3 Watercolor “Musts”

1. Watercolor Refills

What do I always order every year? Watercolor Refills.  Half of the art teacher I know will say: DUH.  The other half will say: wait, what?  Watercolor refills – it’s that simple.  Any arts and crafts catalog will have these – typically they will be the magazine brand or Crayola brand.  Most watercolor (not the fancy kind) pan sets are oval, some are square/rectangle.  Whatever they are, I guarantee you they sell a refill that fits your pan (if not, you can transition over).

Now, the one thing I caution about is the ultimate “class pack”.  This would be great, if every student used exactly the same amount of every color so that you would always needs an equal set of each color.  This never happens – especially if you have a guided lesson. It never happens. NEVER.  Typically, I run out of yellows, blues, and purples more than any other color.  I don’t often let students bother with black, brown or white but I always need those bright colors.  Always order your watercolor refills in their separate colors so you can control how much you have.  After my first year of teaching 6th graders about watercolor, I knew exactly what colors to ensure I always had.

Prang, if you can find them, has sets of 6-12 of each color.  Crayola comes in packs of 6.  These rang anywhere from $2-$4 which is similar in price to the actually 8 pack you could get.  But once again, if you go that route, you’re stuck with equal amounts of each color and you often run out of the ones you need.  Save yourself some time and money and control what colors you are getting – before you know it, you’ll have a stock pile of the colors kids run out of most.

2. Use Every Drop

Kids hate when things aren’t “new”.  Well, most anyway.  I hate making generalizations but it’s mostly true.  Watercolors last a very long time. When I pass out watercolors to my students they go nuts because there isn’t any paint.  Apparently, they’ve been conditioned to believe that if a spec of the bottom on the pan is showing through, it’s kaput! Not true.  Don’t settle for what they want – always remind them until that pan of color is completely empty, with no residue of color, they are NOT out of paint.  This saves you time, money, and the constant nagging of “but I don’t have any yellow”.  They most often do.

3. Splurge on the good stuff.

Watercolor is involves water. This much is obvious.  Because of that, you have to get the good stuff.  I’m talking about watercolor paper.  There are hundreds of degrees of watercolor paper; rough, cold press, etc. The important stuff is to get the well made, textured paper even if it costs a little bit more.  Unfortunately, it’s not cheap but if you explain the paper to your students and the benefits that it has, they’ll be more likely to be patient and not waste the paper you give them.  The paper absorbs more water, bends and bubbles less, and really keeps the colors bright.  I tend to land in the middle with cost and quality due to budget restrictions but the paper has always been a life saver for projects.  Mistakes can be adjusted, students can be less scared to use too much water, etc.  More techniques can be used with other materials.  I will never not buy watercolor paper for watercolor projects.


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