• Irit Landgraf

9 Tips to Help You Save Money Buying Watercolor

Disclaimer: this post contains affiliate links. It is not sponsored, all opinions are my own. If you use the links to make a purchase you do not pay more and I make a small commission which greatly helps support my website and YouTube channel. Thank you!

Do you find it overwhelming to shop for great watercolor supplies? Do you find yourself in serious FOMO mode when watching haul videos? Do you want to try it all, have it all, all the pretty colors and palettes? Do you believe that there is a special supply out there that will make your art amazing?

I hear you. I've been there, still am sometimes.

I have plenty of posts and videos sharing tips on which supplies I think are worth getting. Believe me, I have tried A LOT. But today I want to focus on savings.

I want to share with you my top tips for seeing through the massive volume of offerings out there, and identify what you actually need, what will benefit your creative journey and how to grow an art supplies collection is a smart way.

To learn more, read on!

If you prefer a more detailed (and chatty) video version, I got you covered-

I divide watercolor supplies to three main categories- watercolor paint, brushes and papers.

Tips for saving money buying watercolor paint-

Tip #1

When possible, buy LOCAL. If you have a brand from your country or continent, that is a great choice for a starter set, or a go-to brand for replenishing your collection. This will save you money because you will not have to pay for shipping and customs, like you would if you purchased a brand made in another continent.

I do want to mention that some paints are made in countries where labor is cheaper than in your location, and so those costs may balance out. Always check for deals and special offers, but in general, I believe it is also important to support your local economy when possible.

Tip #2

Look into home brands, private lables of major retailers. Many times such shops will have their own brand of paint. These shops do not have their own watercolor paint factory, but they work with known manufacturers (rumor is Jackson's paint is made by Sennelier). This paint is usually very affordable, but has some limitations, such as a small range and cheaper pigments. It is a great choice for sketches, studies and basic pigments (such as Ultramarine Blue or the Phthalos for example), especailly if you go through a lot of paint.

Tip #3

Learn about pigments. This one is probably the most labor intensive as there are so many pigments out there. However, most brands use mostly the same pigments for the majority of their paints.

It gets more complicated than that, though...

A pigment can be used to make a various range of colors. So a brand may use one pigment to create several colors, and the same pigment under the same name (burnt sienna for example) will look differently when made into paint by each brand.

Every manufacturere has their own secret sauce and formulation. Sometimes those differences are very minor and may not be significant to you, and sometimes it looks completely different.

To make things even more confusing, some brands have unique names for their paints. This makes it even more important to check pigment info. This will help you avoid buying duplicates, and help you find unique pigments and colors so you can grow your collection in a way that expands it, as opposed to simply buying similar paint over and over.

Tip #4

Once you have a good basic set, do not buy any more basic sets. These sets are curated to be very basic and versatile, so they are great when you are just starting out. However, they usually include the cheaper pigments, therefore, buying multiple basic sets will again just exapand your collection to include more of the same.

Instead, when you want to try a new brand, whether for their colors or formulation, look at their range and curated sets (many brands offer now sets curated by artists, or a specific color scheme) and choose unique colors and pigments you don't already own.

Furthermore, the more you paint, the more specific your color preferences will get, and you may find there are many colors in those basic sets you never use.

Tip #5

Mix brands. Do not limit yourself to one brand, or feel you need to have a full palette from each brand. My opinion is that no brand gets it right all the time, and there is no reason to limit yourself! Instead, gather all your superstars from different brands into one palette, and enjoy the best of all worlds!

Let's move on to brushes-

Tip #6

Do not buy cheap (or not cheap) large sets. The difference between the sizes in consecutive numbers is very minimal. Most of the time you will need a larger brush and a smaller brush for detail. Get thoes first and then add as needed to your collection.

Tip #7

Choose synthetic brushes. This might be controversial when it comes to superiority, but there is no debate about the fact that synthetic brushes are usually cheaper than animal hair brushes. I believe if animal hairs were so much more superior, every watercolor artist would use them exclusivley, and the reality is different. These days manufacturers make great synthetic alternatives that mimic very closely animal hairs. My favorite brands are Escoda and Tintoretto, as well as Jackson's own Raven brushes.

Lastly, paper.

Tip #8

Get samples! Before committing to a pad or a sketchbook, try samples! You'd be surprised which papers you like. You may discover you don't need the most expensive 100% cotton paper to make art you love. Keep and open mind and try different kinds of paper.

Tip #9

Sketchbooks. This is not true to all sketchbooks and paper pads, but sometimes you get a lot more paper for your dollar in a sketchbook. A good example are the Khadi sketchbooks. Shop around and look out for sales and special offers on sketchbooks.

Besides the price factor, I personally believe keeping a sketchbook has a value of its own. It encourages play time, creativity, and when finished, is a much better representation of a time/stage in your art journey than a pile of papers. Just my opinion!

I hope this was helpful, have a lovely day


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