Watercolour is one of the most popular art mediums, resulting in emotive, vibrant artwork provided you're using one of the best watercolour paints.
To help you choose, we’ve considered the value for money, pigments, colour range, reactivation, granulation, and application of as many liquid and solid pan watercolour paints as we could get our hands on. We’ve also considered the varying needs of artists, from value-driven student sets to pricier, more pigmented paints used by professionals.
You might prefer using some of the best watercolour pencils and may want to invest in the best watercolour paper, too. If you want guidance on painting in watercolour, you can get started with our pick of the best watercolour tutorials, or expand your repertoire with these watercolour techniques. Meanwhile, read on to discover the best watercolour paints.
The best watercolour paints
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The best watercolour paint tubes
+ Intense colour
+ Stays wet
+ Good value
- 15ml tubes
Using blackberry honey as part of its binder, these smooth, viscous paints remain sticky, keeping the paint vivid, but less suitable for reuse. They lift easily, with intense colours that go a long way in washes. The tubes won't dry out easily and offer good value.
The best watercolour paint pans
+ Reactivates easily
+ Bright colours
+ Good value
- Stays sticky
These honey-based paints have rich, high-pigment colours and great consistency. Pans mix, perform, and reactivate exceptionally well, though they take a while to dry, and may remain tacky in humid climates. They are good value for professional quality paints and an excellent choice for portable sketching.
The best watercolour colour range
+ Excellent quality
+ Colour range
+ Granulating textures
These extra fine watercolours are vibrant, artist-quality paints, with an immense range of 261 colours including exclusives, Primatek minerals, and a number of luminescent colours. They tend to be more granulating, depending on the pigment, but will still lift easily from paper.
The best for quality and consistency
+ High quality
+ Consistent behaviour
+ Non-toxic options
These reliable, versatile, artist-quality paints behave consistently with minimal variation between colours, making them good for beginners. Colours are intense and rich, with good-quality pigments and non-toxic alternatives. The paint stays wet and readily reactivates, making it convenient for pan and palette users.
Unique and suited to wet-on-dry or illustrative work
+ Great value
+ Large pans
+ Consistent and smooth
These affordable paints include a good range of bright, easily activated colours with a smooth texture. They are more opaque than standard watercolours, developing a slight gloss when layered, and once on paper, they don't move much. They lay evenly on dry paper, making them great for sketching and colouring illustrations.
The best for sketching on the move
+ Includes brush pen
- Weak colours
- Low-quality pigments
This student-quality, pocket-sized watercolour set is great for portable painting and even has a waterbrush. It's well-designed, with a partitioned mixing tray on the lid. Colours behave predictably and mix well, but aren't very intense, containing 'hue' imitations of some pricier pigments.