8 Outstanding Watercolor Paints for Beginners and Professional Artists

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Last updatedLast updated: April 07, 2021
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Watercolor paintings have been engaging people in art since 18’th century. The variety of techniques and creative ways to make masterpieces is truly impressive.  There are so many choices of watercolor paints on the market that common users can easily get confused. Which watercolor brand grands the most vibrant, silky and eye-catching set of paints?

We’ve asked art teachers, professional artists and beginners about the best watercolor paints they’ve come across and got the impressive list. We’ve tested every brand ourselves and now can save you time in searching for the perfect set of paints. You’ll learn which watercolor brands create best sets for pros, beginners or students, which deliver the richest colors and are easiest to mix. We’ll show the difference in casings, number of colors you should include in your palette and variety of bases that are used to create the best watercolors. Read our guide to choose your new creative instrument.

Top 8 Watercolor Paints Review 2021

Features
  • Colors number: 10
  • Case: tube
  • Volume: 5 ml
  • Box dimensions: 5.3 x 0.6 x 3.9 in

More features: organic, made in the USA

Daniel Smith is a watercolor brand which has the watercolor with the largest color chart in the world. The Daniel Smith range of watercolors is an extra-fine watercolor line with products made in the USA. Its line of products includes 246 colors of which 206 are based on a single pigment.

The Jean Haines Master Artist Set includes 10 watercolors in tube casings. With this extra-fine watercolor, you will find your happiness in the colors offered which remain vibrant and pigmented.

With beautiful colors of excellent quality, the color set is a selection of colors for those who love Jean Haines paintings.

The Daniel Smith watercolors are extra fine watercolors ideal for working when you are a knowledgeable and experienced artist. Beginners can also use them as it is not as expensive as others.

Daniel Smith watercolor packs are renowned with artists around the world. According to Daniel Smith, it uses three manufacturing rules for the pigments of its watercolors; the pigments must be safe, lightfast, and be reliable.

What we liked

The watercolors are sourced from completely organic materials. They are hand-packed and handmade for good consistency and quality control. Lightfast vibrant colors, very easy to mix. Perfect for professional artists and students.

What could be better

The set is quite pricey.

2.

Schmincke Horadam AquarellPremium Pick

Features
  • Colors number: 24
  • Case: half-pan
  • Volume: 2 ml
  • Box dimensions: 1.2 x 6.5 x 4 in

More features: 4-time paint pouring technology, built-in mixing tray

This premium set is our best quality watercolor paints set. These watercolors have very soft, translucent colors, making them ideal for working with many clear coats. They also have a large number of more opaque colors. The colors have great consistency and allow to achieve very uniform layers.

Horadam Aquarell is the professional line of the Schmincke brand. It has a variety of 139 colors. It is available in many formats including 5ml and 15ml tubes and a half and whole tablets. This Aquarell is however the student quality line that consists of 24 colors. The product is a travel watercolor set.

The Schmincke watercolor set is made with the best binders and soluble resins. The main component is Kordofan Gum Arabic, which is found in a region of South Africa. Furthermore, pigments are added to the highest possible concentration.

They are colors used by classic artists such as Oskar Kokoschka and Emil Nolde.

What we liked

The watercolors and very useful for realistic work in which you want to achieve a natural result, but require a little more work to achieve a high level of saturation. They are made of bunders and soluble resins. We think the built-in mixing tray is very convenient for on-go artists and students. These watercolors also have very high lightfastness.

What could be better

We feel the perfect saturation is reached by more than one layer depending on the technique.

3.

Sennelier L'AquarelleBest Travel Watercolor Set

Features
  • Colors number: 24
  • Case: half-pan
  • Volume: 2 ml
  • Box dimensions: 6.25 x 3.9 x 1.25 in

More features: honey-based, metal box

These are our choice of the best watercolor paints for professionals. The popular watercolor paints from Sennelier are available in a set. The watercolor boxes come in different sizes. They are filled with half pans, whole pans, or 10ml tubes. The enameled metal box is black on the outside and white on the inside, with a thumb ring.

The “L’aquarelle” Sennelier found its origin in the school of the impressionists. The impressionists were inspired by nature and tried to depict natural light. The watercolor offered them the spontaneity, lightness, washability, and transparency they needed to feel and capture light, vibrations, and shapes. Cézanne, for example, painted around 40 watercolors from Mount Sainte Victoire. Since then, the watercolor technique has found its place in the history of great painters. The artist appreciates the watercolor because of its luminosity, its spontaneity, and the joy it gives him when he plays with the light of the paper and the lively, luminous, intense pigments.

The Sennelier watercolor set is the result of a long collaboration with many artists. Sennelier interviewed watercolor painters from all over the world to learn about their habits and expectations. Several formulas were “blindly” tested by a group of professional watercolor painters.

What we liked

In search of excellence, Sennelier developed a watercolor that contains more honey to improve the durability of the colors and give them, even more, shine and luminosity. They are very durable and lightfast. Rich color variety also gives more space for creativity.

What could be better

They are expensive paints. Also, you should be aware that honey-based paints have slower drying time.

4.

Winsor & Newton CotmanBest Portable Watercolor Kit

Features
  • Colors number: 24
  • Case: whole pan
  • Volume: 5 ml
  • Box dimensions: 4.8 x 10.7 x 1.1 in

More features: plastic box, built-in mixing tray

The Winsor and Newton Cotman line of watercolors are a watercolor product range made of high-quality standards. However, its price is kept economically low. The price is kept relatively low because of the replacement of more expensive pigments with less expensive alternatives.

The product is a 24 color set packed in a whole pan case. The watercolors have great transparency, high-quality working properties, as well as good tinting strength.

The box is made of plastic, making the entire pack lightweight and easy to carry. There’s a pallet that provides ease of cleaning as well as handling. The detachable lid is also practical.

The Winsor and Newton watercolor set contains colors such as Intense Blue, Sap Green, Burnt Sienna, Yellow Ochre, Viridian Hue, Raw Sienna, Raw Umber, Light Red, Burnt Umber, Ivory Black, with Chinese White. It also comes with Payne’ Gray which is quite versatile and with which you can make many mixes.

They are watercolors of good quality with correct light resistance and very acceptable pigmentation. The Cotman watercolor sets in particular are designed for students and beginners who want to get started in this art.

What we liked

The painting set includes lovely watercolor options with good transparency, vibrancy, and pigmentation. The lid is detachable and has a holding ring on the back making it a perfectly portable watercolors set.

What could be better

Paints are held in pans unevenly. Some of them feel loose and others are better placed incide.

5.

Sakura XNCW-30N KoiBest Value

Features
  • Colors number: 30
  • Case: half-pan
  • Volume: 2 ml
  • Box dimensions: 6.5 x 4.5 x 1.1 in

More features: 9 ml sketching brush included, plastic case

The SAKURA Koï Watercolors Box is a pocket set that will follow you wherever you go. The watercolor paints mix easily and endlessly on the foldable mixing palette. It includes a refillable brush. With this, you can store and always have water on hand. Just squeeze the tip of the brush to rinse and switch to another color. You also have two sponges and a ring on the inner side for an easy hold. When you open the lid, you can use it as an easel.

Capturing the moment in a watercolor sketch becomes super easy with the Koi Water Color Boxes. This compact watercolor set is perfect for painting outdoors where inspiration comes most easily!

The mini watercolor paint set box contains a palette of 30 colors. The colors included are China White, Lemon Yellow, Aureolin Yellow, Permanent Yellow, Permanent Dark Yellow, Permanent Orange, Brilliant Yellow, Vermilion, Cadmium Red, Crimson, Quinacridone Pink, Violet, Cobalt Blue, Viridian Green, Blue Cerulean, k Ultramarine, Turquoise Blue, Prussian Blue, Indigo, Pale Permanent Green, Dark Permanent Green, Bladder Green, Olive Green, Yellow Ocher, Light Red, Umber, Sepia, Payne Gray, and Black Ivory.

What we liked

The refillable brush allows you to store and always have water on hand. The price of the set is also pleasing. You can easily carry this set around, mixing tray is detachable and has convenient legs for better balance. The colors itself are fine for beginner artists to learn, or for quick sketches and paintings on-the-go.

What could be better

The case of the set feels flimsy and requires careful handling.

6.

Van Gogh Watercolor Paint SetBest for Artists

Features
  • Colors number: 20
  • Case: tube
  • Volume: 10 ml
  • Box dimensions: 6.7 x 7.3 x 0.9 in

More features: plastic box, built-in mixing tray

The Van Gogh wooden watercolor case contains 20 watercolor tubes and is in the average price segment. The set includes two brushes and a plastic mixing pallet, which is ideal for taking with you or for painting at home. With a weight of about 1.13 pounds, the watercolor case is easy to carry.

The color intensity is extremely high and they can be mixed very well. The pallets and individual paint pots are removable and can therefore be replaced.

The portable watercolor kit, like all models from Van Gogh, is of the artist and student range. They feature colors that are transparent, intense, and brilliant. Most of the colors have high degrees of lightfastness, that is, they are rated “+++.” Just a few of the colors are rated a step below (in the ++).

The colors from the Van Gogh watercolor set also work on white paper. The effect will be more tender in this way. You can find beautiful works created with these colors on Instagram.

Our best artist watercolor paints, they are made in the Netherlands under strict quality control.

What we liked

The watercolors are not only easy to mix, they are pleasant to work with. Granulated watercolors are giving fine effects on the background painting and high lightfastness makes painting even more pleasant. The built-in mixing tray makes the set a portable option for artists. Can be used by beginners.

What could be better

The plastics are of low quality and can break easily.

7.

Royal Talens RembrandtBest for Professionals

Features
  • Colors number: 24
  • Case: half-pan
  • Volume: 2 ml
  • Box dimensions: 9.2 x 3.2 x 1.1 in

More features: metal box, sable brush included, built-in mixing tray

The Rembrandt Royal Talens is a set of watercolor containing 24 colors. Made in Holland, the paint set is the choice of professionals for painting in the open air (al fresco).

The Rembrandt watercolor contains colors such as Cadmium Yellow, Gamboge, Cadmium Orange and Red, Mauve, Ultramarine Dark, Cerulean Blue, Cobalt Blue, Permanent Green, Prussian Blue, Raw Umber, Viridian, Sap Green, Burnt Sienna, Yellow Ochre, Burnt Umber, Payne’s Green, and Sepia. This is in no way the exhaustive list of colors in the Rembrandt case.

The painting set is of the highest standards which Royal Talens is made of. It retains the highest lightfastness degree.

The set includes a paintbrush, thumb ring, and a palette that folds out easily. The included paintbrush is round, made from the red sable fur.

What we liked

The color set is packed in a metal case that is compact, robust, and durable. High lightfastness and mixing abilities of these paints make them one of the best options for professional artists. The paints are easy to work with and the results are impressive.

What could be better

It’s expensive; although with the quality of the box and the brush, we feel it couldn’t have been cheaper.

8.

Arteza Watercolor PaintBest for Beginners

Features
  • Colors number: 24
  • Case: tube
  • Volume: 12 ml
  • Box dimensions: 9.8 x 8.5 x 1.1 in

More features: screw cap, ACMI certified

The Arteza Watercolor Paint is our best watercolor paints for beginners. It is a set of 24 individual watercolors packed in color tubes. The product adheres to stringent quality standards and is certified by the ACMI, whose seal it carries. Each tube contains 12 milliliters of paint. The watercolors have the characteristic of drying quickly, with the possibility of reusing the paint once dry.

The tubes are easy to squeeze. They will let you squeeze out exactly the amount you need. The tubes are well labeled and recognizable. So, you will easily recognize the color you are using. The tube has a practical secure screw cap. You only need to tightly twist the cap and you’ll be able to preserve the paint content.

What we liked

The watercolor paints are highly pigmented. It’s ideal for small and large projects. You only need little paint for each painting task. Non-toxic paints are suitable for all people. Can be a great first set of watercolors. Price is moderate.

What could be better

The set lacks transparent colors. Also, the paints dry out fast and require quicker rate of work.

Things to Consider

Of course, there is the option of buying individual colors from the brands and models mentioned above to fill an empty palette or create your portable kit in a metal case. However, if you need some ready-to-use set, a special palette, or just want to invest in a professional set, then here are some criteria you should look out for.

How to use watercolor paints – tips and tricks

To learn to paint in watercolor, you must have a good eye for proportions and shapes. A little experience in drawing cannot hurt here. As with any other painting technique, you need patience and discipline to progress and develop your style. For your beginnings and further education, you will find the YouTube video below helpful:

How to store watercolor paints

  • Watercolor tubes: The watercolor tubes can be stored in normal containers like those for acrylic or oil paint. From cans to extra cases, everything is possible. You can also simply use actual boxes for storing cosmetics or body paints, as they are often transparent.
  • Watercolor pans: Watercolor pans are the easiest to store. The pots are often arranged on a plastic or metal tray and are equipped with flip over pallets which you can also use to cover the pans.
  • Watercolor pens: There are different storage options for pens. For those who like to have it neatly sorted and who want an overview of the private range, pen rolls are suitable. You can sort the pens, regardless of whether they are colored, felt, or pencil, and you certainly don’t lose track of things that quickly.

Prices

There is a relatively wide price range among the various watercolors. There is always a cheaper option for beginners and expensive branded products with better quality for professionals. For the chosen watercolor paints’ prices are fair due to production and pigment choice. Professional sets are often of higher price, like Royal Talens Rembrandt and beginner sets like Arteza Watercolor Paint can be a perfect buy for those on the budget.

Features to consider while buying the best watercolor paints

Below are some of the features you should watch out for while choosing watercolor paints:

Pigment quality

As in other artistic tools, such as acrylic paints, there are two types of watercolors: school and professional. Professional or art-quality watercolors generally have more pigment and are available in more colors, while school watercolors have more binders and synthetic fillers, which keeps them affordable, but less durable.

If you are a beginner or just would like to try this technique, school quality sets will work well. You may not even notice the difference at first, and your wallet will not suffer.

Transparency

One of the good things about watercolors lies in their ability to let light go through them while creating the “washed out” effect. Watercolors can be transparent or opaque and manufacturers often indicate on the packaging whether the paint is transparent or not. While opaque watercolors can be diluted, you have to consider the ability for transparency to create that layered effect that exists in most paintings created with watercolors.

Casing form: tubes or pans?

8 Outstanding Watercolor Paints for Beginners and Professional Artists

Two of the most common ways to buy watercolor sets are in pans made up of pills – solid paint – or in small tubes. The pans, like the Sakura XNCW-30N Koi, are used by being touched by a brush. They are good for their practicality and portability. Because the pigment is limited, they are difficult to use for large projects. However, each pill will last for a long time.

The tubes, like the Van Gogh Watercolor Paint Set, are liquid paints. This makes them a bit more difficult to transport, but they are easier to mix and are ideal to paint on a large scale. However, it is easy to get carried away and use a lot of paint, which can translate to buying more and more products. Artists must also be careful about letting the paint dry during use. Many brands do not stand up really well to constant rewetting.

Color variation

The great thing about watercolors is that by mixing the colors, your palette expands without having to invest in more products. So if you’re considering upgrading and buying a professional set, we recommend starting with just 5 or 10 colors to try before committing to a more expensive set.

Single pigment colors are more vibrant than mixed ones, but some artists use a limited number of colors and create myriad combinations from them. This will depend on your style and what you are trying to achieve.

Penetration

Some watercolors penetrate the paper, creating a “smudge,” while others stay on the surface, making it easier to erase small mistakes with a sponge or scraping the paper. This will depend on the pigment. And if you are a beginner, with a little practice, you will begin to understand which pigments have the highest penetration. This is also a factor to keep in mind when layering colors. Shallow watercolors can turn into a muddy mess when mixed. We recommend testing your colors on white paper to make sure which colors in your palette stay on the surface, as it varies between brands.

Beginner or pro

You will notice that pigments, especially with professional watercolors, have different prices according to the minerals used to make them. This is because some materials are less common, and therefore more expensive. The product most recommended for professionals is the Sennelier L’Aquarelle, a watercolor set with honey content.

School or beginner watercolors are sold for lower prices because synthetic fillers replace these pigments. So, it is common for you to see the word “hue” after a pigment name; this indicates that it is a synthetic filler. According to the several product analyses we made, the Arteza Watercolor Paint is the best for beginners.

Durability

Permanence is the durability of the paint when exposed to light and moisture. Much of this depends on the quality of the pigments and if they have synthetic filler – and if yes, how much does it have? We recommend checking the label to see how each color qualifies on the ASTM (American Society for Testing and Materials) scale. We suggest you choose I (excellent) or II (good). Most brands like Winsor & Newton will also have this information available online.

The durability also applies to the cases and the brush. Of course, watercolor cases made of metal are usually more durable than those made of plastic. However, metal models are usually more expensive.

Extra features

8 Outstanding Watercolor Paints for Beginners and Professional Artists

Some of the extra features to consider are the granularity, mixing and effects of the color, and the inclusion of storing cases. Granularity is not necessary to your watercolors but it can provide very interesting shading effects and is perfect for backgrounds and abstract shapes.

The brush provided should have either a metal handle or a durable plastic handle as it is prone to breakage. The brush head is better if it’s made from sable fur.

FAQ

Watercolor paints contain four main ingredients. These include a pigment, the gun Arabic/binder for holding the pigment to suspend, the pigment. They also include additives such as glycerin, honey, ox gall, as well as some other preservatives which affect the pigment’s color, viscosity, and durability.

A good set of watercolors for professional use must offer its users spontaneity, lightness, washability, and transparency they need to feel and capture light, vibrations, and shapes. Our best watercolor paints for professionals are the Royal Talens Rembrandt watercolor paints.

At best, beginners should use a watercolor box with 24 colors. So all basic colors will be available and you can slowly start learning and experimenting with watercolor painting. If necessary, expand your palette to 48 colors after a while or fill up empty pans of colors that are often needed with tubes that can be bought separately. If you paint on a large scale right from the start, you can also use tubes entirely. For beginners, our recommended watercolor is the Arteza Watercolor Paint.

Our Verdict

Watercolors allow everyone to let their creativity run free. They are particularly easy to use and you can quickly gain a sense of achievement.

You can buy these art sets as watercolors in tubes, and pans. Each of the two types has its advantages depending on its use and preference.

Our Editor’s Choice is the DANIEL SMITH Jean Haines Master Artist Set. We like these watercolors as they are sourced from completely organic materials. They are hand-packed and handmade for good consistency and quality control. It’s our overall best watercolor paints set.

Our Premium Pick is the Schmincke Horadam Aquarell. These watercolors have very soft, translucent colors, making them ideal for working with many clear coats.

The best watercolor paints for the lower price are the Sakura XNCW-30N Koi. Set of 30 vibrant colors that are easy to mix and carry around fits for beginners and students. The case includes convenient mixing tray and one of the best sketching brushes with water container.

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