I always encourage students to begin my classes with whatever you already have on hand, and then build your tools collection over time. This helps lower the barrier to entry a bit, as you are not required to buy a huge list of supplies to be successful. Instead, most students add to their collection of materials over time once they get to know my classes and what landscapes they are most interested in.
With that said, folks often ask for a recommended list to get started, so I am providing that here. Again, you do not need to purchase these specific items to begin or be successful in the classes.
And, if you have any questions, especially if you are a new student and starting with no supplies at all, feel free to email me! [email protected] .
Here's the basic list of materials used in the Adventure Art Academy classes. Scroll down for specific product recommendations and more info:
- Watercolor paints: a variety of each primary color (red, blue, yellow), and a very dark grey or black
- Paint brushes: a medium-sized round brush that comes to a fine tip (and a smaller one if it does not make fine lines). Fun to have a larger round as well
- Pencil and eraser
- Waterproof fine tipped pen
- Paper Towel or rag
- Watercolor Paper: any paper made "for water-media" will work, but a 100% cotton paper (such as Arches cold press) will give the best results.
- Paper to practice techniques on- anything for water media and cheap!
- Cup for water (or portable tin)
- Palette or mixing surface for paints
- If taking your supplies outside- a bag to carry everything in, a large envelope, and piece of cardboard for a stiff surface to paint on
- Comfortable desk and chair indoors, and a sit pad or chair outside!
When buying paint there are a few options. The first is a starter watercolor set (like the Cotman palette listed below) which is great if you are looking for a cheaper way to try out painting.
Then, there are the higher quality "artist" or "pro" quality pigments that cost more because of a higher pigment load and different raw materials. These paints will often be easier to work with and have more unique personalities, as well! When I teach, I demo everything using this kind of high quality paint made by Daniel Smith, as I like to teaching using the same materials I work with in the studio and outdoors.
You do not need the exact same colors I use to have fun in the classes!
A good starter set that I've tried out is the Windsor & Newton Cotman 20 color palette. This compact set of colors is perfect if you are just starting out and aren't quite sure if you are going to stick with watercolor. These paints will not be as vibrant or highly pigmented as mine, but they work well enough that you can get a general feel for the medium.
If you are looking to invest in some higher quality paint that will last a long time, I personally love Daniel Smith paints. I've used these since the beginning of my painting journey, and stuck with them because they are more often on sale and easier to find online than some of the other artist quality paints. Ten+ years later and I'm still so happy with them (and still have some of my original tubes!).
When buying paint you can get it in pre-filled and dried pans or in tubes of color. I recommend the tubes just because you get so much more paint, especially if you are willing to spend the extra for the 15ml tubes instead o the tiny 5ml tubes. In addition, none of the current pan-palettes from Daniel Smith match up well with my list of colors most used in the Adventure Art Academy classes. The 15ml tubes cost more but are a better value per ml, and I buy all of mine from Blick, which often has some kind of discount going.
Here's a list of the colors I recommend if you are just getting started in the classes. Again, you don't need these exact colors to be successful, as I focus a lot on teaching you how to mix beautiful colors from variations of the primary colors. This list of eight colors is based on what I use the most in the lessons.
- Quinacridone Rose
- Perylene Red
- Hansa yellow medium
- New Gamboge or Quinacridone Gold
- Phthalo Blue GREEN shade
- Cobalt Blue
- Indanthrone Blue
- Neutral tint
The other colors I use frequently in my classes are:
- Ultramarine Blue
- Quinacridone Gold
- Quinacridone Burnt Orange
- White gouache (Schmincke brand)
- Indian red (named after the country of origin) or burnt sienna
Palettes: If you need a mixing area, the dried pan palettes will have an area for this built in. If you buy the tubes, you can squeeze them out onto a white plate with space for mixing, or you can also buy a palette to fill with the colors. Because I take my paints hiking so often, my primary palette is made by Art Toolkit, and it is very light and compact and what I've used for the last 13 years! (The code ARTOFHIKING5 will give you 5% off most of their products.)
If you are looking for a cheaper and bigger option to use at home, I like this aluminum palette because the wells for the colors are easy to access, and you don't need to fill them very full! The 12-well version is also quite small.
In addition to paint, paper can make a huge difference in how easy, fun, and cooperative watercolor can feel. I like having two kinds of paper on hand.
1. Practice paper, like the Canson XL watercolor paper pads, which are great for color mixing experiments and the techniques practice section of each lesson.
2. Cotton paper, such as Arches 140lb cold press. (Arches is the brand name, cold press means that the paper has a bit of texture to it, which I find more forgiving than the smooth hot press. And the lb number refers to the paper weight.) The cheapest way to buy the paper is in a five pack of big sheets I just tear or cut to size from Blick, which is shipped in a flat cardboard box also convenient for storing paintings! You can also buy pads of the paper with glued edges that keep the paper from getting as warped.
When working small I often don't notice the impact of the paper as much because I can cover a lot of the area in a short time. Once I start working 8x10 inches or larger, however, many of the cheaper papers will dry out too quickly.
I'm often asked if I use a sketchbook, and I personally don't use them too often because I don't want to carry the extra weight while hiking, and at home I'm now just used to using loose leaf paper. Many students, however, use books for all their class paintings which can be super fun!
Taping down a painting: when working in the field I will use a few little pieces of tape to adhere my painting to the hard surface and keep it from blowing away. When back in the studio, I personally prefer not to fully tape or stretch my paintings, as I like to move them around a lot, and I just work with the paper warping and flatten afterward.