How To Start Watercolor Painting: Guide For Beginners

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Are you ready to learn how to start watercolor painting? Chances are, you are:

Whether you enjoy working with acrylic or oil paints, watercolors should be a medium you master, too. Watercolor paint provides a world of possibilities for the artist.

The type of artwork you can create via watercolor is too much to count. Nevertheless, taking advantage of everything watercolors can do seems like a natural progression in your art career.

Today, I’ll cover everything there is to know about creating a watercolor painting for beginners. Shall we start?

Recommended Read:

Can I Teach Myself Watercolor?

can I teach myself watercolor

It might be hard to believe, but you can teach yourself to work with watercolor, even if you have zero experience. YouTube and Google will give you access to many tutorials you can follow to learn the craft behind painting with watercolor.

Of course, you can take the learning curve to another level and learn from professionals in the field. Platforms like Udemy and SkillShare offer watercolor courses at affordable prices.

I want to emphasize that taking a course about watercolor painting is not mandatory – you can learn the ins and outs of the watercolor medium on your own.

In other words, signing up for a watercolor course is avoidable. But do you know what’s unavoidable? I’ll tell you – having a working place where no one will disturb you.

Why does creating an art studio matter so much? Think about it for a second:

Can you complete any other work task if you don’t have the space and necessary tools/materials/essentials to do it? No, you can’t, and the same rule applies to painting.

With that said, you don’t have to invest money in renting a workspace – you can always use a space in your home where nobody will bother you while creating your art.

Benefits Of Self-Teaching Watercolor

  • Self-expression: All paintings allow you to express your inner world, thoughts, and feelings. The process of self-teaching watercolor will let you convey emotions and experiences through your artwork.
  • Creative independence: Self-teaching fosters creative freedom. Your artistic style will evolve if there are no rules to restrict it.
  • Sense of achievement: Mastering a new skill through self-teaching is a fulfilling achievement that will boost your confidence and self-esteem.
  • Stress relief: Engaging in creative activities like watercolor painting will be therapeutic and reduce stress.

How Hard Is To Learn Watercolor Painting?

how hard is to learn watercolor painting

Let’s get something straight before this take on how to start watercolor painting goes any further:

Learning to work with watercolors is no walk in the park. On the contrary, most professional artists will tell you that watercolors is the most difficult painting medium to master.

However, the difficulty level when working with watercolors depends on a few factors, such as the painting techniques you plan to implement.

For instance, impressionism and abstract watercolor paintings are not that difficult to create. Still, prepare yourself to accept that conquering the world of watercolors will be no small task to achieve:

Why Learning How To Start Watercolor Painting Might Be Difficult For Artists?

  • The nature of watercolors is unforgiving: Watercolors are transparent, which makes mistakes harder to hide. Once you apply the color, changing or covering it up might prove challenging. As a result, you can’t afford errors when working with watercolors.
  • Controlling water is not easy: If you want to create a high-quality watercolor painting, using the right amount of water is crucial. Adding too much water can destroy your colors, and using too little will leave your surface with dry strokes.
  • Paper quality: The type and quality of paper significantly affect watercolor painting. Not all paper manage watercolors the same way, and using the wrong one can lead to uneven washes and unsatisfactory results.
  • Painting speed: Watercolor requires working quickly as the paint dries fast. Timing is crucial for creating smooth washes and gradients. That demands patience and a good sense of timing – both can be difficult to master.
  • Layering/masking: Watercolor layering and masking techniques require planning and precision. Knowing which areas to mask and when to apply layers to create depth and dimension demands skill and understanding of the medium.

Necessary Skills To Become Good At Watercolor

Mastering watercolors requires technical skills, artistic understanding, and creative intuition. Have a look at all the skills you need to excel in watercolor painting:

  • Understanding of color theory: Color theory includes primary and secondary color creation and mixing.
  • Paper knowledge: Each artist who wants to learn how to start watercolor painting must know all about watercolor paper types and stretching paper.
  • Design and composition: You should take the time to learn how to arrange elements in the painting for visual balance and harmony.
  • Glazing and layering: Layering is building up layers of transparent colors to create luminosity and depth, while glazing is applying thin, transparent layers of color over dried layers to create subtle color variations.
  • Drawing skills: Basic drawing skills are essential for sketching the subject accurately before painting. Also, you must be able to add fine details to enhance the painting’s realism and visual appeal.

How Long Does It Take To Master The Watercolor Painting Medium?

The time it takes to become good at watercolor varies significantly from person to person. Moreover, that time depends on a couple of factors.

Such factors are previous experience, natural talent, level of commitment, available time for practice, and the ability to learn from your mistakes.

I would add asking for feedback from more experienced artists to the list too – why should you learn only on your own when you can learn from others as well?

In my opinion, you can reduce the learning curve if you prepare yourself in advance. And you can do that as soon as you acquire the best watercolor equipment and supplies available.

Let’s talk about that, shall we?

Equipment And Supplies Necessary To Learn How To Start Watercolor Painting

1) Paint

how to start watercolor painting get paints first
  • Quality Watercolor Paints: Invest in artist-grade watercolor paints for better pigmentation and longevity. There is no need to spend much – most watercolor paints are not that expensive.
  • Basic Colors: Get primary colors (red, blue, yellow) and some additional colors like green, purple, and brown.
  • Palette: A palette with wells is something you need for mixing and diluting colors.

2) Water

I doubt I should even have to mention the water. But considering this is an article about how to start watercolor painting for beginners, let’s make sure we cover all the basics:

You need to have a container with clean water nearby each time you work on your watercolor painting. Many artists use two jars of water – one to rinse their brushes and another to dilute the paints so you don’t contaminate them with dirty water.

3) Paint Brushes

  • Sable or Synthetic Brushes: Round brushes (size 2, 6, 10), flat brushes, and detail brushes for different techniques.
  • Water Brushes: These have water reservoirs in the handle, allowing you to paint without a water container.

By all means, option one is better – you want to use a water container and have control over the amount of water you use while painting.

4) Watercolor Paper

  • Paper: Choose paper specifically designed for watercolors, usually available in different weights (measured in lbs or gsm) and textures (hot-pressed, cold-pressed, rough).
  • Sketchbook: A portable sketchbook with watercolor paper for practicing and outdoor painting.

Pro Tip:

Always remember that the quality of your paper matters more than the quality of the paint. No matter how good your watercolors are, you won’t achieve satisfactory results if you use them on paper of poor quality.

5) Easel

get an easel

Here is the deal:

You can always paint watercolor paintings on a flat surface. However, such a surface might affect the angling of the paper and disturb the paint flow.

To avoid any of that happening, invest in an easel that will allow you to work without worrying about the final results of your effort.

6) Palette

Can you imagine mixing colors without a palette? The answer is you can’t because that’s not possible:

Every professional artist needs a palette to easily mix and blend watercolor paints. That palette won’t cost you a fortune. So, find a palette that suits your needs and can accommodate all the colors you want to work with while creating art.

7) Other Supplies You Might Need

  • Masking Fluid: Used to preserve white areas on your paper.
  • Paper Towels or Rags: For blotting and cleaning brushes.
  • Pencils: For sketching your design on watercolor paper.
  • Erasers: A kneaded eraser and a hard eraser for corrections.
  • Portfolio Case: To store and transport your finished artwork safely.
  • References: Photos, sketches, or real objects for inspiration and reference.

How To Start Watercolor Painting FAQs

How Do You Paint Watercolors Step By Step?

  • Gather your supplies
  • Get the paper ready
  • Imagine/plan your artwork
  • Draw the object you want to paint with a pencil
  • Mix your colors
  • Place the watercolor paints on the paper
  • Make sure the wet shapes don’t touch each other
  • Add details, background, and finishing touches
  • Allow the layers to dry
  • Include shadows (if you want them in the artwork)
  • Let the painting and protect it with a fixative spray (using spray is a must if you plan to frame the painting without glass)

What Part Of Watercolor Do You Paint First?

The secret of using watercolor paints effectively is to never leave areas white.

You can achieve that by applying the light washes first and the darker ones later.

What Is The Most Basic Watercolor Technique?

There are two basic watercolor techniques:

  • Wet-On-Wet: In the wet-on-wet watercolor technique, the paper is wetted with clean water before applying the paint. That creates a soft, diffused effect as the colors spread and blend on the wet surface.
  • Wet-On-Dry: In the wet-on-dry watercolor technique, paint is applied onto dry paper. This allows for sharper edges, finer details, and more controlled brushwork.

Is Watercolor Painting Difficult?

The difficulty of watercolor painting varies from person to person and depends on individual preferences and experiences.

With that said mastering the painting process with watercolors is not easy, due to the unpredictable and unforgiving nature of the medium.

Final Say

Do you know enough on the subject of how to start watercolor painting?

Hopefully, you do – I did my best to cover the process in detail in this article.

What questions do you have on this topic?

Write them down in the comments section below, and I’ll provide the answers as soon as possible.

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