best watercolor paints

Best Watercolor Paints – All about Professional Watercolor Paints


Are you a seasoned watercolor artist or just beginning to experiment with this amazing medium? Whatever the case there is one common question, ‘Which watercolor brands to choose and what are the best watercolor paints available?’ Also, there may be a few things to look out for when choosing the best watercolor set. To answer these questions and more, keep reading to find out about the best watercolor paints for professionals and beginners.




What is Watercolor Paint?

To make the best choices when it comes to watercolor paints, it is always a good idea to have some knowledge on the subject. You will then be able to distinguish between the good and the bad and, in the end, create better art pieces and save money in the long run. Watercolor paint is a wonderful and simple art medium. You have your color pigment, which has been added to a water-soluble binder. When water is added, the paint liquefies, and the pigment can then be used to paint with.

The two main ingredients for watercolors you purchase from the store:

  • Binder: This is either a synthetic glycol or generally it is natural gum Arabic. The binder keeps the color pigment in suspension and also helps to adhere the pigment to the surface you are painting on
  • Color Pigments: The pigment is ground to a fine powder and can be natural or synthetic. You can get 100 or more different color pigments for watercolor paints. Some natural pigments are rare, which is why they can be a bit more expensive

Besides these two main ingredients, watercolor paints can also have certain solvents, filler, or additives included. These are added to modify the paint features, for example, to increase paint durability, to change the viscosity, or add brightness, and more.

watercolor brands



Pros and Cons of Watercolor Paint

When it comes to watercolor painting, it is difficult to get things right the first time or many times after that. The fluid character of watercolor paints needs experience and practice to get right. Many times, while painting with watercolors they produce some surprising results, which makes it an interesting and fun medium to work with.

Below are a few pros and cons bear in mind when purchasing your watercolors.


  • Since this medium is obviously water-based, it can be a lot easier and cleaner to work with when compared to acrylic paints
  • There is no unpleasant odor
  • The best watercolors​ dry fast, some may even use a hairdryer to speed things up even more
  • Working with watercolors is simple and easy
  • Watercolors can be taken anywhere, easy and light to travel with
  • Clean-up is easy, brushes can be cleaned by using a bit of water and soap
  • Easily salvage paint not used, the paint will dry on your palette and all you need to do is add a little water to use again
  • Using watercolors can be the best medium for certain subjects. For example, perfect for embodying water
  • Come in a variety of amazing vibrant colors
  • Various watercolor brands are readily available
  • More affordable than other mediums​


  • The surface or material you use watercolors on needs to soak up the paint. This limits you to certain materials, if used on non-compatible surfaces, the paint will simply slide off and you will not be able to create what you want
  • Paper is the material of choice for watercolors, but this needs to be properly cared for. Sometimes, the paint can crack and can start to lighten if left in the sun. So, you will need to know how to keep your watercolor pieces looking good
  • Watercolor painting can be difficult, you need to learn how to handle the liquid paint. You might need to discard a few pieces of paper before getting a technique right
  • Making alterations is not easy, you will have to try and conceal mistakes or start over
  • Wasting time, as you need to hang aound until the paint has dried if you want to add layers. Also, in climates where it is hot and the paint dries too fast, it may produce hard edges



Best Watercolors – Our Top #4


Best Watercolor for Beginners: Daler Rowney

This best watercolor set is great for students or beginners and comes in 12 paint colors, all in 12 ml tubes. This is an excellent watercolor set if you wish to practice your watercolor techniques, as it is an affordable option when compared to other products. Can be used on all standard watercolor surfaces and each color can be mixed to create an infinite number of color variations. You will also notice, even if these are more on the low-cost side, they still provide vibrant transparent colors.

DALER ROWNEY Simply Watercolour Set, 12 x 12ml Tubes
  • Daler-Rowney is renowned as a world leading fine art materials supplier
  • Suitable for all conventional art surfaces
  • Suitable for students and home use, contains 12x12ml tubes
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  • Affordable
  • Offers vibrant colors
  • Blends easily
  • Binds perfectly to watercolor paper
  • They mostly rewet nicely


  • May clump and streak
  • Some of the watercolor paints may produce a slightly ‘chalky’ appearance

Overall, the Daler Rowney watercolor set is an excellent option when it comes to price and quality.



Best Watercolor Paints for Professionals: Schmincke Horadam

These professional watercolor paints come from a German brand that has been creating their own formulas since 1881. Each formula produced makes use of natural ingredients of high-quality. This half-pan metal professional watercolor paint comes with 48 amazing highly pigmented colors.

SCHMINCKE Aquarell Half-Pan Paint Metal Set, 48 Colors
  • Superior quality, natural ingredients are carefully selected for highest optimization
  • Enables to decide as to where the paint should flow moist or stay dry on the paper
  • 48 colors included in set
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  • Excellent paint quality with finely milled paint that has exceptionally low granulation
  • Highly- pigmented watercolors
  • Comes in a sturdy yet light tin
  • Included is a handy color guide or swatch card


  • Does not come with a brush

​When it comes to quality and the best watercolor paints for professionals, then the Schmincke Horadam watercolor set might just be what you are looking for.



Best Price / Performance Ratio: ARTEZA Watercolor Paint

The ARTEZA best watercolor set comes in 12 color tubes, every 12 ml, and these are packed in a storage box. You should be able to produce an amazing painting from the watercolors, as they offer a highly pigmented color.

ARTEZA Watercolor Paint Set with Storage Box, 12 Colors
  • Set of 12 Arteza premium watercolor paint 12 ml tubes
  • Dry quickly and are re-usable once dry
  • Perfect Starter Kit, ACMI Certified
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  • Vibrant colors
  • Non-toxic
  • Offers detailed labels
  • Certified with The Art and Creative Material Institute (ACMI)


  • Dries quickly and may flake once dry
  • Not for professional use

This product is of high-quality quality and it is reasonably priced, perfect for those just starting in the world of watercolors.



Best Watercolor Set: Winsor & Newton Cotman

Winsor and Newton Cotman are considered the best watercolor set and are a popular choice amongst artists. The company is recognized for coming up with some beautiful paint shades of high-quality. However, costs are made more affordable because a few of the more expensive pigments are replaced by more affordable alternatives. Comes in an easy to handle plastic box, which has a mixing palette inside the lid. The watercolor set has 12 Watercolor half pans ranging in colors from Ultramarine, Yellow Ochre to Sap Green and Viridian Hue, and more. The set also has its own pocket brush.

WINSOR & NEWTON Cotman Water Colours Pocket Box, 14 pieces
  • This water colour set contains a pocket brush and 12 Cotman Water Colours
  • Good transparency, excellent tinting strength and good working properties
  • This popular pocket-sized plastic box features an integral mixing palette in the lid
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  • Has superb tinting strength
  • Great transparency
  • Easy to work with
  • Cost-effective when compared to similar products
  • Pocket-size box
  • Comes with its own pocket brush


  • Does not contain black color, cannot make grey shades
  • Small size

Colors mix easily and the paint has excellent color transparency and quality, all at an affordable price.



What to Look out for when Buying Watercolor Paint?


Professional or Student Grad Paints

You might notice that professional watercolor paints are more expensive than others. This is because the manufacturers use high-quality pigments in their formulas. The pigments are where the high costs lie, so to create student Grad Paints that are less expensive, the expensive pigments are exchanged for lower-cost alternatives, or the paint contains less pigment.

If you are a student or beginner, there is nothing wrong with using cheaper paints. However, you can still purchase cheaper versions, just make sure you stick to well-known and popular brands. You can easily purchase good affordable brands from Amazon. Once you have gained some experience in watercolor painting, you can then move forward and start using professional paints.


Pans or Tubes

The best watercolors come in tubes or you can get them in shallow pans. Pans are small containers or pans that contain the dry paint which needs to be wetted. There are two sizes available: half pan and a full pan. However, many would recommend you choose paints that come in tubes. Why? There are quite a few reasons but the chief one is that not all brands provide their paints in pans.

One of the major disadvantages of pans is that they come in color palettes, you get that specific set of paints, and there is no selecting your own colors. To get a better mixing range of colors, it is a good idea to select your own colors. However, watercolors in pans are great for beginners, who are still learning techniques, etc. Paint tubes also provide a more concentrated color out of the tube.


Pros and Cons of Paint Tubes


  • Since you can squeeze as much paint as you need, it better covers larger areas
  • Excess paint can be reactivated by adding a little water when dry
  • Provides immediate color intensity
  • Is already moist and in a paste consistency


  • If you forget to replace the cap, the paint will dry inside the tube
  • Tubes can crack or break
  • If you have a collection of tubes, it might take time to select the right colors

Pros and Cons for Pans


  • The paint is dry and can easily be transported
  • Long-lasting
  • Easy to store and transport


  • May take time to get the correct workable consistency and color intensity
  • If the pans are left in the open, dust can collect on the paint


Pigment Density

Pigments are finely ground colors and span 0.05 up to 0.5 microns. This size is so small it can seep into the paper it is on, where it remains. The pigments also have differing densities, which then affects how they stick to the paper fibers. The various results of these different densities can cause flocculation or granulation (see point 5.7).

Note: Pigment volume is different from density and refers to the number of pigments in the paint.

best watercolor paints for professionals


Staining vs. Non-Staining

Staining in watercolors means that after the paint has dried properly, you cannot remove or lift it off the surface without difficulty. When you have a heavy stain, however, the paint is permanent. On the other hand, a light stain is when the paint can be removed but a light color will remain.

Some paints stain more than others and two factors contribute to staining:

  • How the paint is manufactured
  • What type of paper you use

Pigments that stain are those that are smaller and can get into the paper fiber more easily. Since a stain is more difficult to remove, you need to be more aware when using them, as any corrections might prove problematic. However, they also provide vibrant colors. Staining colors are recommended more for techniques such as layering or glazing.

Non-staining color pigments are larger and remain on the paper surface, which makes it easier to remove. These are good for producing different effects, for example, when it is dry, some paint can be removed for a highlighted effect. Therefore, you are still able to work with the paint, even if it dries. Simply reactivate with a little water to move it around.



This simply means how a particular paint reacts when exposed to light, how long will it take for it to fade or discolor. This is measured according to the American Standard Test Measure and can rate from extremely poor to excellent. These guidelines are to help you if you decide to display your artwork where there is a lot of direct sunlight. You can protect your painting by framing and placing it behind glass. Unfortunately, eventually, there will be some fading of colors.



You get some watercolor paints that are more transparent than other paints. You can check the rating for transparency, which falls into three categories: opaque, semi-transparent, and transparent. When using transparent paint, it will allow any previous paint layers to still show through, creating a specific color effect.



Granular pigments are generally bigger and weightier than finer pigments and they tend to be unevenly spread out, which provides a grainy quality to the paper surface. Some prefer smooth colors, but others like to experiment and add amazing textures to their paintings. So, it is a matter of preference.

Once you have some experience with the paints, you will learn which paints will granulate. Think about doing some research if you have bought more high-quality paper. Manufacturers have their own formulas, so in certain circumstances, a similar color from two different manufacturers will not react the same. You will save your money and your time by checking in advance.

best watercolors



You do usually get what you pay for, the more expensive professional watercolors will make a big difference when compared to the cheaper varieties. Some examples of price comparisons: Student or beginner watercolor paints: We have mentioned the Daler Rowney watercolor set above, which goes for $16.22. Professional Quality watercolors: This watercolor set goes for $87.57. Each of these sets has 12 colors, so there is quite an obvious contrast in price between the two. However, it is all subject to your needs. Are you a beginner on a budget looking to start out with watercolors or are you a professional looking for the best watercolors? Either way, always choose a well-known brand to avoid any really bad choices.



Which Colors to Start with?

Color can have an intense effect on those who are viewing it. Colors can set the mood or provoke a certain emotion. Simply gazing at certain colors can calm or excite a person. When painting, you might want to be able to create both vibrant colors and more transparent colors. Therefore, you should have a selection at hand to create various mixing potentials.

To start with, it is a good idea, to begin with, six primary colors, each with a slightly lighter and darker hue. So, in the end, you will have a set that can produce a wide range of color mixes and a basic color palette. The amount of colors also depends on each artist, some like working with a few colors, while others like more of a variety. As you move forward, you will begin to find out what you like best.

After all, painting is some parts of talent but mostly practice. Have fun and experiment with different colors and techniques, this will help you to learn what works and what does not. The entire process should be a fun way of learning and creating.

There are many watercolor techniques and things you can learn along the way. Some of these things include learning how to mix the colors, how to build glazes, laying washes, wetting, creating textures and these are only a few techniques you will want to familiarize yourself with. But choosing the best watercolors is a move in the right direction.

Do you need help painting with watercolors? Check out our Watercolor Painting Tips article.



The most famous Watercolor Brands

You can easily check out Amazon to see which watercolors are more popular and to read the reviews before purchasing. Some of the more well-known and best watercolor brands include:

  • For Professionals: Schmincke Horadam
  • For beginners: Daler Rowney Watercolor Paints
  • Top Color Variety: Daniel Smith Watercolor
  • Top Traditional: Winsor & Newton Watercolor Box
  • Top General: M.Graham Watercolor Tubes
  • Top Portable: Sakura Pocket Field Sketch Box
  • Top Paints for blending: Sennelier Watercolors
  • Top watercolors for kids: Prang Watercolor Paints



Choosing the perfect Paintbrush for Watercolor

To create a quality watercolor piece, you not only have to have good watercolor paints, but you need to choose the correct brush. When it comes to a paintbrush for watercolors, you need to look at three things:

  • The size of the brush
  • Brush shape
  • Type of brush hair

Start off by taking note of the kind of brush it is, is it natural or synthetic? In all circumstances, a natural brush is always better than a synthetic one. Cost may also be a factor, so if you are only starting out and can only afford one brush, try to get a brush that is natural and round. Otherwise, go for one small and one medium natural brush. To start with these are fine, you can always get more once you have more experience. A single brush is all you really need to create your watercolor art piece.


Things to Consider when Looking for a Watercolor Paintbrush

  • Natural Hair: natural is the best option, but these can unfortunately be quite expensive. However, if you choose something like sable hair, you will have a brush that should last an exceptionally long time. Squirrel hair is another option, which is great for a mop brush. Other options include ox hair for a square brush and goat hair, which is perfect to cover large areas
  • Synthetic Brushes: These are a more affordable option, and you can get some good brushes. Synthetic brushes do need a little more loving care, but if you look after them, they should last quite a while. But you will have to replace these brushes most probably after a few years
  • Size: depending on what you are painting, you can get brushes from large to really small and delicate. Maybe get a variety of sizes, as there are many types of brushes, but you will not have to get them all. Even if you start with one round large or medium brush should be fine, as you can create larger washes and more detailed strokes with the single brush
  • Shape: There are many different shapes, each has its own function and providing different effects

watercolor brushes


Types of Brush Shapes

Round Brush: This is an extremely versatile brush; it can be used for finer details and larger washes. You make the changes by simply changing the applied pressure and angle of the brush.

Oval Wash: Similar in shape to a make-up brush, it is used for swiftly creating larger washes and wetting the paper.

Flat Brush: These can embrace a few colors and the edges can be used to make sharp lines. It can also cover larger areas.

Mop Brush: These quickly paint large areas and also for wetting paper.

Square Wash Brush: Shorter than the flat brush, it works for washes and wetting the paper.

Angular Brush: Brush hairs form an angle and this type of brush is used for more exact strokes.

Liner or Script Brush: Perfect for finer details, the brush forms a point and is quite narrow.



Frequently Asked Questions


Do you use Water with Watercolor Paint

Yes, you will purchase your watercolor paints in either a tube or pan, and to use you will mix with water. The amount of water you use will decide the hue and depth of the paint and create the effect you are looking for.

professional watercolor paints


What is the best Watercolor Paint for Beginners?

There are many options on the market today and if you are a beginner, it might be a bit daunting. To ensure you choose a good watercolor option to start with, always go for the well-known and popular brands. Consider either the Daler Rowney Watercolor Tubes or the Winsor & Newton Cotman Watercolor Sketchers Pocket Box to start with.


Are Watercolor Paints Washable?

You get two types of watercolor paints, stain, and non-stain or washable. The washable watercolors can be removed from your paper, helping to create certain effects. Also, if you get it onto your clothes, you can wash it out if you follow a few simple steps.


Why is Watercolor so expensive?

Watercolor paints are more expensive because they contain more color pigments, and many of these pigments can be quite expensive. Some pigments are more expensive and more difficult to obtain, which also influences the cost, but many manufacturers sometimes also use cheaper color alternatives to bring costs down.


Can you Use Watercolor on Canvas?

Yes, you can use watercolor on canvas if you are preparing the canvas properly. Have a look at our in-depth article on how to use watercolor on canvas.


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