With the release of my Sensational Succulents coloring book, I’m often asked which brand of colored pencils I recommend. And if you’ve seen my YouTube video, Debra Paints a Succulent Watercolor, you may wonder what kind of watercolors I use, too—and which brushes, etc. Here’s a list of what works well for me and that I wouldn’t be without. Prices are approximate.

I hope this helps, and that above all, you have fun! —Debra


COLORED PENCILS — Prismacolor, set of 48, $35. These cover evenly, have a creamy texture, don’t break easily and provide vibrant color.

Recommended colored pencils

Recommended colored pencils

PENCIL SHARPENER — Imikas battery-operated. $13. Any inexpensive manual sharpener will work, but if you do a lot of coloring, one that’s electric or battery-powered is terrific to have. This portable pencil sharpener requires four AA batteries (not included).

pencil sharpener for colored pencils

WATERCOLOR PAPER — Aquarelle arches cold press, $24.00. This seems expensive, but it’s a block of 20 sheets and the paper is the highest quality. (Low-end papers tend to buckle and don’t work with the paint as well.)

Arches cold press watercolor paper

LIGHT BOX — Artograph light tracer light box 10 x 12, $44.00. I wouldn’t be without a light box for tracing, but a bright window works as well…except, of course, at night.

Light tracer box

WATERCOLOR BRUSHES — Majestic Royal set of assorted sizes, $22.00 I acquired my brushes over time, but this assortment has the essentials: a rigger (super skinny brush for script and lines); several sizes of all-purpose round brushes that each taper to a point; and a flat, wide brush for washes. Quality brushes that hold their shapes and don’t shed are a must. Always store upright and wash thoroughly in plain water after using.

Watercolor brushes

WATERCOLOR PAINT — Daniel Smith set of six, $26.00 This brand ensures vibrant results, and the assortment of three warm primary colors and three cool primaries lets you create every hue. The tubes may seem tiny, but no worries, they pack a LOT of pigment. (Use sparingly if you’re used to watercolors of lesser quality.) I used these for my 2017 Succulent Watercolors calendar and have plenty left to create another dozen paintings, possibly more.

When you dilute watercolor paint with liquid light (clear water), you can create an image that’s translucent. Because the white of the paper shines through, the result suggests a sunlit moment in the garden.

Watercolor set

WATERCOLOR MIXING TRAYS — Simply Art Assorted Palettes, set of four, $6.50. I use a tray for each of the three primary colors (red, blue, yellow).

Watercolor trays

WATERCOLOR MASKING FLUID — Daniel Smith, 1 oz., $10.50.  I apply masking fluid with a thin, inexpensive brush that has first been coated with soap (so the dried fluid can be removed from the bristles later), but I like the idea of disposable applicators, which this brand offers.

Masking fluid

ART ERASER — Art gum natural rubber, $1. You’ll need a soft art eraser to rub off the masking fluid when your painting is nearly finished. Avoid using a regular eraser, which can damage the paper.

Art eraser

SCRUBBER BRUSH — Creative Mark original, $3.60. I use a scrubber brush to make painted leaves appear slightly powdery (which I explain in the video at 3:26). This abrades the paper, so do it last.

scrubber brush for succulent watercolors


Other watercolor supplies you’ll need (and probably already have):
— Plastic containers for clean water. I keep several filled ones handy while painting so I don’t have to stop to change the water. (Never paint with gray water!)
— Paper towels. Essential for blotting excess water and/or paint from brushes.
— iPad or other electronic device that can display the original photo, so you can refer to it (if you want to). Photos on which the coloring book’s illustrations are based are on my website. 
— Piece of cardboard or rigid canvas on which to tape the paper you’re painting, held in place with masking tape that peels off easily.
— Ordinary lead pencil for tracing.