get started painting watercolor step by step: it's easy with a painting plan

Learn the easy five step plan for painting any watercolor step by step.

what materials do you need?

  • Drawing materials
  • Masking fluid
  • Red, yellow and blue watercolor paint
  • A watercolor brush
  • Watercolor paper
  • Clean water and paper towels
  • A palette or a Styrofoam plate

Easy five steps for painting watercolor step by stepStart Painting Watercolor

Tyrannosaurus jumped from the firehouse to the gate to help beginners with watercolor

painting watercolor step by step

  • Let's get an easy game plan for watercolor painting. You can paint any watercolor with these 5 easy steps.

  • You will confidently paint watercolors because you know where you are and what step is next.

get ready to paint

  • Draw your subject.

Erasures on the watercolor paper can damage it. So do your drawing on a separate tablet.

Don't worry about doing a perfect drawing. This is for learning how to paint watercolor step by step.

just have fun!

Then transfer your drawing to your painting surface with graphite paper.  If you are good at drawing, do your drawing directly on the watercolor paper.

Transfer your drawing to the painting surface.Transfer your drawing and apply masking

Use light marks, when you put your drawing on the painting surface. Heavy pencil or graphite marks can show thru into the finished painting.

  • Apply masking fluid to protect the gate.
  • Let the masking fluid dry before you do any painting.

Then you may paint right over the dry masking fluid and the paper stays white under the masking.

more about watercolor painting materials

step 1 - Underpaint the subject

Watercolor is painted in layers from light to darker colors.

Underpaint the subjectUnderpaint the subject
  • Underpaint the tyrannosaurus with a medium green. Paint around his eye. Leave his teeth white.

Mix your yellow with blue to make green. Add a touch of red to dull the green, so it is not so bright.

  • Use the tiny tip of your brush. Touch a dark spot for the eye, so its placement is not lost under the green.
  • And when the green is dry enough, paint the dark toenails for fun. This is painting watercolor step by step.

The three primary colors mixed together will make your dark color.

First mix a dark purple with red and blue. (More blue than red makes it darker.) Then add a touch of yellow to the mixture to neutralize the purple and make your dark color.

step 2 - Underpaint the background

Dampen the sky area around the tyrannosaurus. Keep him dry so the colors don't run together.

Underpaint the backgroundUnderpaint the background
  • Paint a blue sky with your blue. Mix the blue with water on your palette to get the sky color.

Paint around the tyrannosaurus, including his teeth and the firehouse. The untouched paper makes his white teeth.

  • Paint right over the gate with the grass color.

Mix blue and yellow for the green grass. Notice how the grass is brighter green than the tyrannosaurus because green has not been neutralized with red.

More about how to mix paint colors.

You may paint the firehouse now or in step number four.

*tip - how to paint watercolor step by step

Keep a container of clean water. Wash you brush between colors. Wipe the wet brush across a paper towel to remove the excess water. Too much water make wimpy, washed out colors.

Always use a clean brush to dip into the fresh colors. Mix your colors out in the center of your palette away from the clean paint.

If you are going to cover a large area like the sky, wet the intended area. Paint clean water across the area. Keep the other areas of the painting dry, so the sky color will not flow into those areas.

Let the water soak into the paper until the shine is gone, but the paper is still damp to the touch. Paint the color across the intended area in one application.

Let the sky color dry before you paint color on the adjoining areas, so the colors don't bleed together.

step 3 - Paint the subject

The under paintings are dry, so now you can add more paint on top of the underpainting. That's painting watercolor step by step.

Paint the subjectPaint the subject
  • Paint the various shadows of the tyrannosaurus.

The shadow colors are mixed from blue and yellow with a touch of red to dull the green.

More blue than yellow with less water, makes the darker green shadow color.

Paintings don't have to be perfect, just relax and enjoy!

step 4 - Paint the background

Remove the masking fluid from the gate. Just rub it off with a dry finger.

Paint the backgroundPaint the background
  • Paint the gate with an orange you mix from red and yellow.
  • Use your red for the firehouse.
  • Mix the blue and red together with a touch of yellow for the dark roof.

Use less water with more paint to get brighter colors. This is one of the most important lessons you can learn in painting watercolor.

Using too much water gives washed out, wimpy colors.

step 5 - Detail and finish the painting

Refine the tyrannosaurus and paint any other details you wish to add.

Detail and finish the paintingDetail and finish the painting
  • Use the roof color to put the door on the firehouse.

Your painting is finished. Sign it and show it off to your friends and family.

*tip - If your painting is wavy -

Watercolor paper is normally stretched before using it. You wet the paper and tape the edges down on a board to hold it straight while it dries. Then when you put water and paint on it will not warp or buckle.

When you are just starting out you may not want the hassle of stretching the paper. What are my suggestions? What did I do when I started painting watercolor?

While the painting is still a bit damp, but not soppy wet, place it between some clean pages of your watercolor tablet. Close the tablet and place a big heavy book on top. Give it a day or two to dry and when you take your painting out it will be dry and nice and straight.

Easy peasy, no stretching!

what have you learned?

easy 5 step plan for watercolor step by step

  1. Under-paint the main subject
  2. Under-paint the background
  3. Paint the subject
  4. Paint the background
  5. Detail and finish

don't stop here - paint more watercolors

The more you paint, the better you will be and the more fun you will have.

What a joy it is to share watercolor painting with you!

happy painting!

learn more about watercolor

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  • Painting Butterflies with Watercolor

    Enjoy the confidence and fun of painting butterflies. Start painting your own watercolor butterflies and flowers with an easy step-by-step tutorial by Carol May

  • Paint a Giraffe with Watercolor

    Three ways to paint a giraffe with watercolor. Express yourself with a traditional, an easy or a fun, colorful giraffe painting - step-by-step instructions.

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