Best Watercolor Palette & Brushes of 2020
Hey everyone! Today's post is the third in a series summarizing my favorite supplies of 2020 and it is all about brushes and palettes, or palette.
This series of 2020 faves includes my picks for supplies I used repeatedly throughout the year and loved. They fit my taste, technique and style of painting. The may not fit yours!
I will try to explain why I enjoyed each one and how I like to use it.
I would love to read about your favorite brushes and palettes this year and which new discoveries you made!
Here is the video version of this post, watch or keep reading the transcript, whichever you prefer!
If you’re new here, welcome! My name is Irit and I am a watercolor and mixed media artist. I think watercolors are the most beautiful of painting mediums and they have a calming and therapeutic effect. If you enjoyed this video, please give it a like, share it with a friend and leave a comment. Also, subscribe and ring the bell, I post new videos every week. I invite you to visit my website! I offer a free comprehensive watercolor shopping guide. Have you always wanted to learn how to paint with watercolors? Join me in an online workshop, where ever you are in the world or your watercolor journey and start painting today.
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my top pick that I have mentioned countless times is this simple and cheap red plastic palette I found in March this year. I'm happy to say that I now offer it in my shop, it is shipped from China and free to many countries.
HOWEVER, shipping charges for that particular item (it's the only item currently shipping from China in my shop) are incredibly varied, for example, South Africa and India have shipping rates of 50$, whereas most of Europe is free or 2-3$ max. I have listed the main countries where my viewers come from, if your country is not on my website's list (which you will see when you check out), please email me and I will check the shipping rates for your country.
The Perfect Watercolor Palette??
This palette is plastic, it feels like plastic (sturdy plastic). It is nothing special, not particularly pretty, it's not as nice as porcelain, and yet, it works perfectly for me.
It has 16 very large and deep wells, where you can house you staple colors from tubes, the ones you use the most and know you want in your palette.
It then has another section, a metal insert like the ones in 24 half pans or 12 full pans metal tins. This allows you to switch colors around very easily, as well as the flexibility of adding half or full pans.
This palette is perfect for those of us with large collections of paints. I can rotate colors, audition new colors without having to commit to a well. I can do seasonal palettes, subject oriented palette like one for floral, one for portraits etc.
There is one large section to mix colors, actually two because the palette comes with a clear insert, which I have realized works wonders for my color mixing adventures. Much better than other palettes with multiple smaller mixing areas.
It is sturdy enough for travel and while it is big and heavy, it's not huge and simply allows me to travel with 50 colors without a problem. No more struggling to pick which colors to take before taking a trip (ok maybe a little, but there's plenty of space that it wasn't too hard or limiting)
It is not perfect in any category, but as a whole, it's the best palette I have found that fits my needs.
I don't think I have used any other palette as much as I did this one.
I have a few regular 24 half pans metal tins that house some other paints I occasionally use, like shimmer watercolors or more affordable paints I use with my kids.
Even my beloved porcelain studio palette has been completely neglected, because it just doesn't house as many colors in an easy way (as opposed to blobs of unnamed paint all over the palette).
Best Watercolor Brushes of 2020
I will try to divide my picks to main categories so you can easily decide which one can work for you.
I'll start with the most important one, the work horse. This is the brush that can do 80-90% of your painting.
In my case, I prefer round brushes that can hold a lot of pigment and water, come to a pointy tip and splatter easily.
If it's a good brush, it works for a variety of paper sizes. Now this is where it really becomes a personal preference and style. In the last years I painted in a more loose style, and I used larger brushes than I currently use. I have learned that for my painting style, a medium size brush works well, and helps keep my washes under control and not too wet.
Also, in 2020 I did paint a lot in sketchbooks that are smaller than my usual paper sheets, and so, my work horses were smaller than in previous years.
My first pick is the Jackson's Raven brush, in size 3/0. This is a beautiful super affordable synthetic quill brush that is small and delicate to hold but actually has a nice size to it. It is perfect for A5 and A4 sketchbooks, for blobbing paint and doing those first layers and washes. It doesn't come to a super pointy tip though, but it splatters beautifully.
The second brush I abused this year is the Escoda Ultimo round brush #10, I have the regular and travel one. I think when it comes to travel brushes, it's really hard to compete with Escoda's range, price and quality.
Escoda offers 4 synthetic ranges suitable for watercolors, perla and prado are a bit stiffer with more spring, then Versatil, a great all rounder brush line, and finally, the softest and my current favorite , their Ultimo range. The round #10 is just a great all rounder work horse and the travel version is perfect for studio and travel.
This year I really fell in love with sword or dagger brushes. I've searched for one that worked for me for a long time. I really wanted a dagger brush that was an all rounder work horse, like I've seen Liz Steel use in her sketches, but I couldn't find one that wasn't made with animal hair.
I ended up picking a brush based on a viewer's recommendation, the Pro-Arte Sword small, and it became a go to favorite. It's not an all rounder, but for those expressive strokes I love so much and added detail it is perfect. I don't paint entire paintings with it, it usually comes out at later stages of a painting.
Later in the year I found a couple of other contestants, but the Pro Arte one is probably the easiest one to find and all three, the Pro Arte one and the two I will mention next perform very similarly.
The two other brushes that I use in the same way are made by Tintoretto, an Italian brush manufacturer that sadly is not very widely available. Their Sintetico Ambra brush #6 is almost identical to the Pro arte one, but the Tintoretto brush has a more attractive white handle that is also a little longer.
The third brush that I think might replace those other two is the Tintoretto Sintetico Vajo Kazan 1408 in size 2/0. It is a quill brush (my favorite because they are pretty and have a lot of hair) with longer bristles that comes to a very pointy tip. It is perfect for those expressive detailed strokes, and I suspect might be a good all rounder brush as well.
My only issue with brushes with long bristles is that they get very messy for splatters, for those round quills or brushes with shorter hairs work a little bit better and give more control.
A few more honorable mentions for brushes that I loved but cannot say I used throughout the year :
During the summer I did a 2 months series of daily sketching in an A5 sketchbook. I mostly sketched flowers. It was then that I started using a flat brush more for the background, as it didn't hold too much water and didn't make a puddly mess in my little sketchbook. I don't have a lot of flat brushes, the one I used and love is a 3/4” brush either Escoda's versatil one of Jackson's studio series 506.
Last but not least are the handmade/ magic wand brushes by Tracy Lebenzon. I was sent these in October and the reality is I keep painting with them, because they feel like a brush made by cute forest elves. They are more expensive and I don't think my art improved because of the brushes, but the truth is that the experience of painting is more fun and enjoyable when you have tools that make you happy and special, and these brushes do that.
*** if you are reading this in January 2021, use code irit for 20% off your brushes!
I Hope you enjoyed this post. This year has really been about painting and staying focused for me, and so I wasn't necessarily exploring new things all the time, as much as I embraced what worked for me.
I would love to hear about your favorite tools this year!
I wish you and your families happy holidays!
Stay safe, take care, until the next time, bye bye!