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Ah, watercolors. For many of us, they represented our first forays into the world of painting. Who can forget the soupy messes of those bygone watercolor trays? Fast-forward a few decades, and now you’re seeking the perfect watercolor set for a new generation of beginners, whether you’re a parent, a teacher, or a caregiver. Or maybe you’re a prodigal painter seeking to recapture the joys of your childhood and want a set for yourself. (Either way, you’ll be responsible for cleanup this time around!) What are the best and safest watercolors to experiment with? Here’s our verdict.
Faber-Castell Connector Watercolor Paints
This watercolor set by the august German manufacturer towers head and shoulders over its competition in terms of sheer creativity. Rather than a palette or tin with paints set into fixed wells, this pan set has a modular design that you can use to connect your pans together in creative ways—erm, we mean, that your kids can connect in creative ways. The design also remedies a long-standing gripe of watercolorists big and small: When you run out of an oft-used color, you can simply buy individual replacement pans. The paint itself is just as high in opacity and just as vivid as you’d expect from a Faber-Castell product. This set comes in packs of 12 or 24 colors; a brush and a tube of white paint are also included.
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Richeson Opaque Watercolor Pan Sets
The rich, nuanced colors of these pan sets will delight everyone in the family. Richeson’s standard paints are available in 8- and 22-count sets, plus a 12-color array in the shape of a traditional painter’s palette that will make your child feel like a true artiste. Just note that these products involve a bit of color roulette: Hues are randomly selected, so you may not get the exact combination you’re seeking. (The higher the paint count, of course, the better your odds.) If you’d prefer to know in advance what you’re getting, Richeson’s metallic set comes with 12 predetermined colors, including several golds, copper, and a variety of pastels.
ANOTHER GOOD CHOICE
Crayola Washable Watercolors
For a no-frills option, why not fall back on a classic standby? Crayola’s 16-color watercolor set has introduced countless young’uns to the art of watercolor painting. Kids love the bold colors; parents love that the paints are washable from skin and fabric. Like our top two contenders, this set comes with a paintbrush, so you can get to painting straight away.
Buy: Crayola Washable Watercolors, 16 colors $3.99
Prang Washable Watercolor Pan Sets
Do plain old watercolors make your students’ eyes glaze over? Prang’s watercolor sets snag our educator award for their marriage of variety and affordability. Their eight-color sets come in classic (matte), glitter, and metallic options. Prang also offers the best bulk buy of any brand on our list: Its “class pack” gets you 36 eight-color sets in the styles mentioned above. Buying for yourself? You won’t be disappointed with the 16-color classic set, which will run you about 25 cents per color. The paints are all completely washable.
Koh-I-Noor Watercolor Wheel Stack Pack
This Czech manufacturer’s watercolor tray design gives Faber-Castell’s a run for its money. It consists of eight thin trays, each with six colors, that stack into a 3-inch tall-cylinder that’s easy to transport and unobtrusive in your workspace. The paints themselves are simply gorgeous, with the richness and texture of a high-end eyeshadow palette. Just be advised: This is the only watercolor set on our list that doesn’t come with a paintbrush.
https://amzn.to/3dwvDwLBuy: Koh-I-Noor Watercolor Wheel Stack Pack $22.12