When it comes to painting with watercolor, the supplies you use are incredibly important. In all aspects of life, I am quite cheap, I look for deals everywhere and rarely spend money on high quality items, except my art supplies. Cheaper or lesser quality supplies unfortunately hinder your ability to create smooth blends and higher quality paintings, therefore making the use of nice supplies very important.
I use mainly Daniel Smith watercolors and some Winsor and Newton Professional warercolors also. (Daniel smith paints found here) Some of the main differences between Daniel Smith and other brands, is the vibrancy, the seamless blending and the granulation. Low quality paint ends up becoming easily streaky, which we do not want! I also noticed in my classes, when students use low quality paint, they do not have any natural looking pigment colors. Meaning, all of their paint is an awkward bright color, no natural deep olive greens for trees, only an oddly bright emerald. This in turn gives the painting an unrealistic feel.
My pallet is ever growing, although it is best to limit your paint colors and learn how to color mix. (But that is another post, for another day!) I recommend around 10 colors in your pallet when beginning to play with watercolor.
Basic list of recommended pigments: (all Daniel Smith):
*Perm. Red Deep *Hansa Yellow lt. *Indigo *Phthalo Turquoise *Neutral *Green Gold *Green Apitite Genuine *Quin. Rose *New Gamboge
Now if you're going to splurge and purchase only one higher quality item, I recommend your paper. When using low quality paper, it is physically impossible to get a beautiful clean blended appearance. Make your life easier and buy something a little better. Here are some helpful tips when shopping for said paper:
Weight: on watercolor paper pads, you will see a weight, i.e. 90lb, 140lb, or 300lb. This refers to the density of the paper, therefore 300lb is the most dense and highest quality. 300lb paper can really hurt your wallet if you're not committed to this craft. I recommend 140lb in a high quality brand such as Arches or Strathmore 400 series. For your own sanity, do not buy 90lb or the very cheap brands!
I hope this helps! Happy painting!