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Some advice on art materials.

I am frequently asked, by beginners, about how to chose art materials, and which are best. When you have been painting for a while, you will find your own favourites, but I understand that people will need a little guidance in the beginning, so I have put some thoughts together here which I hope will help.

I am not prepared to recommend any particular makers or suppliers here, this is just meant to be a guide.



Paints can be bought in tubes or pans (in paint boxes). Most experienced painters prefer tubes, as the paint is moister and easier to use. However, a lot of people (myself included) find a paint box easier to bring to class. Either is acceptable.

Paints are produced in Student quality, which are cheaper, or Artist quality. Artist quality really are better, as there is much more pigment (colour), and you will get a better result. If you are not sure, you might start with student quality, and replace the colours as you use them with artist quality. If you go for the really cheap children's paints, you will never be able to achieve any good results. 

Watercolour paper is essential. You will not be able to use the techniques I will be teaching you if you bring 'Practice paper' or 'Multimedia paper' or that cheap stuff sold for children. 

There are various makes of watercolour paper readily available in pads. Look for one labeled 'Rough' or 'Not' or 'Cold pressed'. 'Hot pressed' paper is not good for our purposes - it is very smooth and difficult to paint on. 

The weight will also be written on the front of the pad - look for 140lb/300gsm, as this weight will not usually cockle when wet.

I like my students to use A3 size paper if possible.

Watercolour Brushes are also readily available. I suggest you resist the very expensive sable and go for the synthetic (or mixed) fibre brushes. I use these myself, and they are perfectly good. You do not need lots, and you do not need very small ones. A couple of reasonable quality brushes are all you need. Look for a round brush which comes to a fine point, and which has a large 'belly' to hold a lot of liquid. It should be springy, not floppy, when wet. The sizes vary between makes, but as a guide, my own 2 favourites measure about 1/2 cm diameter and just under 1cm diameter.

You will also need a water pot and kitchen towel (or similar). A lightweight board is useful, but not essential.


Acrylic paints come in tubes of various sizes. 

You will always need more white than anything else, so if you have a choice I suggest you buy a bigger tube of white. You can buy them in sets, which may be easier to start with, or as individual tubes, which is obviously better if you know what colours you want. (see below).

You can buy 'Heavy Body' or regular acrylics. The ordinary ones are all you need for the class, although you might like to try the heavy body if you get really keen. They are a lot thicker and cover better.

Acrylic Paper. Acrylics will go on most surfaces, but it is best to have a pad of Acrylic Paper, which has a canvas-like texture, good for taking the paint off the brush. 

I like my students to use A3 size paper if possible.

Acrylic Brushes, again, are readily available. You should chose nylon, rather than natural bristle, as those will splay out once they have been in water. The bristles should be stiffer than the watercolour brushes, and they will be labeled for use with acrylics or oils. The I think flat brushes are best, and you only need a few, perhaps one about 1/2 inch wide and a bigger one. 

You will also need a water pot and kitchen towel (or similar). A lightweight board is useful, but not essential. Something to protect the table (newspaper?)


When you are asked to bring your drawing equipment, this means pencils and cartridge paper. 

Pencils. At the end of your pencils you will see written H, HB, B, 2B etc. This refers to the hardness, or softness (blackness) of the lead. H means hard, and B means black, so the bigger the number next to the B, the softer or blacker the pencil will be. Some people buy a set, with a range of pencils, but you will hardly ever use the hard pencils, except perhaps for tracing, and the HB is just for writing with. So if you are buying individual pencils, chose 2B, 3B, 4B, which are best for drawing.

Cartridge paper. You will just need a sketch book or cartridge pad, preferably A3 in size.


While it may be easiest in the beginning to buy a set or box of paints, the selection of colours you get may need to be supplemented later, as you get more experienced.

If you decide to chose your own colours (in either watercolour or acrylics), the choice is bewildering. These are my suggestions, not a definitive list.

It is useful to have a 'warm' and a 'cool' version of each primary colour. So...

Cadmium Yellow and Lemon Yellow.

Cadmium Red and Alizarin Crimson.

(French) Ultramarine Blue and Prussian Blue.

If you are using acrylics you will need white, but not for watercolour.

If you want to spend some more, I suggest you buy a Violet, as this is a very difficult colour to mix, and some 'earth colours' are also useful - Yellow Ochre or Raw Sienna, Light Red or Burnt Sienna, and a good dark brown, such as Burnt Umber.

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