The things I use on a daily basis

As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.
I will not recommend anything I have not personally purchased and tested.


Cheap Joes Sample Pack

I only use Arches 300 pound rough. It is what suits me. I buy it by the 5 pack wherever it is cheapest. That means going from Cheap Joes to Blick to Utrecht and checking prices. Even though Blick now owns Utrecht, the prices will frequently be different. Go figure.

I highly recommend going to Cheap Joes and buying a sample pack or two of paper to see which one suits you. They sell sample packs of 6 sheets so you can see which one(s) suit you – “This 6 sheet paper pack includes one 300 lb. Cold Pressed quarter sheet (11″ x 15″) each of Kilimanjaro Original Bright White, Kilimanjaro Natural, Arches Natural White, Saunders Waterford, Fabriano Artistico Extra White, and Lanaquarelle.”



I like a cheap, white plastic palette like this. I have maybe 8 of them. They are the right size and they just stack when not in use. I often leave the leftover paint on the palette as I use the same colors over and over. Yes, some colors will stain them a little. Sometimes I will even pour a little bleach in the wells when washing them. I am just not fussy about palettes.
Buy here

Fineline Masking Fluid

I use masking fluid – a lot. Maybe I will get bored with it someday but most of what I like to do is enhanced with masking. This is the only stuff I have found that works for me. Yes, the bottle clogs. Yes, you cannot leave it uncapped for even a minute when not in use. You will learn how to unclog. It’s easy when you get the hang of it.
Buy here

Rubber Cement Pickup

If you use masking fluid, you need a way to remove it. I use a rubber cement “pick up”. I’ve been using the same one for decades. Just one of those little things that works.
Buy here

Kneaded Rubber Eraser

And you may not use an eraser often, but when you need it, you need it and there is only one type you should use, in my opinion. A kneaded rubber eraser is cheap and will last you for decades. You “erase” by picking up the graphite so you do not abrade the paper. No little crumbs are left. And when the eraser gets dirty, you pull it apart and stretch it and all the graphite falls out so that it becomes clean again. Plus, they are just fun. And if you ever need a little sumpthin’ sumpthin’ to prop something up… well, you have this squishy rubber thingy on your work table.

I actually have a little tray by my desk where I put all those little things I use often so they don’t go wandering off to where I won’t find them again.
Buy here

Drafting Tape

Mr. Pen Drafting Tape – I always use drafting tape to create a border before painting. It makes for a nice, clean line and ensures that when you mat or frame a painting, that part of it is not hidden.

You want a tape that is “archival” and will not damage the paper underneath, nor stain it. For years, I searched for the perfect tape. Most are expensive and I found the quality varied. I bought a roll of one of my favorites, and it would not even stick. Then I found this stuff on Amazon – less than $3 a roll and works perfectly.
Buy here

Strapping tape

I use 300 pound watercolor paper which tends not to buckle but still, I like to make sure it is perfectly level and does not go anywhere. Hence, heavy duty strapping tape. I affix this to the drafting tape and to the board, so it does not matter if it is archival as it does not touch the paper.
Buy here

Syringe for water

Yes, a syringe. I use one all the time. This is a huge one that holds a couple of ounces of water. So what’s the use? So you squirt some paint on your palette and you are going to use lot of it to cover an area of the paper. How are you going to dilute the paint? Sure, if it is just a little, you dribble water from your brush… but if you need a lot? Well, you fill the syringe with water and squirt into your palette well until the paint is as thin as you want it. Try this – you will wonder why you never thought of it!
Buy here

Watercolor sponge

A natural sponge for watercolor. This is another cheap tool that I could not do without and one that will last you for decades. Some people use this for texture but I use one mostly for lifting color and lightening an area.
Buy here

Daniel Smith Dot Card


I don’t work for Daniel Smith; they don’t pay me. Fact is that when I started using Daniel Smith watercolors, a whole world opened up for me. My way of painting changed. I went from being a person who paints with watercolor to a watercolor painter. There’s a difference.

I know some people think one should use a “limited palette”. One should be able to mix any color. One should… one should. I don’t know why. Good discipline? I didn’t become an artist to work on my discipline. I did it to create universes and to play. I want any toy I want to play with! I want any and every tool I can get.

An analogy might be that one can get by with one pair of scissors and a screwdriver. You can even hammer nails with that screwdriver handle. But why? If you can get a whole bunch of great tools, well, why not?

Yes, watercolor is expensive. Daniel Smith is expensive. I am about to buy a new – to me – color. It is about the same price as a pizza and will probably last a few years. And I might be able to create something with it. It will give me, and perhaps others, much more joy than a pizza. So, what is expensive?

And on another note, I just plain like color. I love color, I feel color. I taste color. What I don’t do is get technical about color. I use a good paint so I don’t worry about lightfastness. I don’t really care about staining and what is opaque or transparent if it gets me what I want. I use as a main point of reference but I just can’t get into the analysis of pigments like “PG36” vs “PG7”. I feel color. I don’t feel pigment numbers. If you want to do that, more power to you. I urge everyone to know their tools in a way that is useful to them. I don’t know how much my hammer weighs, I just know it fits my hand and that I can usually hit a nail with it.

Herewith is my highly subjective guide to the colors I use most often:

Undersea Green
Terre Verte

Terre Verte – To me, this does not much look like the product sample. It is a very gentle, sweet blue/ green that reminds me of Tiffany Blue. I usually mix it with Cerulean Blue for a soothing feel to a shell or an ocean wave.
Buy Here

Rare Green Earth

Rare Green Earth – this is another “non-color” color that I use a lot. It is just a dirty greenish gray that works perfectly for shadows, rocks, tree bark and for toning down another color.
Buy here


Jadeite – This is a brilliant granulating green. Where it is magic is how it will mix with other colors and bring them alive. Most of the time, when I use it, you would never know.
Buy here


Zoisite – This is a greenish, grayish almost non-color. Any time I need a bit of shadow on the “colder” side, this is my go to. It just damps down any other color or area.
Buy here


Amazonite – Daniel Smith makes several different turquoise blues. I bought several of them and had them off to the side on a palette while I decided which ones worked for me and which ones did not. One kept being used and I loved how it would give depth and sweetness to a scene of water. I was surprised when I did a color card/test to discover that I actually did not like any of the standard turquoise shades I had bought like Ultramarine Turquoise or Phthalo Turquoise, but was instead using Amazonite. It just glows, especially when mixed with Cerulean Blue.
Buy here

Cerulean Blue

Cerulean Blue – This is my most used color and the one I have to replace most often. I rarely use it by itself and I do not find that it does a good, smooth wash well but mixed with other colors, it is a star. It granulates beautifully.
Buy here

Indanthrone Blue

Indanthrone Blue – I still don’t know how to say the name of this color. In college, it was called “idiot blue” and I still think of it that way. Similarly, we used “Lizard Crimson” instead of Alizarin – another word I have no idea how to pronounce. That said, this is my most used deep blue. It has a sweet fullness to it that seems to add a grace note where it is added.
Buy here


Indigo – Indigo is great for where you need a “dark dark”. I was once told never to use “black” watercolor but to mix blacks to avoid “deadness”. Fine, I dunno. I will be happy to save $10 by not buying a tube of black. Instead, I most commonly mix indigo with Quin Sienna or Jadeite for darks that are almost black. Plus, it is just a lovely color. I do find the Daniel Smith Indigo to be on the overpowering side and best used sparingly.
Buy here

Iridescent Electric Blue

Iridescent Electric Blue – Just a tiny touch of this when appropriate is amazing.
Buy here


Sodalite – the best thing about this is how it granulates. It is a deep, deep blue that is almost black. I use it most often by making a puddle of water then touching a brush full of sodalite into the puddle. I think the technical name for this is “charging”. This lets the pigment granules spread out and form patterns. It is a perfect way to tone down or shadow an area.
Buy here

Neutral Tint

Neutral Tint – most brands have a version of neutral tint. Usually, I find that they tend more violet than Daniel Smith’s. This is supposed to be the “perfect” dark gray to tone down or shadow any color without changing the color or making it muddy. I use it most to extend the values in a painting as it is almost black when only slightly diluted. A little of this in the shadows really makes the other colors pop.
Buy here


Amethyst – I always have this on my palette and use it everywhere I can. Perhaps because it is a “Primatek” color supposedly made from ground amethyst, it does not tend to mix with other pigments. This means you can add it to green or yellow and it does not get muddy. You simply get amethyst mixed in with the other pigments. Easy to say, “Why would I ever do that?”. Try it. You might be amazed at some of the effects that you can get.
Buy here

Potter's Pink

Potter’s Pink – I think this picture is a little deceptive. My tube of Potter’s Pink is more terra cotta/clay colored. It’s low intensity and almost a non-color. However, it mixes beautifully with Amethyst and works well when just a little rosy glow is needed. It is always on my palette.
Buy here

Tiger's Eye

Tiger’s Eye – When I first tried this color, I was so disappointed. Truly it is an ugly brown with no warmth or redeeming value… but! It granulates beautifully into sort of cork-like patterns. I don’t use a lot of it in any one area but I have ended up using it in almost every painting. If you look at the browns on the edge of a shell, that is probably Tiger’s Eye or the sort of gritty, nondescript brown in the bottom of a shell… This color does not work as a star but as the perfect background player.
Buy here


Goethite – in person, this pigment tends towards the ochre brown. It granulates beautifully and is perfect for areas of tree bark, sand and anywhere you need a little grit.
Buy here

Monte Aminta Ochre

Monte Aminta Sienna– Ah, the world of ochres and siennas… It seems that they are always too yellow, too brown, too dull, too dark, too too too. This is a transparent sienna that tends to work most of the time when I need a gold/brown – which is often. It blends well with other pigments and gives a bit of a glow without tending too yellow.
Buy here

Burgundy Yellow Ochre

Burgundy Yellow Ochre – despite the name, I find this transparent ochre to tend more “tan” than yellow. It is my most used ochre as it washes well and isn’t too brown when not diluted nor too yellow when diluted.
Buy here

Transparent Yellow Oxide

Transparent Yellow Oxide – Despite the name, this is a golden, glow-y ochre-ish color. It is a cross between yellow and earth. Too many yellows have a harsh tone that does not work, to me, with rocks, sand or bark. This is what I use to get that yellow cast without any harshness or fake looking color.
Buy here

Aussie Red Gold

Aussie Red Gold – This is an intense color – but sometimes you need the shock of an intense red/gold. A touch of this is just magic.
Buy here

Quinacridone Sienna

Quinacridone Sienna – This is a color that just glows, alone or in mixes. Mixed with Indigo, it is my standard go to for black. Mixed with Jadeite or Cascade Green, it makes the perfect deep brown tones for trees. Many colors can be mixed but this is one of those shades that is in and of itself and you will never quite get it by mixing reds and yellows – that underlying earthiness will be missing.
Buy here

Hemetite burnt scarlet

Hematite Burnt Scarlet – Hematite is a grainy charcoal that settles out in any wash. With this mix, the burnt scarlet creates interesting effects by “bleeding” out in shades of orange. I do find that when used in a larger area, it dries in a rather dull, lifeless manner but as an accent, it has wonderful uses and I find a place for it in most paintings.
Buy here

Hemetite Violet

Hematite Violet – It would be easy to look at this and wonder where you would ever use such an ugly color. The hematite itself is charcoal black and settles to the bottom and then you have this rather drab plum shade around it with an almost pink hue that bleeds out around the edges. But think of the shadows in the bottom of a blossom. You could use any dark shade there, but this mix can make a shadowy nook come alive. Or something. Anyway, I find it quite useful in small quantities here and there and it is always on my palette.
Buy here


Bloodstone – This is a heavily granulating almost plum color. I go back and forth between this and zoesite for shadows. Zoesite tends a bit cool and green. Bloodstone is a bit warmer and purplish.
Buy here

Minnesota Pipeline

Minnesota Pipeline – This is a subtle, low intensity clay-like color, a cross between a tan/ochre and pink. A little bit livens up any wash of umber or ochre and adds touch of warmness to cooler or drab tones.
Buy here

Red Iron Oxide

Red Iron Oxide – This is a transparent brown that I bought as I was short of brown tones. I really didn’t get around to using it until one day I wanted to tone down an orange/red area and – to my surprise – it granulated into the most lovely rust red tones. I use it now – a lot – usually over an area of Quin. Sienna to really add life and depth to an area that I want to stand out and sparkle. It is another perfect accent color.
Buy here


Bronzite – some of the Daniel Smith “Primatek” pigments, as they are supposedly made with actual minerals, sparkle with a glittery look. I really don’t like these. I make an exception for Bronzite as it is such a nice, neutral low intensity brown, perfect for rocks, sand or other natural features. Due to the glitter, I use it sparingly but tend to always have it around because I have not found another pigment that so fits in some areas.
Buy here

Iridescent Silver

Interference Silver – Yes, this is a bit of a “gimmick” paint that purists would scorn and it does not really show up in prints but if you are painting shells or birds, silver does exist in nature and just a touch of this every once and awhile makes for magic. So if it is only for those rare special effects, why do I usually have it on my palette? I don’t know. Maybe you never know when you will need a bit of magic…
Buy here

Water Jar

Water – Behold my special, designer water jar. The most important supply is a good source of clean water. You want something that holds a fair amount and does not tip over. I searched far and wide for this special jar. You are on your own to find one for yourself.