I’m sharing 15 tips & tricks for anyone who loves painting with watercolor, but especially for all the newbies and wannabes. I’d always heard that watercolors were very hard. So it wasn’t until I retired when I joined up with a few other people that I decided to try it. We were wintering in Florida and the only cost involved were my supplies. We were told to buy inexpensive art supplies just in case we didn’t like it. The classes were all taught by volunteers. Why had I waited so long!! I immediately fell in love with it, and within just a couple of years, there I was teaching in front of the classroom.
Painting in watercolor is like walking a tight-rope; one must find perfect balance between what the paint wants to do and what the artist wants to do, or all is lost. ~Mary C. Taylor
But unlike acrylics and oils, there’s no real covering up of your mistakes! I’ve also learned a lot of other things about painting with watercolor over the years. Here are 15 of my tips and tricks for painting with watercolor:
1. As soon as you’re aware that you and watercolors really click, you’re going to want to invest in good quality watercolor paintbrushes. Natural is best, but is also very expensive. Synthetics are excellent today and as long as you stick to good brand names, you’ll be fine. You’ll want various sizes in fine round, round, and flat.
2. Winsor & Newton Cotman watercolor tubes are great for student paints; but know that the student grade contains more filler than pigments. Experiment with different brands of quality paints. I’ll have a list at the end of this post where you can purchase supplies online.
3. I prefer Arches 140 lb. cold press watercolor paper, and I’ve also used their 300 lb. cold press paper. Watercolor Blocks are favored by many and come in various sizes, but stick to at least 140 lb.
4. I take too much pride in my paintings, so I use artist tape to tape down the ends of my watercolor paper to the board. I know that artist tape will not tear or ruin your paper when you go to remove it. Be very careful if you use masking tape.
5. Always, always, always start with your lighter colors and then move on to your darker colors. You can’t paint light colors over dark colors with watercolors!
6. If your drawing skills aren’t that great, you can use transfer or graphite paper to trace, but I prefer using a light tracer box. Also use a kneaded eraser for anything you want to remove. It’s easier on the watercolor paper and will do less damage than a regular eraser.
7. Don’t use too much water! Make sure to dab your wet brush on a sponge or cloth to remove the excess water after washing it. I also use a sponge to remove excess paint that I might get onto my brush.
8. Play around with wet on wet painting and wet on dry painting. The main body of my seahorse I used the wet on wet technique, but the head and fins were wet on dry.
9. Paint with the sides of your brush, never the point. The watercolor paper is abrasive and can ruin the tip of your brush if you use the tip too often.
10. As you continue painting, work somewhat quickly as you keep adding more paint. Once an area dries, it will be more noticeable when you add more paint to it.
11. Use salt on wet paint to add texture to your painting. It looks great for rocks and tree bark.
12. Sea sponges are also another item that will add texture to your painting. Mix up your color and dip the sponge into it. If the sponge is drier, it will look great for plant life, while if it’s more wet it will work for waterscapes and clouds.
13. When mixing your colors, always mix more of the color than you think you’ll need. It’s usually difficult to mix the exact amounts like you did the first time.
14. Mistakes will and do happen, just like the seahorse above. Note that these are two different seahorses I painted. I didn’t like the head being so dark and the area behind his head so light. There are several ways to try and make corrections. You can always paint over it with white watercolor grounds, like I used on my canvases. Use Mr. Clean Magic Eraser and cut into smaller pieces. Wet and lightly wipe over the area without ruining your paper. Make sure to buy the original without detergent.
The last way is to let the paint dry, than wet it with clean water, as shown above.
Pat it with a tissue (not a paper towel because it could leave the pattern of the paper onto your paint), or use a brush to try lifting the paint.
I was able to lighten the head and made the top of the seahorse darker than before, so everything blends.
15. PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE!
This post contains affiliate links for your convenience. If you purchase any product through this site, I may be compensated, but you do not pay one penny more.
In addition to Amazon, the following links are great places to order online art supplies:
- Cheap Joe’s
- Jerry’s Artarama
- Dick Blick
- Daniel Smith
- Best Watercolor Books for Beginners to Advanced