Watercolor Painting For Beginners

Watercolor Fanatic is proud to present Watercolor Painting for Beginners. A complete guide to all the techniques, materials and skills you need to get started watercolor painting. Plus there are several projects that you can do to help master the beginner techniques required to create amazing art. This is a free resourceful website dedicated solely towards beginner watercolor painters, and established by a passionate artist who wants nothing more than make sure you can enjoy learning without restrictions.

– Watercolor painting for beginners

Here are Chapter Markers for the video

00:00 Intro
00:07 Recommended materials for beginners
04:56 Transparency
09:45 Transparency With Three Hues
13:52 Gravity & fusion
20:59 Stroke speed
24:38 Water & hues
29:25 Hue transitions
33:53 Silverware Project
41:52 Silverware project 2
47:01 Abstract squares
58:46 Light on form

Watercolor Painting For Beginners

This is your complete beginner guide to teaching you the characteristics of watercolors, the common application techniques, the impact of gravity and fusion, color mixing, watercolor paper, materials and color theory. Plus there are four easy projects where you will test your skills and knowledge.

Let’s start with watercolor materials

Watercolor painting materials consist of watercolor paint, watercolor paper, brush(es), palette, and other miscellaneous items like paper towels, water reservoirs, blow dryer-to speed up drying time, and others.

Here are the materials I suggest using not only as a beginner but even for experienced artists.

get the right watercolor supplies
– get the right watercolor supplies

Watercolor Paints and Colors (I use Holbein brand)

  • Yellow ochre – warm yellow
  • Cadmium yellow lemon – cool yellow
  • Ultramarine blue – warm blue
  • Cerulean blue – cool blue
  • Alizarin crimson – cool red
  • Cadmium red light – warm red
  • Neutrals – Burnt sienna, raw umber and neutral tint

Watercolor Brushes

  • Silver black velvet jumbo medium
  • Excellent for most details; Princeton Neptune pointed round #12
  • Ideal for smaller spaces and details; Princeton Neptune pointed round #6
  • Awesome for creating interesting brushwork; Princeton Neptune dagger 3/8″
  • Large brush for expressive strokes; Princeton Neptune dagger 1/2″
  • Escoda Castagnet needle

Watercolor Paper

Fabriano Artistico 140 lb. cold press, bright white
Saunders Waterford 140 lb cold press, bright white

Miscellaneous

Gator-foam board, watercolor palette, masking tape, two water reservoirs, paper towels and finally, the last watercolor supply is dish rags


Learn The Watercolor Characteristics

Below you will discover a breakdown of the beginner skills shared in this article. Also, you’ll appreciate the images from each demo. These characteristics are used in every subject from painting landscapes, flowers and portraits. They are the foundation of watercolor painting, so get to know them and embrace their power.

As we move forward in this tutorial it’s important to keep things simple. This may not be the first time you painted, and you likely would rather be painting a stunning watercolor landscape. In my teaching experience, many beginners get ahead of themselves. It’s all about paint finished art which is a huge mistake. I always say play, doodle and have fun learning. It’s a more relaxed state of mind and the pressure immediately disappears.

characteristics of watercolor painting
– characteristics of watercolor painting

transparency watercolor painting for beginners
– Transparency with same hue

Transparency Is The Key To Beautiful Watercolors

Watercolor is a transparent medium. It’s all about thin paint and how it interacts with watercolor paper. Watercolors are water-soluble – meaning when you add plain water to any of the colors on your palette, they thin out and become translucent.

Watercolors can be thinned further by adding more water or even mediums like glazing liquid or gum arabic. Watercolor pigments do not provide cover like acrylic. When using thin coats of paint (transparent) they will brush on and look light and wispy and if too much is applied in one go, it will dilute its appearance – so try to think in terms of the watercolor pigments’ transparency.

However, all is not lost! Watercolors are forgiving because they can be layered on top of each other – with some water added to the mix, they will blend very easily. With practice, you will begin to see how many different colors you can create by mixing your unique colors from a given palette. Watercolour painting is very much about experimenting with paint, mediums, and paper to get results that make sense for each individual.

Follow these steps

When you paint the first shape in the transparent layers study above, be sure to start on dry paper. Use a very weak, tea-like mixture. Be sure to pre-mix more than you think is needed. Many artists, including me, run out too soon.

Allow each layer to dry completely before adding the next one on top. Start painting the shape bigger than you think you need, or you will run out of room to add more layers. This project is perfect for practicing watercolors and you’ll learn an important skill that will be used throughout your watercolor painting endeavors.


Layering Watercolors To Create Secondary Colors

When you layer two or more hues over each other, you get secondary hues. The two colors will mix and create an entirely new color. Watercolors are translucent by nature; so they need to be applied in several layers, allowing the first layer to dry before the next is applied.

Here’s the step-by-step tutorial demonstrated in the video, Start on dry paper and pre-mix a color. Apply the moistened paint t the paper and paint the first circle. Remember to apply the paint to the paper and avoid fussing with it, The more you go back into a wash, the more chances there is for ruining it.

Allow each circle to dry completely before adding another one. I recommend using cold press paper over hot press, or a slick surface. This will help you achieve that grainy look that makes watercolor so unique.

Mix It Up

Keep in mind you can opt for different colors. I used the primaries because they’re similar to making a color chart wheel. So, if you feel creative then substitute all you want to, but just make sure you are using three different watercolor hues. If you like bright colors, use them!

Paint the second circles slightly smaller. Leave a thin ring around the outside edge. Take note how one color changes as it’s layered over another one. If you look on the left side of the study, see how the yellow turns green when layered over the blue. That’s transparency!

Many beginners forget about this watercolor characteristic because they’re too focused on painting realistic images. Keep it simple and allow the medium to do what it does best.

watercolor painting for beginners
– Transparency with multiple hues

watercolor techniques; gravity and fusion
– Gravity & fusion

Gravity & Fusion Will Elevate Your Watercolor Skills

When painting with watercolors it’s best to keep the paper tilted. If not, the water tends to puddle up in random areas, or at the bottom of the paper and drip down. This tilting will also cause moistened paint to bleed into each other.

A good piece of watercolor paper will hold water without too much buckling. But having the paper tilted will help prevent unnecessary pooling of water. It’s best to allow colors to bleed and fuse. If you go back into wet washes it can ruin the painting.

If you love this carefree, organic look then you’ll need to do as many gravity & fusion studies. Mix it up by using bright colors, gray and earthy hues, and so on.


Learn To Manipulate Paint Thickness & Wet-IN-Wet Washes

When working on wet watercolor paper, it’s important to know that thicker paint doesn’t dissolve as much as thinner paint mixtures. Watercolors are made from very fine light-reflecting pigments. Watercolor pigments have a large surface area that is exposed to water and then dissolve into a solution. This causes the pigment dispersion. Many beginners tend to only work with on paint consistency. But as you become more experienced you’ll soon discover why thicker paint is useful.

Here’s the key

But if you want to paint with watercolors successfully, you have to get started with learning how to manipulate wet washes and paper. And this is a great way to do it. You can take scrap watercolor paper and make as many circles possible. Increase and decrease the wetness of each circle. Use thin and thick paint to keep learning how to manage the amount of bleeding that occurs. After a while, painting into wet paper isn’t something new anymore. You have the experience and know how to get in there and make things happen. Again, this is a great way to learn as opposed to painting finished art.

watercolor techniques; explore thin and thick paint into wet paper
– Paint thickness

Watercolor painting project for beginners
– Color charts

Color Charts For Learning Values & Hue Transitions

Colors wheels and color charts are part of your creative journey. You’ll do many! Know that all colors have an inherent value that is either darker or lighter than other colors, depending on the hue. To create thinner or lighter hues, just add water. If you want to create a proper color wheel be sure to read this article.

A good watercolour painting exercise to learn color mixing is to learn color transitions. Start by gradually adding one hue into another. Note that even the slightest amount of color will make an impact. By slowly adding a little more, it will eventually transition into a neutral, and then into the added color hue.

You just learned that by adding small amounts of pigment to any color will shift the hue. The common beginner mistake is to add too much paint, or water. Again, another project that seems simple but really isn’t. It’s a great exercise and you should use all your colors.


Fast and Slow Watercolor Brush Strokes

How fast you move brushes across the paper plays an important roll in watercolor painting for beginners. It determines how much paper texture is revealed. A slow stroke will cover the paper and a fast stroke will allow for the low points to remain white.

It’s best to experiment with this on a blank sheet of paper, or scrap watercolor paper will do. Use a reject that’s hidden in a drawer, or buried in the sketchbook.

Note how wet paper just doesn’t allow for a fast stroke to work effectively. However, semi-wet, or dry works well.

Stroke speed beginner watercolor technique
– Stroke speed

It’s beginner project time!

The best way to learn watercolor painting is to dive in and test your skills. Plus, when you nail these projects they make great watercolor art you can hand in the studio. And don’t get intimidated! Becoming a good watercolor artist is about making mistakes along the way. It’s an imperfect medium. Have fun with it and allow the paint to do what it wants every now and then. There are many watercolor ideas on this website, so try these and explore some others, too.

beginner watercolor project
– Silverware project for beginners

Start simple

Silverware is a great subject to practice all the beginner skills. Use good watercolor supplies even-though it’s a minimalistic project. It also embraces the modern watercolor techniques that make to painting simple, and interesting. You can easily use thin and thick watercolor paint, slow and fast strokes, lift wet paint and more. Don’t overcomplicate the learning process. This makes an amazing piece of watercolor art you can hang in the kitchen, or on the fridge.

As with previous studies, start painting with light values and gradually get darker as you add more layers. This is a wet-in-wet technique so don’t allow layers to completely dry or you won’t get the same results. When done correctly, this is a lovely watercolour experience.


Abstract squares

Abstract squares project is perfect for mastering gravity & fusion, color mixing and more. And you end up with a super awesome watercolor painting for the house! This is the kind of art everyone should do as a reminder of what watercolor wants to do if we could only get out of the way. This is one of many modern watercolor techniques that you can easily scale up and create a stunning piece of art for your home. Explore watercolor paints and watercolor brushes with this project, anything goes!

watercolor for beginners project abstract squares
– Abstract squares project

Light on form watercolor for beginners project
– Light on form project

Light on form project

This is more challenging because you have to be more precise with values, timing and brushwork. But the payoff is HUGE if you can do it well. It’s best to break out the gray watercolor paint and make a simple chart. It’s a visual guide that will help you select the right values to put down on the watercolor paper.

Take you time with this one. It’s not easy to do it well the first time, so expect to do it several times. Start with light values and work darker with each layer. Allow paper to dry completely before adding another one. This is where you have to have some patience.

When paint the sphere work the brushstrokes in a circular manner. This will help give it a round look. While the paint is wet, use a clean, damp brush and lift the highlight.


Did you know?

The majority of beginners quit within the first few months. It’s easy to get frustrated and give up, and that’s just the nature of being a beginner. I know the pitfalls you might run into. Here is some advice that helped me improve my painting skills in less than 1 year!

Avoid trying to create finished art! It’s a trap that will only lead to disappointment and frustration. Think studies, doodles and playtime. This mindset will completely change your attitude and allow you to explore and be more creative.

Work small! Large painting will come later on but for now use quarter sheets (9″ x 12″, or 11″ x 14″). Try new watercolor ideas often and paint on the front and back of watercolor paper. Use it all up!

Take on one thing at a time. Write down three issues you struggle with and practice each one over and over until you get more comfortable. Your watercolor skills will improve faster than you think if you have intent!

Watercolor is an imperfect medium. It’s not meant to control all the time. Avoid fussing with every single detail and embrace the imperfections!

Become a Fanatic, and not the next quitter. I know you can do it!

avoid quitting watercolor
– Learn the characteristics of watercolor painting