Watercolors made their mark in art history, dating back to cave art. They are also the most convenient and approachable painting application for the beginning artist. Watercolor paints are easy to apply – just add water and a bit of creativity. The only other items you need are brushes and paper.
The pigments used in creating watercolors are similar to those used in oils or acrylics, they can also be used in watercolor pans in a dry form. Some are natural and some synthetic. These pigments are ground and mixed with a natural sap binder called gum Arabic. The most sophisticated watercolors also contain glycerin as a moisturizer. Watercolor paints are sold in grades created for both the student and professional. Student paints offer an economical way to experiment with the media while professional paints are more expensive because they contain a higher concentration of better quality pigments. Watercolor paints can be bought in pans which offer the most convenience and tubes that are especially useful when mixing large amounts of paint. Watercolors are also available in concentrated liquid form in bottles with an eye dropper. These are useful for large washes but, because they are essentially dyes, they lack the subtle qualities available with pans or tubes.