Posts Tagged "tools"

My favorite watercolor papers

I recently blogged about my watercolor paints and brushes in two parts — ONE / TWO

However, what good are those wonderful paints and brushes for without beautiful, high-quality paper? For daily practice work, inexpensive student quality pads like the Canson papers with the hot air balloon drawing on the cover that you can find at NBS and a Monologue Sketchbook (which I’ve also been abusing using) are great to have around but for commission work, it’s more appropriate to use paper that will allow illustrations to shine and last for a long time.

Here are some of my staples (so far) along with close-ups of samples of my illustrations using the different papers so that you can see their textures up close as well as how colors respond to them

.comparing watercolor papers

L-R and in no order of preference, these are the paper brands I keep going back to: Arches, Hahnemuhle, Khadi, and Canson. I’ve been hearing good things about Fabriano and Strathmore too but I have to wait for my shipment to arrive so I can try them out. The red, yellow, and blue paint I used for the comparison shot above are Shinhan PWC Permanent Red, Cadmium Yellow Deep, and Peacock Blue (from ArtWhale).

All of the above are acid-free and, save for Canson Montval Torchon which uses 100% cellulose, are fine artist quality papers made of natural fibers like cotton rag and bamboo in Hahnemuhle Bamboo Mixed Media Board’s case. Below are some notes:

arches watercolor paper sample work

Arches Cold-Pressed Cotton Watercolor Paper, 300 gsm (available at NBS and some Fully Booked branches though I got mine from

I prefer cold-pressed to hot-pressed watercolor papers because I love the rough texture which IMHO lends an organic feel. Arches 100% cotton paper has a nicely coarse “tooth” that seems to absorb pigments easily which allows colors to remain vibrant and intense. I’m also able to paint big juicy washes and draw fine details with minimal buckling, even when I don’t stretch the paper (which I really usually don’t, being lazy). At 300 gsm, it’s also thick enough to handle re-wetting with no visible damage when I make mistakes. 😛


Hahnemuhle matte watercolor paper

Hahnemuhle Mould-Made Watercolor Paper (Matte), 200 gsm (available at Deovir Arts)

Arnold introduced me to this paper so it was the first “fine art” paper I ever used. (I’m a bit embarrassed to admit that all of my watercolor work from years ago were done on yellow-backed illustration boards and sketch pads). Because of that, this has become my “benchmark” paper. It’s awesome for wet-on-wet painting (the paper drinks up the water & pigments without diminishing color vibrancy) and as you can see above, I can also do crisp-edged drawings on it with no problems. At 200 gsm, I avoid painting large washes though it may be possible if stretched beforehand. Mistakes are also easy to re-wet and “erase,” making it an ideal choice for beginners. It’s very economical to buy big sheets of these and tear them down to a more manageable size. The deckle edge is a nice touch and it’s inspired me to keep the torn edges when I tear it up into smaller pieces for a raw handmade look. 🙂


Hahnemuhle mould made watercolor paper rough

Hahnemuhle Mould-Made Watercolor Paper (Rough), 300 gsm (available at Deovir Arts)

This one comes in block form and has a rougher, slightly raised and woven texture compared to the matt variant. A block is very convenient since you can immediately apply large washes with no need for stretching. I found the weave-like texture off-putting at first since I was already used to the fine-grained fibrous texture of Hahnemuhle’s matt paper but after using this for a while. I learned to like it as well. It appears that the pigments sink and “sit” in the grooves and so deep, rich colors are preserved.

khadi handmade watercolor paper circle

Khadi Handmade Paper 320 gsm, circle (above) and A5 (below) — (available at ArtWhale)

At 329 gsm, this paper handmade in India is thicker than all the other natural-fiber papers I’ve tried and because it’s made of long-fiber cotton rag (upcycled t-shirt cuttings, anyone?), it seems to be more absorbent than the other papers. The painting above was done on the circle variant (which reminds me of pita bread 😉 ) months ago using ShinHan Korean Colors but because the pigments were fully absorbed by the paper, it looks as if it was painted just yesterday. Also, as you can see almost the entire surface is covered in watercolor but at 320 gsm, the paper didn’t buckle much and actually stiffened a bit once the paint dried — possibly because the rag combined with the pigments.

The A5 variant (below) has a slightly finer grain. Since my first artwork is almost opaque, I tried to see how the paper react to a transparent wet-on-wet technique and it performed beyond my expectations. 🙂 The paper was able to soak in a lot of water and it never once buckled. Also, just look at how rich the colors stayed even after the paint dried (I used ShinHan PWC paints for the test below). The A5 size is perfect for portraits too and the deckle edges add a beautiful handmade touch.

khadi handmade watercolor paper a5


hahnemuhle bamboo mixed media board

Hahnemuhle Bamboo Mixed Media Board 265 gsm (available at Deovir Arts)

This is an all-in-one artist-grade paper made from 90% bamboo fibers and 10% rag which can be used with watercolour, gouache, acrylics, colored pencils, chalk and oil pastel, stamp pad inks, etc. It comes in sheets at Deovir (for around P118 per 19″ x 25″ sheet) which is great value since you can cut it up into smaller pieces and it can handle almost any media. The surface is smooth and watercolor glides on it with ease. I like using this paper with the wet-on-dry watercolor technique since colors seems to maintain brilliancy that way.


Canson Montval Torchon watercolor paper

Canson Montval Torchon Watercolor Paper, 270 gsm (available at NBS and Fully Booked)

Among relatively inexpensive student-grade papers, this is the closest I’ve found that can mimic the behavior of premium watercolor paper. Made from archival cellulose, the texture is similar to that of Hahnemuhle Bamboo’s — smooth but grainy enough to absorb paint and give paintings a “watercolory” look, meaning it won’t look like the paint is just sitting on top of the paper. At 270 gsm it’s not prone to much buckling unless you’re doing heavy-duty washes. Remember though that this isn’t fine art paper and drawings might eventually fade so make sure to use this only when you will scan and digitize your work.

I would love to know what brands and kinds of paper you like using. Please do share in the comments section. 🙂

See also:

Read More

My watercolors, brushes, and painting tools (Part 2)

It’s time for PART 2 of this blog post from June of last year:  My watercolors, brushes, and other painting tools

Since that entry, I’ve added *just* a few more paints to my arsenal. Most of my watercolors at the time were student grade pan sets, but after practicing for months, I thought I deserved a good selection of artist grade watercolors that I can use for the commissions that were surprisingly starting to trickle in (thanks to my posting of work online). 🙂

After consulting with friends, doing lots of research on sites like Handprint and WetCanvas AND considering what I can afford, I chose the brands ShinHan PWC (Premium Watercolors) and Holbein. These two Asian brands are known for creamy, brilliant colors that are quite similar in behavior and quality. I chose tubes because I have a tendency to mix pan colors on the pans themselves and after a while, I can’t tell which is which anymore. Obviously I won’t have that problem with tubes if I squeeze out just enough for what I need at the time of painting.

ShinHan PWC Extra Fine Artists Watercolor

ShinHan PWC Extra Fine Artists Watercolors in 5ml and 15ml tubes — Permanent Red, Vandyke Brown, Ultramarine Deep, Mineral Violet, Viridian, Cadmium Yellow Deep, Permanent Magenta, and Marine Blue. (Locally available from ArtWhale)

I already have a few tubes of the ShinHan Korean Colors which I already reviewed here and here. PWC is ShinHan’s top-of-the-line paint and is made with high quality pigments and the finest grade gum arabic which produces beautifully transparent but vivid, fade-resistant colors, as you can see in the swatches above. I also love how I can mix a variety of interesting hues from just those few colors in my palette.

And here’s a comparison test I did sometime ago where you can clearly see the difference between ShinHan Korean Colors and ShinHan PWC.

In my previous blog post, I mentioned that I already had a few tubes of Holbein Watercolors but that I haven’t really used them much because of the colors I picked. Since that time I purchased a travel set containing colors from their 12-tube set in pan form. The set also includes a little flask, two synthetic hair travel brushes, sponges, and receptacles for water for easy use when painting plein air.
holbein pro compo travel kit

Holbein watercolors in the Pro-Compo Mini II Travel Kit – Burnt Sienna, Chinese White, Crimson Lake, Permanent Green #1, Prussian Blue, Viridian, Burnt Umber, Cobalt Blue, Ivory Black, Permanent Yellow Light, Vermilion, and Yellow Ochre + 5ml tubes of Compose Blue, Cobalt Turquoise Light, Lilac, Violet Grey, Lavender, Jaune Brilliant #2, Opera, Leaf Green, Permanent Violet, and Indigo. (Available from Deovir Arts though my travel kit is from an indie seller on IG)

Holbein, like ShinHan PWC, is wonderfully creamy and vibrant and re-wets easily. Just dab your wet brush onto the dry paint and the color will leap into your brush like metal files to a magnet. 😀 It also produces beautiful transparent washes and intense hues. I’m very happy with my choice of paints.

Here’s something I painted entirely with Holbein:

A photo posted by Cynthia Bauzon-Arre (@arncyn) on

(Lots more on Instagram as always.)

And now for the brushes I’ve added to my tool kit —

escoda silver brush black velvet winsor & newton brushes

From left to right: Winsor & Newton Foundation Brushes #2, 4, and 6; Silver Brush Black Velvet #8 , and Escoda Reserva #8 which I keep in a Tweed & Twine rollup tool case


  • The W&N brushes are actually from my workshop kits (so if you signed up for my Watercolor Portrait Workshop on Feb.20 at Hey Kessy, you’ll be receiving a set of these!). I got a set for myself from IFEX Philippines and I’ve been using them as an alternative to my W&N Series 7 Kolinsky brushes since I don’t want to wear those out. These ones are synthetic and have a good snap to them, making them excellent for detail work! (Available at NBS & Fully Booked branches for only P185/set)
  • This Black Velvet brush is made of a blend of squirrel hair and synthetic filament and I find it very soft and absorbent. I love how the point stays in shape so I can make both fine lines and bold strokes with it. (Available locally from Craft Carrot though I got mine as a gift from a relative in the US)
  • The Escoda Reserva Kolinsky-Tajmyr Sable is my absolute favorite watercolor brush because it’s an all-in-one — it’s a travel brush so it can be collapsed. It also has terrific liquid-retaining capacity and the hair holds sharp points, making it perfect for juicy washes, bold strokes, and fine lines. Also, how gorgeous is that golden brass ferrule? (Available from ArtWhale)

See also: My watercolors, brushes, and other painting tools and My favorite watercolor papers

How about you, what are your watercolor painting must-haves? Please do share!


Read More

My watercolors, brushes, and other painting tools

Since I’ve been painting again almost everyday for months now, I thought I’d share my current favorite watercolors and tools with you as well as a few notes and photos about how I’ve been using them. (See also: My watercolors, brushes, and painting tools (Part 2) and My favorite watercolor papers )

shinhan korean colors

1) ShinHan Korean Colors, which I wrote my first impressions about previously. These paints seem to work best for the “moody” illustrations that I like to make. I love how vivid the colors are and I think this is mainly due to the binder being refined gelatin and not gum arabic which is the traditional binder for Western watercolors. After a bit of research and also through experience,  I learned that having gelatin for a pigment binder results in a finish that’s more opaque than watercolors but more translucent than gouache or poster colors.  I’ve also tried adding a few drops of gum arabic to make them more transparent but 99% of the time I just use them as they are.

Best for: paintings with scenery and a lot of detail and background elements. Using more water allows me to achieve a watercolory effect, and layering on the colors produces a painterly look.
*Available locally at ArtWhale in sets and individual tubes

holbein watercolor swatches

2) Holbein Watercolors. I’ve always been curious about this Japanese-made brand so I purchased a few tubes last month, taking care to pick cooler colors as my ShinHan tubes were all warm tones. I’ve read that since the paints don’t have ox gall, they are richly pigmented and slow-moving. Like ShinHan, they’re also thicker than traditional Western watercolors but they can be thinned down with water for a transparent, muted finish. They are beautiful, creamy colors although I haven’t used them much in my paintings — maybe due to my color choices since so far I’ve only used them for flowers, save for Jaune Brilliant no.2 which I’ve been using as a base for skin tones. I’m planning to buy warmer hues sometime in the future since those are what I use more often anyway.

Best for: floral art, thick color applications, and probably lettering and calligraphy where you’d like to preserve brush strokes because the paints are formulated for classical Japanese-style painting or Nihonga.
* Available locally at ArtWhale and Deovir Arts in sets and individual tubes

kuretake gansai tambi swatches

3) Kuretake Gansai Tambi 36-color set, which I also wrote my first impressions about months ago. Having used it a lot more times now, I find that I always reach for this set when adding foliage and background elements to a painting because of the bright, beautiful colors and the vast color range — there’s almost no need to pre-mix specialty colors. I don’t use it as often for portraiture though because it takes me too much time to mix a skin tone I’m happy with (2017 UPDATE — I used the set for the portrait demo below).

A post shared by Cynthia Bauzon-Arre (@arncyn) on

I also like the addition of pearlescent colors which are handy for adding sheen to some of the hues when necessary. The consistency of this paint is very creamy and they’re slightly more opaque than usual, kind of like ShinHan and Holbein (which doesn’t surprise me, all of them being traditional Eastern / Asian watercolors).

Best for: drawing food, foliage, background elements, landscapes, still life paintings, also calligraphy, lettering and sumi-e painting which is what they were really intended for. Because of the variety of colors, there’s practically no need to mix.
* Not aware if this is already available here in the Philippines.  I bought mine in Amazon last March.

Van Gogh watercolor swatches

4) Van Gogh Watercolors 24-color set, which I also already reviewed here. This is the set that travels out of the house with me due to its portable design. I also use this a lot for people drawings and portraits because it has Naples Yellow Red which is a great base for skin tones. The paints are very transparent and highly pigmented, resulting in intense colors even when diluted with a lot of water. Overall I think this set has the most balanced variety of colors, making it a good traveling and journaling companion.

Best for: portraits, landscapes, food, people / journaling, traveling, urban sketching
* Available from Deovir Arts and Fully Booked in Greenbelt 5.

my watercolor brushes

Watercolor Brushes

From left to right:
1) Winsor & Newton Series 7 Kolinsky brush size 0
2) Winsor & Newton Series 7 Kolinsky brush size 3
3) Royal Talens Rembrandt Series 100 Pure Kolinsky size 6

These three are my “investment” brushes and fortunately I get a lot of use out of them, especially from the Rembrandt because of its size. Kolinsky sable brushes are known for their ability to hold paint (no need to keep reloading the brush) and retain the pointed shape while you’re using them. I love how springy the bristles are which makes painting a breeze. No need to worry about stray hairs producing uneven, streaky marks or accidentally coloring outside outlines.

*Available from Amazon, Fully Booked GB5, and Deovir Arts

I really would rather buy synthetic hair brushes for ethical reasons so I also recommend the following:

4) Van Gogh GWVR Mini Yohitsu Visual brush size 3
5-7) Van Gogh  GWVR Yohitsu Visual brush sizes 2, 4, and 6
8-9) Van Gogh  GWVR Yohitsu Visual brush sizes 1/8 and 3/8

Before buying the Kolinskys in April, I’ve been using the Van Gogh visual brushes. (These are actually Arnold‘s but he gave them to me when I started painting again. 🙂 ) The brushes are made of a mixture of synthetic hair (nylon) + ox hair and goat hair. I love these brushes too and still use them up to now. Paint load capacity is good enough and, more importantly, the bristles hold the pointed shape well. I can’t achieve a super fine point with the #6 as well as with the Rembrandt #6 but they are great for general coloring and layering.

* Arnold got them from Sekaido in Shinjuku when we went a couple of years ago

10-12) Sterling Studio Golden Taklon brushes sizes round 5/0, flat 2, and angled 3/16

Given by Alessa Lanot of Life After Breakfast during the #LABWatercolorSwap. I don’t normally use brushes as tiny as these but the size 0/5 in particular made me a convert. Unlike other fine point brushes I’ve used before, I’m actually able to get a decent line out of this brush because the bristles are made of taklon, therefore it can hold more paint than other synthetic hairs. Because of this brush now I cannot stop adding detail to my works. 🙂

My workhorse brushes

kolinsky and synthetic brush comparison

The brushes I use most often are the Rembrandt Kolinsky #6, Van Gogh Yohitsu #6, Winsor & Newton Series 7 Kolinsky #3, Van Gogh #3, and Sterling Studio 5/0. I made this comparison chart (above) so you can also see how versatile round brushes are in that you can use them to draw both fine lines and broad strokes. It’s also easy to see how “thirsty” Kolinsky brushes are compared to the synthetic ones — just look at that paint load. Still, the Van Goghs are also able to make fine lines because of their ability to retain their shape which make them workhorses in my little studio.

A photo posted by Cynthia Bauzon-Arre (@arncyn) on

I actually also have a Holbein Water Brush and an old set of Koh-I-Noor Watercolor Pencils but I only use them when I’m out of the house. Both are available from Deovir.

paint palette

My final tool is a Reeves Folding Plastic Palette which I ordered from Amazon along with the brushes. Because of my limited watercolor tube palette, I needed a surface where I could pre-mix colors and keep them safe and usable. I haven’t changed anything that you see here in 2 months which makes having a palette like this very economical since I get to save paint (and money).

* I bought this from Amazon but I’ve read that you can get similar ones locally from Craft Central.

As for watercolor paper, for archival drawings I use Arches and Hahnemuhle (my favorites though I only buy them in sheets, not in blocks. Those are way out of my budget.) and Canson Montval Torchon, For commercial (i.e. for scanning) work, I use a Canson Montval Aquarelle block or my small Daler-Rowney Aquafine sketch pad. I also recently used up a Potentate sketch pad that was given by Craft Carrot. For practice and tooling around, I use an inexpensive children’s watercolor pad from Saizen / Daiso and a Berkeley pad.

(Feb.12, 2016: I’ve updated this list in Part 2 of this entry and added a review of my favorite watercolor papers)

I hope you guys found this useful. Please do share what your favorite materials are. 🙂

Read More

I'm Cynthia Bauzon-Arre, a Filipino watercolor artist & graphic designer. I live in QC with my graphic novelist husband Arnold and our friendly marmalade tabby Abbas. This blog has been chronicling my life, likes, and loves since 2001. [ more ]

view my portfolio