mastering watercolor for beginners

answers to your basic questions

The Tyrannosaurus jumped from the firehouse to the gate

"What?"

You say, "How is this mastering watercolor for beginners?"

  • We are going to jump right into watercolor with answers to your frequent questions.
  • Also, the tyrannosaurus will help show you an easy five step plan for your watercolor paintings.

Jump in and master watercolor for beginnersJump in to watercolor for beginners

didn't i use watercolor paints in grade school?

  • Yes, you probably did.

They are a clean, convenient paint you can use to create any picture you can imagine.


tell me more about watercolors

Artists' paints all use the same pigments for their beautiful colors.

The pigments in oil paints are mixed with linseed oil or other oils that require turpentine or mineral spirits for clean-up.

The pigments in watercolor paints are mixed with gum Arabic that is easy to clean-up with water. No stinky, flammable things are required for clean-up.

The watercolor brushes I have been using for around twenty years have never even seen soap. I just swish them around in water, blot the excess water away and lay them down flat to dry.


How do you use water colors?

  • Watercolors are very easy to use.

All you have to do is dip your brush into clean water and then dip you brush into your selected color.

You do not have to mix or add anything to the watercolors - just water.

Mix your colors in the center of your palette. The more water you add, the lighter your colors will be. If you want intense colors, use less water and more paint.

Keep a clean water container handy. Wash you brush out in clean water when you are changing colors, so you don't contaminate the other colors.


What are the best watercolor paints?

Watercolor paints come in two different forms.

  • Pan watercolors are pressed into cubes dried and usually placed in a container with a lid.

When you want to use them you rub a wet brush on your selected color cube.

The brushes used on pan watercolors wear out faster from all the rubbing. You are limited to using small brushes because a large brush would over-lap into the adjoining pan colors.

Pan watercolors are very handy for travel and painting in the field.

  • Tube watercolors have some glycerin added to keep the paint flexible.

Squeeze the tube paint colors out onto your palette. Any size brush may be used with tube watercolors.

Cover the paint palette between painting sessions. If the paint dries out, spritz it with a bit of water and you are ready to paint again.

You can get more vibrant, intense colors with tube watercolors. This is my chosen watercolor paint.

  • The best watercolor for beginners is the professional grade paints.

Professional, artist grade paints cover better because they contain more pigment. They are a better investment in the long run.

Watercolor paints labeled for students have extenders added. They are less expensive because they have less pigment. They won't give you the bold, vibrant colors.


what colors do you need?

Start with the three primary colors, red, yellow and blue.

Choose a warm and cool version or each of the primaries.

  • Red; Cadmium Red (warm red) and Permanent Rose (cool red)
  • Yellow; New Gamboge (warm yellow) and Lemon Yellow (cool yellow)
  • Blue; Ultramarine Blue and Pthalocyanine  Blue (called Thalo Blue for short)

You Can Do It!

What is the best paper for watercolor?

Watercolor is traditionally painted on 100% cotton rag paper. Cold-pressed watercolor paper has a bit of texture. It is easier to use than hot-pressed paper. It comes from 90# - 300# weights.

The most common weight is 140# paper. It needs to be stretched; otherwise it will buckle when you put water on it.

If you purchase watercolor paper in a 'block' the sides of the paper are fastened down to prevent buckling. After your painting is dry, remove the single sheet from the block that has your painting.

The third paper option is 300# paper. It is a heavier paper that does not buckle when you paint on it.

Watercolor paintings on paper must be framed and matted under glass.


Can i paint watercolor on canvas?

Yes, you may paint watercolor on canvas. Only use canvas that is labeled specifically for watercolor.

Before you use it, brush a good bit of water on the canvas to break the surface tension of the canvas. Otherwise the paint just tends to slide around.

Let the water soak away before you start painting. You must seal the dry painting with a spray fixative.

Watercolor for beginners is much easier on paper or a prepared panel.


what about panels?

Hardboard panels made for watercolor are my favorites. Almost all of my watercolor paintings are done on Aquabord made by Ampersand.

When the painting is dry, spray it with a fixative. The finished painting is framed without a mat or glass.

Aquabord makes watercolor for beginners easier because mistakes can be removed. Mistakes are more difficult to remove from paper.

Why did I chose Aquabord and Claybord for my watercolor paintings?


what brushes should i use?

Watercolor painting requires soft brushes made out of either animal hair or a soft synthetic fiber.

You can do all your watercolors with just three brushes.

  • #7 or #8 round - a good all-around brush
  • 1" flat - used to wash in large areas
  • 1/2" angle - good for straight edges, fine lines and tight spots

watercolor for beginners - 5 easy steps

  • Okay - Let get an easy game plan for watercolor painting.
  • All watercolors can be painted with these 5 basic steps.
  • You can confidently start a painting because you know where you are heading and what is next.


get ready to paint

Draw your subject. Erasure on the watercolor painting surface can damage it. So do your drawing on a separate tablet.

Then transfer your drawing to your painting surface with graphite paper.

Transfer your drawing to the painting surface.Transfer your drawing to the painting surface.

Use lighter 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 highlight areas of the painting. Put masking fluid on the light spots on the tyrannosaurus and the gate.

Let the masking fluid dry before you do any painting. Then you may paint right over the masking and the paper stays white.

Learn more about preserving the whites in watercolor painting.



#1 - Under-paint the subject

Under-paint the subjectUnder-paint the subject
  • Watercolor is painted from light to darker colors.

Mix your warm yellow with blue and add a touch of red to make a medium green. Then under-paint the tyrannosaurus with the medium green.

More about how to mix greens

Darker colors will be added later. They will paint right over the lighter colored underpainting.

Paint a spot for the eye, so its placement is not lost under the green. And the dark toenails are fun.



#2 - Under-paint the background

Under-paint the backgroundUnder-paint the background

Mix blue with your cool, lemon yellow for the green grass color.

Paint a blue sky. Paint right over the gate with the sky and grass colors. Paint around the tyrannosaurus, including his teeth and the firehouse.

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



#3 - Paint the subject

Paint the subjectPaint the subject

The under paintings are dry, so now you can add more paint on top of the underpainting.

This is called glazing. More about glazing with watercolor

Paint the various shadows and colors of the tyrannosaurus. The shadow colors are mixed from Thalo blue and New Gamboge yellow. More blue than yellow with less water makes the darker green.

Learning watercolor for beginners is fun! Paintings don't have to be perfect, just relax and enjoy it.


#4 - Paint the background

Paint the backgroundPaint the background

Remove the masking fluid from the gate. Paint it with an orange you mix from warm red and yellow.

Use your warm red for the firehouse. And mix green and red together for the dark roof.

Use less water with more paint to get brighter colors. This is one of the most important lessons of watercolor for beginners.



#5 - Detail and finish the painting

Detail and finish the paintingDetail and finish the painting

Put the door on the firehouse. Refine the tyrannosaurus and paint any other details you wish to add.

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



what have you learned?

you need these materials

  • Tablet, pencil, eraser and graphite paper
  • Basic paint colors
  • Watercolor brushes
  • Watercolor paper, Aquabord or canvas
  • Clean water and paper towels for clean-up

5 step plan of watercolor for beginners

  • Under-paint the main subject
  • Under-paint the background
  • Paint the subject
  • Paint the background
  • Detail and finish


What a joy it is to share this watercolor for beginners page with you.

Don't stop here. You know the old saying, "Practice makes perfect." That is very true for painting.

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


you will amaze your friends with all you know about watercolor - happy painting!


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