how to watercolor paint

getting started with watercolors


confidently paint with watercolors

Paint a Rufous Hummingbird while learning the basics of how to watercolor paint.

How to watercolor paint a Rufous Hummingbird visiting a daisy flower, art by Carol MayPainting A Hummingbird Visiting A Daisy


what do you need to start watercolor painting?

get your paints ready

Watercolor paints from a tube are easy to use.

Keep your watercolors in a palette with a lid. Close the lid when not painting to keep the paints fresh.

If the colors dry out between paintings, moisten them with a spritz of water. Then they are as good as new.

Spritz water into wells of the colors you will be using to soften them for use.

If the well is running low on paint, add fresh paint.


keep your colors clean

You want the colors in the wells remain clean and pure, so do all the mixing in the center of the palette.

Never put a brush with one color on it into the well of a different color.

Clean your brush with water before putting it into the color wells.

Use a container of clean water to the brushes. When the water gets dirty, get clean water.

Blot the excess water out of the clean brush on a paper towel or a rag kept next to the water container.


Keep your watercolors clean for bright colorsKeep your colors clean!

what do we paint on?

You may paint on watercolor paper, canvas or Aquabord. My favorite support for watercolor paintings is Aquabord.  

We will be using an 8x10 board for this demo.

How do we decide what size to use?

Small things like hummers and butterflies go on small boards and things like landscapes go into larger sizes.


I use Ampersand Aquabord for my watercolor paintings.Great for Watercolors

the colors we will be using

We will use a split compliment color scheme.

  • Use any blue of your choice
  • Quinacridone Sienna or Burnt Sienna or an orange you like
  • Lemon Yellow, Raw Sienna or New Gamboge

Use a limited number colors in each painting.


Split Compliment painting color schemeSplit Compliment Color Scheme

answers to common questions about watercolors

how to watercolor paint

Transfer your drawing to the Aquabord and then you are ready to paint.

paint the hummer's throat

Using a round watercolor brush wet the throat area.

Use a pale yellow on the side toward the light.

While the yellow is still wet, put orange on the opposite side.

Allow the two colors to mingle together.

Watching the beautiful colors mingle together is the joy of learning how to watercolor paint.

Start the watercolor hummingbird painting on the throat.Paint The Throat

paint the body

Wet the body with water. The wet area will have sheen.

The paint will spread into the wet areas.

Mix blue and orange to make brown to paint the areas on the shadow side.

Add orange, as you go toward the light.

Leave the area below the throat white.


Let the colors mix while painting the hummingbird's body.Paint The Body

painting the wings

Mix a very light grey-brown with the orange and blue.

Use more water to make it a light color.

Apply to the forward wing.

Colors get lighter and cooler, as they go into the distance.

Add a bit more blue to make it greyer for the wing farther away.

Mix you complimentary colors to get the hummingbird's wing color.Painting The wings

now the head

Mix an orange-brown.

Touch the top of the hummer's head with the brush tip.

This leaves stippling marks to simulate the short feathers.

Leave the eye, around and behind the eye white.

White paper makes the whites in watercolor paintings.

Leaving the whites is basic in learning how to watercolor paint.

Painting the hummingbird's headPainting The Head

paint the eye, beak and feet

Add more blue to your blue and orange mixture to make a black.

Color mixing is a big part of how to watercolor paint.

Paint the eye leaving a white highlight.

Paint the beak with one dark line down the center.

Then put a lighter dark on the outside edges that catch the light.

Mix complimentary paint colors for painting the hummer's eye and beak.Paint The Eye and Beak

painting the flower

Freely paint the flower petals. Use a variety of oranges and yellow.

Leave some white spaces for a little spark.

On some petals put the paint on one end of the petal.

Then pull it toward the other end with water.

This makes the petal color go from full color to lighter and lighter.

Mix a variety of greens from your blue and yellow.

How to mix paint colors

Start painting the daisy flowerPaint The Flower Petals

Add more yellow for the green toward the light.

More blue makes a darker green for the underside of the stem and other areas away from the light.

paint the flower center

Use a variety of brown, orange and yellow to paint the center of the flower.

Stipple with the end of the brush to portray the stamens in the center of the daisy.

Continue painting the yellow daisy flower.Paint The Green Flower Parts

paint the background

Using a flat brush dampen the background area with clean water.

Do one area at a time, so the forward painting edge stays damp to prevent a hard edge.

It seems to work the best to not pre-wet right up to the edge of the bird or flower.

Paint right next to the bird and flower when you are painting on the background color.

If you pre-wet right up next to them, it makes the color pool up against their dry edge.

Make some marks behind the bird to simulate flight movement.

Paint the background of the hummingbird painting.Paint The Background

This is a lesson on painting a hummingbird, so we aren't concerned with painting leaves or foliage.

That will be later lesson on how to watercolor paint.

Go over the hummingbird again and darkened and brightened colors, where you think it needs it.

Do any needed adjustment on the flower petals.

Where the petals were overlapped by a petal next-door darkened the overlapped petals.

Painting a watercolor hummingbird and a yellow daisy flower with Carol MayFinal Touch-ups

now it's your turn

Painting is so much fun! Learning how to watercolor paint is not hard.

There are no mistakes that can't be fixed. If you make a mistake just put some water onto the area you want to remove, rub it a bit with a brush and blot it off with a paper towel. It's that easy!

jump in and go for it and have fun!

more how-to pages


  1. Home
  2. Watercolor Basics


What's New

  1. Original Paintings on Sale for the Holidays

    Nov 23, 18 07:54 AM

    Glazing With Watercolor

    Awesome Holiday Sale of Original Painting by Carol May Fifteen original paintings are on sale. Each original painting is priced under $100 with the shipping included.

    Read More

  2. Glazing with Watercolor

    Nov 20, 18 10:44 AM

    Glazing With Watercolor

    Glazing with watercolor is where a transparent wash of color is painted over a previous dry layer of paint. The viewer sees both layers of paint and their eye visually mixes the color. Glazing produ…

    Read More

  3. What Did That Artist Say?

    Nov 19, 18 03:20 PM

    Artist Glossary by Carol May

    What did that artist say? What did they mean? This artist glossary has painting terms commonly used by artists. Included are the art definitions of what these terms mean.

    Read More

  4. How To Mix Paint Colors

    Nov 10, 18 07:36 PM

    Make your paintings sing when you know how to mix paint colors. The color wheel is your key to understanding how to use paint colors. Mix warm colors, cool colors, greens and your own blacks with ease…

    Read More

  5. How To Choose Painting Colors for your individual paintings

    Nov 09, 18 09:44 AM

    How do the professionals choose colors for their paintings? What colors will look best in your paintings? Learn how to choose painting colors. You can create beautiful, harmonious paintings with only…

    Read More