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Class Notes

Syn Studio Expressive Watercolor Painting Supply List:


If you plant to do this on a regular basis, the cheapest approach is to buy sheets of artist grade 140lb cold press paper and cut it down into half and quarter sheets as needed.

Cheap paper is a false savings. It won’t accept the washes smoothly, and will buckle or bleed through. So please, go for Arches 140lb or Strathmore Series 500 papers. Look for Cold Press medium texture, not smooth (called hot press) and not rough. These optional surfaces are for advanced special effects. Medium is the ‘normal’ texture. Smooth enough to get a nice drawing, yet rough enough do some dry brushing.

Five full sheets will probably be enough for the 10 weeks (unless you do a lot of homework). (Remember, you can paint on both sides if you want to save paper).

OR you can buy a some pads of 140lb cold press. 9×12″, 12×16″ and 16×20″ are useful sizes. Get one of each. I like Canson Montval or Strathmore series 300 pads for sketching. These are mid-grade papers that are fine for beginners, or when you want a smoother surface. They are less absorbent and give smoother washes than natural cotton rag paper. Some people like that, some find it ‘clinical’ feeling. You can get the top quality Strathmore Series 500 in pads as well. And Arches 140lb in blocks. (Pads gummed on all four sides – no taping required).

Watercolor Supplies (1)

Watercolor Supplies (4)


Minimum, two pieces of Coroplast, Plexiglass or 1/8” wood panels (your choice) cut to 14×18” and 18×24” for quarter and half size sheets. You can get large sheets from hardware stores, or ready cut sizes from art supply shops – at a much  higher price. If you are really into this, get more than two of each. You can work faster being able to switch back and forth between prepared sheets while waiting for paper to dry. Plus you often want to leave your painting taped down over night to dry flat.  You will still need these boards if you are using pads of paper, but not if you go for blocks.


Good brands are Windsor and Newton, Holbein, Senellier.  You can mix brands freely. Note: you need Artist grade not student quality. W&N “Cotman” line are not artist grade. Student grade paint has less pigment, and can result in weak, tentative paintings.

My basic colors are: Alizarin Crimson, Yellow Ocher, Ultramarine Blue, Cerulean Blue, Sap Green, and Burnt Sienna.

Optional highly useful colors are Lamp Black, Cadmium Red Light, Cadmium Yellow Light, Prussian Blue.

Very optional special effect colors are Holbein Lilac (a opaque-ish light pink), and Holbein Shadow Green (a powerful cool dark), Van Dyke Brown (a deep warm dark).

It is very useful to have Opaque White Gouache and perhaps an Ivory Black Gouache. You can mix these with watercolor to make ‘body colors’ – opaque mixes that can be used bring back details on top. This is not traditional watercolor, but can be useful at times.

NOTE: You really need tube colors. If you bring a ‘travel set’ of pans, you won’t be able to mix complex colors, you’ll have a hard time making large washes, and/or getting enough pigment strength released from the pan. In general your paintings are likely to end up pale and cartoon-like. Pans are only useful for working in a small sketchbook, ideally by the side of the road in the south of France.


You will need a folding plastic palette with sloped wells for holding the pigments. It should have a few mixing areas for your washes. Don’t get the smallest one. You need to mix enough paint to avoid running out in the middle of a wash. The really nice ones have a rubber seal to keep the paint damp between sessions.


You need a few sizes. Large enough brushes are vital – otherwise washes will end up overworked with many small strokes instead of one smooth passage. Small brushes are also vital. You can’t hope to put in tiny finishing details without them.

You need a range of sizes in rounds: #0,#2 #4, #10, #16 and #20. They wear out eventually, so it wouldn’t hurt to get two of each small one. Consider a 1″ or 1.5″ flat for bigger areas.

Synthetic is fine. Natural sable is great, but don’t break the bank on my account. I use sable for the small ones and synthetic for the big stuff.

It is important to inspect the tip of the brushes you buy. You want a sharp point, not frayed. Most stores will let you have some water and scrap paper to test brushes.  I use rounds almost exclusively, I always want to have a point to draw with.

Watercolor Supplies (2)


  • 500 ml leak proof water container. Nalgene brand is great, found at camping supply stores. Bigger is great, smaller is not – too little water will make a grey looking painting.
  • 1” masking tape, NOT low tack painters tape.
  • Paper towels for blotting.
  • Mechanical pencil. Please NOT a wooden pencil, regardless of what you may have been told about the evils of mechanical pencils in life drawing. For watercolor, you will dirty your painting with too much graphite under drawing.
  • Kneaded rubber eraser. NOT a white art eraser – or god forbid a pink student eraser – these are too hard on the paper surface.
  • A case to protect brushes is a great optional idea.
  • A hair dryer is VERY handy, but optional. A folding paper fan is another solution to avoid waiting for paper to dry.
  • A watercolor easel is great. One that tilts flat, not a vertical oil painters easel.

Watercolor Supplies (3)

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