This entire post is long due really. After creating plenty of watercolor tutorials, I realized there isn't one that talks about the basics. I'm kicking off the "watercolors for beginners" series with a post on basic supplies and a short exercises you can try. 

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Watercolors for beginners -Zakkiya Hamza| Inkstruck Studio

When I started this blog, I had no idea that it would turn into a full time profession. When Inkstruck Studio relaunched on January 31st last year, I was unsure where this would take me. After one year of full time blogging and creating, I can certainly say that it’s here to stay. And I couldn’t have done it without you. So, thank you! And as for being so amazing, you deserve to win awesome stuff.

I  did a watercolors for beginners post when I first began blogging but looking back, I felt that it needed updating because there’s hardly any content in it. If you want to see it, check out this post. My blogging style and photos are cringe-worthy here but you can see how much progress I’ve had and you can too if you try! This post is part of an ongoing watercolors for beginners series. I’ll put it on my menu bar under “LEARN WATERCOLORS” so that it’s easy to access.
{This post contains affiliate links. This means that I will earn a small percentage if you decide to buy from one of the links you click below.You will not be charged extra.}



Any paper that is specific to watercolors will have some amount of texture. The difference is only with how coarse the grain is. Now, I’m someone who believes that art has no rules. So, if you want to try watercoloring on an extremely smooth surface like Bristol, go ahead! There are mainly three different kinds of watercolor paper based on texture.

  • Hot press– This paper has the least amount of grain. It’s great for doing detailed watercolor illustrations.
  • Cold press-The most commonly used watercolor paper. The texture is semi-rough and is more pronounced than hot press paper.
  • Rough-Notice how pronounced the grain is in the image below?

Watercolors for beginners -Zakkiya Hamza| Inkstruck Studio

Arches Hot pressed watercolor paper is one of my absolute favorite paper to work with. I do most of my detailed watercolor paintings with this paper. I also love the Arches cold pressed watercolor paper for painting landscapes and Fabriano Artistico cold pressed paper in extra white for florals.(MUST HAVE)

An alternative to the Arches hot pressed is the Daler Rowney Langton Prestige hot pressed paper.

Watercolors for beginners -Zakkiya Hamza| Inkstruck Studio

The Winsor and Newton Cotman watercolor paper (cold press) was the first paper I invested in when I started painting with watercolors. They’re the student range from W/N and it’s brilliant for the price(good when starting out) but it is not 100% cotton.

Ok now you’re like, huh what is 100% cotton now? Watercolor papers are usually made from either cellulose or cotton paper. Most beginner watercolor paper is made from cellulose. Good to start with but not great with layering because the pigment isn’t absorbed as much.

If there is one thing I would invest in is good quality paper which says 100% cotton because there is such a difference when you paint on 100% cotton paper. The downside is that it is usually very expensive. But, my go-to watercolor paper for practice which is 100% cotton and easier on the pocket is the Bee watercolor paper. I love it!

The Daler Rowney Aquafine paper(cold press) is another beginner paper I’ve used. I’m not a huge fan of the grain it has but the paper is great otherwise.

Watercolors for beginners -Zakkiya Hamza| Inkstruck Studio

Sometimes you find certain hidden gems at local stores that are amazing for the price they’re at. If you’re in Qatar, hop over to the nearest Jarir store to grab the paper pad shown left below. They’re just $4 and make amazing practice pads. I go through a lot of these when I warm up or practice watercolors. They’re made in Malaysia, so if you’re from there, grab them!

I use the W/N Cotman watercolor postcards (right) for sending out illustrated postcards to friends and family.

I also love using my moleskine watercolor pad (bottom right) which I use as a visual journal but after having used the Arteza watercolor sketchbook, I’ve clearly ditched my moleskine and converted to this. It’s amazing. Plus if you’re in Doha, you can snag it in our shop HERE.

Another brilliant watercolor sketchbook I’ve used is Blue Pine Arts watercolor sketchbooks. They are such high quality and it is a small business that I especially love because of the superior quality of products.

Watercolors for beginners -Zakkiya Hamza| Inkstruck Studio


Watercolor paints come in pans and tubes. While pans are convenient for smaller paintings, tubes are good for mixing in large quantities. The prep time is greater with tubes but best for bigger paintings plus tubes are more economical than buying pans. The difference between student quality and artist quality watercolors are the quality of pigments and binder materials used.

My go-to paint supply sets are the Sennelier artist’s watercolor pan set and Mijello mission Gold watercolor set. Sennelier is honey based which makes it really creamy but it can also be extremely slow drying if you’re in a tropical country.

Watercolors for beginners -Zakkiya Hamza| Inkstruck Studio

The best thing about Winsor and Newton is that even their student range is amazing quality. You don’t need to pay a fortune to get good quality paints. If you’re low on budget, invest in these. W/N pan set is at $17.25(MUST HAVE) and the W/N tubes start at $26.

Watercolors for beginners -Zakkiya Hamza| Inkstruck Studio

Another great product for a low price and good for beginners is the Sakura Koi watercolor set. A drawback I’ve found is that they tend to chalky with use. But the water brush that comes with it is amazing for lettering and painting alike.

Please excuse the mess below! My toddler uses my old Koi set for his adventures in art. 😀

Watercolors for beginners -Zakkiya Hamza| Inkstruck Studio

If you want to invest in good quality watercolor paints but you do not want to spend excessively, I highly recommend buying the Daniel smith extra fine primary watercolor tubes set. It comes in three tubes of 15 ml and these are primaries, so you can color mix and form more than 80 different colors! More on that soon!

A few other brands that I’ve bought as individual tubes personally recommend are:-

Watercolors for beginners -Zakkiya Hamza| Inkstruck Studio

{Photo supplied at Dick Blick website.}


I’ve listed a variety of brushes I use and recommend but you don’t need to go and break your bank by buying the whole lot. These are my favorites from my never ending stash of brushes.

Watercolors for beginners -Zakkiya Hamza| Inkstruck Studio

  1. Simply Simmons filbert brush– Great for covering large areas with a curved periphery.
  2. Pebeo lotus deco flat brush– For a flat and even wash
  3. Hobby line synthetic round brush size 12(find similar here)- I love this brush for florals and landscapes. It  covers a large area and has a good spring to it.
  4. Silver black velvet script brush size 1-It holds shape and is perfect for fine line work and hair.
  5. Simply Simmons liner brush size 2/0-Similar to the previous brush but thinner and sturdier. Drawback is that it holds lesser water.
  6. Simply Simmons angle shader size 3/8
  7. Winsor and Newton series 240 goat hair wash brush size 3– I love this brush for covering a large area quickly. The brush holds an insane amount of water and is perfect for rapid paintings.
  8. Simply Simmons spotter brush size 10/0-I love this brush for extremely fine details like short fur,pores and stippling.
  9. Silver black velvet round brush no.8-I saved the best for the last! Even if you don’t get any of the above brushes, get this one! This brush is the best for practically anything. It holds shape and water. It feels like velvet while painting and it can create a sharp point.You can create a beautiful wash and you can even create details with it.

Watercolors for beginners -Zakkiya Hamza| Inkstruck Studio


They come in plastic or porcelain and in different shapes and sizes.

Watercolors for beginners -Zakkiya Hamza| Inkstruck Studio

5.Miscellaneous supplies

  1. Art masking fluid-My paint with straws tutorial and masking fluid tutorial(please excuse the amateur photos) explains all about this product. Always use an old or cheap brush because this tends to ruin the hair.
  2. White acrylic ink-Great for highlights.My starry night tutorial talks about this art supply.
  3. Gouache-I use this medium in addition to watercolor sometimes. If I need a particular detail to layer over and pop, I mix a bit of watercolor with white gouache to get the desired result.
  4. Calligraphy pen-I picked the fabulous tip of using calligraphy pen with masking fluid from Yao Cheng’s class on Creative Bug.
  5. Salt- Excellent for creating texture. My post on using the salt technique talks about this method.

A few other things I use in addition are

Watercolors for beginners -Zakkiya Hamza| Inkstruck Studio

I’ve also included short exercises on how watercolors work. As the name suggests, water is main component that brings out the beauty in this medium. You can create beautiful effects when the color is pigmented and even when it is diluted.I’m hoping you would try the exercises I’ve explained below. These are great warm up method and you’ll get a good feel of how the medium works.

Watercolors for beginners Exercise 1:-

  1. Load your brush with a good amount of pigment. Lay it down on paper.
  2. Remove some of the pigment with water and use the color you’ve laid down to drag it forward.
  3. Repeat step 2 and move further.
  4. Wash your brush completely and use only the paint left after step 3 and drag forward.

Watercolors for beginners -Zakkiya Hamza| Inkstruck Studio

Watercolors for beginners Exercise 2:-

You  can also use the below exercise by watering down the pigment in your brush as you progress. I’m hoping the photos are self explanatory.

Watercolors for beginners -Zakkiya Hamza| Inkstruck Studio

Watercolors for beginners Exercise 3:-

This exercise is to help you understand that although watercolors have a mind of their own and produce fabulous results, you can lead the way. The 1st image shows the result after the watercolor has dried.

Here, I’ve used two colors, “mauve” on the left and “turquoise” on the right. In the bottom left image, I painted the colors on either side and allowed “turquoise” to seep into “mauve”. Whereas, in the bottom right image, I allowed “mauve” to seep into “turquoise”. See how different the results are?

Watercolors for beginners -Zakkiya Hamza| Inkstruck Studio

I know the post is long but I didn’t want to create a half baked one that will leave you thinking. If you still have questions, feel free to ask.I hope my watercolors for beginners series will help you overcome the fear of trying it. 

Until next time. x

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Beginner watercolor supplies to help start your journey by Zakkiya Hamza of Inkstruck Studio