Watercolor painting, while it can be a challenge, is a wonderful way to explore your creative side. For years, July has been acknowledged as World Watercolor Month, making this month a great opportunity to focus on expressing yourself with the wonderful world of watercolor paintings.
My name is Zoe, and in addition to being a writer for Williamson Forward, I am an artist who recently graduated with my Bachelors Degree in Fine Art. I’ve spent years perfecting my craft, and learning to work with a variety of materials, watercolor included. Here are my tips and tricks for any beginner looking to learn this beautiful and rewarding medium, as well as some tips that are suitable for any painter at any level.
Getting Started Before You Get Started: The Perfect Materials
One pitfall to beginning learning about art of any medium is that it can be difficult to understand what materials are best for you. No one wants to spend money on materials for a hobby they might dislike and abandon, but equally, no one wants to work with bad materials. My advice? Do some research beforehand to understand what good beginner materials are. There are plenty of wonderful and inexpensive watercolor palettes for the beginner on the go, but it is worth mentioning that pan watercolors will typically be less bright and pigmented than those that come in tubes.
Everyone knows that paint is important when it comes to watercolor, but don’t overlook the importance of a set of nice brushes, and good, watercolor-specific paper. Once again, research is your friend, and looking up what materials might work for your price range is always a good idea. Remember, if you don’t plan to work from a sketchbook, investing in a board and painter’s tape can be a good idea in order to keep your paper from warping too much.
Other things to keep on hand include a cup or jar to rinse brushes, a palette, and paper towels.
Tips for Starting Your First Painting
When many people think of watercolor painting, they probably think of landscapes and paintings of flowers and nature. These subject matters are beautiful, but there is no need to feel bound by that. Paint whatever you want, and, as you learn about the medium, it is bound to turn out nicely.
When you first start painting, it is a good idea to do a preliminary sketch. It is especially helpful to use a reference photo, whether you find that from your photo album on your phone or online. Complete this sketch in pencil, and use an eraser to make your lines faint to prevent the graphite from altering the color of your paint. Remember, unlike other painting mediums, watercolor is completely transparent. Don’t get discouraged, and feel free to take your time layering the paint to get to the color that you want to achieve.
One more tip: white watercolor isn’t common. There’s a reason for that– because the paint is so transparent, it can be hard to make the paint show up. This can be important to keep in mind. If you want to have white segments in your painting, you ought to avoid painting over that area. Masking fluid, which is applied with a brush and can be removed afterwards, is a good way to achieve this. If you like, you can also choose to keep a tube of white acrylic paint or some white gel pens on hand to add highlights.
Taking It to a New Level
Once you have a grasp on how to control the paint, you might want to start exploring ways to take your paintings to the next level. One way to do this is by adding some texture. This can be achieved by using wet and dry sponges to apply paint, dabbing it with crumpled paper, or even using a toothbrush to splatter the paint.
If you really want to change your approach, using rubbing alcohol in place of water can really add interesting textures to your work. Warning: this will make your paint dry a lot quicker, which can sometimes even be a ‘plus’.
If you like watercolor, but wish it was a little more opaque, or you just want to add another medium to your repertoire, gouache might be a worthy investment. Gouache is water-based, and similar to watercolor, however the base is chalkier and allows the paint to go on smoother. This can be used alongside watercolor paints, or solo, and can be applied in thin layers like watercolor, or thicker like acrylic paint.
I won’t lie to you, watercolor painting is a challenge. The colors run all over, can take a long time to dry, and sometimes you need to apply layer after layer to make things look the way you want. Don’t get discouraged. Be patient and take the time to allow your paint to dry between layers, and above all else, keep at it. You’ll be painting masterpieces in no time!