Whether you're a beginner or an expert watercolour painter, you want to make sure you choose the best watercolour paints to match your skill level (and your budget!).


Watercolour paints are wonderful to work with, producing vibrant colours which can be light and translucent or dark and intense. They're brilliantly versatile and suitable for everyone from children to experienced artists.

Depending on your skill level, your needs will vary. In this guide, we'll cover the best watercolour paints for beginners as well as those more suited to art students or professional artists. If you're new to watercolour painting, you only need a small watercolour set to get started, but as you progress you might wish to progress to a larger set or start using tubes of watercolour paint. Some sets are small but high quality – ideal for when you want to paint on the go.

There are lots of excellent watercolour paint brands out there and we'd if you're searching for a set of good quality watercolours we'd recommend looking out for bigger names such as Winsor & Newton or Faber Castell, However, there are lots of great smaller brands which will still produce fantastic results.

Read on to discover the best watercolour paints available in the UK.

If you're looking for painting projects to try, have a go at painting a watercolour cactus, watercolour pebbles or easy watercolour flowers. You'll also find lots of inspiration in our watercolour painting ideas, fall painting ideas and art journal ideas features.

11 best watercolour paints in the UK 2023

1. Winsor & Newton Cotman sketcher's pocket box

Best for beginners

Winsor & Newton watercolour paints set of 12
  • Removable pans
  • 12 colours
  • Trusted brand

If you're looking for the best watercolour paints for beginners, you can't go wrong with this small set created by Winsor & Newton. Winsor & Newton sets like this one often contain removable 'pans'. When a pan in a particular colour runs out, you can easily buy a replacement pan of the same colour to replace it – or a different shade to create your own custom palette!

Winsor & Newton watercolour paint sets are exceptional quality and produce vibrant colours, so this is also a fantastic choice for art students or anyone who wants to paint while out and about. If you like this small set, you can always upgrade it to one of their larger sets as your painting ability progresses and improves.

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2. Daler Rowney mini travel set

Best for travel

Daler Rowney Aquafine mini travel set
  • Ideal travel size
  • 10 colours
  • Includes mini paintbrush

Looking for the best watercolour paints to take with you on your travels? This brilliant little watercolour set produced by Daler Rowney is perfect for travellers. It's small enough to fit easily into a bag and even includes a mini paintbrush!

Daler Rowney paints are made using high-quality pigments, so you will still be able to create great images using this handy watercolour set. This would be a great choice for beginners, as it's a small set that doesn't compromise on quality.

3. Winsor & Newton Cotman watercolour paint tubes

Best paint tubes

Winsor & Newton Cotman watercolour paint tubes
  • Concentrated colour
  • 12 colours
  • Trusted brand

If you'd like to try using watercolour paint from a tube, this set from Winsor & Newton's Cotman range is a good place to begin. There's a good selection of colours to play with and the paint is of the standard you'd expect from this brand.

The tubes might look small, but when you're using watercolour paints a little goes a long way. Start off by squeezing a very small amount of paint from the tubes and mix it with a little water, then start painting. You'll soon get a feel for how much paint you need to use when you're using this set. If you run out of a particular colour, it's possible to order tubes separately from the Winsor & Newton range to replace the ones you've used up.

4. Royal and Langnickel beginner's watercolour set

Best box set

Royal and Langnickel beginner's watercolour set
  • Includes 10 paints, 6 paintbrushes, pencil, sharpener, mixing palette, eraser
  • Comes in box
  • Great as a gift

Looking for the best watercolour paints for beginners? You can't go far wrong with a set like this from Royal and Langnickel. It contains everything you need to get started including 10 tubes of watercolour paint, a watercolour pad, a pencil, a pencil sharpener, a rubber, a palette for mixing colours and a selection of paintbrushes. These all come in a sturdy wooden box, so you can protect your brushes and store everything neatly when you've finished painting.

This watercolour set for beginners is excellent value for money and the paints are high quality too. This would make a fantastic gift for a budding artist.

Looking for more watercolour accessories? Check out our roundup of the best watercolour paper to buy in 2023.

5. Derwent Inktense permanent watercolour travel set

Best fade-free paint

Derwent Inktense watercolour set
  • Travel size
  • 12 colours
  • Intense, fade-free colour

Derwent's bright and bold Inktense range includes this wonderful watercolour paint set. This compact watercolour set allows you to paint in vivid ink-like shades that won't fade much over time. You can layer the shades on top of each other with great effect, producing stunning results. Unlike other watercolour brands, the Inktense paints won't dissolve the layers of paint underneath. They can also be used on fabric!

This little watercolour set includes a water brush, sponge and five wells for colour mixing. It's a good introduction to Derwent's Inktense range and you might decide that you want to experiment with their watercolour pencils too. If you enjoy using this set, you could always invest in the larger studio set at a later date.

6. Derwent metallic paint pan palette set

Best metallic paints

Derwent metallic watercolour paint set
  • Ideal for use with a traditional set
  • 12 colours
  • Shimmering sheen

Want to add a little sparkle to your paintings? You can do just that with this gorgeous metallic watercolour set from Derwent. Wash a little of this paint over your work for a shimmering look!

The set contains a range of colours including gold, silver and other brilliant shades. You can use it to add a translucent sheen to your paintings or layer it up for a more opaque metallic effect. This would be very useful to use alongside a more traditional watercolour set.

7. Winsor & Newton half pan studio set

Best range of colours

Winsor & Newton Cotman watercolours set of 45
  • Longlasting
  • 46 colours
  • Use the lid as a palette

If you're looking for a watercolour paint set that will last for years, the Winsor & Newton half pan studio set is a great investment. You have a stunning range of colours to choose from, including some extras of some of the shades you're likely to use the most. You can use the lid to mix your paints so there's no need for a palette.

Winsor & Newton watercolour sets are a great buy and will last a really long time if you take care of your paints.

8. Faber Castell watercolour paints

Best trusted brand

Faber Castell watercolour set
  • Higher budget quality
  • 36 colours
  • Includes metallic and neon shades

If you have a slightly bigger budget you could try this watercolour set produced by Faber Castell, which includes 36 high-pigment watercolour shades for you to use. Faber Castell is a well-established brand (dating back to 1761!) and it has a great reputation for its art supplies. Its watercolour sets are no exception, providing a selection of rich colours to take your art to the next level.

As an added bonus, this set also includes some metallic and neon shades for you to experiment with!

9. Kuretake Gansai Tambi Japanese watercolour paints

Best for illustrators

Kuretake Gansai Tambi Japanese watercolour paints
  • Highly pigmented
  • 36 colours
  • Loose pans

These rich and creamy watercolour paints are a brilliant choice for illustrators. Gathered writer Holly Spanner loves these paints, she says: "This set has massive pans, and the pans are all loose. They're easy to activate and they are super, super pigmented."

The set is very large with 36 colours, so it's amazing value for money. Highly recommended!

10. Schmincke Akademie Aquarell watercolour set

Best for professionals

Schmincke Akademie Aquarell watercolour paint set
  • Lid doubles as mixing palette
  • 18 colours
  • Professional quality

The sets we've listed so far are great for beginners, art students or enthusiastic amateurs, so now we'll move on to watercolour sets for artists and professionals.

If you're looking for artist-quality watercolours, then we'd recommend looking for a brand like Schmincke. This German-based brand sells lightfast, high quality paints that would be suitable for a professional artist or an amateur who wants to invest in some better paints. This set contains a selection of 18 intense colours to take your paintings to the next level.

11. Daniel Smith watercolour set

Best overall quality

Daniel Smith watercolour set
  • Hand-poured
  • 24 colours
  • Free metal tin with empty half pans included

This high-quality watercolour set features some of the best watercolour paints created using modern technology. Daniel Smith paints have a soft, creamy texture and produce stunning shades and deeply pigmented washes. The half pans are poured by hand, taking 3 to 4 pours and several months of drying to create each pan, resulting in the purest form of professional watercolour. This is a good choice for a professional painter – there's a good selection of colours to work with and the standard of the pans is exceptional.

This set of 24 paints comes with a free metal tin with 24 empty half pans, for you to either squeeze in individual Daniel Smith tube colours or utilize the empty pans as mixing areas.

How to choose the right watercolour paints for you

Watercolour paints are a popular choice for crafters and artists alike, but with so many options available, it can be difficult to know which ones are right for you. In this buyer's guide, we'll take a look at some important factors to consider when choosing watercolour paints.


One of the key characteristics of watercolour paints is their ability to blend and mix together on the paper. Look for paints that have good blendability, which will allow you to create smooth transitions between colours and achieve the effects you want in your artwork.


The pigmentation of a watercolour paint refers to the intensity or brightness of the colour. Some paints are more pigmented than others, which can affect how they appear on the paper. If you want vibrant, bold colours in your artwork, look for watercolour paints with high pigmentation.


Granulation is the term used to describe the texture or graininess of a watercolour paint. Some paints have a more granulated appearance than others, which can create interesting effects in your artwork. However, if you're after a smooth finish, you'll want to look for a paint that has been sufficiently ground to achieve a fine texture.


Lightfastness is a term used to describe how resistant a paint or pigment is to fading or changing colour when exposed to light. This is an important factor to consider when choosing watercolour paints because over time, exposure to light can cause colours to fade or shift, leading to a loss of vibrancy and detail in your artwork.

It is recommended to choose watercolour paints with high lightfastness ratings to ensure your artwork remains true to its original colours for many years to come. Look for paints that are labelled with a rating of I, II, or III, with I being the most lightfast and III being the least.

Mix up a storm

Watercolour paints are a wonderful medium, perfect for blending and shading, whatever your skill level. We hope you discovered the perfect set for you in our guide!

Give the gift of creativity

If you're looking for gifts for an artistic friend or family member, take a look at our pick of the best gifts for artists and the best art sets for kids.


Featured image by Unsplash/Sincerely Media.


Sarah OrmeDigital Editor, Gathered

Sarah Orme is a UK-based linocut printmaker, digital editor, feature writer and award-winning podcaster. She's been editing the sewing and art sections of Gathered.how – and before that our sister website calmmoment.com – for over 3 years. She’s the host of Gathered’s We’ve Made It podcast and A Calmer Life podcast. She’s a keen crafter and artist and loves creating DIY tutorials for Gathered. Sarah has previously written features for The Guardian, In The Moment Magazine, Project Calm Magazine, countryfile.com, radiotimes.com and yourhomestyle.uk. She enjoys designing her own unique lino prints and dreams of opening her own online shop. She shares her work @sarahormeprints

Maddi Lane, Digital Writer
Maddi LaneDigital Writer

Maddi writes for a range of special interest brands under Our Media, with a particular emphasis on Your Home Style. Her keen eye for art and interior design, combined with her enthusiasm for exploring the natural world on foot or by bike, enables her to cover all bases when finding the best deals online.

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