watercolor paints tutorial

Watercolor Paint: All You Need to Know

Watercolor paint can come in all shapes, sizes, and varieties.

It can come in small, little pans in a variety of different colors. There are also watercolors in tubes, and liquid in bottles. In this article, we will explain the difference between watercolor paints in tubes and pans, how to choose between watercolor tubes and pans, but also how to use watercolors in tubes, watercolors pans and how to use liquid watercolors.

I hope this post will help you if you are a watercolor beginner or just want to figure out what you should use next!

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What is the Difference between Watercolor Paint in Pans, Tubes, and Liquid Watercolors?

Watercolors in pans

Watercolor Paints: pigment in pans

Watercolors in pans are made out of pigments, binders, and different additives and come in small, plastic pans. You can get them in half and full pans, and you can buy them either in a set or individually.

Watercolor paint: half pan / full pan of pigment
Watercolor paint: half pan / full pan of pigment 2

If you buy a set of watercolor pans, they usually come with a mixing palette and are ready to go because they only require a little bit of water to activate it.

To activate the paint, add a little bit of water on top of the paint to wet it, and then you can load up your brush with paint and either just immediately start painting using the paint on the brush, or you can place the pain into the mixing palette in order to adjust the intensity or to mix the desired color.

activate the paint by adding a little bit of water
Watercolor paint: palette paint yellow

But since you need to go back and forth until you get as much pain as needed for the painting, it can take longer to prepare the right amount on your mixing palette. This means it can take a lot longer to mix a certain color. But, at the same time you will only use as much paint as you actually need.

Also keep in mind that using watercolor pans can be a little bit hard on the brushes, so you need to be careful when you load up your brush with paint and not really scrub too much (dinging bell) which can really be damaging for the bristles.

If you want to keep the paint really pure and bright and clean, you need to make sure to keep the palette and the colors clean by cleaning it from time-to-time.

And because watercolor pans are so easy to use, you will probably use it a lot and run out of paint really quickly. Compared to watercolors in tubes, you have a lot less paint. But of course, if you run out of paint, you can simply replace the paint with a new pan, or you can also squeeze the paint from the tube inside the empty pan and then just let it dry.

This way you can even create your own customized watercolor palette.

Even though it can take awhile to get the right color and the right amount of paint, watercolors in pans are fast and simple to use. You can store them really easily, you can take them on the go, and if you have a water container, you can just take your watercolor set and go outside and paint the nature.

Watercolor paint in tubes

Watercolor paint: watercolors in tubes

Watercolors in tubes are a more cream-like form of watercolors, also made out of pigments, binders and additives and you can get it in different amounts, from 5 to 37 mL. Like watercolor pans, you can get them in a set or individually.

Xatercolor tubes of 5 to 37 mL
Watercolor paint: watercolor set

As a lot of watercolor tube sets don’t really come with a mixing palette, you will need to buy yourself a mixing palette with wells and a mixing area. And to get started, you will have to set up a few colors first.

Squeeze the paint onto the palette and depending on the intensity of the color you are going for, add water to the paint. The more water you add, the lighter the color becomes.

The more water you add, the lighter the color becomes

Since the paint is already rather liquid in the tubes, it dissolves really easily in water. And because it’s so pigmented straight from the tube you can adjust intensity with the right water-to-paint ratio a lot quicker.

For maximum color intensity, you can use the paint without adding any additional water. And because you only need to squeeze out the paint into your mixing palette, it’s a lot easier to prepare a bigger amount of paint in the color of your choice.

use the paint without adding any additional water

This is especially great if you want to create a large art piece and you need a lot of paint. But, at the same time, it can be more difficult to judge how much paint you actually need. So you might end up with excess paint that dries out on your palette, but of course, you can reactivate with water again and just keep painting.

You can even create your own customized palettes by squeezing all the tubes into the mixing palette or empty cases, then let it dry and use them as normal watercolors in pans. If you only squeeze the paint when you need it onto your mixing palette, it’s a lot easier to keep your colors clean.

Even though it feels scary to buy a watercolor tube because it’s a lot pricier, but watercolors in tubes are a lot more economical compared to the pans, and they’re a lot cheaper in the long run.

Watercolors tubes tips : 

  • Make sure that you close the lid properly so the paint doesn’t dry out inside a tube. 
  • Make sure that the opening of the tube is also clean so the lid can’t get stuck and make it difficult to remove it later.

Liquid watercolors

Watercolor paint: primary palette

Liquid watercolors can be either pigment or dye-based.

You can get it in separate bottles or as a set and the lids usually have a dropper, so it’s easy to distribute the liquid.

Watercolor paint: watercolor set

As the name already suggests, liquid watercolor is liquid. This means you can immediately start painting, which makes it also great for illustrations and pen lettering.

In order to not only keep the colors clean, but also mix the colors together, you will also need a mixing palette. This way you can add as much liquid as you need into the mixing palette and then you can adjust the intensity or mix any color you like while keeping the original color clean.

Watercolor paint: testing palette

And because they’re liquid in a rather big bottle, it’s easy to use a large amount of liquid and adjust intensity by adding water to the mixing palette. If you have any excess paint left, still a clean, original color, you can simply pour it back into the bottle.

Even though liquid watercolor is very vibrant, if you mix a certain color together, you might end up creating a lot duller colors in the end because liquid watercolors don’t reflect the light the same way as normal watercolors do. 

Watercolor paint: primary text

Liquid watercolors compared to regular watercolors in tubes and pans, are not real watercolors, because they are most of the time dye-based, which means that the color will fade over time.

Because a lot of liquid watercolors are dye-based, they rather stain the paper, which will prevent you from using certain watercolor techniques such as lifting as you can see below.

Watercolor paint: regular watercolors, dye based liquid watercolor

Compared to normal watercolors that can be transparent, semi-transparent, a little bit opaque, liquid watercolors are completely transparent.

Finally, liquid watercolors aren’t really travel-friendly.

What Kind of Watercolor Should You Use?

All-in-all, it depends on what you personally prefer, because they are a lot of people who just work with watercolors in pans, some people only use watercolors in tubes, but of course you can combine them and use them together.

I would just be careful with liquid watercolors because I would be too afraid that I will create something very pretty, but it will just fade over time.

I personally started out with watercolors in pans and once I got familiar with watercolors, eventually I upgraded to a few colors in tubes that are high quality. II think it’s a good investment because I really love the colors and I have a lot more paint for a lot less money.

If you have any other questions that I haven’t covered in this article, feel free to comment down below so we can help each other out.

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About the Author: Watercolor Classes

Hello, and welcome to our site. We've been passionate about watercolor for years and have learned a lot along the way. We hope our tutorials and tips will help you out on your watercolor journey. Let's make art together!

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