13 Best Watercolor Paints For Professional Artists And Students

Michael Daly
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Do you consider yourself a professional or amateur artist? Do you produce your own art pieces or do you just like to dabble in the art world?

If you take your art seriously, it is important to choose the best watercolor paints for your artwork.

Not all paints are created equally, and not all are suitable for every use. You want paints that are made of high-quality materials so that you can achieve the kind of results you desire with your art.

In this article, I’ve listed a few high-quality watercolor paints that are worth considering. As a brand new artist, professional artist, or just someone who wants to paint in their spare time, I’m pretty sure at least one of these will suit your needs.

NameCategoryProduct
Prima Marketing 584252 Watercolor Confections: The ClassicsBest OverallPrima Marketing 584252 Watercolor Confections: The Classics
Winsor & Newton Professional Water Colour PaintBudget PickWinsor & Newton Professional Water Colour Paint
Rembrandt Watercolor Paint Wood Box Professional SetUpgrade PickRembrandt Watercolor Paint Wood Box Professional Set

1. Prima Marketing 584252 Watercolor Confections: The Classics

Our rating: 9 / 10

Prima Marketing 584252 Watercolor Confections: The Classics

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Pros:

  • Multi-use paint
  • BPA free
  • Several product varieties to choose from
  • Watercolor cakes are design to resist dripping
  • Wide variety of colors

Cons:

  • Can’t be used in a lot of water feature
  • Considered to be overpriced
  • Some brushes may not be able to cover entire cakes
  • Breakable

Although most watercolor paints are available as pigment powder, some watercolor sets still come as a cake. It’s an alternative to the one featured above (so you get more than one palette, which still isn’t enough to have a subtle gradation of colors).

What we really like about the Prima Marketing Watercolor Confections: The Classics is the vibrant colors. While it doesn’t offer as many colors as the one above, it gets the job done because there’s a wide variety of shades included in the palette.

Because it’s a cake, the applicator of the product is much simpler in nature. It’ll take a couple of minutes to get the hang of applying the product with this type of packaging, but once you do, it’s easy to work with.

2. Schmincke Horadam Aquarell Half-Pan Paint Metal Set

Our rating: 9 / 10

Schmincke Horadam Aquarell Half-Pan Paint Metal Set

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Pros:

  • Long-lasting
  • Ecological
  • Deep, rich colors
  • Fast-drying
  • Vibrant, electric colors
  • Easy to use
  • Not too pricey

Schmincke Horadam has been making paints and mediums for over 130 years. The paints last extremely long and come in an extensive combination of colors. Each jar is labeled, and the base of each jar will tell you which brush to use for each specific shade.

However, if you ever do end up mixing two colors together, you know you’ll need to use turpentine before the paint dries.

Because the paint has a thick consistency, it will take a longer time to dry. But, the paint can be used on both canvas and paper.

3. Van Gogh Watercolor Paint Set

Our rating: 9 / 10

Van Gogh Watercolor Paint Set

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Pros:

  • Award-winning textures
  • Non-toxic paint
  • Excellent color selection
  • Beautiful vibrant colors
  • Soft and rich texture
  • Very affordable
  • Good for a lot of painting activities

Cons:

  • The colors can run together if not careful
  • Some children have had trouble with these paints
  • Paint dries out easily
  • Requires a lot of water to mix colors
  • Not for kids who have a lot of energy

Our research on the best acrylic paints in 2019 has shown that this is one of the best paints you can get. So, we are going to show you why this set takes top honors.

The Van Gogh is a very nice watercolor paint and has received rave reviews from those who have used it. This set is a general selection that contains 12 professional colors. Due to the colors bleeding into one another, it's best to go with a guide so you know what you're going to paint. Since there are so many colors in a limited space, you'll need a small palette to place them in.

4. Winsor & Newton Cotman Water Colour Paint Sketchers' Pocket Box

Our rating: 9 / 10

Winsor & Newton Cotman Water Colour Paint Sketchers' Pocket Box

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Pros:

  • Easy to handle
  • Professional quality paints
  • Perfect for traveling
  • Can create works of art with this set
  • Great for painting landscapes and portraits
  • Portable

Cons:

  • Particularly reactive pigments
  • Some colors are a little messy
  • Some colors do not mix well with others
  • A bit expensive

5. DANIEL SMITH 285610005 Extra Fine Essentials Introductory Watercolor

Our rating: 9 / 10

DANIEL SMITH 285610005 Extra Fine Essentials Introductory Watercolor

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Pros:

  • Good for beginners
  • Affordable
  • Well-made
  • Thinner included
  • Can use wet or dry
  • Rich color

Cons:

  • Color might come off if not careful
  • Lids can be problematic

When it comes to using watercolors, sometimes you want something that is good for a beginner and won’t break the bank. The DANIEL SMITH Extra Fine Essential Watercolors are a great place to start.

This set contains one tube of white, one tube of yellow oxide, and four tubes of primary watercolors. The box set is designed for ease of transport and is packaged in a nifty carrying case. The carrying case can be used for storing your brushes when not in use.

The DANIEL SMITH Extra Fine Essential Watercolors contain a myriad of brilliant colors with soft, buttery, intense pigment. It’s formulated to be linseed oil free and is perfect for professional artists or students.

6. DANIEL SMITH 3981 Extra Fine Watercolor 15ml Paint Tube

Our rating: 9 / 10

DANIEL SMITH 3981 Extra Fine Watercolor 15ml Paint Tube

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Pros:

  • Formulated with high quality pigment
  • Amazing flow and leveling
  • Great for fixing mistakes
  • Extremely concentrated
  • Extremely reliable and consistent

This high quality watercolor paint is an excellent, and reasonably priced option for students and professionals alike.

The Daniel Smith watercolors are formulated with top quality pigments and a gum arabic binder. They are all water soluble and blend super easily, so you won’t waste paint.

The company claims that the colors are created using a unique process to achieve the best possible hues, complemented with the highest quality pigments at each stage along the way.

7. Winsor & Newton Professional Water Colour Paint

Our rating: 9 / 10

Winsor & Newton Professional Water Colour Paint

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We’ve featured a few Winsor and Newton products in our picks for the best art supplies for professionals, and it’s no surprise to see them on our best watercolor paints for the professional artist list. The British company is well-known for their high-quality products and is the number one supplier to professionals and students. They boast having products that compare to none when it comes to quality.

This set includes 40 tubes of Winsor and Newton Professional watercolor paint. Once again, Winsor and Newton uses high quality pigments in their paint, as well as using authentic Cobalt Blue (which is extremely expensive by itself), and loads of extenders. This means:

  • The paint won’t clog up as easily,
  • The paint won’t sink to the bottom of your palette quite as fast, and

8. Sennelier La Petite Aquarelle 24 Half Pans

Our rating: 9 / 10

Sennelier La Petite Aquarelle 24 Half Pans

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These La Petite Aquarelles by Sennelier are great alternative to more pricey artists paints you'd find elsewhere. They are very pigmented watercolors that can be used in watercolor sets, oil pastels, or on their own, layer upon layer, for a variety of effects.

Since they're water colors, you can easily mix them with other watercolors to create your own. They're also transparent colors, which makes working with them much easier, as you can easily see through your layers to adjust what you need to. The lower cost makes them perfect as practice paints, and you'll be able to clearly see what you're doing as you're working with them.

There are three packs to choose from. The difference between each of them is the amount of colors available. The first pack offers 24 half pans, the next 48, and the bulk pack offers you 72 half pans (or two full sets, one to use and one in storage). Each pan holds 2×3 mL, or about a thimble's full.

9. Arches Watercolor Block

Our rating: 9 / 10

Arches Watercolor Block

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Pros:

  • Made from -mild- press pigments
  • Hydrophilic sizing on paper surface
  • Little to none of the grainy texture
  • No chemical smell like many others
  • Virtually bleedproof
  • Luxuriously textured
  • Watercolor will not pull away during wash
  • Colors resist fading and remain true
  • Doesn't yellow with age
  • Excellent for detail work

Cons:

  • Feels more like painting with crayons than painting with watercolor
  • Somewhat inconsistent with washes
  • Can produce a dried texture
  • Doesn't take much pressure to bend
  • Extremely absorbent

An arches block/panel is a watercolor painting format where one paints on a 17-by-22" piece of 400 sheet paper that has been sandwiched between 2 pieces of Gatorfoam.

10. Rembrandt Watercolor Paint Metal Tin Deluxe Set

Our rating: 8 / 10

Rembrandt Watercolor Paint Metal Tin Deluxe Set

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Rembrandt Watercolor Paint is considered by many to be the best professional watercolor. These watercolors are formed of high-quality pigments; some of the high quality pigments that are used to formulate the watercolors are –

Dioxazine Purple – This pigment is made from synthetically produced chemicals and in the laboratory. It has a violet coloring and is a replacement to Phthalo Blue and in the case where Phthalo Blue has been banned. It is also used to produce dark tones.

Quinacridone Red – this is a red pigment with strong, bright, light fastness and is also transparent.

11. Sennelier – L'Aquarelle Watercolor Paint Set

Our rating: 8 / 10

Sennelier - L'Aquarelle Watercolor Paint Set

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Sennelier l'Aquarelle is a professional watercolor paint set, and is quite a classy-looking set of paints, despite being a little more expensive than some other brands. It's a set that is truly great for beginners or for those who want to go professional.

The main reason that the paints in this set are so incredible is that they are made with the finest pigment possible, and are very highly concentrated. This means that they will maintain their color and remain effective far longer than other paints available.

The honey content of the paint can make the colors a little difficult to work with at times. And if you try to work with the paint too quickly, it can tend to spread out and run, so it's very important that you give yourself plenty of time to mix and blend your colors until you get the combinations that work for you.

12. Winsor & Newton Professional Water Colour Lightweight Sketchers' Box

Our rating: 8 / 10

Winsor & Newton Professional Water Colour Lightweight Sketchers' Box

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Pros:

  • Suitable for beginners
  • Good color mix
  • Bright and vibrant color
  • Good pigment

Cons:

  • Portability
  • Tube quality

Winsor & Newton is a top brand most recognized for producing high-quality watercolors. The Winsor & Newton water color box is considered to be one of the best watercolor paints for beginners and well-crafted professionals.

The light weight box includes twelve 5ml tubes of watercolors complete with twelve water brushes. The watercolors are transparent, mixable, and suitable for fine art, illustration and design.

The pigments are exceptionally bright, and opaque. The watercolors are also quick drying, so you’re able to move on with your work without having to wait.

13. M. Graham GRM-33-10SET Intermediate 10-Color Watercolor Paint Set

Our rating: 8 / 10

M. Graham GRM-33-10SET Intermediate 10-Color Watercolor Paint Set

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Pros:

  • Affordable
  • High-quality paints
  • Affordable
  • Great for the beginners
  • The paints are easy to clean

Cons:

  • The paint might come out on the brush while painting
  • The paint is so creamy that it dries up very quickly
  • The paint might not dry properly and might get smudged while painting

The M. Graham GRM-33-10SET supplements the rest of the M. Graham to give you more control from the 10 color set. You'll get more variety from this set. This set is perfect for your art class if you are not a pro yet and is also perfect for youth painting workshops.

Each set comes with the 10 colors from M. Graham that you need to know about. The colors are a mixture of oil ground, pure pigment and transparent colors. The set even comes with a water pot and a brush for you to start on your first watercolor painting project.

14. Artist Paint Brush Set Professional 15pc Best Art Supplies Paintbrushes

Our rating: 8 / 10

Artist Paint Brush Set Professional 15pc Best Art Supplies Paintbrushes

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Pros:

  • Set of 15 sturdy paintbrushes
  • Ideal for a wide range of techniques
  • Paintbrush handles made from birch wood
  • Comes with a velvet storage case
  • This set includes a wide variety of filberts and flats brushes
  • Brushes are designed with synthetic bristles, giving them a natural grip on a wide range of paints.
  • Useful for different painting techniques
  • Synthetic bristles are durable, easy to clean and long-lasting
  • The professional look of the bristles will add to the aesthetic of your work
  • Great for students to professionals

The Artist Paint Brush Set is an excellent choice for students to professionals for a wide range of painting techniques. The brushes are designed with synthetic bristles, giving them a natural grip on a wide range of paints, including watercolor, gouache, oil and acrylic.

This set includes a wide variety of filberts and flats brushes which are great for different painting techniques and can be used for everything from applying washes to stippling dry-brush techniques and many others. The set includes a wide array of brushes, including various filberts and flats.

15. Arches Watercolor Paper Pad

Our rating: 7 / 10

Arches Watercolor Paper Pad

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Pros:

  • Bright, vivid colors
  • Made from 100% cotton
  • Can be used for hot or cold water
  • Provides a wide range of shades
  • Affordable
  • Smooth finish

Cons:

  • Watercolor paper that'll absorb moisture and cause the paper to buckle
  • Surface smudging
  • Poor choice if you're interested in brush-paining
  • Doesn’t carry the archival quality the manufacturer tends to brag about
  • Available in relatively limited color pigments

Watercolor is a popular painting technique due to the ease with which one can create a variety of brilliant shades, patterns, and textures. Ideal for watercolor paintings, watercolor papers provide great structure, flexibility, and strength.

The Arches Cold Press 140-lb. surface is frequently used by professional artists and students. Available in 3" x 5" or 8" x 10," the sheets are made from 100% cotton. Being acid-free, the paper carries a long lifespan of up to 200 years. No stretching or mounting is required and the pigment will adhere to the surface just as you paint.

Arches Cold Press Watercolor Paper comes in a variety of colors, surfaces, and sizes. Thus, you may choose papers with a rough or smooth finish. They'll determine the texture of your painting.

16. Holbein Artist's Watercolors Set of 24 5ml Tubes W405

Our rating: 7 / 10

Holbein Artist's Watercolors Set of 24 5ml Tubes W405

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Pros:

  • Made of pure pigment
  • Can be mixed with each other
  • Means you can create endless color variations
  • Each tube is 5 milliliters in size
  • Long shelf life
  • Easy to mix colors and achieve a desired shade
  • Perfect for a professional artist or a beginning student who is learning watercolor painting

Our top pick for best watercolor paints is Holbein watercolors. A watercolor painting set by Holbein features a wide array of colors, all packed in a convenient tube design. With their masters' choice premium pigments, the water color set is safe, non-toxic, and free from metal compounds. The tubes are even labeled with the color names.

The watercolors are rich in color and light fastness and when applied on paper, they won't bleed. It's an easy kit for beginning artists because it comes with one water container, one paint palette, and one artist quality brush.

Holbein watercolors are great for professional artists and beginners alike because they are very easy to work with. The paints are concentrated so you'll need to dilute them with water. Also, they allow you to create beautiful, vibrant watercolors.

17. Rembrandt Watercolor Paint Wood Box Professional Set

Our rating: 7 / 10

Rembrandt Watercolor Paint Wood Box Professional Set

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Pros:

  • Vibrant colors
  • Rich pigmentation
  • Affordable

Cons:

  • Too many colors for some artists
  • Colors may not match on each paper

If you're looking for the best water color pencils, then look no further than this total art set from Rembrandt. It comes in an easy-to-carry box with an array of fine-nib lead pencils, or conte crayons, as well as a blending stump.

The pack also includes a 2-inch blending stump, 4 spare leads and a sharpener. As you might expect from a name such as Rembrandt, the pencils have an incredibly soft, creamy consistency that glides easily over the paper and coupled with the extremely high pigmentation means that you can achieve very detailed effects with this set.

These watercolor pencils are great for anyone looking to start their career in watercolor. The box also includes a guide paper on watercolor techniques, so you'll be well prepared to paint like a pro straight out of the box. This is another must-have for any artist who wants to take their work to the next level.

18. Reeves 24-Pack Water Color Paint Set

Our rating: 7 / 10

Reeves 24-Pack Water Color Paint Set

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Pros:

  • Brings out the best of watercolors
  • Comes in a variety of vibrant colors
  • Sets are fresh, leak-free and vibrant
  • Portable
  • Contains 24 colors (includes black)
  • The set comes with a plastic jar for you to keep the paints

Cons:

  • Water in the jar might evaporate overtime
  • Can only use water-based paints
  • Paint brush can break
  • The paint can spill

This product, made by Reeves, merges the elegance and simplicity of watercolors with the convenience of a watercolor set. This set comes in 24 different colors. Colors are rich and vibrant. Sands are bright white – ideal for landscapes or portraits.

The paintbrush is light yet durable. It’ll last you quite some times. The plastic container will ensure that paint will not spill, and is very easy to carry around. The small plastic jar is also ideal for travelling. The manufacturer offers replacement brushes in case yours break easily.

These watercolors are not recommended for oil painting or acrylics because they do not contain oil. These watercolors are not suitable for several other art materials because they are not plastic friendly.

19. Grumbacher Academy Watercolor Paint

Our rating: 6 / 10

Grumbacher Academy Watercolor Paint

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If you're looking to get your feet wet in the world of watercolors, it's hard to do better than the Grumbacher Academy watercolor set. It offers all the colors you need to get started in one convenient package.

The set features 12 different colors: Titanium Buff, Transparent Yellow, Deep Ultramarine, Vermilion, Naples Yellow Light, Yellow Ochre, Hansa Yellow Deep, Brilliant Green, Cobalt Blue, Ultramarine, Hooker's Green Dark, and Ivory Black. Each tube is 7.5ml, which is more than enough for gessoing a canvas or painting a few test pieces.

The Academy Set is primarily made up of earth and pigmented colors. The pigmentation is excellent, and you'll get a lot of paint on your brush for the amount of water you use. They're concentrated, which means that you'll get far more use out of them before they need replenishing.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

What is best quality brands of watercolor?

I’ve met many people who tell me they don’t like watercolor painting because they think it is too difficult and takes too long to master. But, I love it! Watercolor painting is very different from other art forms like drawing or painting.

There are a lot of theories and techniques in oil painting that can be complex and challenging to learn. This is not the case in watercolor painting, though. Here are a few tips that will help beginners as well as professional artists to paint with watercolor efficiently.

What are the best watercolor paints for professionals?

The best watercolor paints from the best brands are made using high quality pigments. Pigments are responsible for the variety of colors and tones in the final results.

Top artists use quality pigments because they use their talent and skill in mixing and diluting the pigments to create intense colors. Cheap pigments when mixed may produce muddy hues and dull tones faint shadows.

People who are new to watercolor painting should get high quality pigments to begin with. They’ll avoid frustration that comes about from buying inadequate brands. This is particularly true if they plan to sell their works.

Are Van Gogh watercolors artist grade?

Recently on an art journaling forum I stumbled across someone looking for artist grade watercolor paints. I wrote a very detailed response as I am a big advocate of Van Gogh watercolors and always promote artist grade paints even though I have not yet tried them myself.

Here is my response to the inquiry for anyone who is interested in finding out the truth about Van Gogh watercolors. My recommendation is you find a local store with a good artists section pulled a few colors and try them out. No watercolor paint manufacturer makes their paints so that the colors work with everyone. It's as we all know a personal thing, therefore Van Gogh is no different.

I've used the student grade for about 14 years and have been completely satisfied. Each manufacturer…s pigment is different and is based on the quality of their pigment. There are many factors at play, and I don't want to bore you with the details.

What are the best water colors?

Watercolor paints vary greatly in their production and ingredient method. Manufactured for pros and amateurs, they are typically either student grade or professional grade paints. You want to make sure the one that you’re using matches your specific needs and budget.

Conclusion

Watercolor is one of the oldest forms of painting. And while it requires a little bit of practice to learn how to paint with watercolor paints properly, it’s a very versatile form of art that anyone can enjoy.

If you’re looking to learn how to paint using watercolor paints, you might want to check out our short primer here and then come back to this guide to learn the best watercolor paints.

Let’s jump to the best watercolor paints.

Our Recommendation

NameCategoryProduct
Prima Marketing 584252 Watercolor Confections: The ClassicsBest OverallPrima Marketing 584252 Watercolor Confections: The Classics
Winsor & Newton Professional Water Colour PaintBudget PickWinsor & Newton Professional Water Colour Paint
Rembrandt Watercolor Paint Wood Box Professional SetUpgrade PickRembrandt Watercolor Paint Wood Box Professional Set