Watercolor is a super fun medium. I like how it's transparent and flowy and there are so many techniques to learn. It is known for being difficult because it is activated by water and that makes it extremely difficult to correct mistakes. You can't simply lay on another coat to cover it up, due to its transparency. But it's nothing to be afraid of, at least I don't think so, you may have to make peace with your mistakes and that isn't always easy but watercolor is a quick and fun way to create art.
It doesn't take many things to start using watercolor but as you get into it there's lots of extras that can enhance the watercolor and make it a lot of fun.
The most basic things you need are:
1. Watercolor Paint
Watercolor comes in either pans or tubes.
Pans are hard, little cakes of color that need a wet paintbrush swept over them to work. They are easily accessible, you can get a set of 24 at Micheals or Hobby Lobby for only a few dollars. Many pans tend to dry a little chalky and are less pigmented than tube watercolors. That's not to say watercolor pans aren't a good option, they are great for beginners and are easily portable.
Tubes are a tube of a single color you squeeze onto a palette, add some water and paint. Tube watercolors take up more space and you need an extra mixing palette but you have the ability to make it as thick or as thin as you'd like as well as mix as much or as little paint as you want. Also, tube watercolors tend to have stronger colors.
Find watercolor pans here
Find watercolor tubes here
When I first started painting I wanted to believe that any heavy paper, 90lb or above would work. And yes, you can paint on it but you will not get the same affects on regular paper if it is not specifically watercolor paper. Using a lot of water on drawing paper or mixed media paper makes the paper buckle and excess water will pool in the buckles leaving blotches. But hey, if you really want to paint and drawing paper is all you have- go for it!
Watercolor paper is made with cotton added to absorb the extra water and spread the color. 90lb paper is lightweight watercolor and studsnt grade. 140lb is medium weight and the most commonly used.
300 lb is dense, almost like cardboard , artist quality watercolor paper that is the least common.
After you choose you weight the next thing to consider is grain. The texture will make a difference of how your painting comes out, so if you are painting something important is good to consider which grain will work the best. There is three basic type rough, hot press, and cold press.
Rough watercolor paper has a lot of texture because it is slightly bumpy and the paint settles in the little crevices.
Hot press watercolor paper is smooth, maybe even a little slippery, and makes colors appear brighter because of its slickness.
Cold press watercolor paper is a cross between rough and hot press paper.
You can find rough watercolor paper here
Hot press watercolor paper here
Cold press watercolor paper here
3. Paint brushes
Paint brushes seem really intimidating in the begining with all the shapes and sizes. To start out you only need a small, medium, and large brush. Round is the most versatile shape. Over time you'll try out more and find the ones best suited to your work.
Find paintbrushes here
4. Cup and papertowel
You'll need a cup of some sort to hold you water. Preferably two cups. One to rinse off you paint brush and one to wet it with clean water.
A papertowel or sponge to wipe of your brush or absorb a spot of excess water.
5. Mixing palette
A mixing palette is used with tube watercolors and to make you own shades and colors. They come in all shapes, sizes, and materials from plastic to ceramic. A simple plastic one with a few small wells and a center well is great to start.
When I started, I used pan watercolors and use the top of my watercolor set to mix my paint.
See watercolor palettes here.
6. Pen or pencil
You may want to lightly sketch out what your going to paint first with pencil or even outline it with pencil after the paint has dried.
If you gave a waterproof pen, you can sketch with pen before you paint as well, but if it is not listed as waterproof than most likely it will bleed when water hits it.
In either case, waterproof or not, you can outline it with pen after the paint has dried.
Here are some pencils, regular pens, and waterproof pens