How To Paint With Watercolor For Beginners | Guide For Beginners

How To Paint With Watercolor For Beginners

Watercolor painting is one of the most versatile art media that comes with a rich history. It’s fun, affordable, and can produce stunning pieces. 

By applying the right technique of mixing paints with water, you can make your artwork sing on paper. The possibilities are endless to make the colors dance when it comes to watercolor paintings. You can capture everything on your canvas with watercolor, from watercolor portraits to stunning watercolor landscapes. 

However, if you are a beginner, all the painting techniques can feel a bit daunting. What are the best watercolor paints? How to mix the colors? How much paint to use? How to paint with watercolor for beginners? All these questions can easily scare away the artist in you. That’s why we’re here to talk about everything that you need to know to get started with watercolor painting, from supplies to coloring techniques. 

So, without wasting any more time, let’s get our sketchbooks ready! 

How To Paint With Watercolor For Beginners

How To Paint With Watercolor For Beginners

What Are The Supplies You’ll Need To Get Started?

When you’re about to embark on a new adventure into the world of art and watercolor painting, you need the right supplies in the backpack. Although it might seem tempting to dive right in, it won’t be a fun adventure without the basic supplies. So, we’ll discuss some of the most common equipment that every painter needs for watercolor paintings. 

1. Watercolor Paints

What’s art without colors? As a painter, choosing the right colors can create all the difference in developing a masterpiece. When it comes to watercolor painting, the options are quite limitless. You have liquid colors, solid blocks of color pans, and tube colors. There are many types of watercolor paints to choose from and can get overwhelming if you’re a beginner. 

However, it’s a good idea to choose some basic vibrant colors, and mix them to create your own color palette. A set of 12 or 24 colors of watercolor paint can be perfect for beginners. In that way, you’ll get different tones and shades for mixing colors while painting. As a beginner, don’t waste too much money purchasing expensive artist-grade color sets. 

2. Watercolor Brushes

You get two options here – brushes with natural hair, like sable or squirrel, and high-quality synthetic coloring brushes. If you are a beginner, synthetic brushes might be a better option because they are much more affordable while professionals find the best watercolor brushes to be natural paint brushes. These brushes are available in different sizes and numbered accordingly. The higher the number, the bigger the brush. 

You’ll need a few round brushes to lay down the basic watercolors on the paper while painting. The #6, #10, and #12 round brushes are usually enough for beginners. You can also purchase a few small pointy round brushes for painting delicate designs. As you get more acquainted with watercolor painting techniques, you can extend the brush collection. 

3. Watercolor Paper

When it comes to watercolor, you need a special high-quality paper that’s quite thick and coarse and doesn’t absorb any color pigment. Handmade paper is usually the best choice for watercolor painting. It doesn’t break the paint by absorbing it and allows it to sit on the paper until it has completely dried. 

What’s more, the flat surface makes it easier to paint with watercolor on this paper. In contrast, machine-made papers are more absorbent than handmade ones, so colors won’t flow on them naturally and lose depth. You might consider other techniques and papers too, see this guide on how to paint on yupo papers, an exemplary alternative of traditional paper for watercolor painting. 

4. Watercolor Palette

Now that you know about the paints, brushes, and paper, it’s time to head on to the watercolor palette. An artist’s palette is essentially something that holds all the colors while you are painting, and you can find one in any art store. 

Some palettes come with indentations for pouring and mixing colors, while others simply have a flat surface. You can also use old dinner plates to mix colors as watercolors mix quite well on such china plates that can be washed off easily after use. 

5. Water And Paper Towels/Cloth

If you’re a beginner in watercolor painting, always remember to keep your workspace clean. Water, paper towels, and old cloth are essential in keeping your workstation pristine so that you don’t ruin the actual painting. Say you spill some water or wet paint; dry paper towels are there to save the day. 

You’ll also need water to clean up the brushes and color pallets after you’re done working to avoid creating a mess. Hence, don’t underestimate the power of water and cloth in keeping your workstation and art supplies spotless. 

6. Masking Tape

Remember those kindergarten days when our art teacher used to tell us to stay inside the borders while we painted with crayons? The story of beginners in watercolor painting is not so different. Staying inside the borders of your sketch can transform an art piece from ordinary to extraordinary. 

While professional artists have years of experience under their belt to perfect the skill of staying inside the borders, you can always use some masking tape as a beginner. Simply tape the edges of the paper to avoid painting over the borders, and you’ll be good to go. 

How To Set Up The Workspace?

Once you have all the necessary supplies for starting your watercolor journey, get ready to set up the workspace. You cannot possibly cram all the art supplies inside your study table or closet drawers. Every artist needs a separate workspace where they can paint their imagination on paper. 

Professional artists have their personal art studios. But as a beginner, how about you stick to a work table? Find a workstation or desk that’s big enough to accommodate all your art supplies and allows you to set up a new watercolor painting project. 

Also, make sure that you can easily clean off the desk surface if there’s any spill without damaging the material. Glass tables are always a good option for watercolor paintings because these are easy to clean, and the water cannot damage the glass surface. 

You can also work on wooden tables, but excess spilling of water and paints can ruin the wooden surface. Hence, it’s always best to cover the desk surface with old newspapers or a paper towel before you start working on a watercolor project. 

How To Mix Watercolor Paints?

The best thing about watercolors is that you don’t need to buy many colors to create different shades and tones. You can simply mix some basic colors to create a range of shades while painting. 

Mixing the watercolors is quite straightforward, and all you need is a brush, some colors, and water. First, choose a color pigment and moisten the paint with some water using a brush and transfer it to your palette. Then, do the same thing with another color pigment and mix the two colors to create a new shade. Some basic color combinations include: 

    • Red and blue make purple
    • Yellow and red make orange
    • Yellow and blue make green
    • Orange and blue make brown
    • Yellow, red, and blue make black

In most cases, you can use the three primary colors, yellow, blue, and red, to create a diverse color palette without buying any extravagant color sets. 

Moreover, you can adjust the tone or shade of different colors using water. If you want a lighter tone, you need to add more water to the color. At the same time, if you want to add more depth and create a darker tone, limit the use of water. Hence, depending on how much water you use, you can control the tone of the colors while mixing them. 

However, make sure to clean the brush with some water and soap every time you want to mix new colors. If the brush contains any other colors, you will end up getting a different shade that can ruin the entire color palette. 

Watercolor Tips For Beginners

Watercolor Tips For Beginners

If you want to ace the watercolor painting game, it’s best to have some watercolor techniques for beginners up your sleeve. So, in this section, we have discussed some simple tips and tricks that can help you create a watercolor masterpiece as a beginner. Let’s take a look! 

1. Draw The Picture

No matter what experts tell you, always draw the outlines of the picture or design to get a clear idea before you start painting. You can use a pencil or a waterproof ink pen to give a shape to your idea and get it on the paper. 

After you’re done drawing your picture, start coloring away. Once you draw the picture, it becomes easier to stay within the boundaries of the pencil marks. If you use a water-resistant artist pencil, it’s possible to ensure that the pencil marks won’t wash away when you apply the watercolors. 

2. Create A Color Chart

Creating a color chart or a color wheel using moistened paint is always an excellent idea for watercolor painting. Start labeling each color starting from the left side and moving vertically to create the color chart. Repeat the same process horizontally to create different color grids for your color chart. 

Now, fill up the grids by mixing different colors on your palette to complete the entire color wheel or chart. Once you’ve created the chart, you can use it as a reference sample to better understand the different shades and tones to use while coloring. 

3. Contouring Effect

While watercolor is technically a two-dimensional art medium, you can create three-dimensional effects if you know the right painting techniques. Contouring allows you to highlight an object and make it stand out from the background using simple watercolors and brush strokes. 

First, paint your subject with a solid base color, and then imagine a light source that’s lighting up one side of your object while the other side stays dark. Add more of the same color to make one side of the subject look darker. 

Now, carefully blend the difference between the light and dark shades by applying plain water with a clean brush. The more you blend the color, the more seamless the transition from the lighter to darker shade will be. Hence, the contouring technique helps you play with the aspects of light and shade using watercolors. 

4. Wet Painting And Dry Painting

When it comes to creating extraordinary watercolor artworks, you can use two painting techniques – wet painting and dry painting. In wet painting, you first wet the paper completely with some plain water till it’s glistening, and then use a brush to apply the colors. Although you have less control over how the colors will act, the wet technique is quite effective in painting abstract backgrounds and portraits. 

In contrast, the dry painting technique allows you to add more dimension and contrast to your artwork. You use moistened paints to color on dry watercolor paper and adjust the shades and tones by adding more water or color accordingly. It’s much easier to control the colors if you apply the dry technique. 

Hence, you can choose any technique depending on what kind of watercolor painting you’re trying to develop.

5. Painting With Negative Space

The technique of working with negative space is almost exclusively used in watercolor paintings. It is quite similar to the contouring technique and works to create a visual contrast between light and dark color tones. 

In this technique, you consider the viewer of your artwork as the light source. In that way, the side of your subject closer to the viewer appears lighter, while the side farthest from your viewer is darker. 

For instance, you can create negative space while coloring flowers or trees. The side of the flower that’s opposite the viewer will be darker compared to the side facing the viewer. You can gradually fade the color by adding more water to make it lighter on one side and darker on the opposite side. To make the transition between the light and dark shades appear seamless, you can outline the particular areas to make them stand out in your painting. 

6. Fixing A Mistake

As a beginner, you’re bound to make some mistakes along the way while learning different watercolor painting techniques. But no need to panic because fixing your mistakes with watercolors is quite easy compared to any other art medium. 

Since it is a water-based art medium, you can simply remove or lift the colors using a dab of clean water. Suppose you make a mistake while coloring; wait for the colors to completely dry before you can remove them. Once the paint has dried up, use a wet brush to lift off or erase the paint. 

Then, wipe off the area with a clean paper towel gently, and you can see the whole paint has been erased. Now, you can paint over the area with new colors without ruining your watercolor painting. No harm, no foul, and no damage done. However, it’s best to be careful while wiping off the paint so that you don’t lift off colors from any other area. 

Choose A Watercolor Painting Project

Choosing the right painting projects is a cool way to kickstart your watercolor learning journey. As a beginner, you’d want to stick to simple subjects for your watercolor project instead of doing large portraits that require extensive skills and techniques. 

Start with painting objects from your everyday life, such as your favorite sweet treats or fruits. They can be quite vibrant and colorful, which will make it a fun experience for you. 

Moreover, if you’re a traveloholic and a nature lover, try to capture the different colors and essence of any favorite travel destination in your watercolor artwork. Also, animals having colorful furs make excellent subjects for beginners. If you have a furry friend, like a pet dog or a cat, they can be a great choice for your first watercolor project. 

However, if you want to go down a bit of an unconventional road, try your hand at abstract painting. You can apply wet and dry painting techniques for making abstract watercolor artwork. Whatever watercolor projects you may choose, don’t forget to have some fun and explore your creative potential. 

Practice Makes Perfect

There’s no easier way to get the job done except by taking your paintbrush and practicing. If you want to develop your painting skills and techniques, it’s always best to do some practical exercises. Make sure you work on every aspect of watercolor painting, from sketching and mixing colors to perfecting your brush techniques. 

Experiment with colors and try painting different subjects. Don’t be scared to make mistakes because the more you practice, the fewer the mistakes. There are no shortcuts or rules, so don’t be shy to let your creative juices flow and connect wholeheartedly with the painting process through consistent practice. 

How To Paint With Watercolor For Beginners

Paint With Watercolor For Beginners Final Thoughts

With that, we come to the end of our article regarding painting with watercolors for beginners. After going through our guide, we hope you are a bit more confident about getting started with watercolor painting. 

As we’ve said earlier, watercolors offer infinite possibilities, so don’t shy away from experimenting with different colors and textures. Try and expand your creative horizon while taking on new watercolor painting projects and keep on practicing. Sky doesn’t necessarily have to be the limit; it can just be the beginning. 

And on that note, we’ll sign off. Stay creative, and we’ll see you next time! 

Ann Hutchinson

Ann Hutchinson

Ann Hutchinson is the heart of the team, senior editor and our Head of Product Reviews which means she sets the testing parameters of each group review ensuring that tests resemble everyday use.

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