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















Love in Wonderland

I got to do a super fun commission recently for a customer who always makes my day with her unique ideas and excitement over the whole creative process. I was asked to make a keepsake piece of artwork for a bride, to be given at her bridal shower. The theme of the party was to be “Wonderland.” The concept was to combine some aspects of fashion illustration (the bride is quite the fashionista and has chosen beautiful attire for her big day) and some components of Wonderland. Here are some images of the basic process as it got underway.


Then here are some closeups that had a bit of gold sparkle. * and if you look closely, you will see some “patriotic” flowers that represent the groom.

JillWonderlandFINAL-WM_2 JillWonderlandFINAL-WM_3 JillWonderlandFINAL-WM_4

Finally, I really got inspired to create wrappings for the gift that would hint at elements of  the art. I found some plain white tissue paper flowers at Target, and spattered them with watercolor to represent the huge watercolor blooms in the art.


Then I wrapped the gift with B&W striped paper to mimic the striped flower stems in the art and coordinate with the B&W ink sketch. I finished with multi-colored floral ribbon and metallic gold ribbon to go along with the shimmery gold paint accents I’d used in the art. I made a matching card using elements from the painting and then decorated the chic black envelope with a glittery gold heart.


i LOVED working on this project and wish everyday could include special commissions just like it. If you would like to work with me on a special keepsake like this, please drop me a line and we’ll see what we can brainstorm together!!

Portraits with whimsy & magic

CorfeeWhimsicalPortraits-TallPinWatercolor, florals, doodles, drips and spatter. i’ve been combining all my favorite painting tidbits into these charming whimsical portraits recently. They make a gorgeous keepsake and look beautiful framed in a nursery or little girl’s room. i scan and keep high resolution digital files of the art, so customers can have the art printed on mugs or in photo books as well. This also allows me to offer additional prints at various sizes so that grandparents, family or friends can have a mini version of the art for their desk as well.

Visit my shop here to purchase one of these darling portraits, and take a look at my other prints and originals while you’re there, too! ; )

Painting on Periscope

FlowerBundleGirl-Color-WMTrying new things is scary. And that is especially true when the new thing is broadcasting your artwork in progress on Periscope. Have you all tried Periscope? It’s a new app that you can use to show live footage of anything you are doing or seeing. You can walk down the street and take folks “with” you. You can share footage of something cool or funny happening around you. Or, if you like, you can share things about yourself, and your business, and do live painting and sketching demos. Guess which i picked?

So last week and this week i’ve been sharing little glimpses into my process, my favorite art supplies and some rambly, chattering away about whatever i’m demonstrating. The image above is the result of my past few short periscope broadcasts. First i showed how i sketch using a photo reference. Then i showed how i use a lightbox to paint without outlines. Finally today, i showed how i add final touches with pencil and gel pen.  i always post the finished art on my Facebook and Instagram feeds.

But here is the kicker. You have to watch LIVE, or view the replay within 24 hours. After that, it’s gone like the wind…evaporated into thin air. i sort of like that part best – its fleeting. Some folks use Katch.me or other capture apps to save their videos, but i don’t think i will. i like it just how it is.

Now, because its the internet, Periscope has its share of mean, nasty and BORED/BORING trolls who like to throw awful, irrelevant comments into the feed and ruin your day. i had a bad experience last week, so i’ve changed my settings to only allow folks i follow to comment. So sorry if that means any of you may not be able to join the convo – but i find it much less stressful this way.

As a consolation prize to anyone whose lovely comments are being unceremoniously blocked due to my troll force field; i offer you this printable coloring page so you can make your own girlie with a massive bundle of flowers. Just click the image to download.
xo, s



Painted Words + Flowers

Kids’ nicknames are such sweet and personal kinds of things. i got it in me to start painting some nicknames in my watercolor sketchbook. Here are 2. You can grab a custom one featuring your own cutie’s nickname in my etsy shop.


i’ve also got a nice, loose and scribbly floral for ya’ll today called Blue Ink + Blooms. Find this one on etsy also…. 

Read More »

Weekend Watercolors

Winter seems to get longer every year. i must be getting old. Only early February, and i already am wishing for that blinding golden/pink light that touches the backyard trees as the sun begins to dip low in the sky each long, long day. So here are 2 watercolor artworks i made this weekend with that mood and warmth and feeling in mind.


Magic Hour



Giveaway Time – Sleepy Girl Print Set

Hey gang. You are awesome. You deserve free stuff. i’ve got some free stuff.

S-Corfee_Sleepy Girl Prints Giveaway

Make a comment on this post telling me your favorite lullaby or sleepy, dreamy song to sing to your kiddos at bedtime. Random number generator will choose a winner on friday morning who will receive these 2 free little prints.

xo, s


UPDATE: Random Number Generator chose comment #8 as our winner. Heather, i’ve emailed you for your mailing address. Congrats!!!

Dream A Little Dream

Dream a Little Dream by Stephanie Corfee

i made this little watercolor painting today. i just love this little song. i think it is the most nostalgic lilting tune and sleepy lyric ever. How can you not feel hopeful singing or hearing words like this;

Say nighty-night and kiss me
Just hold me tight and tell me you’ll miss me
While I’m alone and blue as can be
Dream a little dream of me………

Sweet dreams till sunbeams find you
Sweet dreams that leave all worries behind you
But in your dreams whatever they be
Dream a little dream of me”

Many singers have recorded it, but my favorite, simple and beautiful version by The Mamas & The Papas can be heard here.

Dream a Little Dream of Me” is a song, from c.1931, with music by Fabian Andre and Wilbur Schwandt[1] and lyrics by Gus Kahn