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!
There is a great range and variety of different watercolors available whether you’re a beginner to watercolor painting or a professional artist. Therefore having an understanding about watercolors, will help to make an educated purchase.
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 and students’ quality. The artists’ quality watercolors have a higher concentration of pigment than the students’ version as well as higher quality and permanence ratings. Student grade paints will have cheaper pigments and more fillers – which results in a little less color from the paint.
With student watercolor paint sets you have to use more paint to get a certain amount of color in comparison to artist grade paints. That said student/beginner watercolor paint sets are a great way to start out if you are getting acquainted with the medium for the first time. As beginner watercolor painting sets are at a price point that is much more conducive for practicing painting with watercolors.
Pans or Tubes Watercolor painting sets?
Outside of there being ‘student grade’ and ‘artist grade’ paints there are also two different types of watercolor paint sets available – tube and pans. Pans are circular or rectangular trays which contain solid blocks of paint that liquefy when you apply water. Tubes contain moist, paste-like watercolor paint and as well with pan watercolors can be purchased individually or in sets.
The quality between tube and pan watercolor painting sets do not differ. You can reuse the paint from tubes after it dries, however it is more difficult to make it soluble again with water and thus will be a little harder on your brushes – tube color can also become duller after frequent re-wetting. Once you get a feel for the medium you will probably find out over time which type you prefer most.
Best Watercolor Paint Sets for Beginners
Raphael Watercolor Travel Pan Set, 10 half pans ($19.14)
The Raphael travel pan 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 brush to start using it right away.
Windsor & Newton Cotman Watercolor Paint Sketchers’ Pocket Box Half Pan Set, 12 Pieces ($44.60)
Cotman is the student line version of the Windsor & Newton brand. There are fillers in the paint but the quality is still high making it a great way for beginners to start using watercolor. The set being in a box with a brush included, makes it a great watercolor painting 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 for the beginner. It has good quality color at an economical price. Perfect point of entry into watercolor.
Sennelier la petite Aquarelle Black Wood Cast Watercolor Set (16 Half Pans), $45.23
A fun wood boxed beginners watercolor set! These colors are less pigmented than the higher quality Sennelier Artists watercolor set. Each set includes a 24 sheet paper pad along with a size 4 Soft Aqua mini brush.
Artsy Watercolor Paint Set, 42 colors ($15.96)
The unusual design of this fold-able space watercolor set saves you space so that it is easy to take with you on travels. The pigments come from Italy and has 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.
Professional Watercolor Paint Sets
Schmincke Watercolor Set 18 half pans ($183.94)
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, natural ingredients are selected each year for highest optimization.
The watercolor travel box is a great travel set for the professional artist 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 watercolor brilliance while acting as a preservative to extend the longevity of the pigment.
This 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)
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 watercolors ware produced without ox-gall or other dispersing agents.
Winsor & Newton have been around for a while – since 1832 – and the company has been known for high quality materials every since. These watercolors are the standard bearers of clarity and have the greatest possible permanence. Besides its colors, the metal case that this watercolor painting set comes in is great for travel!