I‘m periodically being asked to clarify what tools I use, be it brushes, paper, paints, gear, etc. While I am always more than happy to respond in detail, I don’t always have the time to do so. That’s why I thought of creating this page. This post is going to be constantly updated and I can easily link it to my replies. It can be easily accessed at any time.
Listed here are my recommended resources, such as videos, articles and books I recommend reading. I also list my favorite materials. This condensed list should help you filter what’s really important in case you’re just starting out in painting or perhaps inspire you if you’re a more experienced artist. Or simply satisfy your curiosity. Please take into consideration that these are my personal choices, based on my own experience. The list can be accessed easily directly from the main menu.
Feel free to leave a comment with your requests regarding additional resources or any questions you may have in the comments down below. The list is updated regularly. Relevant articles are directly linked for your convenience where available.
Index for easy navigation follows:
- Free Art Lessons by Categories
- Reviews & Tutorials
- Popular Series
- My Studio Gear for Archiving Artwork and Filming Demonstrations
- Highly Recommended Books
- DVDs I Recommend Watching
- Watercolor Supplies
- My Preferred Color Palette/Paint Selection
- Fountain Pens and Inks
- Dip Pens/Nibs
Free Art Lessons by Categories
- Video Lessons Series – Watch me paint from start to finish and benefit from in-depth discussion of the process
- Painting 101 Series – Lessons for beginners
- Design & Composition Series – Intermediate art lessons on design and composition
- Painting Philosophy Series – Advanced articles on art and philosophy of painting
Reviews & Tutorials
- Elements of Design
- Principles of Design
- Primer on Tonal Value
- Whitney Patterns
- Learn to Set Up Your Watercolor Palette
- Double Vision – one subject, two artists
- Learn to Photograph Your Artwork
- The Great Fountain Pen Ink Lightfastness Project!
My Studio Gear for Archiving Artwork and Filming Demonstrations
- Canon EOS 600D DSLR
- Canon 50 mm f/1.8 II
- Canon 85 mm f/1.8 USM
- Set of fluorescent lights calibrated to 5500K, 2x600W
- Color Checker Passport from X-Rite
- Adobe Lightroom for post-process
- CorelDRAW Suite for post-process
Detailed info can be obtained from “Photograph Your Artwork” series.
- Canon HF100 Camcorder and/or Canon EOS 600D DSLR + Carl Zeiss Jenna MC Flektogon f2.8/20mm lens
- Set of fluorescent lights calibrated to 5500K – 2x600W
- Adobe Premier Elements for editing
- CorelDRAW Suite for post-process
Highly Recommended Books
The following is a list of books I find to be an excellent source of knowledge and understanding.
- Complete Guide to Watercolor Painting by Edgar A. Whitney
- Seeing with a Painter’s Eye by Rex Brandt
- Watercolor Workshop by Robert E. Wood
- Webb on Watercolor by Frank Webb
- Composition for the Painter (Strengthen Your Paintings with Dynamic Composition) by Frank Webb
- Watercolor Energies by Frank Webb
- Expressive Drawing by Steve Aimone
- Cézanne’s Composition by Erle Loran
- Watercolor with an Eye for Design by Ratindra Das
- Watercolor Beyond Obvious Reality by Ratindra Das
- Keys to Drawing by Bert Dodson
DVDs I Recommend Watching
The following are films released on DVD by various production companies that I highly recommend watching. If you were to own just a handful of films, these should be on your shortlist. All of these films are excellent and well worth the money. If you’re interested in films not listed here, feel free to leave a comment down below, there’s a good chance I watched it and can comment on it.
- Frank Webb – Using Your Head, Heart & Hand
- Frank Webb – Painting by Design
- Frank Webb – Painting with Expression
- George James – Designing for Content, Yupo Master Class
- Polly Hammett – Design with the Figure
- John Salminen – A Designed Approach to Abstraction
Inspirational and Fun
- Frank Webb on Watercolor
- Ratindra Das – Painting a Personal Reality in Watercolor
Representational Painting with a Strong Emphasis on Design
- Eric Wiegardt – Painting Loosely from Photographs Series
The brands of paints I found most suitable for my needs. I use a combination of several brands. These offer either excellent value, quality, or both.
- Cheap Joe’s American Journey 37ml, Artist’s Quality: The best I’ve ever tried. High pigment load for a great price.
- Winsor & Newton 37ml, Artist’s Quality: Expensive but high quality. The 37ml line, however, is quite limited in the range of hues offered.
- M. Graham & Co. 15ml, Artist’s Quality: Very high pigment load, excellent consistency due to addition of honey. The honey is a double-edged sword, however, because the paints do not dry properly in thick application. They are great value though.
- LUKAS Aquarell 1862 24ml, Artist’s Quality: Perhaps not the best quality out there but the price is fair. In EU neither American Journey nor M. Graham is available and import has become very costly.
- Schmincke Horadam Aquarell 15ml: Very good quality, subjectively better than LUKAS Aquarell 1862, but quite expensive.
Paper I can recommend based on my own experience, sorted by my preference in case cost is not an object.
- Arches, any finish
- Lana Aquarelle, Cold Press
- Fabriano Artistico, Rough
- Winsor & Newton Heavy Weight Case Bound Sketch Book A5, 96 pages, 170gsm
- LEUCHTTURM1917 Hard Bound Dot Grid
I personally prefer Frank Webb palette but John Pike is a good choice as well. Open-well layout is a must in a watercolor palette for me personally, that’s why Frank Webb palette comes on top.
- Frank Webb Watercolor Palette
- John Pike Palette
A detailed discussion on several studio palettes can be found in this post.
Brushes are a very personal thing as they are an extension of our hands. I personally prefer having a set of good synthetic hair brushes as well as a natural hair. They are useful for various applications. The third necessary set is that of riggers. I use lettering brushes which are round at the ferrule but flat at the tip.
Robert Simmons, White Sable Series
These are hands-down the best synthetic brushes I’ve used. They are not as good as natural hair but are excellent all around brushes and by far the best you can get on a budget. I have a 3″, 2″, 1 1/2″, 1″ and 1/2″.
A good addition to the set is a Winsor & Newton 1″ series 995. This is a stiff brush that is not good for washes but rather details and dry brush effects.
Isabey, 6421 series, Petit Gris Pur
These are fairly responsive. They are pure squirrel hair. Probably a natural hair brushes that I love and use the most. The handles are short, restricting freedom of hand movement, but I still love handling them. I have #35 (1 1/2″) and #25 (1″).
Rosemary & Co, Series 90, Pure Sable Lettering
These are sable riggers. They are called lettering brushes because they have flat tip, instead of the standard pointed tip. I prefer flat tips because I also use flat brushes and my shapes tend to be quite abstract and angular. I have #2, #4, #6 and #8. This is a good selection for all paper sizes.
Other Good Natural Hair Brushes for Various Applications
Cheap Joe’s Bold Wash 2″ flat is very good natural mix that is unfortunately no longer available in the original hair composition. Great for washes, holds water very well.
daVinci Cosmotop Mix B #24 is very solid choice. It’s a natural mix that performs very well. I can only recommend this brush and the price is right. The #24 is somewhere between 1″ and 1 1/2″.
Winsor & Newton Artists’ Watercolour Sable One Stroke series 1/2″ is an excellent value brush. I could easily see myself getting the whole set of these. The larger sizes are expensive though and so for now I only have the 1/2″. These are not Kolinsky sables so they are more affordable.
Jackson’s Silk Wash Series 802 3″ is a very good, though a bit rough, brush for large washes. Creates texture as it doesn’t wet the paper evenly. Can be worked both ways though and I find it useful even for 1/4 sheet paintings. Excellent value, very cheap. Natural hair.
My Preferred Color Palette/Paint Selection
The following is my standard palette. From time to time some variation as to the brands used may occur due to availability in my region.
- Winsor Yellow (PY154) by Winsor & Newton
- Permanent Rose (PV19) by Winsor & Newton
- Winsor (Phthalo) Blue GS (PB15:3) by Winsor & Newton
- Pyrrol Orange (PO73) by M. Graham
- Phthalo Green (PG7) or Hooker’s Green by American Journey
- Winsor Violet Dioxazine (PV23) by Winsor & Newton
Additional colors (either alternatives/variations on the primaries or colors that I use sparingly here and there):
- Pyrrol Red (PR254)
- Permanent Alizarin Crimson (Quinacridone) (PV19)
- Ultramarine Blue (PB 29)
- Gold Ochre (PY42)
- Chinese White (PW4)
Fountain Pens and Inks
- Ranga Bamboo Ebonite Fountain Pen (JOWO Fude nib)
- Lamy Vista (with modded Lamy feed, equipped with a modded Lamy Fude nib)
- Noodler’s Ink Ahab (Noodler’s Broad nib)
The following inks made it high on my list for one reason or other. I have used them extensively, some for decades, and still enjoy and appreciate what they’re offering. The list is split to waterproof and partially or non-waterproof varieties.
I recommend you to take a look at my lightfastness tests to select inks that are suitable for artistic purposes and resist UV exposure well.
- Noodler’s Ink Heart of Darkness: Excellent value and flow properties. Also waterproof. Relatively good behavior. Noodler’s Black is usually considered the superior of the two but it does suffer from a substantial dry smear. No dry smear with the Heart of Darkness.
- De Atramentis Document Ink: Very pleasant ink to use, waterproof. Subjectively superior to Noodler’s Ink Heart of Darkness but much more expensive.
- De Atramentis Archive Ink & Platinum Carbon Black: Both are pigmented inks and I would only use these inks if cost is of no importance. The inks seem to be very durable. The one downside is a dry smear in both of them.
- KWZ Ink Iron Gall Blue Black: In my experience this is the best ink currently on the market, and not necessarily only for artists. This beautiful, well behaved and very permanent ink is a joy to use. Please read my review for further comments on its qualities. Beware of usage in expensive pens though.
Partial or No Water Resistance
- J. Herbin Cacao du Brésil: Wonderful ink, one of my favorites. Somewhat water resistant.
- Noodler’s Ink Rome Burning: One of a kind. In many respects. Aggressive ink like no other. Very few papers can handle it. By design the gold component washes off under water, violet remains.
- Pelikan Edelstein Tanzanite: Smooth as silk and mildly water resistant.
Parker Quink (Permanent) Blue: Not water resistant but one of my favorite inks of all time. I’ve been using it for nearly two decades.
*As I recently discovered after emptying my last bottle, the new stuff has been substantially reformulated. Not the same ink anymore.
- Parker Quink Black: Black that’s interesting. Very nice ink, not true black though. Not waterproof.
*Judging by the Blue Quink, the Black may have gone through reformulation as well but I cannot tell as I yet have to try a new bottle.
Ink Cards for Reviews
- maruman Mnemosyne Word Cards: I understand these are no longer made. They may still be available from some retailers. When I find a suitable alternative I’ll update you.
I use these pens and nibs for fun and for testing inks. Occasionally I use them for drawing ideas for future paintings in my sketchbook.
- J. Herbin glass dip pen
- Hiro Leonardt England, Poster nib
#P-8 and #P-15