There are a number of ways to buy watercolor paint. Many opt to purchase a set whereas others only like buying individual colors. We have included both in this article.
In a hurry?
Beginners should stick to sets because they are the most economical, provide a good basic range of colors, and allow you to experiment. More serious painters, on the other hand, prefer to buy individual colors due to their higher quality and ability to form a highly customized palette.
We have primarily focused on sets in this article, but have also recommended a couple of brands that offer very high quality individual colors, full or vibrancy, intensity, and permanence.
Note: If you want to purchase colors individually then you need to get yourself an empty watercolor box. This is the one we recommend.
- 1 Watercolor Paints Reviews
- 1.1 Colore Watercolor Paint Set – 24 Colors
- 1.2 Winsor & Newton Cotman Water Colour Sketchers Pocket Box -12 Colors
- 1.3 Prima Marketing Watercolor Confections: Tropicals – 12 Colors
- 1.4 Daniel Smith Extra Fine Essentials Introductory Watercolor – 6 Colors
- 1.5 Graham Intermediate Watercolor Paint Set – 10 Colors
- 2 Watercolor Paints Buyers Guide
Watercolor Paints Reviews
Colore Watercolor Paint Set – 24 Colors
For novices, these are hands down the best watercolor paints, striking an impressive balance between value for money and quality. This set also has hundreds of 5 star reviews to its name and is the number one selling set on the market.
You get 24 different colors with each coming in a tube that contains 12ml of paint. The paint is surprisingly high quality given its low price.
Colors include crimson red, Prussian blue, emerald green, violet, and lamp black, to name just a few, all of which are vibrant in their color. This is down to the high pigment found in each tube.
Due to the high pigment concentration not much paint is required either. It’s also good to see that the colors are very easy to blend.
It’s also worth noting that you get a lifetime guarantee with this set, which is only something that manufacturers who are completely confident in their paints will offer you. Judging by the positive reviews, it’s easy to see why.
Winsor & Newton Cotman Water Colour Sketchers Pocket Box -12 Colors
Winsor & Newton, founded in London in 1832, manufacture a wide range of paints. It is their Sketchers Pocket Box that we recommend, though. Although you really can’t go wrong purchasing anything paint related from them.
This set contains 12 assorted watercolor paints that come in half pans, with colors ranging from Lemon Yellow and Intense Blue to Burnt Sienna and Burnt Umber.
Winsor and Newton are able to keep the costs down to a minimum due to cleverly replacing the more expensive pigments with less expensive alternatives. This seems to have worked, considering that the quality is comparable to the company’s more expensive, individual tubes.
It’s good to see that a pocket brush (check out the best watercolor brushes here) is included so you can start painting straight away, and also makes this set suitable as a gift. The mixing palette in the lid is perhaps even better to see, though, particularly as this paint set fits in your pocket, so you can bring it along with you anywhere you have a desire to paint.
Prima Marketing Watercolor Confections: Tropicals – 12 Colors
Despite its low price, this watercolor set from Prima Marketing has plenty of fans to its name, even including professional artists.
You are given 12 different colors that come in pans and in a tin palette case. The colors don’t actually have names to them; they are numbered instead. So to get an idea of the colors just have a look at the box on the right. The pans come wrapped, so you unwrap them just like a confection.
The colors are highly pigmented and therefore appear very, very vibrant on paper. It’s also very good to see that the colors are easy to re-wet with just a touch of water. They also dry out evenly, which is something every painter knows the importance of, and mix well.
Due to the size of the set it makes a great accompaniment for artists on the go.
One downside can be considered to be how all the colors have a theme to them. This theme is “tropical”, so you may have to purchase some more colors, depending on what you are looking to paint. Having said that, as already mentioned, the colors mix well.
Daniel Smith Extra Fine Essentials Introductory Watercolor – 6 Colors
This introductory set from Daniel Smith gives you 6 colors to work with, including Hansa Yellow Light, New Gamboge, Quinacridone Rose, Pyrrol Scarlet, Phthalo Blue, and French Ultramarine.
In other words, 3 warm primary colors and 3 cool primary colors, ensuring that you can mix a very wide range of other colors. The colors were chosen because they are ideal for mixing together without creating “mud”.
The paints are very rich in pigment and also apply very smoothly. Many agree that the best feature of these paints is how they don’t crumble or crack in the slightest when dried.
Each tube comes with 5ml of paint, which is why it is suitable for an introductory set. If you want to purchase these colors individually and in a large size – 15ml – click here.
Graham Intermediate Watercolor Paint Set – 10 Colors
The last of the best watercolor paints on this list we recommend is certainly more expensive than the others, but the higher price is easily justified.
You get 10 different colors with each tube containing 1/2 ounce of paint, ranging from Dioxazin Purple and Pyrrol Red to Alizarin Crimson and Nickel Quinacridone.
The real selling point of these paints, apart from having been made in the USA, is that they are highly, highly pigmented. This really can’t be overstated, as it results in hugely vibrant colors that may take you back at first.
The paint is made in the old fashioned way of using natural blackberry honey and pure gum Arabic as the binding medium.
Even washes and no hard outlines are all guaranteed with these highly pigmented watercolor paints.
Watercolor Paints Buyers Guide
If you’ve never purchased watercolor paint before or if you’re relatively new to purchasing it, it is important that you educate yourself on all the different options out there are and look for certain things, so you make the right choice.
Factors to Consider
Pans vs. Tubes
Watercolor paint comes in both pans and tubes. The paint in pans comes as solid blocks that need water added to them to be used. It’s typical to see paints come in sets of different colors, but it’s also possible to see each paint color sold individually. This is usually the case for the best watercolor paints.
Pans are popular because they are portable and thereby make a great accompaniment outdoors. They also offer great value for money.
Tubes can also be purchased individually or in sets and are popular with those who paint indoors or on large canvases. The tubes vary in size from 5ml all the way up to 40ml.
Due to the nature of tubes it can be easy to be wasteful by squeezing too much out and not being able to squeeze every last drop of paint as you get towards the end of the tube.
The quality of paint in pans and tubes is of similar quality, but one other downside apart from being wasteful is that it’s harder to make the paint soluble again once it has dried out. The tube can also lose its quality and turn dull if you re-wet too much.
If you’re new to painting it’s probably a better idea to stick with pans, particularly because they offer better value for money and you can experiment more easily.
Staining vs. Non-Staining
If you’re pretty much new to watercolor paints this isn’t something that you need to necessarily be concerned with. This is because you probably aren’t going to be using different techniques like layering in your artwork at first.
However, for more experienced painters this is important because some paints “stain” paper by penetrating it more deeply. Non-staining paints, on the other hand, are easy to scrape off.
It’s actually difficult to tell whether paint is staining or non-staining just by looking at it. This is why many artists test the paint first to see just how easy it can be scraped off or removed with a sponge.
As a general rule the more expensive the paint, the higher its quality. There are a few specific ways to tell just how much quality there is, however. This usually consists of checking the appearance of the paint.
Lighfastness is a good indicator. This simply means checking whether the paint holds up well to exposure to light over time.
The color of the paint is another good indicator. It is easy to see if paint is weakly or highly colored by checking its transparency. If it is highly transparent then the paint can be considered to be weakly colored.
When it comes to buying the best watercolor paints there isn’t necessarily a go-to brand. This is because some brands are terrific at producing certain colors, but may fall short at other colors. This is also quite subjective too. It is therefore a good idea to experiment with the same color from different brands to see which one works for you and matches your preferences.
While some artists out there, particularly novices, may think that they can get away with purchasing the primary colors and mixing them to produce the color they desire, this is a bad idea. Mixing paints results in dullness and it is unlikely that you will get the result you are looking for. It is therefore much better to buy single pigment colors. Doing so ensures that your artwork turns into a vibrant and intense masterpiece.
There’s more than just pans, tubes, and a long list of colors to concern yourself with. We break it down into four parts.
As you may have guessed, student watercolor paint is perfect for students (beginners). These watercolors are designed to be inexpensive yet still provide a sufficient amount of quality. Sure, the paints contain less pigment and lower permanence, but if you’re just starting out and want to experiment you are unlikely to be able to tell the difference anyway as you come to grips with watercolor paints.
You’ve guessed right again! Professional grade paint is designed for all the “professionals” or at least those who take painting seriously. These paints contain a higher concentration of pigment, high permanence, and are just much more intense and vibrant.
The truly serious painter tends to only concern themselves with purchasing individual colors. This allows them to highly customize their palette and purchase each color in its highest quality.
Watercolor sets are ideal for beginners. This is because sets provide a basic range of colors to experiment with, and many also come with handy booklets that can teach you about different techniques and other useful information. Some of the best watercolor paints may also come with a selection of brushes too, so you don’t have to purchase them separately.