Watercolor paints are kid classics for a reason: They’re easy to use and easy to clean up, making for hours of good, creative fun. Sure, water-based paints like tempera also offer this advantage — and have richer, bolder hues to boot — but watercolor paints have one big advantage they won’t dry out. That means no shaking, squirting, or finding out that last year’s pots have dried into unusable blocks. Indeed, watercolors are supposed to be in dried blocks (or ovals, or squares).
You also don’t need special equipment to use it: Just a brush, a cup of water, and a towel to dab on after the brush is rinsed between colors. While you can buy heavy-duty watercolor paper, it’s also perfectly fine to plop your little one in front of some printer paper and let them go.
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Another great reason to get watercolor paints? Kid-friendly sets tend to be incredibly inexpensive. Get ready to create a gallery wall (or maybe just a gallery fridge) with your budding painters. If only all original art was this affordable.
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1. Faber-Castell Watercolor Paint Set With Brush
From Faber-Castell, an art supply company that dates back to 1761, these non-toxic, kid-friendly paint sets will still only set you back a little more than a cup of coffee. Kids will love that, in addition to the primary colors, colors like pink, teal, white and black are also available. And if your little artist is looking for a color that’s not on the palette, the pigments are also designed to mix easily, teaching color theory as they create. Appropriate as a first set of watercolors, the quality and color selection is good enough for older, more discerning kids as well. What more could you want?
2. PRANG 8 Pan Watercolor Paint Set
This watercolor set has all primary and secondary colors, as well as brown and black. The biggest detractor is that, unlike our top pick, there isn’t any white to create pastels or lighter colors. However, younger kids may not even miss it. This set includes a basic brush, and you can remove the paints from the tray to create a mixing palette. And in an eco-friendly move, you can even buy refills of individual colors.
3. Faber-Castell Learn to Watercolor Set
A great gift for young artists, this watercolor paint kit not only has additional brushes and heavy-duty watercolor paper, but also includes instructions for classic techniques like crayon resist (and the white crayon to do it), as well as splattering, color wash and color blooms. The instructions are meant to leave things open-ended, however, to encourage kids to create and explore. A collapsible cup rounds out the kit, and an easy-squeeze “water brush” that gets rid of the need to re-wet a brush, for example, makes this classic craft even more fun.
4. Artists Loft 36 Color Watercolor Pan Set with Brush
If you’re looking for a broad color selection, this set of 36 has nearly everything you could need — and then some. While the smaller paint pans might be harder for young children, older kids may especially enjoy the chance to play with and mix all the colors. Because they are designed for adult hobbyists as well as kids, the colors are also richly pigmented, making bold colors easier to achieve.
5. MeiLiang Watercolor Paint Set
If your kid has already outgrown the basic watercolor paint pans, give them this heavy-duty set. Unlike the basic kid’s kits, these 36 highly pigmented paints come in a sturdy metal case with a brush. The lid also is divided into four sections to create separate mixing palettes.