I never use student quality materials and honestly feel like nobody should. Working on student grade paper can make even a seasoned watercolor painter feel talentless! Professional quality paint and paper allows even the absolute beginner to feel like they are working with their materials, not fighting against them.
Student grade paints may be "cheaper" but they are filled will "fillers" so that it looks like you are getting more paint for your buck. What you are really getting is a weaker pigment load so you use twice as much paint than you would if you had bought the professional quality. The luminosity and handling also do not compare. My advice, buy only three - four tubes to start and mix your own colors. Your paintings will be more harmonious and you will learn so much about color mixing and how your colors work together. Then add pigments over time.
Allegro Watercolor Brushes from Opus. I have several rounds ranging from size 2 - 18 but a you can easily get by with two round brushes, size 4 & 10. If you treat them properly (ie NEVER let them stand in water, always clean after using & allow to dry flat) they will last you for years & years. I have had mine for over 10 years and work like new.
The only paper I use for watercolor is Arches and for good reason, it is so forgiving and accepts the paint and water so well. I like the Arches Cold Pressed 140lb paper that I buy in a full 22x30" sheet. I can then cut to size either four 11x14" pieces or 11x24". I also buy the paper in bulk when on sale, usually once a year and it lasts me all year. Also, by buying the large sheet and cutting to size you save more than if you buy the pre-cut pads or in blocks.
I work very detailed and in many layers so I always stretch my paper to remove the gelatin sizing & to ensure a perfect warble free surface no matter how wet the paper gets. The Incredible Boards are amazing and worth every penny. I bought two 24x32" boards, one for when I paint full sheets and the other I used an exacto knife to cut into quarters so that I can paint 11x14" pieces perfectly. Again, if you treat these well, they will last you for years and years as the surface allows you to staple again and again.
Winsor Newton Professional Water Colors are the colors I use most. I also like Daniel Smith Watercolor professional watercolor paints.
My personal favourite starter palette is permanent rose, cobalt blue & transparent yellow. My usual palette is:
french ultramarine blue
winsor blue (red shade)
winsor green (yellow shade)
· Basic office stapler with staples for stretching paper
· Palette (can use white ceramic dishes from the dollar store)
· water container (I use 2, 1 for clean and one to rinse dirty brushes)
· green painters masking tape
· kneaded eraser