Updated: Sep 19, 2021
As horrible as the year was, I had an amazingly experimental year in my studio (aka a small corner in our small apartment). I tried lots of new things in terms of my art and gave new materials a whirl, as well! So before this year flutters away, I wanted to take a quick second and review my top three favorite art supplies of 2020!
Arches Watercolor Paper Blocks
I decided to give the watercolor block a try after getting frustrated with my watercolor paper buckling all the time. And, being in a small space, I don’t have the room to properly stretch watercolor paper. In search of something better, I popped into my local art supply store (Guiry’s), and picked up a small block to test.
I loved it immediately! This was my first time using Arches watercolor paper, and it is absolutely incredible. Seriously. I believe this is the best watercolor paper out there. There is no pilling of the paper, and it can hold a lot of water! Laying down color is smooth and colors blend beautifully. Not to mention, creating gradients or bleed effects is effortless. In addition, it didn’t buckle anywhere near what I was getting before. And I was still able to tape off the edges the way I like.
I’ve used both the hot press and cold press papers now. I actually prefer the hot press for my watercolors, and I use the cold press when working with colored pencils. You may prefer the opposite, but this is what works best for my techniques.
Overall, I love these blocks. There the perfect way for me to use watercolor paper without worrying about quality or buckling. I tend to use the 7” x 10” block, and get two 5” x 7” pieces out of one piece of paper.
Caran D’ache Museum Aquarelles
Before I left my job last December, I treated myself to a bunch of new art supplies to try throughout 2020. One of the things I bought was the landscape set of Caran D’ache Museum Aquarelles. And, let me just say, I’m so glad I bought these. I don’t think any other brand of watercolor pencils compares.
First off, the pigments are so smooth and buttery. They just lay down on paper so beautifully. They are also very high quality, and are not prone to breakage like some of my other pencils. Second, almost every pencil in their color range has an excellent lightfast rating according to the standard blue wool scale. That means these pencils have been tested to ensure they won’t fade over time. If you know anything about watercolors, this is huge! Third, you can use them with dry or wet application techniques. They work amazing as regular colored pencils, as a portable form of watercolors, or using both applications in the same piece.
If you’re looking for a reliable, high quality watercolor pencil, I highly recommend these. They are quite pricey. However, they sell open stock so you can buy a couple here and there rather than shelling out a lot of money all at once - which is a great way to try new materials!
Kuretake Gansai Tambi Watercolors
I actually got these as a birthday present from my mother-in-law while my in-laws were living in Japan. I had never heard of them, and I wasn’t sure if they were good quality or not. A couple days later, I pulled out some paper to just mess around with them and really enjoyed using them.
As someone who has always hated using watercolor paints, these were incredibly easy to use. They are much creamier than the watercolors we’re used to in the western world, and their pigments are much more opaque, as well. They blend amazingly, and have a fantastic range of colors! I was lucky enough to be gifted the full set of colors, and haven’t found a single issue with them.
The only problem I have is that I can’t buy them open stock. I’ve been looking around and contacted a few sellers but no one seems to carry single pans. I haven’t decided if I want to repurchase a whole set or start testing out other brands that do sell open stock.
Regardless, these are very-beginner friendly and exceptionally high quality!
Well, that wraps up this year and my favorite supplies of 2020! If you’re on the hunt for something to try next year, this list can’t steer you wrong. I’ve created about 100 pieces this year with the materials on this list, so they’ve been well-tested. (Bonus: they play well together.) I hope next year brings you lots of creativity and great supplies!
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Thanks for reading and happy creating!