How To Paint With Watercolors [Watercolor Painting Ideas & Techniques]

Many artists say that watercolor painting is an inspiring but tricky technique. Even experienced oil painters find switching to watercolor painting a bit challenging. But once you learn it, you will be rewarded with beautiful art that you enjoy creating at a low cost. All you need for creating your watercolor paintings is a set of brushes, paint, paper, and water. And lots of inspiration, of course. So not only professional artists can do watercolor paintings. 

There are various ways to learn watercoloring – by joining art studios, watching Youtube videos, taking lifestyle online courses, trying online learning, etc. In this article, we’ve collected some ideas on how to make your learning process fun. You will see that it’s not complicated and you can turn your hobby into a source of inspiration and even extra cash for your income.

Learn about types of watercolor paints  

A type of watercolor paint you use can play a crucial part in the final look of your painting. You should think and decide what kind of paint you want to use – in tubes or shallow pans. Each type has its advantages. For example, paint in tubes will let you arrange and keep everything in a good order. Paint in pans in most cases will provide you with an array of pre-selected colors. Don’t go for the priciest paint out there and choose something reasonably priced and of a decent quality. If watercolor paint is too cheap, then most likely your painting won’t have vivid colors. It will look faded and the paint will be chalky.

Types of watercolor painting:

  • Transparent (provides a luminescent look to paint strokes and allows to see white paper background);
  • Opaque (the main feature of this type is in ability to block the light preventing it from penetrating the paper);
  • Non-staining (stays on the paper without being absorbed and can be easily blended with other paint);
  • Staining (has all the qualities of non-staining but in reverse – easily absorbs and won’t blend with non-staining paint).

Once you make a choice and buy a nice set of paint, go ahead and create a color chart. This is a good hint that will let you see how the paint actually looks dry on paper. Put this chart in your container with paint to always have it by your hand. 

How to decide what brushes to get

While looking for the right brushes, make sure that the brush you choose is nice and pointy. It is important that it picks up and holds paint without spilling. The sizes of brushes range from number 5 (round) up to number 10 (round). If you decide to get a flat brush, it also needs to be pointy at the edge because it’s needed for doing washes or making base layers of paint. 

The most important thing to remember is that watercolor brushes should come with soft bristles. Otherwise, they work for oil painting only. Keep in mind your budget while buying brushes and don’t buy the most expensive ones (even if they were highly recommended by experienced artists). 

How to choose the right paper for watercolor painting

The one important thing to remember is that paper for watercolor painting should not absorb the pigment you apply to it. Regular paper won’t work due to the high absorbency of water because it starts bubbling. Plus, all your colors will look like a spider web on paper. So, you need to buy a special paper cold pressed (with a medium surface) or hot-pressed (has a slick surface). If you are an absolute beginner, your best pick would be to paint on a paper that is thicker and heavier. It just will be much easier for you to handle the whole process.

Learn about other supplies you need 

Here is a shortlist of other supplies you need to make your watercolor painting experience happen:

  • Large palette (either buy it from the store or use simply find one around your household);
  • Cardboard (if you like to paint on a flat surface you’ll definitely need one);
  • Towels (these are especially handy in times when you spilled something or for removing excess paint);
  • Washi tape (or masking tape is very helpful to prevent the paper from moving around the board and from wrinkling);
  • Jars of water (don’t use your grandmother’s favorite and most expensive vase for blending paint).

As you can see from the list, watercolor painting doesn’t require expensive supplies (except if you decide to go for your grandmother’s vase, of course).

How to set up a workplace and do it right

Once you start painting, you don’t want to take long breaks trying to find stuff. In this case, make sure that your working place has a nice setup and all the supplies you need are nicely arranged in good order. Put all your brushes, paper towels, containers on the side according to the hand you use for work. If you’re right-handed, then place everything on the right side and vice versa in case you’re left-handed. Use paper towels to lay your brushes on when you don’t use them. Make sure that brushes won’t soak in the water containers, because if they stay there long enough, they can be ruined. Don’t leave them sitting there in the water for a long time.

Grab a masking tape and tape a paper to your cardboard nice and flat avoiding wrinkling. If your table can be titled then go ahead and tilt it to make a good angle. Make sure that your workspace has enough light and enough space for easy maneuvering.

Learn basic techniques used in watercolor painting

In the process of your learning you need to get familiar with at least 5 basic techniques which are used by artists:

  • Flat-wash technique (most widely used by applying solid hue of paint on paper to make it look solid and even on paper);
  • Wet-on-Wet technique (you will need to wet a part of your paper with a brush and then make drips of paint of the wet surface to make pigment feathers);
  • Wet-on-Dry technique (the trick here is to wait until a layer of paint dries and then apply another layer on top just to remove translucency of the bottom layer);
  • Paint-lifting-off technique (the most commonly used supply for making this technique is a plastic wrap which should be placed on top of the wet painting. You need to wait until it dries and then pull plastic wrap off the painting. This will create a cool texture and interesting effect) ;
  • Dry-brush technique (the goal here to get a textured mark on a paper with a dry brush dipped in paint).

There is so much more to learn and master in watercolor painting techniques. The key here is in finding the right teacher and having fun and enjoying every minute of it. Luckily there are lots of resources and lifestyle online courses that you can take advantage of. Grinfer offers a nice online course for learning to paint beautiful birds step-by-step. The “Watercolor Painting: Cute Birds in Mixed Style” course was created by a professional watercolor artist Yana Shvets who teaches watercolor classes all around the world. She won numerous awards in international watercolor competitions and founded several online resources for people who like to travel and paint with watercolor.

During her course offered  on Grinfer, Yana teaches different styles that you will be mixing together in the process. She provides you with step-by-step instructions on how to create and balance realistic and impressionistic styles in art. You will learn about different materials that can be used for creating interesting and intricate textures and effects. You might even end up with watercolor birds that will look like real birds! 

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