Watercolor Paint

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Common Questions
Professional/Artist Watercolors

Professional or Artist Watercolors contain a full pigment load suspended in a watersoluble binder, generally natural gum arabic. Watercolors are sold in either tubes or pans. Use them on paper and other absorbent surfaces that have been primed to accept waterbased paint.

Student Watercolors

Student Watercolors have working characteristics similar to professional watercolors but with lower concentrations of pigment and a smaller range of colors. More expensive pigments are generally replicated by hues.

Scholastic Watercolor Pans

Scholastic Watercolor Pans contain inexpensive pigments and dyes suspended in a synthetic binder. Washable formulas feature colors that are chosen to be non-staining, easily washable, and suitable for use by young children with proper supervision. They're an excellent choice for teaching beginning artists painting techniques and basic color theory.

Watercolor Painting Sets
Artist Watercolor Sets
Student Watercolor Sets
Watercolor Travel Kits
Watercolor Pans

Watercolor Painting Sets offer convenient combinations of colors. Some sets combine core palette colors while others combine colors with a specific type of painting in mind. Available in tubes or pans, watercolor painting sets are often packaged in closeable, portable palettes to make it easier for artists painting on location.

Liquid Watercolors

Especially brilliant and transparent, Liquid Watercolors contain dyes as well as pigments, suspended in an aqueous medium. Because they are moist and fluid, they're suited to thin washes and airbrush application as well as conventional brushwork. Many of the more brilliant colors are fugitive (not lightfast), so liquid watercolors are often used for illustrations that will be scanned for reproduction.


Watercolor Pans, available in professional and student grades, offer pigment and binder in a dry form. Apply water with a brush to moisten the pan and lift pigment. Use a palette with indentations to mix colors. Watercolor pans are ideal for field or outdoor painting and small-scale work.

Water Soluble Artist Crayons
Watercolor Painting Tools
Watercolor Painting Questions and Answers



  • What are the advantages of painting with watercolors?

    Watercolors are water-based, so they dry very quickly. This makes painting at a variety of locations more convenient. They are also easy to clean up, as they are water-soluble.

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  • What are watercolors made of?

    Watercolors are made of pigment mixed with the binder gum arabic. Gum arabic, a non-toxic, natural product, is water soluble, slightly acidic, and a relatively weak binder.

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  • What is the difference between professional and student grades?

    Student grade paints offer a smaller selection of colors, and substitute synthetic hues for the more expensive traditional colors. Colors contain a higher proportion of filler. They are less expensive because they do not have the same level of purity or permanence as professional grade watercolors.

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  • Why do painters thin watercolors?

    Because of the weakness of the binder, it is important to thin out watercolors, as they will crack if applied too thickly.

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  • What is the difference between pan and tube watercolors?

    Pan watercolors are solid blocks of paint. Add water using a wet brush, and they are ready to be used. They are perfect for location painting outdoors.

    Tube watercolors are generally more popular in North America. They have a pasty consistency, and should be diluted with water on a palette for easy mixing. If tube watercolors have dried on a palette, they can be used by rewetting the paint with your brush or spray bottle.

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  • Are pan watercolors for serious painters?

    In North America most painters prefer tube colors, and pan colors are sometimes incorrectly labeled as a student or scholastic painting medium. In Europe, pan colors are very popular because they are so easily transportable, perfect for painting landscapes in plein air. Just as with tube colors, both student and professional grades are available in watercolor pans.

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  • Which white should I choose?

    Traditionally it is felt that any white in a watercolor should be the white of the paper showing through. White is used for tinting other colors, to create lighter shades. However, many companies offer an opaque white, generally called Titanium White, and this can be used for various effects.

    The best answer is that you may want to use both whites. Use the Chinese White for mixing and tinting, and the Titanium White for adding details in white over a colored background or wash.

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  • How do I start painting?

    With watercolors you should always work from light to dark. Adding light colors later can be difficult. Watercolor painters traditionally use "washes" of color. A wash is a thin layer of paint spread over a large area of the painting. Washes are applied one on top of the other (allowing one to dry before applying the next), in order to create depth of color and to add detail.

    A wet-on-wet technique can be used where a second or even a third color is added while first wash is still wet. You can also use a more direct technique and simply lay the wet paint onto the dry surface, without building up layers.

    Dick Blick offers many books and media products to help beginning watercolor painters get started. See our section, Books and Media, Watercolors.

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  • What surfaces are suitable for watercolor painting?

    The most common is watercolor paper, but other surfaces such as vellum, parchment, clay mineral panels, sumi rice paper, or thin fabrics such as silk can be used.

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  • Why use a special watercolor paper rather than an ordinary paper?

    Watercolor paper is specially made to be resilient, and to absorb water evenly and slowly. Because watercolors are transparent, the surface takes on enhanced importance. It is thicker and heavier than ordinary paper and has more texture. The type and amount of sizing in the paper controls water absorption.

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  • Why use a professional grade watercolor paper?

    Professional grade papers are acid and lignin free, made of cotton fiber rather than cellulose. They are both stronger and more enduring. With proper treatment, a painting on professional paper can last hundreds of years. The paper's texture and surface is brought out by the transparency of watercolor paints, and is one of the desirable qualities of a fine watercolor painting.

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  • Why do artists "stretch" watercolor paper?

    Watercolor paper generally has to be stretched before use. This is especially true with lighter weights of paper, which will otherwise buckle after absorbing water. After wetting and then stretching the paper, allow it to completely dry before painting to prevent it from rippling.

    You can paint directly onto paper without stretching it, but it would be better to try this using a heavy paper that can absorb a fairly large amount of water without wrinkling.

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  • What brushes should I use for watercolor painting?

    There are many watercolor brush options available and you can find a wide range of brushes to suit your individual needs on our Watercolor Brushes page. Although watercolorists have traditionally used natural fiber brushes, the best quality natural fibers have become rare and expensive. A variety of high quality synthetic brushes are now available.

    The highest quality natural fiber brushes for watercolor are Kolinsky, then pure red sable brushes. The hair on both is very soft and springy, and can hold a great deal of color while still able to create very fine points.

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  • How do I care for brushes?

    Clean watercolor brushes by rinsing them thoroughly then wash them with a mild shampoo in warm water. Allow them to dry laying flat. Always reshape your brush before storing as this prevents damage to bristles and prolongs usefulness of brush.

    The brushes must be kept clean. If acrylic paint dries in a brush it is very hard to get out without using strong solvents that might damage the brush. Clean brushes promptly by washing them with warm water and mild soap when finished painting.

    You'll find more information about cleaning and caring for brushes in our brushes section, as well as a variety of products for cleaning, conditioning, and storing brushes.

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  • Can I fix mistakes on a painting?

    It is possible to remove specific pieces of a painting or mistakes. Simply blot the wet area with a tissue. If the paint has dried, re-wet it and blot. Dried paint can be lightened, but it will probably not be entirely removed, especially if the pigment is a "staining" pigment.

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  • QoR Modern Watercolors
    QoR Modern Watercolors

    Made by Golden Artist Colors, QoR Watercolors are made using an exclusive binder that provides more pigment with every stroke. QoR Modern Watercolors have all the subtlety, transparency, and flow of a great traditional watercolor, yet the colors embody the fire and vibrance of the best acrylic or oil paint — even after drying. This exceptional performance is thanks to Golden's unique polymer binder called Aquazol, which is exclusive to QoR. Not only does it enable incredible color effects, it offers greater flexibility and resistance to cracking than traditional watercolor binders. And, it has excellent re-solubility in water!

  • Sennelier L’Aquarelle Artists’ Watercolors
    Sennelier L’Aquarelle Artists’ Watercolors

    A stunning glimpse into the making of Sennelier L'Aquarelle, Honey Based Artists' Watercolor. Continuing its traditional color palette used by French Impressionist painters, Sennelier has now expanded the Sennelier Artists' Watercolor line to 98 colors to include more rich darks.

  • Artist VS Student Quality Paints
    Artist VS Student Quality Paints

    If you're shopping for paint, you'll find there is a wide variety of brands and qualities to choose from and a vast difference in price as well. You might be wondering if it's worth spending a bit more for your paint or if a less expensive one will work for your needs. Kati will explain some of the differences between artist quality and student quality paint, so you can make the right choice for your application.

  • Blick Brand Paints
    Blick Brand Paints

    At Blick we pride ourselves on providing artist quality paints at the most competitive price. See why our Blick Artists' Acrylics, Artists' Oils and Artists' Watercolors are an excellent choice for any fine artist - even one on a budget!

  • Color Mixing Tips & Techniques
    Color Mixing Tips & Techniques

    Learning color theory and how to mix your own colors are very important tools when learning to paint. Kati will show you how to select a few primary colors for your palette so you can mix a wide range of shades and colors - whether working in oils, acrylics, watercolor or gouache.

  • Daler Rowney Artists' Watercolors
    Daler Rowney Artists' Watercolors

    Daler Rowney Artists' Watercolors are professional quality paints containing the finest modern and traditional pigments. These paints are precisely formulated for unparalelled performance and permanence.

  • How to Stretch Watercolor Paper
    How to Stretch Watercolor Paper

    If you've ever painted on paper, you've likely experienced it warping or buckling during the drying process. Hilary will show you how to eliminate this problem by stretching your paper before you paint. It is much easier than you think.

  • Sennelier <nobr>Extra-Fine</nobr> Watercolors
    Sennelier Extra-Fine Watercolors

    Sennelier Extra-Fine Watercolors were perfected in 1893 and are still a favorite among professional artists. These rich and intensely pigmented paints have a satin luminosity when dry and are well worth their cost. Watch this video to learn more about this historic line of paints.

  • Tips for Mixed Media Art
    Tips for Mixed Media Art

    Hilary shares several tips on working in mixed media. By following these simple rules, your work will remain stable and long lasting.

  • Van Gogh Watercolors
    Van Gogh Watercolors

    Van Gogh Watercolors offer quality and value to the watercolorist in both half pan and tube formats.

  • Winsor & Newton Artists' Watercolor
    Winsor & Newton Artists' Watercolor

    There IS a difference between Winsor & Newton Artists' Watercolor tubes and pans. Both are professional quality, highly pigmented paint — so what is the difference? Watch this video to learn which paint is best suited for your needs.


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