Getting Started With Watercolor Painting

Beginner  Supplies for Families


By Callyn

Try watercolor painting they said! It will be fun they said!  BUT you find out that there is SO much information out there. 

Those instagram artists make it look so easy!

Where do I even start?

In an effort to bypass the frustrations, and have you skipping through the watercolor meadow in no time, I made this handy basic watercolor supply guide for families!. I love painting with watercolors and I want others to find it as fun as I do!

The good...

First, for those of you that are on the fence about trying it, here are some reasons to love painting with watercolors:

– It is so versatile. You can do illustrations to very realistic pieces, mixed media, brush lettering etc. 

– Its portable.

– It dries quickly.

– It’s not as messy as other mediums and there is no need for big equipment like easels etc.

– You don’t have to worry about you or your family being around paint thinner fumes. 

– There are many different types of watercolors, pan sets, watercolor pencils, tubes, sticks and more.The possibilities are endless.

– You can get away with a limited palette of colors to start.

.....and the not so good.


Here are some common frustrations that I have had and heard!

– My paper warps and wrinkles!

– I try to mix colors and everything turns into the color of mud.. or manure!

– My colors are always dull, how do artists get that vibrant glowing look?

– My colors bleed together and it gets messy! Ugh!

– Is this paint made of gold? How can this little dime sized paint pan be so expensive?

– And my personal favorite – It took me longer to set my kids up to paint than the time they actually spend painting!!!

Trust me I have been there! What I wish I would have known when I started is that many of these frustrations can be remedied by getting a decent set of supplies to start with. I highly recommend getting a set of three “primary” colors,  magenta, cyan, and yellow, with a black or paynes grey for convenience. These colors will make every color on the spectrum. Don’t believe me? These are same colors you put in your printer!


Using a limited palette (limited number of paint colors) also ensures that all of the colors mix well together and reduces the overwhelm. Feel free to add other interesting colors as you go. Getting the minimum amount of the highest quality supplies you can afford is where it is at! 

Note: There is a set that I included below if you would rather not take time mixing colors. Thats ok, all are welcome here! But make sure you give it a try at some point!


Hopefully, I haven’t scared you off!  Don’t skip adding good paper and brushes! Those are equally as important as the paint used!

The Paints I Recommend!

For beginners and families, I like to make sure that the paints are able to be used by multiple family members, easily, at the same time. Have some friends coming over? No problem they can join in too! No fighting over one small palette set or buying multiple palette sets and then have your kids’ interests change. 

I have also found that many sets are very small with the paint pans close together. If you aren’t careful to keep the colors separate, all of a sudden the entire palette is the same color and so is your painting. Ugh! Lastly, these paints are also not as staining to surfaces as others and the bottles are not glass.

My ultimate goal is limiting frustration for everyone! Art should be fun! 

Watercolor Magic - Liquid Paints

I love these paints for my own kids and for me too! They are vibrant and easy to use. Even though they are liquid they are still quite concentrated. A dab will do ya!

Sargent Art Watercolor Magic

Colors – Magenta, Yellow, Turquoise and Black (for convenience)


To set these up I put the paints in small bowls and then use a white plate to mix. You can put them directly on the plate but sometimes they bleed together too much.

Example paintings we made with this set!

Pros- These are huge bottles for the price. You don’t have to mix with water to get started but they are still concentrated color.

Cons – It takes some set up and is not quickly portable. The paint doesn’t stain the paper so be careful adding lots of layers of water. 


Where to Buy – Check out my Amazon List Sunrise Creative Time. Note I would try to buy from an art supply store first or Dick Blick. While I was making this blog I noticed that the price has gone up significantly on Amazon. I bought them early this summer for less than $5 a bottle. 


Winsor Newton Cotman - Tube Paints

These tube watercolors by Winsor Newton are also concentrated and very high quality. They look small but if added to water I am betting they would be close to the same amount of paint as the bottles above. 

If you have young children you can mix these with water in the little bowl prior to starting so they don’t use too much of the concentrated paint. 

Winsor Newton Cotman Tube Paints

Colors- Cadmium Yellow Hue, Intense Phthalo Blue, Permanent Rose, Lamp Black (for convenience).

To set this up I just use a white plate and put dots of colors in three separate areas. 

Example painting I made with this set.

Pros – Takes up less space and readily portable. You don’t need extra bowls to make sure that the paint doesn’t run together. Its also great practice using tube paints! If you want to continue on with watercolors this company makes professional grade paints so its an easy level up when you are ready!

Cons- It takes some finesse to mix the paints with water to get started. I have a little video series that goes over these things. It is linked below!

Where to buy – Here is my Creative Time Class list from Merri Artist or Amazon List.


Tip! – If you love the idea of a palette, make your own with these tube paints! Here is a great palette to start with! But you can find them at any art supply store or online.

Watercolor Confections Sets - For those that hate mixing!

These sets are for those that would rather not spend time mixing colors and want to have them readily available. The quality really impressed me!  I have tried other pre-made palette sets and in my opinion, these are by far the best that are not professional grade. If you are most excited about the portability, remember that you can make your own palette out of the tube paints above! 

Watercolor Confections

I have Odyssey (shown) and I love the browns.

The Tropicals set most closely matches the 3 colors that I typically use. 

Here is the set up. As you can see it is very small and paints are close together. 

Example painting that I made with the Odyssey Set

Pros- Very convenient and portable set up. You don’t have to do much color mixing.

Cons – They are really small! You might need multiple sets to get all the colors you want.

Where to buy – Here they are on Amazon. You can also find them at Hobby Lobby. That is where I got mine and I used the 40% off for one item.

Brushes, Paper and Tape!

Having good brushes and paper are also so important to success and happiness in watercolor! These are our beginner favorites and the ones we use daily.


I love these Princeton round brushes! They are the first ones I purchased when I started and I still use them today. At minimum make sure you get some “round” brushes specifically for watercolor. Start with a size 8 and a size 2 for details.


This paper is an awesome value! I can’t say enough about it. Having good paper is just as important as using good quality paints. Watercolor paper is thicker and holds on to water without tearing.


Washi Tape, Masking Tape or Painters Tape

Always tape your paper to the table, or board before starting. That will prevent it from warping or wrinkling. Make sure to use washi tape, masking tape or painters tape that wont tear your paper or stick too hard to the table. 

Where to buy- For brushes and paper – Merri Artist Class ListFor paper – Amazon List Sunrise Creative Time I couldn’t find the same brushes on Amazon!

Do you want to see these supplies in action?

Here is a quick video series that I made about using watercolors. 

All about supplies

Know someone who might like this info? Please share!