Originally uploaded on March 18, 2015
Last updated: October 13, 2015
I’ve been getting quite a number of questions on Instagram about the materials that I like using and would recommend, and I’ve been wanting to create this list since last year anyway, so I decided to compile everything for anyone who’s interested.
This did take a while because for the last few months, I kept adding to the list and it always felt like it wasn’t ready for sharing. But enough of that! I can’t keep procrastinating, right? I’ll just have to surrender to the fact that this list is always going to be flexible and I should just add to it whenever I find a new material that I love.
So without further ado, here are my beloved materials and recommendations!
Out of all the art media that I’ve tried, watercolor is the one that I’ve really fallen in love with and have been using almost everyday since I started focusing on it in 2014.
When I was younger, I was able to try some not-so-nice quality brands of watercolor from the school supplies store, most probably for school. And I never really felt attached to it until I tried it again for my wedding in 2013.
I re-discovered all the good feelings that came with using watercolors, especially the freedom of creating something that I didn’t quite have complete control over. Yeah, I know, it’s kind of ironic but I really do love working with a medium that encourages me to play with it and shows me the results of happy accidents (hello Bob Ross) along the way.
Top-Bottom, Left-Right: Daler-Rowney Aquafine Watercolors | Sakura Koi Watercolors | a set of metallic watercolors that I got from National Bookstore (can’t figure out the brand but I noticed that it’s no longer being sold there either) | Prang Watercolors | Winsor&Newton Cotman Watercolors Sketchers’ Pocket Box | Dr. Ph. Martin’s Radiant Concentrated Watercolors in Scarlet, True Blue, and Lemon Yellow | Daler-Rowney Luma Bleed Proof White (not watercolor, but I use it sometimes with my watercolored artworks) | Schmincke Horadam Watercolors (sooooooo excited to use these pans soon)
Here are some of the watercolors that I’ve collected so far. I know this is a lot, especially because I haven’t even tried all of them yet. I have this thing where I’m sort of scared to open and use the ones that I’m really excited to try out (case in point: the Schmincke palette). Super weird! But I just tell myself that I have others that I’m still using anyway, so I don’t need to open all of them until I’m out of my current set.
I also have several more Prang palettes than the one I’m showing here from the watercolor workshops that I joined last year. I’ve already given away two 8-pan sets, and will be saying goodbye to the last two sets soon.
Currently, I’m lugging around my gigantic Daler-Rowney Aquafine Watercolor Paint Slider Set that has 20 half pans in it. It also came with an Aquafine brush and the plastic case has several slide-out mixing trays and a removable palette. The colors are so brilliant and vibrant even if this is a student grade palette. The pans are also removable so when you’ve finished any of them, you can easily replace them with a new one or a different color.
Before that, I used to bring my smaller Winsor&Newton Cotman palette around. This is perfect for traveling because of its size and the colors are also really vibrant and can be easily mixed on the underside of the cover, so you don’t lose quality just because it’s smaller or has lesser colors. It also comes with a brush, but I haven’t tried using that yet.
I got my Daler-Rowney watercolors from Artland in Hong Kong, my Schmincke palette from Art Friend in Singapore, my Prang palettes from National Bookstore in the Philippines and the workshops I’ve joined, and my Winsor & Newton travel palette from Cass Art in London. Some of the same brands are now available in selected Fully Booked branches (their Greenbelt branch has the best selections). You can also check out Deovir Art Supplies.
The best thing about this palette (well, aside from the gold itself) is that I noticed that you really only need a little from the palette to mix with water, and it already goes a long way. A lot of people are turned off by the price of this palette but I always tell them that it’s worth it because it will last a long time.
At this point, I’ve used them every chance I get, and they still look brand new!
And here are swatches of my most used palettes.
UPDATE: I’m adding swatches for both my Schmincke Horadam 9-color full pan palette and my recently acquired Sennelier l’Aquarelle 24-color half pan palette.
Both European-made artist quality palettes give you a really vibrant and brilliant set of colors. Schmincke (sorry that I misspelled it when I was making the swatches) is a German brand while Sennelier is French.
I also saw a 24-color Schmincke palette back in Daimaru Fujii Central where I bought my Sennelier palette, and it was a few thousand ¥ more expensive. Does that mean Schmincke is considered the better quality brand?
It doesn’t really follow because it ultimately depends on your preference as the artist and how you use the paints. I’ve read quite a few reviews where people have declared their preference for Sennelier. As for me, I’ll use them for a while first before sharing my verdict.
Again, it’s Schmincke with a C before the K.
I love that the Sennelier palette provides so many new and interesting colors, with their Cobalt Violet Light Hue, Viridian Green, and Payne’s Gray being my favorites. Even if I mixed my previously existing colors, I don’t think I would have achieved any of these colors on my own.
But then again, that’s probably true from brand to brand because each manufacturer comes out with their own version of a certain color. The reds of Schmincke is always going to be different from the reds that Sennelier produces, and this applies to all other colors and all other brands.
As mentioned in my Hokkaido Haul post, Sennelier also reformulated their paints in 2012 to include more honey in their mix. They use honey not only as a preservative but to give brilliance and smoothness to their paints. And the paints are definitely smooth! As soon as I put my brush on top of the paint, I could feel it. It was really easy to wet the paint and even with just a small amount of water, I was already able to get a rich color.
On the photo, the Schmincke colors look more opaque, but that might just be because I could have used less water when I was swatching them. Nevertheless, Schmincke’s Yellow Ochre does appear more saturated than Sennelier’s.
My Schmincke 9-pan palette came in this compact metal packaging. The outer surface was a shiny black, and it also came with its own fabric pouch to help keep the metal from scratching. Folding parts gives quite a lot of space for mixing if you don’t have empty palettes to work with.
The pans themselves were individually wrapped in foil and sit in the case snuggly, snapped into and secured by more metal parts. There was really so much attention to detail, but it was also quite difficult to take them out to unwrap.
They also look different compared to other brands’ pans because Schmincke pours their pigments into their pans in a liquid state, and they claim that this allows for a much higher quality of paints. That also means they don’t look as neat as other pans, as you can see splatter marks on the plastic pan.
As I used my Schmincke palette more, I did notice that the paint dried much lighter than when I applied it, something that I didn’t expect from a supposedly high-quality paint brand. I have heard this same complaint from some other artists too.
I love Sennelier’s packaging! The palette was made of metal too, with a matte black finish on the outside. There was also a lot of room for mixing. And if you take out the metal tray holding all the pans in place, you can also use the bottom of the case to mix your colors. As a bonus, it also came with its own watercolor brush.
The set also came with a color guide with all the names (and presumably the actual color in each pan when it’s on paper).
And that color guide serves another purpose too! It’s also meant to cover and protect the paints when you’re storing or bringing it out.
The palette itself contained brilliant and unique colors that took me a while to get used to, but now love using. I love how saturated my paintings look even after they’ve dried whenever I use my Sennelier palette.
On occasion, when I want to play with more than one palette, I mix paints from both my Sennelier and Schmincke palettes to create colors that I feel are more reflective of my style for that particular artwork.
If you follow me on Instagram, you might have seen my admission that I’m a brush addict (thank you to the people who said that there’s nothing wrong with that haha) and I wasn’t kidding.
Every time I’m in a store where brushes are being sold, I always take a look if there’s anything worth buying.
Currently, I carry most of my brushes in a canvas brush roll that I ordered from @boredandcrafty.
These are my favorite brushes to use.
Left-Right: The newest addition, a Hans Gold Sable 1 | Daler-Rowney Graduate Round 1 | Pebeo Orion Round in 4 I think (got this from a workshop) | Daler-Rowney Round 3
I have an affinity for smaller brush tips because I like detailed work, but before getting the smaller brushes, I used to just use the Pebeo for everything.
Here are sample strokes from my favorite brushes.
Every time I meet someone who uses a waterbrush often, I always ask how they use it. I’m planning to bring one of these when I travel again to test them out since people say it’s convenient because of its portability.
You can find Daler-Rowney brushes at Fully Booked. National Bookstore and Deovir Art Supplies also carry a number of good brushes for both professionals and hobbyists. For the Hans Gold-Sable brush, I got mine from Morning Light Art Gallery and Shop in Marfori Heights.
UPDATE: I’m more used to water brushes now and have gotten several Pentel Aquash brushes, since I’ve been hearing such nice things about them.
I started using my Kuretake water brushes more and more since originally posting about them here, and have gotten used to bringing them for trips so I can easily continue making art while I’m away from home.
And as much as I liked the portability, my Kuretake water brushes leaked heavily. Even when I wasn’t pressing on the water chamber, water would be spilling out of the tip and made painting precise strokes a difficulty. Sometimes I ended up with really muddy-looking artwork.
So I searched the internet for better alternatives and found myself buying the Pentel Aquash water brushes (fine and medium) because I kept reading about how they didn’t leak, and that was the most important thing for me when it came to water brushes at that point.
True enough, the Pentel Aquash water brushes I got didn’t leak like the Kuretake brushes did, unless I pressed really hard on the water chamber. The water would leak a little from the area where the tip connected with the chamber, but twisting both tightly to make it more secure plus pressing more lightly on the chamber while painting fixed the problem.
I’m really enjoying painting with my Aquash brushes and have been using the fine tip constantly!
You can order Pentel Aquash water brushes from CreateCrafts.ph.
UPDATE: I’ve changed paper preferences, from Berkeley to Canson Montval.
I used to buy Berkeley watercolor pads (180gsm, 24 sheets) for my everyday painting, but the quality has degraded since the start of 2015. Although affordable, the new paper is much softer to the touch and can’t take heavy washes anymore.
One of the other things that I don’t like about it is the paper is a yellowish color that makes it harder for me to clean up my work when I digitize it.
It is pretty cheap for beginners though, but can be a bit frustrating to use if you’re not the patient type of learner. Another alternative for practice is the Canson watercolor pad, look for the one with a hot air balloon on the cover, with paper that’s more white. I don’t particularly like this watercolor paper either but it’s now better than Berkeley.
I’ve grown fond of using the Canson Montval Aquarelle pads (300gsm, 12 sheets) instead, even though they’re pricier than the previous two I mentioned just because I have been doing more painting for actual work compared to practicing. If I remember correctly, they sell for P300+ in National Bookstore and some online stores.
Despite the price, I like the higher quality that I’m able to achieve with my paintings just because the Montval paper cooperates better with my techniques and style.
And whenever I want to work on an even higher quality watercolor paper, I buy a sheet (around cartolina size) of Arches watercolor paper in 300gsm from National Bookstore and just cut it up into several smaller sheets. I get about 8 small sheets from that bigger sheet of watercolor paper. I really like the texture of the cold press Arches paper, which is very toothy, and can hold my paints really well.
I started using pens frequently again this year because of my #365positivewords project. Most of my pens are from Muji.
I also got Kuretake ZIG Wink of Stella (glitter) and Wink of Luna (metallic) last year, from Scribe Writing Essentials. The silver brush pen on top is a prize I got from attending the Christmas Calligraphy Exchange.
I also have a small collection of brush pens and calligraphy tools that I got from different local stores and while traveling. The various nibs and holders are from Scribe Writing Essentials and The Craft Central. I got my inks from Craft Carrot.
Before getting into watercolors, my main medium was colored pencils. I used to draw one-of-a-kind designs on kraft cover notebooks for selling, but I realized that it wasn’t making me as happy as I thought it would. And I got tired so easily from all the shading!
Nevertheless, I still keep these colored pencils in case I think of using them again or even incorporating them into my watercolor work.
Lately, I’ve been using pencils for my #365doodleproject entries, as well as for sketching before I paint.
Left-Right: Staedtler 5B and 6B | Pilot Color Eno mechanical pencil, loaded with pink lead | Muji Hexagonal Polycarbonate Mechanical Pencil 0.5mm | Rotring 300 Lead Holder 2mm | Faber-Castell Eraser Pen
Ever since I started painting full-time, I’ve also been bringing around a huge bag full-time. It’s not good for my back, shoulder, and posture, but it was definitely good for improving my craft because I could practice anytime and anywhere (as long as there was a big enough table around).
I bring all my necessary tools in a durable canvas bag that I bought years ago.
I also have several cases for my other tools: the canvas brush roll for my watercolor brushes, a Filed pen roller for my calligraphy tools and brush pens, and a Muji pencil case for my Muji pens (although I use the detachable case from my Filed pen roller for these too).
UPDATE: I’m also using the FILED pen wrapper and FILED pen capsule now.
The pen capsule holds my regular brushes and is my main choice for when I have a lot more materials to bring around when I work outside of my home, since it’s a lot bigger than the pen wrapper.
The pen wrapper is more for my water brushes and two of my pens for inking work, when needed. It’s the perfect choice when I don’t want to bring a lot of things with me.
The other tools I work with: two different plastic palettes (since it’s harder to bring around a porcelain one), a ruler, an eraser, and my favorite find – my Faber-Castell collapsible water cup.
Last month, I also got a set of Pebeo gouache tubes. I haven’t had much time to play with them yet but I’ve been eyeing gouache for some time now and have been reading up about it, up until the point that I decided to just stop researching and go ahead with buying it.
Because the best way to research and learn a new medium is to use it! Right?
Here are swatches of the gouache. I made two versions of each color, one where I used nearly no water to get that chalky feel, and one where I used it like watercolor (but it still dried chalky).
I like the dried texture of it and it’s definitely more opaque than watercolor, even if you mix a lot of water in the paint. I know that I will definitely have fun experimenting with this and incorporating it into my watercolor paintings.
And then, there’s coffee. Coffee is most certainly an important (on some days, the most important) tool for me.
This very true and very beautifully calligraphed mug is a gift from Geli of Pluma.
That’s it! If you have any questions regarding any of these tools or just pursuing art in general, leave a comment below or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org, and I will gladly share what I know.