The #1 question I get asked is what type/brand of watercolors do I use. In general, I use professional, artist grade tube watercolors. The "Blick Shop Now" button (to the right) will get you to dickblick's main watercolor product page.
From there you can buy paints according to your budget. Generally, when it comes to watercolor and quality, you get what you pay for.
To fill your color wheel palette with professional artist-grade tube watercolors like mine, I've made a convenient course supply list with BlickU, titled "Art Lessons with Gina Lee Kim", so that you can add them to your dickblick cart. I've tested these colors so that any complimentary pair will yield nice neutrals, darks, and even blacks. Here's how I fill my color wheel palette, going clockwise:
12 o'clock = Yellow (hansa yellow)
1 o'clock = Yellow-green (permanent green light)
2 o'clock = Green (viridian)
3 o'clock = Blue-green (phthalo turquoise)
4 o'clock = Blue (peacock blue)
5 o'clock = Blue-violet (ultramarine deep)
6 o'clock = Violet (ultramarine violet)
7 o'clock = Red-violet (permanent magenta)
8 o'clock = Red (quinacridone rose)
9 o'clock = Red-orange (cadmium red)
10 o'clock = Orange (brilliant orange)
11 o'clock = Yellow-orange (gamboge)
PALETTES & PAINT SETS
Color wheel palette. This palette corresponds nicely with the traditional 12-color wheel study.
Airtight travel palette. 18 wells, long and sleek. Made with durable plastic.
Japanese Gansai Tambi Watercolors 36 large set that also come in smaller sets, too.
One of my favorite watercolor papers that's truly luxurious to work with has a high cotton-rag content. Wonderful for lifting and/or glazing color! I cut a full-sheet (22 x 30") into manageable quarter sheets.
I found a highly affordable yet good quality watercolor paper for art journaling that's spiral-bound and a hardcover: I own this watercolor field sketchbook in both 7x10" and 9x12" sizes. I take the wire binding out and re-bind the loose sheets later on with a binding machine (see section below called OTHER ACCESSORIES).
My favorite travel water brushes. I've tested all kinds of brands and these are the best because you don't need to deal with a one-way valve.
Plein Air Travel Brushes. These cute little brush set fits nicely into my travel art bag. Nice short handles with golden taklon bristles.
Mini water brushes with shorter reservoir handles, serve as good back-up in any travel kit (fill one with acrylic ink, metallic ink, or black india ink instead of water).
Small travel watercolor set. A field sketch box that's easy to carry and made with durable plastic.
Peerless watercolors are the lightest travel system of all. Because they come in sheets, you can cut them into little squares. (Pinterest has a ton of ideas on how to make your own palette "booklet". I made one too, like this).
Empty plastic half-pans or full-pans to make your own mini-watercolor travel palette. I emptied out a tiny Trader Joe's chai green mint tin.
Plastic lead holder. Makes things much easier (nothing to sharpen and less messy). Don't forget to get lead refills.
My "bare minimum" watercolors to fill your DIY mini-palette:
1) this cobalt yellow
2) this neutral orange
3) this brilliant rose
4) this cobalt violet
5) this cobalt blue
6) this neutral green (or a cobalt green)
Metal pencil sketch set. I've modified this metal case and added a bunch of more stuff (like my DIY tiny palette as seen in this video).
Note: from washes to glazes to painting trees, I can't live without my large round brush. It is the workhorse in my studio. But when it comes to finding one online, it can be confusing due to manufacturers using their own numbering systems. Here, I did the leg-work for you:
Robert Simmons Sienna #30 or 36 synthetic.
Silver Black Velvet (medium jumbo) natural squirrel hair mixed with synthetic.
Stratford & York #20 or #24 synthetic (formally known as Rydal Gold).
Da Vinci Cosmotop #20 natural kolinsky red sable, sabline & russian fitch hair mixed with synthetic. Warning: cost > $50 but handles washes like nothing else.Robert Simmons White Sables oval wash synthetics. The tips are flat yet rounded and are truly versatile. I own all the sizes.
A good white gel pen is essential in art journaling [tip: you need to write slow with them].
This is the best white, extra fine point, water-based paint marker, in my opinion.
Sakura makes a wonderful water-based brush pen that acts like an artist brush. You can blend and layer the colors. There are smaller sets to fit your budget.
Binding machine along with different binding wires to choose from. (I love my binding machine and explain why I use it here).
A great color chart that includes grayscale value. Very handy.
A nice, large tube of white gouache. Because I always run out of white.
Synthetic ox gall is an important additive while painting in gouache. I like how this one comes in a dropper bottle.
Colored gluesticks are too much fun! They can be used as glue or to add vibrant color to your page.
Affordable oil pastels that come in either fluorescent or metallic.
Transparency sheets or Dura-lar (I like the .005" thickness....great for sewing and making stencils).
To quickly age or stain paper, I use either Tim Holtz Distress Stain or the new spray stain in walnut.
Foil transfer sheets to add some bling to any project. Be sure to get the special adhesive as well.
Iridescent sparkle confetti. You can also get them at Michael's gift-wrapping section.
A variety of waterbased paint markers that are non-toxic.