February 08, 2018 2 min read
In Lynn Powers workshop A Solid Start in Watercolor, she gets something out of the way first thing: “If your going to cut expenses anywhere, do it in paint.”
Use student grade paint she says.
Her reasoning? The only way to get better at painting is to paint a lot. You’re not going to do that if you’re counting the dollars you’re spending per brush stroke.
Watercolorist Anne Abgott knows the tendency to go for cheaper materials for economic reasons.
“I heard someone say once,” says Abgott, “that the only artists that should use poor paper and paint are the Masters as they can paint on anything and with house paint!”
Abgott has a different solution: Waiting for sales.
“Students would be better to buy three or four basic colors from paint manufacturers that go on sale,” she says. “I see beginning watercolor artists really struggle with poor paper and poor paint...They also buy student grade paints. These paints are loaded with white and make MUD MUD MUD.”
There are differences between student grade and professional grade paints. In A Solid Start in Watercolor, Powers explains that student grade paints have larger pigment particles in them. This can make them more granular to work with.
The most expensive part of a tube of paint is the pigment itself. To make a paint less expensive, in the most simple terms, manufacturers will use less pigment and more of something else. It’s that something else that Abgott is referencing.
However, don’t be scared off yet. If you’re working with one of the professional brands, even the student grade paints are made with the highest of quality. The student grade paint won’t affect how light fast the paint is. It may just handle a bit differently.
So if you are just starting out in watercolor painting and have the dollars to spend, get the professional grade. Wait for a sale. Start with a limited palette. But if you find that professional paint price tag too daunting- even with the sale- don’t fear starting with student grade paints.
“To get better at painting,” says Abgott, “the only way to do this is to paint LOTS.”
If starting with less expensive paints will help you do that, buy those paints and get to work.
Experienced watercolor painters: What is your experience with student grade vs professional grade? Why did you choose one over the other when starting out?
Beginning watercolor painters: Are you using professional or student grade paint? Why?
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