Watercolor for Beginners

When you think back to the type of watercolor painting we all do in elementary school, it is not surprising that we are all fooled into thinking that watercolor painting is a simple art form. The opposite is true, however.

Watercolor is actually considered to be one of the most difficult types of painting because it is next to impossible to hide mistakes. The truth is that the transparency of watercolor that makes it so ethereal and lovely to look at is what makes it a less forgiving type of painting.

Don’t let that discourage you from using watercolor paints as an adult. The feeling of working with watercolors is completely different than those paints in elementary school. Finding the best art supplies to work with is almost as exciting as the painting itself. Choosing colors, mixing them and applying them on paper is part of the fun of working with the materials. In fact, I think that mixing colors is my favorite part of watercolors. I love just seeing what the paints can do.

Like many things, I came at using watercolors backwards, and only learned that it was considered difficult after I was already using watercolor paints as an adult. Because of this, I do have some tips for anyone who is ready to jump in and get started.

  • Watercolor artists do not use easels. This is because watercolors are thin in texture and they drip. While this is not an issue in acrylic or oil painting, it is when painting with watercolors.
  • When starting out, use a basic palette of colors. Any colors that you need can be mixed from primary and secondary colors.
  • While artist-quality paints give you the best result, they are more costly than the student grade. You can experiment with student grade, and then move up when you are ready.
  • Don’t waste your time with poor quality paints. Your colors will be muddy and unclear which will change the entire effect of your painting.
  • Experiment as much as you can. Being an artist means letting your creative muse out to play.
  • Organize your materials so that you can get your hands on them quickly. Gerstner tool chests will keep your paints, tape and other small materials handy and read to go.
  • Before you start painting, set up all of your materials in front of you on your painting surface. At minimum, you need your block of paper, paints, palette, water and array of brushes by your side. Paper towels are also a necessity.

One of the toughest lessons that I learned as a watercolor artist was to use more color rather than less. Play with the color and use it in unexpected ways. It is amazing what the eye does with what it sees. When you put down a stroke of blue, then a stroke of red, the eye will combine it into a shade of purple. Bring out your inner child, and enjoy the colors. You may be surprised at what you can achieve with a few strokes of the brush.

Here’s an innovative way to store Watercolor supplies: Gerstner Tool Chests 

Gerstner USA 12 - Repair Kit


Use an image projector to trace an outline of your preliminary drawing, such as a KopyKake K1000. 



- Paulina A.
Lake Erie Artists Gallery

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