Before we dive in to the top 10 watercolor sets below, let’s get a bit into what types of watercolor paints there are and the key differences between them. Watercolor has been a favorite medium among professional and amateur artists alike. Its portability alone draws many to want to use it to take along on travels and make quick sketches as carrying an easel and oil paints can be quite cumbersome. However, when scanning the world wide web for which watercolor paint sets one should purchase it proves an outright daunting task!
Watercolor paint sets for different skill levels
There is a great range and variety of different watercolor paints and watercolor sets available whether you’re a beginner to watercolor painting or a professional artist. Therefore having an understanding about watercolors and how to use watercolor paints, will help to make an educated purchase of the best watercolor paints for you.
What watercolor paints are made of
First off, watercolor paint contains two main ingredients: finely ground pigment and gum arabic (the binder). Some companies add a wetting agent to allow for flow and absorption. Some also add a moisturizer to keep the watercolor paint from becoming too brittle.
Beginner vs Professional watercolor paint sets
Watercolor paints generally fall into two quality grades – artists’ quality, or professional and students’ quality which are more suitable watercolor paints for beginners . Artist quality watercolor paints, have a higher concentration of pigment than student quality, as well as higher quality and permanence ratings. Student grade watercolor paint will have cheaper pigments and more fillers – which results in a little less color from the paint.
Additional note on beginner watercolor paints
With student watercolor paint sets you have to use more paint to get a certain amount of color in comparison to artist grade watercolor paint. That said… student grade watercolor sets are a great way to start out! Particularly, if you are a watercolor painting beginner, getting acquainted with the medium for the first time. As beginner watercolor paint sets are at a price point that is much more conducive for practicing painting with watercolor paints.
Watercolor pans vs Watercolor tubes sets
In addition to the existence of different paint grades. Such as students’ quality and artists’ quality watercolor paints. Also, there are two different types of watercolor paint sets available – pans and tubes.
Watercolor pan sets are circular, or rectangular trays which contain solid blocks of paint that liquefy when you apply water. Where as, watercolor tubes sets contain moist, paste-like watercolor paint. Pans and tubes watercolor paint sets, can both be purchased individually or in sets.
What’s the difference in quality of pans vs tubes?
The quality between tube and pan watercolor painting sets do not differ. However, though you can reuse the paint from tube watercolors after it dries. It is more difficult to make it soluble again with water and thus will be a little harder on your watercolor brushes.
Tube watercolor paints can also become duller after frequent re-wetting. Though, once you get a feel for the medium you will probably find out over time which type you prefer most.
10 Best Watercolor Paint Sets – From Beginner to Professional
Top 5 Best Beginner Watercolor Paint Sets
Raphael Watercolor Travel Pan Set, 10 half pans ($28.71)
Travel pan set
The Raphael travel pan watercolor set comes in a unique round shape which is great for those thinking about the color wheel as they go about mixing colors together. At 4.5 in in diameter it is a great size to take with you on the go. Comes with a pocket size watercolor brush to start using it right away.
Windsor & Newton Cotman Watercolor Paint Sketchers’ Pocket Box Half Pan Set, 12 Pieces ($27.49)
Sketcher’s Pocket Box Set
Cotman is the student line version of the Windsor & Newton brand (spoiler alert you may see the professional version in our list below;). In the student line paint set here, there are fillers in the paint but the quality is still high making it a great way for beginners to start using watercolor paints.
The set being in a box with a watercolor brush included, makes it a great watercolor paint set to start using right away. As the inside of the lid acts as a mixing palette, which makes it perfect for on the go. You just need a little jar to hold some water and paper!
Reeves Student Watercolor Set, 24 tubes ($13.13)
A Reeves watercolor painting set is perhaps one of the most ideal sets for the beginner. This is a watercolor tubes set, with good quality color at an economical price! Which makes it a perfect point of entry into one of the best watercolor paints sets.
Sennelier la petite Aquarelle Set of 12 tubes
Watercolor tube paint set
A great practical beginner watercolor kit! These colors are less pigmented than the higher quality Sennelier Artists’ watercolor set. Built into the box is a wide elastic band that allows you to comfortably hold the pan set while you paint. You can easily close the lid to transport.
Artsy Watercolor Paint Set, 42 colors ($15.96)
Foldable travel watercolor paint set
The unusual design of this foldable watercolor set saves you space so that it is easy to take with you on travels. The pigments in these watercolor paints for beginners, come from Italy and have a good degree of light fastness. The set includes 42 colors, three brushes, a fold-able palette, detachable sponge and plastic bag to fit everything in.
Top 5 Best Professional Watercolor Paint Sets
We now know the 5 best watercolor paints sets for beginners. So, it’s time to dive into the 5 remaining best professional watercolor sets for the watercolor painting professional. I saved my personal favorite for number 10 – because of course, it’s more exciting that way!
Schmincke Aquarell Watercolor Pans – Set of 12, Full Pans ($155.99)
Schmincke watercolor pans set – assorted colors
Schmincke watercolors are German made and are created from the same formula (since 1881) as those used by artists such as Oskar Kokoschka and Emil Nolde. An optimal amount of Oxgall enables the artist to decide where the paint should flow or stay dry. Superior quality and natural ingredients are selected each year for highest optimization.
Sennelier Watercolor Travel Box 8 Tube Set ($58.79)
The Sennelier watercolor travel box
This is a great travel set for the watercolor painting professional on the go! The set comes in a plastic hard shell case and comes with eight 10ml tubes. As well as an artist travel brush and palette sliding drawer with a thumb holder. An increased honey content gives each of the watercolor paints brilliance, while acting as a preservative to extend the longevity of the pigment.
Sennelier L’Aquarelle French Honey based Watercolor Paint, Metal Half Pan Set of 18 ($74.92)
Honey based watercolor paint set
This professional watercolor set comes in a sturdy metal case which makes it perfect for travel! The metal palette is a great surface to mix watercolor paint. Like all Sennelier Artists’ watercolors these contain a higher honey content which gives the pigment a greater luminosity and acts as a preservative.
Holbein Artist’s Watercolors Set of 24 ($99.21)
Holbein tubes watercolor set
Japanese made Holbein watercolors were first introduced in the 1920’s. These are European style transparent watercolors that preserve the brush handling qualities inherent in Japanese watercolor techniques. Holbein watercolor paints are produced without ox-gall or other dispersing agents.
Winsor & Newton Professional Watercolor Half Pan Set of 24 ($113.40)
Lightweight Sketchers’ Box Half Pan Set of 24
Winsor & Newton have been around for a while, actually since 1832! And the company has been known for high quality materials every since. These watercolors are the standard bearers of clarity and my pick for the best watercolor paints, as they have the greatest possible permanence. In addition to its colors. The metal case of this watercolor painting set is great for travel!
Which watercolor paint set is your favorite?
Now you’ve seen my list of the top 10 watercolor painting sets, which are your favorite watercolor paints to paint with?! Once you have your watercolor set, you’re ready to start painting! Here are a few tutorials and watercolor ideas to help you get started painting:
- Watercolor tutorial painting lemons
- Learn how to paint clouds with watercolors
- Watercolor portrait painting tutorial