Art Supply Guide

Art Supply Guide

Gouache | Acrylic | Watercolor |

While finding and trying new art supplies can be a highlight for some artists, I know it can also be an extremely frustrating experience - especially when you’re first starting out. There are so many different options out there and it can easily get overwhelming and expensive trying to figure out what products work best for you.

I’ve compiled a reference list/guide of my favorite art supplies that I have personally tested and can recommend. What works best for me might not work best for you, but these are all products that I can vouch for personally and have had success using.

Whether you’re a beginner artist looking for some guidance or a more experienced artist just looking to expand your toolbox, I hope you find this information useful!

Please note some of the links below are Affiliate Links. If you purchase something through one of them I will receive a small commission fee at no extra cost to you whatsoever. It’s a great way to support me at no extra effort on your end and I really appreciate it!




My preferred brands for gouache are Winsor & Newton and M. Graham. I like both brands pretty equally - but M. Graham has a more limited color selection and as far as I know they don’t have any permanent or cadmium-free options at the moment. (It’s always a good idea to be mindful of any potentially harmful ingredients in your paint - Blick has yellow warning symbols that are easy to find). Both of these brands are traditional designer’s gouache and reactivate with water.


Out of my collection of gouache tubes, these are the colors I paint with most frequently at the moment:

  • Burnt Sienna

  • Cadmium-Free Red

  • Cadmium-Free Lemon

  • Cadmium-Free Yellow

  • Cerulean Blue

  • Indigo

  • Naples Yellow Deep

  • Pale Rose Blush - A premixed color of Mars Orange, Permanent Red, and Titanium White. I use a lot of pinks in my landscapes and this saves me from having to mix it from scratch all the time. I use this mixed with a little yellow or red to create nice peachy sunset colors.

  • Paynes Gray - A mixture of Ultramarine Blue and Ivory Black that is a great cool gray for darkening or tinting colors. I use this instead of black.

  • Permanent Alizarin Crimson - Make sure you get the Permanent version; pure Alizarin Crimson is not lightfast and will fade overtime. Permanent Alizarin Crimson isn’t truly lightfast, but it still has excellent lightfastness

  • Phthalo Green (M. Graham)

  • Prussian Blue - My second-most frequently used color after white and pretty much the only color I sometimes use straight without mixing.

  • Sky Blue  - A premixed color of Phthalo Blue and Ultramarine. I do use it for skies sometimes, but it’s also a good shade for distant mountains when mixed with a little bit of white.

  • Titanium White M. Graham - I go through a LOT of white. I highly recommend getting the bigger tube because it will save you money in the long run!

  • Ultramarine Blue

  • Yellow Ochre

Beginner’s Gouache:

I recommend starting out with a few select tubes of paint and slowly growing your collection over time as needed. It will help reduce the cost starting out while also teaching you how to properly mix colors.

Winsor & Newton has a beginner’s primary set of 6 tubes and an introductory set of 10 tubes if you’re just getting started and don’t want to chose your own palette.

An alternative option would be to create your own beginner’s kit of primary colors based on your own preferences. A good rule of thumb is to start with a warm and cool version of Yellow, Red, and Blue along with titanium white and black. (I don’t use black typically while landscape painting, but it’s always good to have some on hand)

HIMI Gouache is the only student-level gouache that I really feel comfortable recommending out of the brands I’ve tried so far. It’s much thinner than regular gouache and is a bit trickier to blend, but you get a really good amount of paint for the cost. If you’re worried about wasting expensive paint while learning the basics of gouache, this is what I would recommend! I haven’t found a local art supplier yet that carries this, so I purchased mine on amazon.


Acryla Gouache:

I don’t typically paint purely with acryla gouache because it doesn’t really fit my needs, but I do like using it as a base coat or underpainting for my gouache paintings. It’s great for this purpose, because the layers of traditional gouache on top won’t get muddied by the reactivated initial layer of paint.

I use Liquitex for my acryla gouache. They have a good variety of colors, the paint is a great quality, and each bottle has a little squeeze nozzle on the top which is helpful in conserving paint. I started with the Essentials Set of 12 to experiment with and have added a few additional colors since.

  • Light Pink  - I typically start with a pink base layer, so I quickly went through the red and white included in the essentials set. I got this shade to help cut back on the amount of white I use, and I love it! It’s great darkened with a little bit of red and also makes a nice golden shade when mixed with yellow.

  • White - The essentials kit comes with smaller 22ml bottles, so I highly recommend picking up an additional larger bottle of white. It goes pretty quickly!

  • Cadmium Free Yellow Deep

Gouache Painting Surfaces


Good quality paper will make a huge difference when painting with gouache because it will eliminate frustrations like the paper buckling or pilling when you add too many layers. I prefer using 100% cotton watercolor blocks to prevent these issues, but I also use heavy 300lb watercolor paper sometimes.

These are the watercolor blocks I use:

(For clean edges on Arches watercolor blocks, I find that 3M Blue Painters tape works best)

Watercolor paper:

When I use large sheets of watercolor paper, I always cut them down into smaller sizes to get multiple paintings out of them.


Beginner’s Paper:

Good quality paper can be expensive, and it might not be worth the extra money yet if you’re just starting out, but I would still recommend 140lb/300gsm minimum for gouache painting. There’s a number of student level options out there to choose from; it might just take a little bit of trial and error to find one you like.

When I was first learning gouache, I eventually settled on using Strathmore - I found that it buckled less than other brands with my painting style and it could handle all the blending I do, but the texture is a little flatter than you would expect with cold pressed paper. This is an example of a painting I did on Strathmore series 400.



If you follow me on Instagram, you probably know how much I love Etchr’s sketchbooks. I can’t say enough good things about them - the quality is excellent, the paper has never once buckled or pilled on me, it lays completely flat open, truly a 10/10 for me. I get the Perfect Sketchbook Bundle in A4 size. If you like clean edges on your paintings, Scotch magic tape works perfectly with these. Just make sure it’s the green label, I haven’t had as much luck with the other scotch tape finishes.


Beginner’s Sketchbooks:

When I was first learning gouache, I liked to do all of my painting in hardbound sketchbooks as a way to document my progress. I still have all of mine, and it’s fun to flip back through and see them all in order rather than having a folder filled with loose sheets. Out of the sketchbooks I tried, I really liked the Strathmore hardbound art journals.

I also filled up a few Moleskine Art Journals because I liked the size and orientation. I will say that the paper weight isn’t really ideal for gouache, but as long as you are careful with how much water you use, it can work.

Gouache Brushes

I don’t really use super expensive or high quality brushes for gouache; I don’t think it makes a huge difference and I find it better to upgrade my paper and paint first. I use synthetic brushes for gouache - here are my most used brush manufacturers and a few of my favorite brushes from each.

  • Princeton Velvetouch are my favorite brushes lately, great quality and work well with different amounts of water for a reasonable price. I started with the four pack of brushes Blick offers

    • Princeton Velvetouch 4 Pack (Round 1, Round 8, Angle Shader 1/4", and Spotter 18/0)

    • Princton Velvetouch 4 Pack (Round 4, Long Round 8, Angle Shader 3/8", and a Wash 3/4") These are probably my four most used brushes now

    • Angular Shader 1/2” I have the two packs above and then added this additional size for the shader. Angular shaders are great for trees and distant mountains.

  • Dynasty Black Gold the majority of my brush collection. Great quality, I haven’t had any issues with bristles falling out, they keep their shape well, and they offer a great variety of brush shapes. I prefer short handle brushes since I typically work on a smaller scale, but they also offer long handle versions.

    • Dagger, Short Handle, Size 3/8'' My favorite brush that I own. It’s perfect for blending gradient skies with little wispy clouds. It also comes in 1/2” and 1/4” versions, but the 3/8” is perfect for my typical sketchbook painting size.

    • Round, Short Handle, Size 6 Size 4 Size 2 Size 1 Size 0 I find for sketchbook sized paintings, the largest round brush I need is 6. I use round brushes for more detailed work, like waves and sea foam.

  • Simply Simmons Synthetic Brushes - extremely reasonably priced. I do find the gouache gets stuck in the bristles sometimes and can get a little streaky, but it’s easy enough to fix and not a deal breaker for this price range.

Gouache Accessories


I like using ceramic plates or palettes when I work with gouache because it offers plenty of room for mixing the colors and they’re easy to clean. Palettes with too many wells and not enough mixing space aren’t ideal for landscape painting, and are better suited for illustration where you want specific amounts of consistent color mixes. You can find plenty of great handmade ceramic palettes on Etsy - I got mine from LadyMadePottery (the large paint palette with 9 wells). Here are some other palettes that work great with gouache and are a little more portable:

  • Butcher Tray Palette - 11'' x 7 1/2'' & 15'' x 11'' - I like these because they’re flat and offer plenty of mixing space. There’s plenty of room to keep your dabs of gouache sperate without the need for wells. Some artists like to keep their paint on strips of wet paper towel which would also work with this palette. Simple but gets the job done!

  • Mijello Fusion Airtight/Leakproof Palette - 5'', Blue, 18 Wells - If you prefer having your paint in wells or if you’re looking for a travel palette, this is a great option. It has plenty of wells for your gouache while still having plenty of mixing space. It’s also airtight and will allow you to keep the wells of paint wet in between use for a few days, which will help you cut back on paint usage.

  • Masterson Sta-Wet Handy Palette - 8 1/2'' x 7'' - I normally use my sta-wet palettes for acrylic, but I tried it out recently plein-air painting with gouache and it really helped keep the paint nice and wet. I wouldn’t use this palette in the studio like I do with acrylic, but it was useful in the outdoor environment.


Water Containers

I use recycled jars from the kitchen for my paint water - I wouldn’t recommend spending any money on anything fancier than that. I have a couple of Puck Brush Cleaner that I stick to the bottom which helps clean the bristles out.



My preferred brand for acrylic is Golden Heavy Body Artist Acrylics and Liquitex Professional Heavy Body Acrylic Paint. Both of these paints are professional grade, which means they’re a bit thicker than student or academic grade paints and contain more pigment. Professional paint can be expensive but is absolutely worth the extra money once you reach a certain skill level.

If you’re just starting out, I recommend starting with student grade paints and then upgrading your colors as you run out once you’re more experienced. Golden does offer a pretty good Classic Theory Color Mixing paint set that comes with eight small 2 oz tubes of paint and a color mixing guide if you think you’re ready to take the leap right out of the gate.

I have a much smaller selection of acrylic paints than gouache, but here are my most used acrylic paint colors. Most tubes I buy are the 2 oz version, but if it’s a color I use a lot of I get the 5 oz which saves money in the long run.

Beginner’s Acrylic Paint:

If you’re just starting out or if you’re reintroducing yourself to acrylic paint, I recommend starting with student level paints so you’re not afraid of wasting paint or money while you learn.

I’ve had good luck with both Blick Studio and Liquitex Basics paint, I still have and use tubes from both. They’re more affordable than professional level paints, but the quality is still great and they both offer a wide variety of colors. Below is a list of colors I’ve used and would recommend getting as a starter set:

Here are some additional colors that I’ve enjoyed but are less necessary than the colors above:

Acrylic Painting Surfaces:


I like painting with acrylic on watercolor paper because the texture is nice and it allows me to water down the acrylic paint without worrying about the paper buckling. It also doesn’t need to be gessoed or primed before using, which makes it more convenient for me than canvases or panels.

These are the watercolor blocks I use:


I use the back-stapled Blick Premier Cotton Canvas either in gallery or museum profile. It comes stretched and pre-gessoed and is pretty reasonably priced (it’s even more reasonably priced if you wait for sales or buy in bulk!) They come in a good variety of sizes and I’ve never had any issues with quality. I’m not going to link to every size I use because it would be way too many, but here are some of my go-to favorites:

Blick Premier Back-Stapled Gallery 1-1/2'' Profile Cotton Canvas

  • 6'' x 6''  - My absolute favorite square painting size. It’s small enough to finish in a sitting but large enough to display well. They also display well in groups of 3 or 4. All of this is also true for the 8x8 canvas.

  • 9'' x 12'' - This is a good size if you’re used to A4 sized painting. It’s slightly larger, but a familiar scale. This size also looks good displayed in a pair or trio.

  • 12'' x 16'' - Medium-small size

  • 24'' x 30'' - A good medium size. I find that in portrait orientation, the 24” is easy to find good display walls (I’m always thinking of where I would hang my paintings for some reason!)


Beginner’s Canvas:

Canvas can be expensive, especially once you start looking at the larger sizes. If you’re just starting out, it’s probably not worth spending the money on gallery wrapped canvas just yet. You want to be creating as many paintings as possible to help improve your skill, which means you should prioritize the amount of painting surfaces you can get over the quality.

Canvas panels are a great alternative to stretched canvas. Not only are they more affordable, but they’re much easier to store and the rigid back prevents them from warping. Some artists even prefer painting on canvas panels! They often come in value packs, which means you can stock up on supplies while paying less per item.

I like Blick’s own canvas panels; below are a couple of sizes I recommend. (I wouldn’t recommend going too large if you’re a true beginner. It’s better to get the experience of finishing three small paintings rather than finishing one large painting. Your skills will improve a lot faster this way!)


Blick Studio Canvas Panels

They also make Canvas Pads that can be great for practicing new techniques. Some manufacturers use canvas paper instead of genuine loose canvas, so be careful with what you purchase if that’s not what you want. I like Fredrix Canvas Pads because they use actual primed canvas.


Even though the canvas I buy comes pre-gessoed, I usually do and extra coat or two of my own to really smooth the surface out. This is also a good way to make cheaper canvas smoother - use a super fine sheet of sandpaper and very gently sand the canvas surface down before adding a thin, even layer of gesso. You can repeat this as many times as you need until you’re happy with the canvas. I either use Golden Acrylic White Gesso or Liquitex Acrylic Gesso.

I’m still painting relatively small canvases so I get the 8 oz or 16 oz bottles as needed for now, but if you work exclusively with acrylic or work on larger canvases frequently it make sense to start buying the larger sizes to save money . Liquitex offer a 64 oz size and a 128 oz size, both of which are more than half the cost per oz than the 8 oz version.


I do varnish my acrylic paintings when I’m finished, to help prevent the painting from being damaged by UV rays, dust, or other elements over time. I currently use Golden Gloss-Soft Gel mixed with water to create an isolation coat before varnishing. (Golden does now make a specific Isolation Coat product - but I’m finishing up my current jar of soft gel before I try it out!) The isolation coat will help protect the painting if the varnish ever has to be removed.

I currently use Liquitex Acrylic Varnish in Gloss and in Matte finish. A gloss varnish will really bring out the colors of the painting and enrichen them, but it will also create a sheen on the surface that will glare when light hits it. Matte varnish doesn’t have the same glare issues, but it does soften the colors and make them appear duller.

My personal preference depends on the specific painting I’m varnishing, so I like to keep both on hand. If you are using glossy varnish - make sure you photograph and document your finished painting before you varnish since the glare will make it hard to get a good photo.

Acrylic Brushes

I’m not super picky with my acrylic brushes either and I don’t splurge for the expensive ones. Like my gouache brushes, I’d rather upgrade my paint and painting surfaces before I upgrade the brushes themselves. As long as the brush doesn’t shed like crazy and can hold it’s form for a while, it can get the job done.

I use medium to firm synthetic brushes for acrylic painting - here are my most used brush manufacturers and a few of my favorite brushes from each.

  • Princeton Velvetouch are my go-to brushes for gouache right now, and I’ve found they work great with acrylic too.

    • Princton Velvetouch 4 Pack (Round 4, Long Round 8, Angle Shader 3/8", and a Wash 3/4") A good starter set

    • Wash, Size 1" - I work on medium to small surfaces most of the time, so 1” is a good size for blocking in large parts of the painting for me

    • Angular Shader 1/2” - I love angular shaders. I use them for trees, waves, rocks, distant mountains - it such a versatile brush shape!

  • Princeton Select Series 3750 

    • Flat Wash, Short Handle, Size 1/2'' and 3/4” - I have a whole bunch of sizes and brands for flats, but these 2 get more use than most of them combined.

    • Angle Shader, Short Handle, Size 3/4" and 5/8” - Mine are a bit frayed now because I use them so much, but I got a lot of great use out of them with good form

    • Filbert Grainer, Short Handle, Size 1/2''

Beginner’s Brushes

If you’re unfamiliar with different the brush types and what they can be used for, I recommend getting a value set of brushes that has a little bit of everything to help learn first hand rather than guessing at what types you might prefer. Here are a few good options from blick that come with a useful variety of brushes:

Acrylic Accessories


For my acrylic paint I use a sta-wet palette, which has a wet sponge underneath the palette paper to keep the paint wetter for longer. It’s also airtight and can keep paint wet for days if sealed properly. I’m always trying to be conscious about the amount of waste I’m producing while painting, and the palette paper can be reused a few times before being switched out for a new sheet. This has been a huge money saver for me, and keeps me from worrying too much about wasting paint.

This is the exact one that I have which is a great size for indoor or studio painting:

I also got this smaller version for when I’m painting outdoors or working on a 6x6 sized painting. It’s much more portable and can fit in my painting bag:



My favorite brands for watercolor are Kuretake Gansai Tambi and Winsor & Newton. I used to really struggle with watercolor back in high school, and I never bothered to pick it back up again until I tried Kuretake Gansai Tambi after reading a review and absolutely loved them. They are Japanese watercolors, and have a beautiful creamy texture to them and are more opaque than traditional western watercolors. I cannot recommend these paints enough, especially if you’re someone who’s struggled with watercolor in the past. They also sell refill pans for pretty cheap if you run out of a specific color.

  • Set of 12

  • Set of 18

  • Set of 24

  • Set of 36 - This is the set I have, which includes some metallic colors not in the smaller sets. I do wish I had went for the 48 set in hindsight, but I’m very happy with the color selection.

  • Set of 48

I also use Winsor & Newton Professional Watercolor tubes - the quality of the pigments are excellent and they rewet really well. If you want to test how these paints behave and see if they’re a good fit for your painting style, they do offer a Watercolor Dot Card that has a sample of every color they offer. There’s enough space on the card to create a good sample of each color and see their characteristics, and it has a little reference chart to tell you the behaviors of each paint (like lightfastness). This is a great affordable way to figure out what the colors look like in real life!

These are my go-to watercolor tubes:


Watercolor Paper

I like painting on watercolor blocks because I paint with a lot of water and don’t need to worry about the paper buckling. My preferred watercolor block at the moment is Arches cold pressed - the paper quality is excellent and handles water very well. I’ve never had any issues lifting paint or scrubbing.

These are the watercolor blocks I use:

When I’m not using watercolor blocks, I like to use heavy 300lb watercolor paper so I don’t need to worry about stretching the paper beforehand. Heavier paper is more expensive, but I save some money by buying them in large sheets and then cut them down to the size I need. I don’t watercolor very often, so for me the convenience of not having to pre-stretch the paper is worth the extra money.

Watercolor paper:

Beginner’s Paper:

Paper quality is important when working with watercolor, because it helps prevent issues like the paper buckling or pilling when you use a lot of water. You can absolutely still use student or beginner grade paper, just keep in mind that certain techniques like wet on wet or washes might behave a little differently. I’ve found that dryer techniques and painting styles work fine, so depending on the type of work you’re doing this could be an area to save some money on. If you’re going to be painting landscapes or working with washes, you probably will eventually want to upgrade your paper once you have a handle on the techniques and water control.

I recommend 140lb paper minimum for watercolor. If you’re planning on using a lot of water in your techniques (wet on wet, washes, gradients, etc), I would look specifically for watercolor paper and not mixed media paper. It might take some trial and error to find a paper that works well for you, but here are the beginner level papers I had luck with:

Watercolor Brushes

My favorite watercolor brushes are the ones that can hold a lot of water and can retain their brush shape. Unlike acrylic and gouache, I find that spending extra money on quality brushes is sometimes worth the cost for watercolor. The higher quality bristles can make a huge difference with water control and can help make your paints last longer. For me, I find this especially applies to brush types like mops and quills.

Here are a few of my favorite go-to watercolor brushes:

Water Brushes:


Beginner’s Brushes:

If you’re just getting started with watercolor, I would start out with a good variety of cheaper brushes so you can practice different techniques and figure out what brush types work best for you. I would recommend getting at least one large brush for prewetting the paper and washes, and a couple of different rounds and flats of different sizes. Cheaper brushes tend to have loose bristles that come out while painting occasionally, so I like to gently pull on the bristles before I start to help prevent them from dropping into the painting.

Here are a few inexpensive but good quality beginners sets with a variety of brush types:

Studio Supplies

I get asked a lot about shipping and studio supplies from other artists, so I thought a reference list of what I’m using might be useful for some:

Paper Cutter: X-ACTO Heavy Duty Wood Base Paper Trimmer, 18 Inch Cut

Mail Scale: ACCUTECK All-in-1 Series W-8250

Printer: Canon PIXMA PRO-200 Wireless Professional Color Photo Printer

Scanner: Epson Perfection V600




I get the majority of my prints made from a variety of online printers. I’m still testing out different options and figuring out what works best for me, but here are some of my current printers:

Fine Art Prints: Giclee Today (Expensive, but very high quality)

Business Cards and Postcards: Moo (Use that link for 25% off your first order!) Great quality, colors are excellent. You can add variety for no extra cost which is great for the postcards.

Art Prints: CatPrint (Use that link for $10 off your order!) More affordable art print option, thinner paper by colors are great and they offer free hard copy proofs.