Materials and Supplies

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Experimenting with materials is an ongoing adventure – there are so many great brushes, paper, and paints, and every artist has their favorites. I encourage you to research and experiment until you find what works best for you. Over time, I’ve come up supplies that I prefer, and hope this information will serve as a guide as you acquire what works best for your needs. This list will be updated as I discover new materials and supplies.

Notes Regarding the Materials List

Paints: There are many quality watercolor paints and every artist has their favorites. I started with Winsor & Newton and continue to be happy with them. I often purchase small tubes – 5 ml lasts a long time. For colors that I use a lot (Burnt Sienna, French Ultramarine), I purchase the 14 ml tubes.

The six standard colors I use for animal portraits are:

  • French Ultramarine Blue - mixed with Burnt Sienna creates greys and blacks
  • Burnt Sienna
  • Yellow Ochre
  • Winsor Lemon – used underneath browns, especially in eyes
  • Permanent Rose – Mixed with Yellow Ochre creates a pinkish hue for noses and around eyes
  • Permanent White Gouache - I use this sparingly for whiskers and white hairs; I prefer the gouache, which is a bit thicker, but the titanium white watercolor paint can also be used.

Additional colors used in some courses:

  • Burnt Umber
  • Winsor Blue (Green Shade)
  • Cobalt Blue
  • Indian Yellow
  • New Gamboge
  • Permanent Sap Green

If you don't happen to have some of these colors, you could substitute others - it's all about what you wish to achieve in your paintings and you can do a lot with the 5 standard colors.


When creating fur, it's important to use sturdy brushes that maintain a fine, pointed tip. After experimenting with different brushes, I discovered the Raphael Kaerell Pointed Round Brushes that are perfect for creating realistic fur. These synthetic brushes are soft, yet strong enough to handle the roughness of Cold Press paper while retaining a nice, fine point. They are affordable, so I don’t mind purchasing more when the point does wear down. Of course, there are other pointed round brushes that work well, and I encourage you to use what you prefer. I use the Princeton Select Synthetic Brush - Wave Oval Mop to cover large areas.


I use Arches Natural White 140 lb. watercolor paper for all courses in the school, mostly Cold Press, although some courses use Hot Press. You can purchase the paper in blocks, single large sheets that you can cut to size, and sometimes in packs of sheets.

  • Cold Press paper has a slightly textured surface. - I use it for 8 x 10 inch and larger paintings. Hot Press paper has a smooth surface, great for smaller works or paintings that require much detail.
  • Each course in the school provides a materials list that indicates whether Cold Press or Hot Press is used.

Preparing the Paper for Painting

For paintings 8 x 10 inches and larger, I soak the paper for 5 to 15 minutes in water, staple the edges of the paper to Gatorfoam Board, and allow to dry completely before beginning the painting.

  • Gatorfoam is a lightweight, rigid display board that has a dense, firm core and a water resistant surface. I use the 1/2 inch thickness. The board comes in different sizes. I have the 16" x 23" - my paintings are usually no larger than this.

Additional Materials

Sturdy Container for Water - I use a large plastic container so the water doesn’t have to be changed often.

Paper Towels - for cleaning brushes, blotting, and cleaning up

For cleaning and wiping brushes, you could use a variety of items.

  • I’ve seen artists wipe their brushes on a roll of paper towels
  • I used to use folded paper towels
  • Now I use a kitchen towel – sometimes called a tea towel. Folded to a convenient size, it absorbs water from the brush, dries quickly, and I don’t have to replace it as often as the paper towels. Use whatever is most convenient for your uses..

I lay the brushes on the towel so the tips hang over and won’t bend into weird shapes when drying.

I also use a tube from an old pen to pick up clean water and wake up color that has dried on the palette. You could add water with a brush, and I’ve seen artists use a squirt bottle – whatever works best for you, as long as the water is clean.

My set up looks like this.

Plastic container for water, brushes on the folded hand towel, paper towels nearby for blotting and cleaning up. I’m right handed, so these items are on the right, and my computer screen to view the reference photo is on the left.

I hope this information is helpful to you as you choose materials that work best for your needs.

If you have any questions,contact Rebecca at [email protected] She will be happy to assist!