watercolor for beginners: answers to frequently asked watercolor questions

  • Tell me about watercolor for beginners. Didn't I use watercolor paint in grade school?

You probably did. Watercolor is a clean, convenient paint you can use to create any picture you can imagine.

All art paints use the same pigments for their beautiful colors. The pigments in watercolor paints are mixed with gum Arabic.

Watercolor is easy, safe and convenient. It is easy to clean-up with water.

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

Learn about watercolor for beginnersLearning to about watercolors

watercolor for beginners

  • Watercolors are simple to use.

How do you use water colors?

Watercolor are simple and easy to use.Let your imagination flow

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.

Watercolor is so easy for beginners!

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 your brush out in clean water when you are changing colors, so you don't contaminate the other colors.

What does Wikipedia say about Watercolor Painting?

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 pan watercolors 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 will over-lap into the adjoining pan colors.

Pan watercolors are very handy for travel and painting in the field. They are very easy for people starting watercolor for beginners.

Beginner watercolorists can paint butterflies.You can do it!
  • Tube watercolors have some glycerin added to keep the paint flexible.  Any size brush may be used with tube watercolors.

Squeeze the tube paint out onto your palette. 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.

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

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

Student watercolor paints have extenders added. They are less expensive because they contain less pigment. They are good for learning.

  • Cotman paints made by Winsor and Newton Paint Company are the best student paints. They have the highest pigment load of any student paints. They have good coverage and make beautiful paintings.

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what colors do you need?

Start with the three primary colors, red, yellow and blue. Or a warm and cool version of 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 (Thalo Blue)

Go here to see the recommended colors for an extended palette.

What is the best paper for watercolor?

  • Watercolor is traditionally painted on 100% cotton rag paper. Cold-pressed watercolor paper is easier to use than hot-pressed paper. It comes from 90#, 140# and 300# weights.

The most common weight is 140# paper. It needs to be stretched, otherwise it will buckle when you put water on it. This is a good paper to use when we are beginning watercolor.

Watercolor paper in a block has the sides of the paper fastened down to prevent buckling. After your painting is complete and dry, remove the single sheet from the block.

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

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

Can i paint watercolor on canvas?

Yes, you may paint watercolor on canvas.

Broadbilled Hummingbird watercolor painting on canvas by Carol MayWatercolor painting on canvas

But, only use canvas specifically labeled 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 if it is painted on paper or a prepared panel.

what about watercolor 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 Krylon 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 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 watercolor painting with just three brushes.

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

don't stop here - get started painting!

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

It's a joy sharing beginning watercolor tips with you!

Painting daily is the best way to learn watercolor.

happy painting!



more about watercolor

  • What watercolor art supplies do you need? What can you paint on? What’s the best watercolor paint, paper, brushes? Can you watercolor on canvas, plus more…

    Watercolor Art Supplies

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  • 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

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  • Glazing with watercolor produces more luminous colors than when the colors are mixed on the palette. Paint a wash over a dry layer and our eyes mix the colors.

    Glazing with Watercolor

    Glazing with watercolor produces more luminous colors than when the colors are mixed on the palette. Paint a wash over a dry layer and our eyes mix the colors.