ruin your colors. Speaking of graphite on your paper, you should also invest a bit into an art eraser. That’s an eraser of which you can change the form and is able to lift off a lot of the graphite off the paper, while still leaving the lines of the sketch for you to see.

And that’s pretty much all you need to really make total use of your watercolors and use your full creativity to get the result you wish for.

Where should you invest more, if you have the money?

So this is a very debatable topic. Every artist has their own opinion on that. Here are some of mine.

Paint: Here you can really spend a lot of money. There are tons of amazing watercolors which are just super expensive but also of a really really high quality. But I would advise you to only spend more money here, if you’ve really got the money left and you don’t need it anywhere else- or if you do it professionally, of course.

As someone who just paints as a hobby I don’t think that you need to spend 250$ on a bunch of watercolors which you don’t even wanna use, because they are so expensive. Also you’ll hate yourself if you mess up a painting and then all of these super expensive colors were just wasted like that.

If you’re unsure when watercolor expires, you can read through my article about it here.

Brushes: In my opinion brushes are where you can really afford to spend a bit more. If you use and treat them right they will last for many years and you’ll have loads of fun using them. A lot of higher priced brushes look really cool and luxurious and also last a lot longer than cheaper ones that you get at a dollar store. It’s smarter to invest a bit more once than to have to buy the same product three times per year because of its bad quality.

I’m also not saying that you should invest 200$ in a single brush, but something around 40-50$ for a set of three really really good brushes of different sizes can really be worth the investment.

Paper: There is a lot of good paper out there, but I don’t think that you will really notice a major improvement between a paper that costs 40ct per sheet and one that costs 2$ per sheet. In my opinion, spending 40ct will get you 90% of the way to the perfect watercolor paper. If you don’t care about the money, you can always go the extra 10% but I don’t think you need to.

How should you upgrade your supplies?

Let’s say you started painting with watercolors a couple weeks or months ago and found out that you really love them. So you want to invest a bit of money in it to make the process even more enjoyable. Where should you start and what should you upgrade first?

If you haven’t already: Paper. Just invest in a bunch of sheets of good paper and you won’t have to worry about them ever again. As I said earlier, paper makes a huge difference.

In the second place it really depends on where you’re starting your upgrades from. What annoys you the most? Having to mix every color, because you only have a palette of 8 colors or your brush losing its hair or not being able to store as much water as you’d like it to?

For me personally, both are really annoying, but I think I would choose to invest in a wider palette of colors first. It’s just way more fun. But as soon as you’ve got the money available, go for these brushes and just never have to use those brushes that lose all their hair all the time again. Trust me you wont regret it.

So to sum it up: I think it’s always good to get the paper out of the way first and then you’ll just have to see what annoys you the most and where you need an upgrade really badly.

1 thought on “Is watercolor expensive?”

  1. Pingback: How long do watercolor paints last? (Try out these tricks!) - What a colour

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.