Tools of the Trade

I am often asked what materials I use and where I find them.  I am definitely a frugal shopper, so I look around to find the best price but keeping in mind the quality of materials.  I find my go-to store online is Amazon.  I am a prime junkie, I admit it.  And their prices are very competitive.  I also would like you to know, I am an affiliate for Amazon and receive a small commission if you purchase through these links (enough to keep my chocolate stash going).  However, I don't recommend products to anyone unless I use them myself and find the quality to be outstanding.   



I've tried a lot of watercolor brands and have way too many tubes of colors leftover from my experimental phase.  I do have my favorites now and whenever I purchase I don't stray from my favorite two brands.   

For me, I've settled on Daniel Smith Watercolors and Holbein Watercolors. I like how they handle a wash, and how vibrant they remain from palette to paper.  I also like that the quality of the pigment doesn't disintegrate after they dry on the palette.  For my style of work, I find that I mix colors, paint for awhile and then come back later.  So the paint is drying on my palette. (I even keep palettes around full of dried watercolors to use on another painting or illustration) I love that the colors are just as nice and handle the same even when I re-wet them.  Plus, that also means no wasting of important added bonus!

I order both Daniel Smith Watercolors and Hobein Watercolors from Amazon.  I am quite inpatient and love me my prime shipping.  So Amazon it is for me.  

This is a nice basic set from
Daniel Smith


This is another great set, but from Holbien

Watercolor Palette

For the most part I am not fancy when it comes to my watercolor palette, but I am picky about how the palette handles paint.  

I have found that I like to use ordinary white ceramic or porcelain plates.  Using this type of plate keeps the paint from beading up and makes really nice puddles. I like to use the size of a salad plate.  The salad plate is a good size to have several going at once on my table.  By using the salad size, they fit on my table nicely and I can move them around according to what I am working on within the painting.  I have about 10 of these plates. I use between 3-5 for any one painting or illustration.  Usually I have a few color mixtures going on each plate.  

I got the ones I use now at a thrift store for 99c each.  I look for a flatter plate with no print on it....solid white.  


Since I have a love affair with so many mediums, I use a few different surfaces to work on.

Yupo - I use Yupo paper for watercolor techniques and also ink.  Yupo is a synthetic paper that can give you some
really cool effects which are very different from what happens on other types of paper.  It is a blast to use...if you are
looking to break out of a rut and try something different, definitely give Yupo a try. 

Arches -  Arches is my favorite watercolor paper.  I mainly use 140lb, but also like 300lb too.  I use cold-press most often but when I am doing something with more detail, I go for the hot-press.  Cold press has a slight texture and hot press is very smooth.

Uart - Uart is my current go-to pastel paper.  It is sanded (meaning textured like sandpaper).  It holds so many layers
of pastel, which I am a huge fan of since I work in about 20-25 layers.  So I need a paper with good grip.  I used to use
Kitty Wallis Sanded Pastel Paper and I still have some in my stash.  But Kitty Wallis paper being as awesome as it is, 
can be extremely difficult to find.  I went through a ton of trial and error trying to match the level I expect from Kitty Wallis.  I finally found Uart Pastel Paper.  It is so darn close the only way I know the difference is to turn it over and
look on the markings on the backside.  I mostly use 400, 500 and 600 grit paper.

Ampersand GessoBord - Yes, I know that looks like it is spelled wrong and it gets me every time, but that is how it is
spelled, so if you are looking for it online, it may go easier if you don't get tripped up like I do every single time. Anyway, Gessobord is what I use for my oil paintings.  I mostly paint seascapes in oil and with my style being very representational, I do like a really smooth surface.  This is exactly that.  Smooth as glass but holds the oil perfectly!  

Kipling Pen/Pencil Case - I take my basic supplies everywhere I go.  I can't stand to be bored waiting in doctor offices and places like that.  I also can't be without my art supplies for an extended period of time.  I get antsy if I am cut off from creativity.  So when I'm out of the house or traveling, I like to carry some basic stuff with me.  I found this pencil case and it works perfectly for what I need.  I fits in my purse and backpack without any problems.  When I am on a plane I just whip this baby out, lay it on the tray table next to my sketchbook and I am good to go.  Its functionality allows me to have everything at the tip of my fingers in an organized way, where everything stays safely in its place.  Nothing falls out, nothing gets lost, nothing is a jumbled mess too hot to handle. It has 26 elastic slots for my pens/pencils and a huge area for all my other extras I may want to erasers, small sketchbook, any extra pens, and a small pan of watercolors.  This little case has traveled so many places with me by plane just since I got it last year...Hawaii several times, Antigua, California several times, Acadia National Park -Maine, and extended car rides too.  Plus, like I already said, I take it to every waiting room and believe me when I tell you I spend a ton of time in medical waiting rooms so this baby has been around. I never, ever leave the house without it.  You never know when you could get stranded. And being stranded without art supplies would be unbearable...amiright? And...It still looks brand spanking new!  Plus  a cute added bonus?  The case has its trademark tiny, fuzzy gorilla that hangs from the bag...which always makes me smile, even after an hour in a waiting room.

Travel Case

Everyday I do some sort of drawing with my pens in my sketchbook.  I like pens that have ink that doesn't smear when a hand goes over it.  Versatility is also important.  Meaning, it should hold up and not bleed when watercolor is placed on top of the ink.  My favorites that have all of these qualities are Faber Castell Pitt Artist Pens.  I find I use the sizes S, M, B, and F the most.  I take these 4 everywhere I go.

Pencils are another thing I do not leave home without.  In fact, I use them so much that I used to carry a mini sharpener with me too.  Until I got these really nice Pentel GraphGear Mechanical Pencils as a gift.  Not only are they so pretty but super functional too.  I have a set of 4 with the sizes .3, .5, .7 and .9.  Each pencil has a rotating window where the hardeness of the lead can be dialed into the window so you know what kind of lead you put in.  They also have a built in eraser (major bonus!) and the lead retracts back into the pencil too, so no wasted lead.


My favorite inks are Pinata Alcohol Inks.  The colors are really saturated and vibrant. The stay so pretty even when dry.   I have a ton of colors and sometimes I mix them in different containers to make custom colors.  



Pinata Alcohol Inks

If you ever go into an art supply store and see how many choices there are for acrylic paint you would know that it can be overwhelming.  Some of the offerings are really great and some not so good.  My only advice is to stay away from student grade paint.  It will not give you the results you desire and make painting very difficult.  So when you finally move over to better quality paint, the learning has to start all over again, because good quality paint is a whole other ballgame.  If you have the money-monies, go ahead and buy better stuff.  Buy fewer tubes (think the 3 primary colors -red, blue, yellow plus black and white--from these you can mix all colors) of good quality paint than many tubes of student grade.

That being said, I love me some Golden Brand Paint.  I love the vibrancy of color and variety of fluidity.  There is heavy body, and fluid paint.  I use a combination of both.  Heavy bodied paint is more opaque and fluid is perfect for transparency and washes.  

My favorite colors on my palette are (these are the colors I use to create my abstract paintings):

Golden Heavy Body:                                        

Cobolt Turquoise                                                 
Cobolt Blue                                                         
Cerulean Blue Chromium                                   
Permanent Green Light                                       
Green Gold                                                           
Anthraquinone Blue                                             
Titanium White

Golden High Flow:   

Ultramarine Blue
Turquoise (Phthalo)
Transparent Phthalo (Blue Shade)
Transparent Phthalo Blue (Green Shade)
Transparent Dioxazine Purple
Titanium White
Phthalo Blue (Green Shade)
Permanent Violet Dark
Green Gold
Cerulean Blue Hue
Anthraquinone Blue (Indigo)                                                

Acrylic Paints

I use oil paints when I do representational Seascapes.  I use many brands, depending on the color available.  But I also am picky about brands too.  These are the paints/brands I use and also the mediums I use.

This is my main palette:


Portland Cool Grey
Dioxazine Purple
Cobolt Blue
Ultramarine Blue
Quinacrinone Red
Phthalo Emerald
Raw Umber
Quinacridone Magenta
Titanium White

Winsor & Newton:

Transparent White
French Ultramarine Blue

Old Holland:

Naples Yellow-Reddish Extra
Carribean Blue


Prime Magenta


Windsor & Newton Liquin Original
Turpenoid Natural
Gamblin Varnish

Oil Paints/Mediums