Favorite Watercolor Supplies

Hey everyone!

i get so many questions about my supplies, that i thought i’d take the time to sit down, find links for all my favorites at different price points, and write up a comprehensive list for you all.

i work in a variety of media, so i’m going to add to the list over time so it stays all in one place. But i’m starting with my favorite watercolor supplies today. Choice of supplies is highly personal, so i don’t intend this post to be definitive about what is best. These are merely MY FAVORITES and supplies that i keep stocked in my own studio. None of these manufacturers are sponsoring this post. And even if they were, i would never share or recommend a product i didn’t use and really like, myself. The links below are affiliate links. But feel free to use them or not. i’m happy to share regardless. : )



My favorites are always Cold Press papers. i prefer the toothier/rougher surface than the smoothness of Hot Press. An art instructor in college always told us to remember the difference this way; Hot Press is smooth as though a hot iron was used. Cold Press is bumpy like your skin when you’re cold. The texture of Cold Press is so quintessentially watercolor for me. Plus, i do think it’s more forgiving if you aren’t a master. i’m definitely not a master! One down side is that it’s more challenging to scan since the textured surface in unpainted areas is picked up as color/shading and needs to be edited away of you intend to reproduce the art. Meh. It’s a small price to pay for me. But to each her own. Here are my go-to choices at 3 budget levels.

$Canson Cold Press tablet with perforated pages just fine for everyday and for tossing in your bag  |  Montval Watercolor Pad, 5.5″X8.5″ Top Wire

$$Fabriano Artistico Cold Press Paper – i like this one a lot. Love the surface and the way it absorbs the watercolor.   |  Fabriano Artistico Watercolor Extra White Block 9″x12″ 300gsm CP 20 Sheets

$$$Arches Cold Press Watercolor Block – This is largely considered the gold standard. it’s pretty spectacular. The “block” means the pages are glued on all sides (you have to cut them free with an x-acto blade) to help prevent buckling as you paint with lots of water. i use this paper when i do a commissioned painting. It really is superior. You can lift color and the paper doesn’t turn to mush. : )  |  Watercolor Block, Cold Press 10″X14″



Essentially, i always want the description of the watercolors to have “transparent,” or “clear and bright” in it somewhere. My prfereed palette for my work is very airy and feminine. So while some folks might look for paints that yield rich darks and jewel tones (which some of these do),the best watercolors for me are ones that can offer vivid color even in watery washes. The least expensive sets out there usually have more binders/less pigment and can tend to dry duller and muddier. That said, you can drop $400+ on the most high end watercolors…..so….finding a happy medium is like finding the holy grail. i certainly haven’t tried every brand out there, but i’ve tried a lot and these are the sets i’ve been leaning on most heavily the past year or so.

$Angora Pan Set – This is my “cheapie set” that i use for quick little sketches. The colors are very nice and while some are a bit chalkier/opaque…it’s still a great pan set for the price and travels well. i don’t mind if my kids use it too. The lid is hinged and makes for a good blending palette. The color selection is fun and whimsical with periwinkle and coral; not just your basic primary colors. |  Angora Watercolor 36 Pan Set

$$ – Sakura XNCW-30N Koi Field 30 Assorted Watercolors with Brush Sketch Set – i have this set and it’s a really nice quality without breaking the bank. The included mini water brush means all you have to do is find some paper and you’re good to go, anywhere you go. |  Sakura XNCW-30N Koi Field 30 Assorted Watercolors with Brush Sketch Set

 $$$Mission Gold Tube Watercolors Set of 36 with Pallet/Case – This is one of my favorite sets. Had it on my wish list for a while and my parents gave it to me for Christmas. They are so sweet. : ) It has tube watercolors, not dry bricks/pans…so a little less convenient for traveling…. but the colors are intense and bright and clear. This set was definitely more expensive when i got mine! It looks pretty reasonable now! So maybe you can snag a deal.  |  Mission Gold Water Color Palette Set, 36 Colors

BONUS**** LOVE!! i HAVE to mention Nicholson’s Peerless Transparent Watercolors in any conversation about watercolor. i LOVE mine!!!…but they are certainly unique. They come as a loose card deck with dried pigment on individual cards….so you either have to splay the cards out on the table to use them, or make yourself a little palette. Lots of artistshave done tutorials on youtube for  little travel folios with card swatches attached inside. (Jane Davenport’s Tutorial is pretty darned good) i did this for mine and it’s awesome. These paints are the BEST!!! Gorgeous, beautifully intense, yet transparent colors. i LOVE them! The price point is totally within reach, so definitely snag some to play around with.  |  Peerless Watercolor Complete Edition Book



If i could only have one brush…i’d have a number 8 or 10 round tapered sable brush. My 2nd (and completely opposite) love is a Pentel Aquash water brush because it is so versatile. Generally, sable, squirrel and other natural hair brushes are best for watercolor because they hold more water/color. Synthetic brushes can do a fine job too.

My rule of thumb shopping for brushes at  your local craft store…..don’t buy the bargain brushes. Beware bulk packs that seem too cheap to be true. Tug a little on brush bristles to see if they come out easily. Invest in the $8, $10 or $20 brushes and just own a few. Watercolor brushes are easy to take care of and can last forever (unlike acrylic brushes for me ~ i wreck them after a year or so! : )) 2-5 excellent watercolor brushes are worth the investment in my opinion. They won’t fight you. My paintings are better for them.

$Pentel Aquash Water brush – Perfect for travel and tossing in your bag. The water reservoir in the handle lasts surprisingly long if you are painting in a small sketchbook. The “Fine” tip size has a nice fine/pointy taper. i haven’t had luck with other brands of water brushes.  There is a marked difference in my experience.  |  Pentel Arts Aquash Water Brush Assorted Tips, Pack of 3 (FRHBFMBP3)

$ Simply Simmons Synthetic – Round 8 – This brush is so inexpensive, it’s hard to believe it performs as well as it does. i find myself reaching for it time and again. It holds a good amount of water, has great spring-back and keeps it’s lovely tapered point very well. i have a size 10 also. Great choice if you’re just starting or aren’t wanting to invest in those crazy expensive sable brushes yet : )  |  Robert Simmons Simply Simmons Watercolor & Acrylic Short-Handle Brushes 8 round synthetic mix

$ Black Velvet Silver – Round 2 (Squirrel/Risslon) – i do a lot of detailed work when i paint portraits…hair, eyes, clothing textures. i love this soft, tapered brush because it manages to be fine AND holds a good amount of water at the same time. i reach for it again and again.  Black Velvet Silver – Round 2 (Squirrel/Risslon)

$$Princeton Synthetic Sable Set – This set is not too expensive and has all the brushes i’d really need for a painting. Nothing fancy, but a good starter set that includes a #10 round Taper, which is my go-to.  |  Princeton Heritage, Golden Taklon Brushes for Warercolor & Acrylic, Series 4050 Synthetic Sable, Professional Set

 $$$ Kolinsky Sable (Many companies make Kolinsky sables – this is just one.) i only own my FAVORITE shape/style of brushes in this fabrication.  One brush can cost multiple $100s of dollars. Awesome if you have the budget. But i’m not sure if they are one hundred dollars more awesome? Like i said, i have 2 in small sizes that are less of a huge ticket price. When i paint small, they are definitely the ones i grab. But not sure i’ll add the huge ones to my collection anytime soon. The size 8 linked here is lovely.  |  Winsor & Newton Series 7 Kolinsky Sable Watercolor Brush – Round 8

i hope this roundup of some of my personal favorite watercolor supplies was helpful. Remember, every artist is different and the selection of your tools and supplies is highly personal. Experiment to find what works best for you!

Stay tuned for my next post on some favorite Acrylic Painting Supplies. xo, s















Thursday Work in Progress

Every new year, i try my best to get on a regular blogging schedule. Historically, i fall apart somewhere along the line and let myself get bogged down in deadlines. BUT!! Try, try again, i say. : ) So here is an easy peasy thursday post. WORK IN PROGRESS! How hard can that be to maintain, right? There always seems to be a work in progress around this joint.

This one is a 36×36 acrylic that is due tomorrow…..well, its closeup is due tomorrow. It’s my signature piece for a juried show i’m doing in April and the show coordinators need photos of every participant’s work for their catalog by tomorrow. Can you say, procrastination? Yep. i can.

i’ve had an idea in my head all winter break for some new paintings that would incorporate subtle tonalities of darks and lights (black/navy/charcoal/smoke and white/buff/cream/cement) with my love of brights and neons. i didn’t know how it would all come together. i figured i’d experiment on the canvas and see what happened. The image above is the result of 3 frustrating sessions. i was actually doing that thing i’ve read about where artists work out their issues on the canvas – ha!

i loved the idea, felt hopeful at my beginning stages, hated the whole darn thing for about 4 hours….pushed through…..had a spark of inspiration….and now the paint and i are getting along again.  i think it’s finally headed in the right direction. I’m calling it (and the 3 smaller companion pieces that i’ll also submit) “Paper Chains.” It just jumped out at me and now i am in love with the concept.

Funny how that happens.

For me, if every painting isn’t my “new favorite” while i’m painting it, i’m not happy. So far, so good! Fingers crossed! Hopefully more back-to-back NCIS episodes will be similarly inspiring for me tonight as i finish : )

i will be sure to post the lil babies, and whole dang Paper Chain family when they are all done and cozy together.

New Stuff and a Giveaway

Bouffant 11×14 Art Print

i had every intention of posting a giveaway last week, and it completely got away from me.

So here we go now with some pictorial evidence of new stuff coming out of the studio and a GIVEAWAY grab bag of a few prints, selected by yours truly, to a random commenter on this post. Tell me if you have a favorite recent piece and why. i really want to know!



UPDATE****** a winner was chosen at random on april 16,2013 – Jennifer Kitakis, come on down! shoot me an email at stephaniecorfee@comcast.net to get details on your grab bag!


Night Bloomers – 36×36 acrylic on canvas
Commission – 16×20 Watercolor Family Portrait
BLUEMARINE 11×11 Art Print
Custom Name Watercolor 8×10
KRISTEN 11×11 Art Print of my original acrylic painting

inspired by kids

i have been working on a painting for a charity auction (with a little help from from my toddler) these past couple weeks. Specifically, it’s a painting for The Please Touch Museum of Philadelphia and their annual Great Friends to Kids Fundraising event. Kids are my heart. i always want to help. i always cry watching videos and reading stories about kids who are surviving against insurmountable odds and teaching us all how to get some perspective already! Right?

When in doubt….think like a kid and have joy like one.

These shots are in-progress, late-night : ) But when completed…i’ll post a lovely daylight shot : )


trucking along

Howdy pard’ners!

This summer has flown and the tail end has been so full o’ DRA-MA! geez! i am not cranking out as much art as i usually do. My little guy is 18 months old now. And he has decided he dislikes when i work. But he loves to get into my painting supplies. He will run giggling down the hall after stealing a tube of crimson acrylic, probably one with a loose cap.  He is wearing out my painting arm by making me scoop him up eleventy-kajillion times a day….and also…right…the DRA-MA. : ) No fear, there is nothing horrifying and unbearable, and some stuff that is actually super great and ready to be shared very soon.

But i DID manage to paint the little ditty above one night when i just HAD to paint. Painters! Don’t you love when you get that “i HAVE to paint!” feeling? i do.

i named this one SUGAR. Because immersing myself in a whole evening of painting again finally felt so SAH-WEET!  She is 36×36 on gallery wrapped canvas and there is some major pent-up brush-strokey artist-arm evidenced on that baby. If you are inclined to bring her home, you can find a listing here.

You can alternate views on etsy….or just scroll below.

Catch ya’ll on the flip side! (as my 6 year old says) : )

auction for Talia

This painting was created especially for my dear friend, MaryJane who is adopting her 2nd little girl from China. MJ and her husband felt the tug of a child in need sooner than expected after their first adoption and lots of us are feeling blessed to help with some of the financials by donating to a silent auction.

Her sweet Talia Mei will need some medical attention once she comes home. The auction will help the family defray some costs and give a beautiful start to a beautiful girl.

This painting is 18×24 x 1.5″ deep and is ready for hanging and signed on the side.

Check out the auction from tonight at 8EST thru next week ( i think my painting debuts in its auction spot tomorrow though several items are posted already!)Info can be found here and here.

ARt without a plan…

“Mermaid’s Waterfall” is a fresh, new painting i just finished. It measures 36 x 36 x 1.5″deep. It has lots of very loose brush work and sweeping strokes of metallic antique-y gold paint. It was my “reset” painting after several weeks of commissions and more “scheduled” artwork. i just gave myself permission to go a little crazy and just paint whatever i wanted. i guess my brain is overrated, because i always end up connecting with these guys a whole lot.

hmmm….i guess its because i truly relate? i don’t second guess any choices when i paint like this so it must be sorta like looking at my true self – no filter?

What about you guys? Are there projects you dashed off without a plan or end-product in mind, that you ended up really LOVING!?

oh! and if you like and want to hang this little girlie in your house….go here. : )

building a new workspace – the giant easel

i blogged a week or 2 ago about taking over the first floor master bedroom in our house as an office/painting studio.

Two craigslist acquisitions have joined the party in the form of a GINORMOUS easel and a much smaller, but still cool drafting table…more on the table later bc it is being all kinds of gussied up right now.

Can you believe the size of this easel? haha. its much, much more than i set out to find…but it was such a great deal, i couldn’t help myself. Its 4 feet wide with 2 masts and a stinkin pulley and crank system to hoist the main sail, me hearties! argh! i feel like a pirate when i turn the crank.

We will definitely need to blow out the ceiling to make it vaulted now, because what you’re seeing is the full height of the UN-extended masts nearly hitting the ceiling already?! : ) i love to work large…but i do paint small on occasion and my husband and i were cracking up at how a 12×12 canvas will look on this behemoth. We are getting hardwoods in this space…but we actually HAD to put the easel together IN the room even with the carpet still down, because 1) its the only place we could fit it, and 2) it won’t make it through the door assembled.

aaaaaanywhoooo….just marking the progress! onward we go!

A New Doodly Friend! Traci Bautista!


i am such a lucky girl!

i got an email a few weeks back from an accomplished author, teacher, artist, doodler named Traci Bautista. You may know Traci from her book, Collage Unleashed or her line of Collage Pauge products by Aleene’s. She also travels a lot, speaks to groups, teaches her craft, offers tons of online workshops,  and generally rocks it in the creative community. And she’s just adorable too, isn’t she!?

Anyway, Traci’s new book, Doodles Unleashed just released and she’s touring the blogosphere sharing the love and doing lots of giveaways with artist friends and colleagues. i get to be one of them! Traci thought my book, Creative Doodling and Beyond would be fast BFFs with her book if they met each other on the street. i’d have to agree….don’t they look cozy together? They’re on the way to the craft store for some new micron pens. Good times. : )

So follow the book tour! She’s got a slew of stops already posted on her blog here. Tons of fun. I highly recommend.

Aaaaanyway……for our post, Traci asked me to create a Tag-Team art piece with her! A cross-country collaboration of doodly goodness. i was given the task of beginning our project by laying down a whole lotta my signature color and texture. Here’s a little peek….

i used  textile dyes to paint on watercolor paper. The intense colors just make me sooooo happy! i snapped photos and sent her my part. Then SHE worked her magic to make a completed artwork. When you are done reading here, you should pop over to her blog and see a whole bunch of  juicy, vibrant still photos she has of just HER part! They are super cool. But here’s a little hint at how she approached the collaboration to pique your curiosity!

Are you intrigued!?

We also videotaped our process. And Traci edited it into a fun time lapse movie because she is WAY better at that than me so far! Wanna watch?

To finish off this little stop on the “tour,” we’re also both offering signed copies of our books to some lucky commenters. We each came up with a burning-hot doodle question for ya to answer. Here on my blog, i want to know your fondest doodling memory. Did you have the best Trapper Keeper in the 8th grade? Did you doodle your high school sweetie’s name all over your composition notebook and then go on to marry that sweetheart? Did your kiddo give you a doodle-rific birthday card last year? i want to hear! Comment below to enter and i’ll use a random number generator to choose a winner. Then hop on over to Traci’s blog for another chance to comment, win, AND see more of those photos i told you about taken during HER part of the artwork collaboration! The giveaway closes on Saturday, March 10 at 12:00am. Good luck!

This has been a serious amount of fun, people. Thanks so much, Traci!

….and Happy Doodling!

weekend creating

This weekend i was on a mission to complete a whole lot of creative projects.

Above is a photo of a newly completed painting that goes to contest winner from my site. She won a 16×20 original painting on gallery wrapped canvas and she got to choose the main color story. i named this painting In My Heart. The names just come to me when i look at the piece and i try hard not to overthink it….whatever pops to mind first seems most organic and natural. So here you go, Jeanine! i hope you enjoy this painting. It will be on its way to you tomorrow.

i also spent a few hours packing and building boxes for some recently sold paintings on canvas. i am so paranoid when i pack canvases. i probably overdo it and i always build boxes to exactly the size i need so they aren’t rattling around in there. It takes for-EVA! But now i have 3 paintings all boxed and ready for the good old USPS tomorrow. Such a relief.

Next, i worked on a new decorative print inspired by a good friend.

That’s it to the left and on the right are some little decoupaged trinket bowls as well. The print is a thought i think many nights before i fall asleep. i thought it would be a lovely sentiment to hang in a child’s bedroom. Its a quote from Anne of Green Gables….a favorite book and something i have in common with a sweet friend. i like to make art with a loved one in mind….it motivates me to make it as special as the person who inspired it.

And here is the art, itself.

Saturday, we cleaned the house pretty thoroughly…i got to do 2 bathrooms top to tail….woohoo! Lucky me! Lovely.

But its a great feeling when its done. i always want to take the first shower : ) So i did. And after the shower, we hung 12 pieces of artwork we’ve had  sitting around the house waiting for a nail. CHECK! Topped it all off by baking some oatmeal cookies with my little guy. He picked oatmeal because, by his estimation, since oatmeal is “healthy”, he can have more of this kind of cookie than of chocolate chip. Nice try buddy. : )

16 Valentines were on the schedule for this sunday morning. C drew a few hearts and i scanned ’em and made some labels. Daddy joined in on the assembly line. Love a guy weilding a glue gun for the greater good.

We capped off the day at an adorable theater in Philadelphia. C saw his first stage performance! Charlotte’s Web! It was so good! I even cried at the end. What? Am i made of stone? ; ) After the show. the actors were available for the kids in the lobby and C and our friends’ kids had their photo taken with the Templeton Rat character. He was a funny dude.

Thank goodness for my folks who babysat little G for us AND had dinner waiting when the show was over. Love you mom and dad!

SO that caps the crazy, crafty weekend. Doesn’t it feel good when sunday night rolls around and you feel your to-do list has a super healthy dent!? Bring on the week! i’m ready.