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Watercolor painting is a wonderful art medium to take up as it is affordable and you only need a few materials to start. Watercolors can also blend easily, the transparency of the paint can produce beautiful results, and there are no harsh chemicals involved. However, some of the techniques can be difficult to learn due to the fluidity of the paints, and then fixing any mistakes can be problematic. To help you understand watercolors a little bit more, we have compiled a few watercolor tips. Ultimately, the whole point is to enjoy the painting process and we hope this article will help you along the way.
Table of Contents
- 1 How to Paint With Watercolor for Beginners?
- 2 Watercolor Techniques for Beginners
- 3 Conclusion
- 4 Frequently Asked Questions
How to Paint With Watercolor for Beginners?
Watercolor painting can be challenging if you want to get all the techniques right. However, when first starting, watercolors are affordable and easy as you only require a few basic items like a brush, paper, and your paints. Watercolor painting can be done by both young and old, from all skill levels. Mastering the art of watercolors can take years, however, paying attention to the basics and following a few helpful watercolor paintings tips can get you started.
Preparing Your Painting Space
Preparing a workspace and gathering all the necessary materials will help to make the painting experience a lot easier. A designated work area is a good idea, as you do not want to have to keep moving around while you are busy with a painting project. Preferably, a space where you will be the least disturbed while you are painting. When it comes to painting with the kids, it is a whole other story.
You will need quite a few paper towels, these come in handy throughout your painting process as they are great for cleaning brushes, dabbing areas while painting and are a great help when cleaning up. Some old newspapers might also be a good idea, just in case you make some mess. Make sure you have a palette, which you will need if you want to mix your paints.
Extra paper can come in handy if you want to test out a paint color before using it. Painters tape or masking fluid is essential if you want to mark off any areas while painting. So, here is the list of supplies needed before you begin painting.
- Paper towels
- Extra paper for testing paints
- Masking tape
- Water in at least two or more cups
A few Watercolor Tips About Paints
- The most important item you will need is, of course, your watercolor paints. These paints consist of a color pigment suspended in a water-soluble binder. When used on paper, the water evaporates, leaving the color pigment behind. Watercolor paints can come in pans or tubes and are relatively less expensive than your acrylic paints, and more affordable than your oil paints.
- As with all paints, you have many brands, but choosing your quality brands is what can make a difference. Your cheap watercolor paints will appear chalky and become powdery, unlike the higher-quality paint which should provide an even, smooth color. Purchasing paints that are of better quality can be more expensive but will be worth it in the long run.
- Start small by using a limited color palette and using a good beginner’s set. You can always work your way up to a more professional set of watercolor paints. To begin, you can easily use two to three colors and still create a beautiful painting. Choosing a paint pan or tray set is better if you wish to travel with the paints, while watercolor paint tubes provide more intense colors.
- When mixing your watercolor paints, try to mix a little bit more than you need, because if you run out of a certain color mix, it can be difficult to make it again. You also do not want to repeatedly mix paint and waste time while you are busy.
- Stick with mixing two colors, otherwise, adding in more colors can produce a muddy problem. To avoid this, it is important to gain a basic understanding of color theory, what you can blend, and what you should not mix.
- Watercolors tend to dry lighter, so it is a good idea to have an extra piece of paper to test out the color before using it. Fixing watercolor mistakes has always been a problem, however, it is possible. You can use paper towels or a sponge to blot the paint while it is still wet, or you can apply a wash over the mistake. A watercolor wash is simply a layer of watercolor paints over an area and helps to produce a background. Additionally, you can build layers of paint colors in this manner. You can also try to work a mistake into the painting, if possible. Further down, we will be discussing a few more watercolor techniques for beginners.
Understanding Watercolor Paper
You can paint on ordinary printing paper, but it is just not the same. You must purchase high-quality watercolor paper, or the paper is going to buckle, warp and wrinkle. You will also notice that ordinary paper will begin to “pill” or tear as the fibers start to fall apart. The proper watercolor paper must be heavy-weight and should have what is known as sizing. The sizing is an additive that helps the paper absorb the water. Therefore, watercolor paper remains firm, and even when the paint is applied. The ideal watercolor paper is 300 grams or more, and cold-pressed which provides more surface texture. Although, the hot-pressed paper, which has less texture or “tooth”, is also popular for its smoother application. You might have to test out various kinds of paper to determine what you prefer. There are also different paper shades to consider, which could affect the vibrancy of the paint colors.
If you are more than a beginner with watercolors, you might want to consider stretching your watercolor paper. Stretched paper can handle larger washes and absorb more water. There are a few methods of doing this including taped to a hardboard surface, attached to a canvas frame, or using a special watercolor paper stretcher. The paper is soaked in water, positioned, and allowed to dry. While the paper dries, it shrinks and eventually leaves an even, flat surface that will not buckle when a lot of water is used.
What Watercolor Brushes Do You Need?
When discovering how to paint with watercolor for beginners, you do not need an entire complete set of brushes. However, you should have some of the basic types of brushes on hand. Consider getting a flat brush, mop brush, and a large, medium, and small round brush. Depending on what you are painting, you should also include a few different sizes.
When painting on textured paper, it can be slightly abrasive for the brush, if you use it often. To help your brush tip last longer, consider working with the brush more on its side. Many artists prefer to use a synthetic brush, as they tend to hold more water, and softer bristles provide more control. Synthetic brushes are also less expensive than the more natural brushes you find on the market. The more stiff brushes are not generally used unless you wish to apply a certain technique like adding textured effects.
When dipping brushes into the water, many only use one small cup of water. You will notice that the water will get dirty pretty quickly, and this could affect the rest of your painting. So, is a good idea to keep at least two larger cups or containers nearby for cleaning and dipping your brush. The water will stay clearer for a little longer without you having to change it often. Once you are done painting, it is always recommended you clean your brushes. Thankfully, with watercolors, this is easy as you only need water. Gently reshape them and then keep them somewhere standing up straight. You do not want the bristles to become damaged if stored incorrectly.
Painting From Light to Dark
There are certain rules one should stick to in watercolor painting, and working from light to dark is one of them. When using watercolors, if a dark color is applied first, it will be difficult to undo this. You also cannot then use lighter colors over dark colors. The lighter areas on the painting also come from the white paper underneath the paint, so using darker paints will not work.
You can easily build the value of your colors as you go from layer to layer until you have reached the desired effect. This is why watercolor painting requires some planning before you begin. If there are any areas you want to keep white, you can easily apply masking fluid, which keeps the watercolor paint away from that particular area.
When planning, doing some thumbnail sketches beforehand can come in handy. These small sketches, about the size of a credit card, are simply a representation of what you want to do. They will consist out of general shapes and tones, as well as the positioning of your subject matter. The sketches should not take you long to complete, the idea is to plan your painting before you begin.
How Much Water Is Too Much?
Watercolor paints need water, but can you use too much? This is mainly determined by what you want to do. Adding too much water where you do not want to, can lighten the paints too much. You also have less control over too much water, the watery paint runs all over the place and can mix with colors that can become muddy. On the other hand, if you use too little water, it will not flow smoothly and can leave brush strokes behind.
Applying a large wash will need more water, while small details will use less water. Overall, it is a good idea to keep quite a bit of water around when painting. Not only to clean your brushes but for mixing purposes as well. You can easily check the color saturation by using an extra piece of paper, then add more water if it is needed.
When painting and you clean your brush, then move straight away for more paint, you can be adding more water than necessary to the painting. The added water will help to spread the paint more, and this might not be what you want. To avoid this, simply dab the brush onto some paper towel or rag after cleaning the brush, before you apply more paint.
Many artists like to sketch their images onto paper before painting. Some might not mind if the pencil or graphite lines appear through the paint, but others do not want to see the drawing underneath. To prevent this, make sure to draw lightly, using a soft pencil. If you do use a graphite pencil, darker lines can be lifted by using an eraser, but this must be done before painting.
Watercolor Techniques for Beginners
Watercolor painting is more than simply applying paint to paper – there are many watercolor techniques for helping you blend, create texture, and other effects. Below are a handful of these techniques that are fairly easy and fun to apply in your art studio.
This is when you apply paint to wet paper or paint. The results are unpredictable and there is limited control over what the paint is going to do. The flow of the paint can create some interesting effects. You can also create a wash using this technique by wetting the paper and then applying the paint. There is also the wet-on-dry technique, where the first application of paint must dry before adding another layer. This technique provides more control, and overlaying washes can also be applied in this manner.
This helps to produce a water spray effect, great for paintings with waves, rain, or dust in them. Dip the brush in some paint and place it over the paper. You can either tap the brush, or you can use your fingers along the bristles to spray the paint onto the surface.
Here are two watercolor paintings tips for creating unusual texture. You can create texture by painting a layer of watercolor paint, and while the paint is wet, sprinkle some salt over it. Salt absorbs water and once the paint has dried, wipe away the salt and what is left is some interesting textures. The type of pattern left behind can be affected by the size of the salt crystal. Another easy method of creating some texture is to apply the watercolor paint with a sponge.
You can do this technique while the paint is wet or dry. Obviously, it is easier to do when the paint is still wet. The best way is to use a brush, once you have blotted the brush to remove excess water, touch the wet paint, which should then be taken up by the brush. For less delicate areas, you can use some paper towels or a sponge.
Once the watercolor paint has dried, it is a little more difficult to lift the paint. You can try an eraser to if this works, or slightly wet the area in question and use a stiff and damp brush to lift the paint off.
Creating Watercolor Blooms
Beautiful blossoms of color can be created by applying a color wash, letting it dry only a little. Then take a clean brush and dip it into some water, and gently place the tip onto the paper. The water should create what looks like blooms. You can use two different colors to add an even more colorful effect. There are many more techniques and watercolor tips you can learn to create a watercolor painting. Here are some more well-known watercolor painting techniques:
- Underpainting: A foundational paint layer
- Blending: Blending colors
- The layering of colors: Multiple layers of watercolor paints, applied on top of each other. Also known as “Glazing”
- Dry brushing: Paint is applied using a relatively dry brush, which can produce a rough-like appearance
- Feathering: Helping to create soft edges from wet and dry paint
- Scumbling: Painting a thin layer of paint, using a dry brush over another layer of dry paint. This provides depth and a variation of color
- Stippling: Using a pointed brush, tap lightly on the paper. You can also use a sponge or crinkled paper for a similar effect
Learning to paint with watercolors takes practice and patience, like many things in life. Watercolors naturally flow and create fascinating shapes and this aspect of watercolors should be embraced. You do not have to form mages that are perfectly defined, rather allow the watercolors to loosely create what it wants. The details and skills will come with practice, simply enjoy the learning process.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is Watercolor Painting Difficult?
Many would say yes, especially for beginners, even a few oil painters might find it more difficult to do. However, there are many advantages to watercolor painting and can be done by both young and old. By simply practicing and experimenting, watercolors can be interesting and a wonderful medium to work with.
Is Sketching Before Watercolor Painting Necessary?
Sketching does help you to plan your painting and keep the painting process on track. However, it is not absolutely necessary, some like to draw beforehand, and some people do not.
What Is a Basic Watercolor Palette?
Starting with a limited color palette is best, and some more experienced artists prefer to stick to a limited palette as they paint. A twelve-color palette should contain all you need, all three primary colors in both warm and cooler options, a neutral gray, black, and two earth tones.
Is a Background With Watercolors Necessary?
The background is an important part of a watercolor piece, and some may wonder if you do it before or after you have painted your subject. Many prefer to use masking fluid to mask the subject and then paint the background first, then remove the masking fluid and continue with the subject, which separates the two aspects of the painting. You can also paint the entire background first and then the subject so that they become part of each other.