Paint By John Thatch / last month Share Tweet Pin Watercolor paint is a combination of gum Arabic and pigment. Almost all paint medium is a pigment and some type of binder. The binder determines the type of paint it is. So, oil paint is pigment and oil—typically linseed oil. Encaustic paint is made up of different pigment and wax. Acrylic paint is different pigment mixed with acrylic medium. Watercolors, one would assume, are just water and pigment. However, you need a binder to hold the pigment to the surface. If you only had water and pigment, the pigment would just blow away once the water dried. That is where the gum arabic comes into play.Watercolor is actually the oldest type of painting. The Acacia tree provides the hardened sap, or gum arabic which is dissolved in water. This is also non-toxic. In addition to this binder, there are lots of additives that can be put into paints. You can add brighteners, fillers, preservatives, and more. Each pigment is unique and therefore requires different ingredients. Also, each manufacturer uses a different process so the pigments might have different things added.Historically it was used as a chewing gum and is actually included in the food industry quite often today. The progress of combining the pigments and binders is called “mulling” and historically it was done by hand, though today it is done with a machine.That said, there is no “best” or “good” quality versus “worst” or “bad” quality paint. They are all just different. These differences make some options better suited for different painting than others.For water colors there are three categories of paint: kid paint, student paint, and professional paint. The biggest difference between them is the pigment, and therefore, the cost. Good pigment will cost you. Buy from X Cheaper paints with cheaper pigments might not give you the color that you want. They might fade or they might not be as bright. There are synthetic pigments and natural pigments. Natural ones are derived from animals and plants, typically the same things used in dye. So these will certainly look more like the colors you find in nature. Synthetic ones are made with chemicals and might not give you the colors you want.So, there is truly something for everyone depending on your painting goals. You want to make informed decisions about which colors you want, what you are painting, and what your level of expertise is. If you are new to watercolor and want to test it out, try a case of student grade paints. If you have dabbled in other things before and are ready to jump into the deep end, get high quality professional paints. If you are buying colors for a kid, get a student grade or kid grade paints. The kid grade paints are cheap, often come with starter brushes and palettes. Moreover, you can get all the colors you want at once and learn techniques first.For kids, there are two great brands:PrangYarkaAs a student learning all about watercolors for the first time these two are the best:Winsor & Newton CotmanSakura KoiAs an artist:Greenleaf & BlueberryDaniel SmithM. Graham & Co.Winsor & NewtonSennelierRublevKremerWrapping it upThe key is to know what works best for you and sometimes that does not happen until you have tried a few different brands. With regard to color and quality, remember first that it is not just about brands, but whether you are purchasing in pan or tube form. Another influencing factor is whether you are using the watercolor paints as the main medium for your artwork, or if you are only sketching. If you are sketching, then a small sketch set will be best. For kids and student paints versus professional paints, remember that student paints are cheaper because they often have more filler in them, and therefore the colors are not as good.