My Favorite Art Supplies

In general, I’m not a big shopper. I’ll continue wearing clothes or using tech long past the point it would be reasonable to upgrade. The one giant exception to my shopping rule is when it comes to buying art supplies. Stepping into an art store feels like Christmas morning to me. I have bins of art supplies I’ve bought without specific plans for; an inventory of tools I can utilize when the right idea emerges.


Here is a breakdown of my current favorite art supplies. The tools I turn to most often.



Paint


The two brands of watercolor paint I use are Daniel Smith and M. Graham & Co.


I like the color range that Daniel Smith offers and their quinacridone pigments are gorgeous. Quinacridone Burnt Scarlet and Burnt Orange are two colors that I use frequently in my work.


A couple of years ago I ordered a dot card from Daniel Smith to test out a small sample of nearly all the colors they offer. This gave me a sense of what their colors would look like on paper before I committed to purchasing full tubes of paint. I recommend doing this for anyone unsure of what colors to buy. The dot card contains enough paint of each color to do a few swatches and test how they interact with others.




I enjoy the vibrancy of M. Graham & Co. paints. The pigment load is very high and a little goes a long way. I’m still using 15mL tubes of M. Graham paint that I bought years ago. I've found that this brand stays softer and dries more slowly in their wells compared to other watercolor paint. I believe this is because this brand uses honey as their binding agent. I’ve found that I have to be careful when moving a palette containing M. Graham paints because I’m often wrong in my assumption that they are dry. A few times I’ve re-opened my palette after travelling or taking it outside to discover that my paints have shifted and spilled. It’s a small complaint for an otherwise very solid product.



Brushes


My preferred brushes are Kolinsky Sable. My work often includes a lot of small details and I find that these brushes keep a fine point for much longer than other brushes I’ve used. I always have these brushes in size 0, 1, and 2 on hand. If I need something larger than that, I’ll use a less expensive brush because the fine point usually isn’t necessary.


Paper


Much of my work has been painted on Arches 140lb Cold Press paper, but I’ve recently begun shifting to Arches 300lb hot press and cold press paper. I buy 22”x30” sheets and cut it to the specific sizes I require. This heavy paper can absorb a lot of water without buckling and withstand a lot of lifting and scrubbing without tearing. I prefer working with the smoother hot press paper for paintings with more detail.




Palette


I store the paints I’m actively using in a product called the Mini-Palette. I love the circular design and how compact it is. It came with a blank color wheel that I filled in with my watercolor paints and also includes a mixer dish that is great when I’m painting outside.



Mixing Tray


I use an 8”x10” porcelain tray to mix my paint on. I like this size because it’s not too large for my desk, but there’s enough space on the tray to mix multiple colors without the mixtures themselves mixing.




Gel Pen


In many of my paintings, I’ll use a Uni-ball Signo white gel pen for highlights and details. It’s great for creating starry skies, snowflakes, and bubbles. In my experience, other brands of white gel pen dry out fairly quickly, especially if stored upright. The Uni-ball Signo has a comparatively longer shelf-life.




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