Painting With Watercolours For Beginners

Painting With Watercolours For Beginners

21/09/2021 Off By Alina Novikova

Watercolour is a wonderful, versatile medium – and one that scares many beginners out of their wits. In this article, hope to dispel that fear. We’ll talk about which palette to start with, how to mix colours, and how to contour. This article includes a tutorial.

Supplies.

Before you get started with watercolours, you’ll need a few basic supplies. They include:

1. Watercolors.

Watercolours come in three different grades: children’s, student grade, and artist grade. Believe that the best watercolours for beginners are student grade. This means you won’t need to mix your own colours as much. You really just need one good palette, and you’re good to go.

Whatever set you to decide on, the first thing you should do upon receiving your watercolours creates a colour chart. Talk about how to make a watercolour chart in a future tutorial. But basically, you cut a piece of watercolour paper that’s slightly smaller than your set. Paint samples of each colour onto it, label the colours, and your chart is finished.

 

 

It’s important to make a colour chart because you can rarely tell what watercolours will look like on paper from how they look dry in their little pans.

2. Brushes.

Once you’ve got your watercolour palette, it’s time to think about brushes.

Brush preferences will vary by artist. Tiny details, which means I like tiny brushes. “Staple” brushes are:

Winsor, Newton Cotman Series 111 Round size 0000
Grumbacher Goldenedge 4620 Round size 000
Robert Simmons S85 size 5/0
Grumbacher Goldenedge 4620 Round size 0
Grumbacher Goldenedge 4620 Round size 3

 

3. Watercolor Paper.

It’s important to apply your watercolours to high-quality paper that doesn’t absorb the pigment. Watercolour paper is your safest bet.

Watercolour requires special paper because of absorbency. The watercolour paper essentially lets the paint sit on top of the paper until it dries rather than allowing the paint to spiderweb out. If you try to paint on, say, standard 20 # printer paper, the watercolour will bleed at the edges because the paper is super absorbent. (Note that you don’t have to paint on watercolour paper.

 

4. Water + Cloth.

The last watercolour supply you’ll need is clean water to hydrate pigments and clean off your paintbrush. You’ll also need a cloth for blotting your brush.

The General Process

Watercolours are very low-maintenance. First, start with a palette of watercolours. Next, use a small spray bottle, a blunt syringe, or a spoon to hydrate the colours you wish to use. Then, dip your brush in water to moisten it, dab the brush onto a pigment, and put the pigment-rich brush on paper.

You can control the shade of any pigment by adjusting the amount of water on your brush. If you want a very light shade, saturate your brush in water and barely touch the brush’s tip to the pigment. For medium tones, you’ll still apply pigment to a wet brush, but you’ll apply a bit more pigment than you would for a light shade.

Mixing Colours.

One thing to note about watercolours is you don’t have to buy a set that features a lot of different colours. It’s easy to mix your own colours. Simply moisten one pigment with about 1/16 tsp of water, then incorporate the water into the pigment by stirring with a brush. Dab some of the colours onto a slick surface. Then, do the same thing with another pigment, and add it to the first pigment. Mix the two pigments, and you’ve got an entirely new colour.

 

 

Here are some basic colour combinations:

  • Red + Blue = Purple
  • Yellow + Red = Orange
  • Yellow + Blue = Green
  • Orange + Blue = Brown
  • Yellow + Red + Blue = Black

Contouring

Watercolors make it easy to create eye-catching subjects because the medium blends so well. Using a contouring technique to blend different tones of the same colour in a piece grants you the ability to make something look real. With that in mind, I’m going to show you how to turn a circle into a sphere with blending and different paint opacities.

Here are written instructions, just in case you’re not in a situation where you can watch a video right now:

Choose one colour, then use a light shade of it to paint a circle.
Pretend that there’s a light source near the left side of the circle. Effectively, a shadow will appear on the right side of the sphere. To start making that shadow, load your brush with more of the same shade. Paint that shade so it “hugs” the circle in a half-moon shape.
You can see that there’s a definite division between the medium shade and the light shade above. To get rid of that difference, use a clean, wet brush to apply water to the division between the light and medium watercolor shades. As you move your brush in a half-circle motion, the division will fade.
Now it’s time to add the dark shade to the bottom of your circle, sphere. Hug the dark shade around the bottom as pictured. Tease out the dark shade just as you did the medium shade, and voilà.

If you want more practice with giving shapes dimension, recommend painting these shapes in different colours. If you understand how to contour a basic shape, you can go on to paint just about anything.

Free Worksheet

If you are new to watercolors, you can develop base skills with TPK’s free printable worksheet! If your printer can handle printing on watercolor paper (or 80 # drawing paper), print the worksheet directly on that paper. Otherwise, print the worksheet on regular paper, then do the worksheet exercises on a separate piece of watercolor paper.

 

 

Practicing Watercolors

As with any skill, the more you practice using your watercolors, the more progress you’ll see! Basic watercolor tutorials abound here on the TPK website, so you can browse and take your pick of which ones to try. For more guided practice, consider enrolling in the Watercolor Illustrated Maps 101 eCourse. The course offers abundant guided practice working with watercolors for beginners.