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.

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.


Gouache is an opaque watercolor paint. Whereas transparent watercolors allow you to see the "white" of the paper below the paint, gouache can be applied in solid colors. This allows an artist to paint in layers from dark to light.

Gouache dries to a matte finish, which makes it easy to scan or reproduce electronically, since there is no glossy shine. Designer's Gouache traditionally offers colors blended from a number of pigments, but some lines of Artist's Gouache offer single-pigment colors. Student Gouache will have working characteristics similar to Designer's Gouache, but with lower pigment concentration, less expensive formulas, and a smaller range of colors.

Watercolor Mediums
Watercolor Mediums by Brand
Adhesives, Binders, and Gum Arabic
Blending Mediums
Granulation and Special Effects
Iridescent Mediums
Masking Fluids
Priming and Surface Preparation
Textures and Aqua Pasto Effects
Wetting Agents and Oxgall

Watercolor Mediums change the working characteristics of paint, or of the surface that you are painting on. Use watercolor mediums to extend drying time, to increase brilliance and transparency, or to alter the absorption of the surface.

Water Soluble Artist Crayons
Watercolor Painting Questions and Answers



  • What are the advantages of painting with watercolors?

    Watercolors are waterbased, so they dry very quickly. This makes painting at a variety of indoor and outdoor locations more convenient. And because they're watersoluble, watercolors are easy to clean up — you just need soap and water in most cases.

    Blick offers many books and DVDs to help you get started watercolor painting. Visit our Books and Media — Watercolors page to see our selection.

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  • What are watercolors made of?

    Watercolors are made of finely ground pigments mixed with a watersoluble binder and sometimes other additives. Common binders are gum arabic or synthetic glycol. Other common additives may include glycerin as a plasticizer, honey as a humectant, and ox gall as a wetting agent.

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  • What's the difference between pan and tube watercolors?

    Pans are solid blocks of watercolor paint. Just wet them and they're ready to use. Pans are perfect for location painting, outdoor sketching, and small-scale works — they're very portable.

    Tube watercolors 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 rewet with water on a brush or from a spray bottle. Pan watercolors can be created from tube watercolor by filling a pan and letting it dry. Tube watercolor is great for large-scale works or big, saturated washes of color.

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  • Are pan watercolors for serious painters?

    Absolutely! Just as with tube colors, both student and professional grades are available in watercolor pans. Pan colors are very popular with plein air painters and travelers because they're so easy to transport — perfect for painting landscapes.

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  • What's the difference between professional- and student-grade paints?

    Professional-grade paints have a higher pigment concentration and less filler, and generally use a wider variety of pigments, resulting in a larger color range. Usually made with a single pigment, they mix more cleanly and have better tinting strength than lower-grade paints.

    Student-grade paints have working characteristics similar to professional paints but with lower concentrations of pigment and a smaller range of colors. More expensive pigments are generally replicated by hues, which may not have the same mixing characteristics as pure colors. They don't cover as well as artist-grade paints, but they're usually more affordable.

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  • What are watercolor pencils?

    Watercolor pencils offer artists the freedom to switch from drawing to painting in an instant, with no change in tools. Use the watersoluble pencil to draw or shade, then add water with a brush to achieve watercolor effects. You can also dip the pencil tips in water and draw right on the page for more intense color. They're available in sets or individually. To shop our full selection, visit the Watercolor Pencils page.

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  • What's the difference between watercolor and gouache?

    Watercolor is transparent and gouache is opaque. Gouache can be applied in solid colors, allowing an artist to paint in layers from dark to light. Like watercolor, gouache can be rehydrated and reworked.

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  • Why do painters thin watercolors?

    Thinning or diluting watercolors is the key to creating the flow and transparency that is characteristic of watercolor painting. Also, because of the weakness of the binder, it's important to thin out watercolors to some extent. They'll crack if applied too thickly.

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  • Which white should I choose?

    Traditionally, white paint isn't used in a watercolor work. The white in the painting comes from the white of the paper.

    If you do choose to use white watercolor, Chinese White, made from zinc-oxide pigment, and Titanium White are the two most common colors. Artists use white watercolor to add highlights and to dull bright colors. Chinese White tends to be translucent or semi-opaque, while Titanium White is more opaque.

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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 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. Watercolor paper comes in many weights in smooth (hot press) and textured (cold press) surfaces. The type and amount of sizing in the paper controls water absorption and paint flow.

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  • Why use a professional-grade watercolor paper?

    Stronger and more enduring, professional-grade papers are acid- and lignin-free and made of cotton fiber rather than cellulose. With proper treatment, a painting on high-quality professional paper can last hundreds of years. The paper's texture and surface is brought out by the transparency of watercolor paints — 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 of lighter weight paper, which will otherwise buckle after absorbing water. Watercolor painting boards are helpful tools for stretching your paper. They provide a hard surface on which to mount the paper in preparation for painting. 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?

    Three characteristics are used to evaluate the performance of a watercolor brush: how much water/color does the brush hold; does the brush have and maintain a sharp point or edge; and does the brush snap back to its original shape.

    Traditionally, the best watercolor brushes are made with Kolinsky Sable. Kolinsky is regarded as the best grade of sable hair. Another option is squirrel, which holds more color than sable but has less snap. Camel hair (which is really pony or goat) is a more economical choice.

    Today, better quality synthetic-hair brushes and synthetic-sable combinations can be as good, if not better, than many natural-hair brushes. Synthetics are a more durable, and sometimes a more affordable, alternative to natural hair and still provide a high-quality performance.

    To learn more about your brush options, visit our Watercolor Brushes page.

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  • How do I care for brushes?

    To clean watercolor brushes, rinse them thoroughly in water, then wash them with a mild soap in warm water. Rinse under running water and lay them flat to dry. Once dry, store brushes bristle-end up. Always reshape your brushes before storing to prevent damage to the bristles.

    We offer a variety of products for cleaning and conditioning brushes on our Brush Washers and Cleaners page.

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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.


Visit our YouTube Channel: Blick Videos  to watch our full selection of videos!

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