We may earn a commission if you make a purchase through one of our links. The LA Times newsroom or editorial staff was not involved in the creation of this content. Learn more

Experiment with the Simplicity of the Best Watercolor Paints

Watercolor painting is a fun medium to experiment with and it’s easy to find supplies. Unfortunately, the most commonly available watercolor paints are grade school-level paint trays. While cheap, these simplistic trays aren’t the best choice for the color and clarity which makes for a professional-looking watercolor painting. Top-quality watercolor paints may come in trays, but more often they’re found in tubes like acrylic or oil paints. Many brands offer both student and professional-grade paints, but obviously the professional paints offer the best quality.

Depending on the pigments, the brand may offer paints with a variety of lightfast ratings and clarity. Each tube should tell you information on whether the paint is transparent, semi-opaque, opaque, and how lightfast it will be. Some colors fade faster than others so if you need the color to hold up over time it’s important to check this information.

All of these best watercolor paints in 2021 vary widely in price depending on the color and the pigments used. However, all of them were selected for this list based on the overall quality of the paint as measured by the use of high-quality pigments and materials, excellent lightfast ratings to guarantee permanent colors, and each brands' popularity among artists for good, consistent colors.

Detailing the Best Watercolor Paints of 2021

Zenacolor Watercolor Brush Pen Set - Best Watercolor Paint Overall

Color versatility doesn’t get better than the Zenacolor watercolor brush pen set. Included in this set is a collection of 48 watercolor pens in different shades and hues and two brush pens. Each pen combines the convenience of flowing paint with the feel of painting with a brush. Each pen in this set features a nylon brush tip and contains water-based non-toxic paint that’s easy to clean, and flows out smoothly. Each pen is also number and color-coded for easy identification and comes with a cap to prevent drying out. The whole set comes in a gift-ready cardboard box with a color chart to crosscheck colors. It is the ideal gift for budding artists and just about anyone who needs watercolor on-demand with the feel of a normal brush.

M. Graham Artists' Watercolor Paint - Runner Up

M. Graham Artists’ Watercolors are a high quality brand known for their strong, smooth colors. While most watercolor paints use gum arabic to bind the pigments, this brand also adds honey to the mix so paint stays moist longer. Honey allows for a high concentration of pigments making it easy to reuse dried paint from previous sessions (However it may take longer to dry on the painting.) In most cases, the paint is made with a single pigment and come in over 60 colors for a wide range of hues to choose from. The tubes are 15 milliliters or 0.5 ounces, running mid-range on price.

Holbein Artists' Watercolor Paint - Most Quiet

A Japanese brand, Holbein has a reputation for quality, and their Artists’ Watercolors live up to this standing. Unlike most watercolor paints, Holbein watercolors do not use any dispersants to smooth the paint giving the paints a unique, slow-moving texture allowing artists a high level of brush control and detail work. The tubes may not have the same lightfast information other brands offer, but the pigments hold up well and offer great color. The paint comes in either 5 or 15 milliliter tubes at a fairly good price for watercolor paints.

Winsor & Newton Professional Watercolor Paint - Contender

With a long and distinguished history, Winsor & Newton paints is one of the most popular brands available, offering a wide palette of 96 available watercolors. Many of these paints are made with a single pigment for stronger colors but some require a combination of pigments to create a stable, lightfast version of said color. The paints are available in pans for beginners but the tubes have the highest concentration of pigments recommended for serious artists. All of the colors are available in either 5 or 14 milliliter tubes though a handful of colors are available in larger 37 milliliter tubes. Winsor & Newton may be one of the more expensive brands, but it also ranks among the best.

Schmincke Horadam Aquarell Half-Pan Watercolor Paint - Consider

A family-owned company, Schmincke produces a top quality watercolor paint known for good color and flow. The paints are fairly expensive, comparable to the other top brands, but promise high quality materials and strict testing to determine the paints’ lightfast ratings. These paints are available in an extra wide selection of colors with a huge 110-color palette available to choose from. Of these colors, 70 are made from one pigment making them a great choice for artists to blend their own colors. Like most other brands on this list, Schmincke Horadam Aquarell Watercolors come in either 5 or 15 milliliter tubes or pans depending on user preference.

SCHPIRERR FARBEN Watercolor Paint - Best Watercolor Paint

Created by an Italian artist in the early 20th century, Maimeri Blu Artists Watercolors are handmade with natural pigments similar to other top brands and available at a reasonable price. Around two-thirds of their colors are made with one pigment for the purest color concentrations, granting artists the freedom to blend a range of their own colors. Maimeri Blu paint comes in 15 milliliter tubes with an excellent selection of 72 colors for artists to choose from.

Buyer's Guide

For many of us, when discussions on watercolor paints are brought up, it brings back childhood memories of when we had a pan of watercolor paint made of colored bricks. Here, we would be dishing out everything you need to become the best watercolor paint artist. In the review section above, we brought you the best watercolor paint for amateurs and professionals, so whether you are on the road or in your studio, you wouldn't need to worry about delivering anything short of perfection. This guide will also include how to choose watercolor paints with the best lightfastness.

What is a Water Color Paint?

We can say describe watercolor paint as a translucent medium made of watercolor. This paint medium is made by dispersing a colored pigment in a soluble binder; this binder, in return, adheres the stain to the canvas when it dries out. The type of binder or dye used in the production of a watercolor paint depends on the manufacturer.

What are the Benefits of using Water Color paint?

Here are some of the advantages of using watercolor paints

  • They are cheaper than other painting mediums and can even be reused when they dry.
  • Watercolor paints are easy to clean off, and the brush used for the job can also be quickly made clean using water and soap.
  • Another benefit you stand to gain when using watercolor paints is the ease of transporting them and setting them up whenever and wherever you need to use them.
  • They also take less time to dry up and are cost less than other painting mediums, saving time and money.

How to Choose the Best Color Paint

Here are things you should consider and look out for when choosing the best color paint


When choosing watercolor paints, you need to decide if you need an artist quality or student quality watercolor paint. While artist-quality watercolor paints are usually more expensive, they have the advantage of having a high percentage of finely ground pigments and also tend to have a more extended permanence rating than student-quality watercolor paints.

However, student-quality watercolor paints are more suited for amateurs and beginners who wish to test and improve on their watercolor painting skills.


When it comes down to choosing color and color combinations, it is easy to be drawn to the names used by the various watercolor paint manufacturers, but this should not be a criterion for choosing colors. Instead, since there is a wide selection of colors available, we advise you to choose colors based on the paint recipe, which contains each pigment concentration and mix ratio.

You will also want to opt for single pigment paints since they produce brighter colors when mixed to create more colors, lastly note that color names are not standard across different brands; these names are chosen based on what each manufacturer thinks will sell best.

Tubes Vs. Pans

Although watercolor paints can be sold in bottles and pencils, tubes and pans are the more popular options available today. Tubes contain liquid watercolor paints that you need to squeeze onto your palette. Pans, on the other hand, hold dry cakes of watercolor paint.

So, which is the better of the two, you ask? Based on expert research, if we were to choose, we would opt for tube watercolor paints because they last longer in the long run.

For one, tubes give artists the freedom to either purchase the paint individually or in sets; the same cannot be said for pans. In addition, this means you will have unrestrictive color mixing options available when you opt for tubes.

Although pans have the advantage of being more travel friendly as they are compact, this advantage comes with the disadvantage of dealing with limited mixing space and a tendency for cross-contamination due to how small the pans can be.

Staining Vs. Non-Staining

Watercolor paints that can penetrate the fibers of a paper and which are hard to remove or scrape off can be categorized as staining paint. Non-staining paints, on the other hand, are easy to scrape off as they only dry on the surface of the paper.

Whether to choose staining or non-staining paint is entirely up to you, but it is nice to know which of watercolor painting is staining and those that don't stain; this will help you determine which will require scraping off to reveal the light layer underneath and which wouldn't.

It's also essential we mention that the ability of a paint to stain varies from one manufacturer to another, and it is also dependent on the type of paper you use. To know if your watercolor paint will stain your paper or not, we advise that you test them on a separate piece of paper, allow it to dry, and see how much paint you can remove.

Permanence or Lightfastness

Lightfastness and permanence refer to how the watercolor paint reacts when exposed to light. It is a measure of how long it will take before your painting fades, darkens, or changes color when exposed to sunlight and humidity. Knowing the permanence of your watercolor paint is crucial if you want your artwork to last for a long time.

Since these features are rated by ASTM standards, ensure you only opt for watercolor paints that have permanence or lightfastness graded excellent or very good.


Can you mix watercolor with acrylic paint?

Watercolor and acrylic paint can be mixed. However, you remember to always paint acrylic over watercolor paint when mixing acrylic and watercolor paint. This will make the watercolor paint waterproof.

What is the Purpose of watercolor paints?

Watercolor paint finds great use in still-life, landscape, and portrait paintings. They are carried out on a small scale and they enable artists to study how a larger and more complex art painting will look.

Is watercolor easier than acrylic Painting?

Watercolor painting is the hardest to learn of these two mediums of painting. This is because there are more elements to learn and mistakes that may occur while using watercolor paint cannot be easily removed.

bestcovery team.jpg
Our research team searches out the best of everything so that you can confidently pick the perfect products and services for your needs.
Related Content
Go to top