How to Paint with Watercolors: An Overview for Beginners
So, you want to learn how to paint with watercolors? Though most people are intimidated by the medium, working with watercolors is both enjoyable and fulfilling once you finally get the feel of it. To learn watercolor, getting lots of practice in is a definite must. This means you’ll probably have to complete a couple of paintings before gaining complete confidence with the medium.
Despite the challenge that watercolor painting poses, knowing the basics can make the learning process less difficult. Working on different watercolor painting ideas will also allow you to practice different watercolor techniques! Read our short guide below to get an overview on how to paint with watercolors!
1. Start with the right materials
If you want to learn watercolor, know that it’s very easy to get started as the materials you’ll be using are fairly economical and easy to find. A beginner will need watercolor paints, paintbrushes, watercolor paper, a paint palette, water and a water container.
For the paintbrushes, make sure to procure round brushes for detail work and a mop brush for large washes. For your watercolor paper, choose one with medium thickness or paper that is at least 140 lbs in weight. This will have just the right amount of thickness able to hold water without immediately tearing.
2. Watercolor Washes
Knowing how to create different watercolor washes is essential to learn watercolor painting. The wet-on-wet and wet-on-dry method, for instance, are two techniques employed in watercolor painting to produce varied effects and washes.
This technique involves applying watercolor paint to wet paper. To do this, dip your brush into clear water and use it to dampen your paper. Next, dip the brush into the pigments and paint over the wet area of your paper. Make sure that the paper isn’t sopping wet but moist enough to create a soft, diffused wash when you brush the watercolor paint onto it. Instead of using water, you can also use wet paint to blend over a wet painted background.
As the name implies, the wet-on-dry method is the application of wet paint to a dry surface. The wet-on-dry technique is utilized to get a more sharp and precise effect with your watercolors unlike the diffused effect of wet-on-wet. If the paper or background is completely dry, the paint will stay exactly the way you painted it.
There are lots of great watercolor painting ideas to practice these techniques. You can choose to work on a still life painting or start with a simple landscape to experiment with different washes!
3. Paint Opacity and Blending
One of the advantages of using watercolors is that you have more control over the opacity of your paints depending on the amount of water and paint on your brush! If there’s more water than paint on your brush, then you can expect a lighter shade of color, while, conversely, adding less water will yield a deeper, darker shade.
Once you’ve got the hang of manipulating opacity, you can then start blending your colors. Blending can add depth to your paintings by seamlessly combining different levels of shade. For example, coloring a sphere under a particular light source while using a proper blending technique will result in a natural gradient of shades. This will make the sphere appear more three-dimensional and photorealistic.
Practice blending by painting three-dimensional shapes such as spheres, cubes, and cylinders in a different colors.
4. Other Beginner Tips
Here are other helpful tips and tricks to follow if you want to learn how to paint with watercolors:
- Start with just a handful of pigments if you're just beginning to learn watercolor. This way, you’ll be able to focus your attention on tones and blending instead of concentrating on colors.
- Work on a variety of watercolor painting ideas but remember to keep the size of your painting small! This will allow you to ease into the process without getting too overwhelmed.
- Hard edges develop when paint dries. If you want to soften the edges, simply moisten the hard lines by using a damp brush.
Remember that there’s no substitute for practice and hard work if you really want to learn how to paint with watercolors - good luck!