Last updated: August 8, 2021

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Welcome to our big watercolour paint test. Here we present all the watercolour paints we have tested in detail. We have compiled detailed background information and added a summary of customer reviews on the web.

With this, we would like to make your purchase decision easier and help you find the best watercolour paints for you. You will also find answers to frequently asked questions in our guide. Furthermore, you will also find some important information on this page that you should be aware of when buying watercolours.




Summary

  • Watercolour paints enable everyone to give free rein to their creativity, as they are particularly easy to use and you can achieve a sense of achievement very quickly.
  • Watercolour paints can basically be bought as watercolour tubes, pots or pens. Each of the three forms has its advantages depending on use and preference.
  • From the three basic colours red, yellow and blue you can basically mix any other colour except black and white.

The Best Watercolors in the United Kingdom: Our Choices

Guide: Questions you should ask yourself before buying watercolors

Who are watercolors suitable for?

Basically, watercolours are suitable for everyone. There is no right or wrong way to paint with them, as the watery consistency allows you to quickly conjure up beautiful transitions and abstract art.

Everyone can give free rein to their creativity with watercolours. (Image source: 123rf.com / Vector)

Many experienced and famous artists use the sophisticated methodology of watercolour painting. This can create a variety of different works and styles, which is why even professionals are fascinated by watercolours. But even as a novice, you can experience rapid success with watercolours. Above all, the barrier to entry is not high, as you only need paper, watercolours and brushes to get started. With a light hand, beautiful colour patterns and shapes almost conjure themselves with watercolours.

How much do watercolors cost?

There is a relatively wide price range among the different watercolour paints. Basically, there is always a cheaper version for beginners and expensive brand products with better quality for professionals. That's why we feel the prices are reasonable. In the following table you can see the price ranges of the different watercolour types for sets of 12.
Type Price
Watercolour pencils ca. 10-60 €
Watercolour tubes ca. 15-200€
Watercolour whole tubes ca. 20-130€
Watercolour half tubes ca. 8-125€

Which watercolors should I buy?

The three basic colours are red, yellow and blue. Any other colour can be mixed from these colours. However, many artists have more than just these three colours. When colouring your collection, make sure you have a good mix of warm and cool tones. On the one hand, you can use a red that goes more in the direction of pink and violet, for example, in order to be able to mix blue and violet tones better. On the other hand, you should also choose a red that goes in the direction of orange to mix more yellowish tones.

All other colours can be mixed from the three primary colours red, yellow and blue that can be seen in the colour wheel. (Image source: pixabay.com / noskill1343)

White does not really exist in watercolour painting. To set highlights, the white of the paper is usually used. So before you start painting, you should think about where the lighter areas should be. Titanium white is sometimes used to mix colours. Black is frowned upon among watercolour painters. It is described as too harsh and can destroy the mood of a painting. Caution is therefore always advised when handling black.

The three primary colours red, yellow and blue should always be in your collection.

How many watercolour paints should I buy?

As mentioned above, the three basic colours red, yellow and blue are actually enough to mix all the other colours. However, this takes a lot of time, which is why most artists have several colours. Many watercolour sets consist of 12, 24 or 36 colours. Depending on your budget and how much you like to mix colours, you should choose a different size. However, if you buy a set of 12 and realise that you would like to have other colours, you can always buy them separately, which is why we recommend a smaller set.

What are the alternatives to watercolours?

Paints for painting can be made of different materials. Each type of paint has its own advantages and disadvantages. In the following section, we will give you a brief overview of the alternatives to watercolours.
Type Description
Watercolours The colours need a primer before the painting process can begin. Otherwise, however, they are very easy to use and, like watercolours, are water-based.
Acrylic paints Acrylic paints can be diluted with water and, when dry, leave a waterproof coating. They are based on plastics and therefore leave an unpleasant odour.
Oil paints Oil paints take several days to weeks to cure, which can be an advantage for very large paintings. They are based on hardening oils.

Each type has its advantages and disadvantages and leaves a different result when dry. Watercolour paints, however, with their easy handling and short drying time, quickly lead to a sense of achievement and are particularly suitable for hobby use.

Decision: What types of watercolor paint are there and which is right for you?

When buying watercolours, there are three different types you can choose from:

  • Watercolour tubes
  • Watercolour pots
  • Watercolour pencils

For watercolor pots, you have the choice between half pots and whole pots. The handling of the different types of watercolour paints has its advantages and disadvantages. Depending on what you prefer, a different type is suitable for you. In the following section we would like to make your decision easier.

What distinguishes watercolour tubes and what are their advantages and disadvantages?

The difference between watercolour tubes and cups is the packaging. Watercolour tubes are usually packed in an aluminium tube. Therefore, they do not have a dry but a paste-like consistency. Because they are not dried, the pigment can be absorbed directly onto the brush. This makes the colour strong and intense. It can be mixed with water to make it more pastel. Watercolour tubes are particularly recommended for large pictures that require a lot of colour. However, care must be taken that the colour is not wasted and that the product does not dry in the tube. To prevent this, the twist cap should be well cared for and cleaned regularly.

Advantages
  • Lots of pigment
  • Suitable for large pictures
  • Paint can be filled into cups
Disadvantages
  • Waste of product
  • Product can dry up
  • Needs a lot of care

What are the advantages and disadvantages of watercolour pots?

Watercolour bowls can be divided into the subcategories of half bowls and whole bowls. Half pans are half the size and are most suitable for beginners and for artists who only need a little of the paint or who want to try it out. Whole pots, on the other hand, are used for colours that are used frequently. These are, for example, the three basic colours red, yellow and blue. Watercolour pots in general are particularly suitable for small pictures or postcards that should be rather delicate and pastel. They are also, as explained above, refillable with the help of watercolour tubes. As the pots of dry paint have to be mixed with water for use, they lose pigment in the process and are therefore more pastel and watery.

Advantages
  • Suitable for small pictures
  • Refillable
  • Suitable for delicate, pastel pictures
Disadvantages
  • Too small for large brushes
  • Little pigment
  • Colours can mix

What distinguishes watercolour pencils and what are their advantages and disadvantages?

Watercolour pencils combine the properties of watercolours and coloured pencils. They enable precise drawing and blend to create beautiful colour gradients when water is added. The handling is not easy, but if you know how to use the watercolour pencils, it is easy to dose the colour. This way, it can be applied precisely with a lot of control. Note that watercolour pencils are not suitable for canvas, as its surface is much too rough. This means that a lot of paint can accumulate in places where you don't want it. There is also a risk that the leads of the watercolour pencils can break off, which is why a good quality is recommended.

Advantages
  • Suitable for small pictures
  • Easy to dispense paint
  • Enables precise work
  • Easy to clean
Disadvantages
  • Not easy to use
  • Not suitable for canvases
  • Refills can break off

Depending on the use and preference, a mixture of the different types of watercolour paint is therefore recommended, as it can be used to paint in different techniques. For beginners, it is best to start with a watercolour set of pans.

Buying criteria: Use these factors to compare and evaluate watercolors

In the following section, we will show you which aspects you can use to decide between the different watercolour paints. The criteria you can use to compare watercolour paints include:

  • Number of colours
  • Opacity
  • Light fastness
  • Miscibility
  • Wearability

In the following paragraphs, we will explain what each criterion entails.

Number of colours

Basically, there are usually sets containing 12, 24, 36 or 48 colours. The more colours, the more expensive the set. When buying, always bear in mind that you can mix many colours yourself from the three basic colours red, yellow and blue. However, it usually doesn't make sense to have a lot of different shades of green, for example. You can easily mix them with blue to make them darker and warmer or with yellow to make them lighter and grassier. If you want to paint with white or black, you usually have to buy them separately, because, as mentioned above, they are not easy to use.

Opacity

In the section 'Decision' we already explained that the colours in watercolour tubes usually come with more pigment on the brush than colours on watercolour pans. This means that they are more opaque. However, when you mix them with water, they become more pastel and watery. Colours from watercolour pots are not as opaque as those from watercolour tubes when you apply them to the brush and paint with them. This is because you only get the colour from the cups onto the brush by adding water. Watercolour pencils are very opaque and need very little water to mix them and create beautiful colour gradients.

The fascinating thing about watercolour paintings is usually the flowing, pastel and seamless colour gradients. To achieve this effect, the colours are therefore usually mixed with a lot of water anyway and the effective opacity is lost.

Light fastness

Light fastness describes the resistance of the ink when exposed to sunlight with a high proportion of UV light. This has a decomposing effect on some materials, which can result in colour changes. So if you want to paint a picture that will later be constantly exposed to sunlight, for example outdoors, you should pay special attention to lightfastness. It may be worthwhile to invest in more expensive brand-name paints.

Miscibility

Some colours are easier to mix than others. Basically, however, watercolours can usually be mixed without any problems with the addition of water. Only in the case of very inexpensive products can it happen that some colours do not mix well with others.

Wearability

In most cases, watercolors are not heavy. So if you like to take your colours outdoors or on holiday, that's no problem. However, watercolour pots are usually very light and often have room for a few brushes. This makes them particularly suitable for travelling. In addition, you already have your colours together as a whole and do not have to carry individual parts with you, as would be the case with watercolour tubes or pencils, which you might even lose.

Facts worth knowing about watercolors

How do I mix watercolors?

In the world of colours there is a so-called colour wheel. It contains the three primary colours red, yellow and blue. If you mix these colours in equal parts in the circle, you get the secondary colours. Yellow and red produce orange, yellow and blue produce green and a mixture of red and blue produces violet. The opposite colours in the colour wheel are the so-called complementary colours. In the case of blue, this is the mixture of yellow and red - thus orange. This colour allows you to tone down or dull the opposite colour. In this way you can create pastel colours. To mix different shades of orange, green and violet, you have to add more or less of the corresponding base colours. To mix pink, you should use more red than blue.

On which material can I paint with watercolors?

As mentioned above, watercolours and especially watercolour pencils should not be used on canvas. As these are not completely flat, the paint can accumulate in places where it is not wanted and may not spread properly. For this reason, there is specially manufactured watercolour paper that is completely flat and slightly thicker than normal paper so that it does not curl when water is added. This paper is a little more expensive, but it is worth it, as your watercolour work will look particularly good on this surface. With other materials, you can quickly lose the joy of painting, as normal paper curls and destroys your art in the process.

What is the easiest way to clean watercolour brushes?

You should always clean your brushes immediately after use, when the paint has not yet dried on them. At that point, you can simply clean them with water. You can rub the bristles lightly between your fingers to loosen the colour pigments. To maintain the elasticity of the brushes, you should also use artist's soap. However, if the paint dries up in your brushes, water alone will not be enough. In this case, you have to use a special cleaner. Here, too, you should use a very fine hand so as not to tear or damage the bristles.

How do I paint with watercolours?

Basically, you can give free rein to your creativity when painting with watercolours. You can paint abstract pictures, landscapes or other objects. There are many videos online with tips and tricks for painting with watercolours. Image source: pixabay.com / stux

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