The watercolours I use are a mixture of Winsor and Newton and Schminke. Mostly it’s by accident, rather than design. There’s only the screamingly pink Opera Rose by Winsor and Newton that I am faithful to.


A lovely transparent yellow/green – great for light glazes
Raw Sienna

Yellow Ochre

My two go-to colours for painting browns in food
Translucent Orange – Schminke

I love this vibrant orange/red
Opera Rose – Winsor and Newton

Another one of my must-have’s – purely because it’s so eye-popping – great for the full range of pinks and purples.
May Green – Schminke

Permanent Sap Green – Winsor and newton

– My stand-by green’s for salads

(You’d think that my portable set and the home/studio set would be the same, wouldn’t you!)


Portable set

Some full pans, but mostly half-pans

Palette - PortablePalette – Portable

208 Aureolin Schminke

215 Lemon Yellow Schminke

225 Cadmium Yellow Middle Schminke

218 Translucent Orange Schminke

363 Scarlet Red Schminke

Opera Rose winsor & newton

Cobalt Blue winsor & newton

Cerulean Blue winsor & newton

660 Raw Sienna Schminke

Naples Yellow Deep winsor & newton

Venetian Red winsor & newton

Paynes Grey winsor & newton

783 Payne’s Grey Schminke

509 Cobalt Turquoise Schminke

Permanent Sap Green winsor & newton

524 May Green Schminke

534 Permanent Green Olive Schminke

512 Chromium Oxide Green Schminke

648 Translucent Brown Schminke

668 Burnt Umber Schminke

661 Burnt Sienna Schminke

669 Vandyke Brown Schminke

Palette – Home

This is made up wholly of full pans

Palette - Home

Aureolin winsor & newton

215 Lemon Yellow Schminke

New Gamboge winsor & newton

Cadmium Orange winsor & newton

670 Madder Brown Schminke

Cadmium Red Deep winsor & newton

Opera Rose winsor & newton

Winsor Green winsor & newton

Permanent Sap Green winsor & newton

Hookers Green winsor & newton

524 May Green Schminke

487 Cobalt Blue Light Schminke

Cerulean Blue winsor & newton

783 Payne’s Grey Schminke

Naples Yellow Deep winsor & newton

660 Raw Sienna Schminke

655 Yellow Ochre Schminke

Burnt Sienna winsor & newton

Burnt Umber winsor & newton

669 Vandyke Brown Schminke

“The Watercolorist’s Essential Notebook” by Gordon Mackenzie

Watercolourists Essential Notebook smAnother lovely guide to painting with watercolour.

There are practically no photographs in Gordon’s book. But it’s cartoonish style makes the book feel friendly and approachable. As a result it makes the perfect kind of book to pick up and dip into. You’re sure to find some interesting nugget. Gordon doesn’t lay down any hard and fast rules, as such, but more general information to help expand your creative process.

Gordon seems to excel in the wet-in-wet process and many of his paintings within this book demonstrate his skill in painting natural subjects such as foliage and natural shadow effects.


IMG_64391 – Tools of the trade – Gordon looks at the different forms of watercolour paints, brushes, paper, palettes and other materials.

2 – Painting techniques – In which Gordon looks at various ways of applying paint (with brushes and with other tools) and how the paint interacts with water. He discusses washes and glazes and the process of fading out.

3 – Putting your composition together – By far this is the largest section in Gordon’s book. Where he discusses the various elements which come together when creating piece . Amongst other things he looks at subject, movement, values, colour schemes and negative areas. He also looks at different ways of IMG_6440approaching the composition and how intuition can work in tandem with planning. Lastly there is a section in this part of the book which looks at saving compositions from various problems.

A lovely book to use as both a reference book and to just to browse.

144 pages

“Essential Watercolor” by Birgit O’Connor

Watercolor essentials smThere’re such a wide range of books and guides about mastering watercolours and of course, I can only speak of those books which I have particularly enjoyed myself. (By which I’m not implying any mastery of watercolour at all! Quite the opposite – I still feel I have so much to learn)

Watercolour tutorial books tend to have the same format; guiding you through materials and then techniques and Birgit’s book as comprehensive as you need.

Materials – Birgit looks at all the usual paraphernalia that one needs to paint with.

Color – In this section Birgit looks at the vast array of colours which can mixed, as well has basic techniques for manipulating colour. She looks at creating washes and how to take advantage of blossoming.

Watercolor essentials 01Value – This is one of my favourite parts of Birgit’s book, as she demonstrates how to create subtle transitions between areas of colour. (To be honest this is probably my favourite section because I feel I need to learn from this section the most; creating a gradual change in value is one of the trickier aspects of watercolour painting, as far as I’m concerned)

The guidance which Birgit gives is accompanied by exercises which you can follow alongside Birgit to practice and develop your skill at creating value gradation in your own work.

Watercolor essentials 02Techniques – This is, by far, the largest section in the book and where Birgit Guides you through about twelve techniques for creating effects. Such as using salt and masking fluid.

Each technique is accompanied by several exercises to flex your technique-muscles.

Applying The Techniques – In this final section, Birgit demonstrates several of the techniques from the previous section in a series of paintings.

One thing I love about this particular guidebook are the wealth of photographs. Each individual technique has something like 12 photographs of Birgit demonstrating. It almost feels as if your standing over her shoulder whilst she guides you.

The accompanying DVD helps fill in even further: Birgit covers the same information as in the first four sections of the book. The techniques section could have done with it’s own DVD sub menu to allow quick recaps of the various techniques shown. Although not all the book is presented within the DVD, over half of the book’s material is presented on the DVD (The contents page of the book clearly shows which subjects are presented on the DVD).

It’s certainly nice to see her techniques in action and it makes the book come alive even more.

127 pages


Y’know, I don’t feel qualified to talk about the quality of watercolour brushes; with Watercolour I always feel like a humble student – constantly striving to control chaos.

Paintbrushes smHow and why specific brushes help me do that is a bit of a mystery to me. I know I need small brushes to do small jobs and big brushes to do big jobs, but as far as the delicacies of riggers and flats. I don’t tend to use those. Yes, I’ve got them – because that’s what all the books on watercoloring – which one reads when one is just starting out – say that you need. I’ll probably use them at some point, I guess. But my current style doesn’t work that way.

Watercolour can be a tricky blighter, but I can tell that the older brushes I have, do seem to be a bit ‘blunter’ or ‘duller’ than the newer brushes. Which with the smaller brushes is certainly an issue.

I don’t tend to use the wateriness in my studio, but the paints I use are still in pans.

Each to their own, eh? I’m just used to using paints in pans. I like the immediacy of flicking my brush from one pan to another to blend colours together. (I can’t be bothered even with the idea of having to pick up a tube and unscrew/screw the lid on in order to squeeze out some paint)

After 6 years of using watercolours I feel that I still have so much to learn.

Watercolour is a terrifically tricky medium to master. And painting itself is not something that can be learnt from reading about it. Or even carrying out a series of masterclass ‘how to’s’, or practical lessons from a book.

Like everything else, you’re only going to master watercolour by … erm … painting with watercolour.

In one of my favourite guidebooks, “Watercolor Essentials”by Birgit O’Connor, she writes;

Watercolour moves like no there medium. Just add water, and the pigment takes on a life of its own.


“Urban Watercolor Sketching” by Felix Scheinberger

This book is such a treat!

Urban Watercolor Sketching smAlex Scheinberger approaches sketching with such energy and vibrancy that it’s hard not to get carried along on a journey through rediscovering drawing and painting in an exhilarating and refreshing way.

Essentially the book is Alex’s take on various aspects of water colouring. While it doesn’t particular cover anything groundbreaking, the way Alex approaches the various ideas are exciting and fresh.

It is a delightful book, packed with all manner of dazzlingly coloured sketches.

The book is divided into sections which consist of about ten or so chapters


Intro – Looks at the basics of paint; what it is

First attempts – Covers various techniques with paints and inks

Excursion in colour theory – Looks at where colours come from and how the watercolorist can manipulate them in various ways

Your own style – How to find your own style

Basics/tools – Looks at the various tools needed to Urban Sketch

Out and about – How to Urban Sketch in different atmospheric and weather conditions

Tips and tricks – A whole slew of practical tips. from how to ‘Undo’ mistakes, to ‘How much is your picture worth?’, to ‘Working with colored paper’

Urban Watercolor Sketching 01 Urban Watercolor Sketching 02

I would thoroughly recommend this book to anyone interested in sketching and painting from life.

154 pages

Sketchbooks – Moleskine

Sketchbooks, much like other materials that I use, came about as favourites purely by trial and error.
Well, actually I have to admit, not entirely.
I realise that many people prefer spiral bound sketchbooks, but I prefer hard bound. Which, unfortunately, makes finding a decent sketchbook Materials - Sketchbooks - Moleskine sm(which can lie flat whilst open) nigh on impossible.

Moleskine produces a Watercolour Notebook, which has 72 pages of archive quality (fairly) stiff paper. But only comes in landscape format. Goodness only knows why this is so, there certainly seems to be enough of a market for a portrait version of this notebook. But I fear that it is merely to distinguish this notebook from the Sketch Notebook (Which conversely, only comes in portrait, but which has smooth, ivory pages – rather too smooth to take watercolour)

The paper takes paint well and has a nice tooth for pen work.
I particularly like the versatility of the Watercolour Notebook which, when opened fully, gives a possible canvas of 41cm x 13cm (Actually I’ve recently been adapting the pages to add an extra fold out leaf to give me a 61cm width!)
It’s also fairly easy to turn 90 to work in portrait. (Although a portrait-orientated Notebook could give a canvas size of 20cm x 26cm – which would be fun)

Liz Steel recently road tested Moleskine’s newer model of their Watercolour Notebook
Read her review Here.

This is the third part of my travels through my sketching kit. Read about the other bits at these links:

Part 1: Pens

Part2: Waterbrushes

or read the whole lot, so far, on my Materials page.

Cafe Roxanne – Painting Breakfast

Watercolour Paints

Generally I use Winsor and Newton paints.

Cafe Roxanne - Breakfast 2 smI have a little metal palette which can hold about eighteen half-pans.But some of the colours I have in there are full pans (because they get used more than the others). Food painting seems to use more yellow ochre and I also have a full pan of neutral grey)

Some of the colours are from an old Daler Rowney set, most are Winsor and Newton. I tend to pick from these two companies (just because they’re the most available in the UK)

As far as actual colours go I’ve just gone with what I like.

I’ve got three different yellows (one of which is Aureoline – a fab transparent), an orange, a red (I’m still trying to find a transparent or translucent red!), Opera Rose (which I find essential to produce dazzling purples and pinks), a couple of blues, three greens (one of which is a really light green – for salad leaves), then a range of browns from Naples Yellow to Van Dyke Brown.


I don’t use black at all. Instead I used to mainly use Winsor and Newton’s Payne’s Grey, but have recently started to use the Neutral Grey colour instead, as it is more translucent.

I tend to prefer translucent over opaque.

I sometimes use Koh-I-Noor‘s stackable pure pigments (the colours of which really op out!); these are what I used for this breakfast sketch.

Just recently I’ve been hearing good things about Schmincke; so might have to try some of theirs out :/