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Watercolor Basics - A How-to Get Started Guide for Newbies

If you like the idea of experimenting with art but are afraid of the commitment that other paints like acrylics and oils have on a canvas, watercolor might just be for you. The beauty of watercolor is that it is forgiving and flexible. Made a mistake? No problem, add a little water, lift it with a cloth, and keep on keepin' on.

If you're looking for a new hobby and think watercolor might be it, read on below for what supplies you'll need to get started, basic techniques, and tips as you go!

Person using watercolor to paint ocean scene.

What You'll Need To Start Watercolor Today

Let's talk supplies. There are a few basic ones that you'll want to grab to get started - and they don't need to be expensive. Check out our Favorite Finds section for some recommendations on what to use!

  • Paints: There are two main types of watercolor paints: student-grade and artist-grade. Student-grade paints are less expensive, but they don't have as many pigments and can be more difficult to blend. Artist-grade paints are more expensive, but often have more pigment options and are easier to work with.

  • Brushes: The most important thing when it comes to brushes, is finding ones that are soft and have a good point. A good all-purpose brush for beginners would be a size 6 round synthetic brush.

  • Paper: Watercolor paper is made specially to absorb water without buckling. It comes in hot-pressed, cold-pressed, and rough - we recommend starting with cold-pressed paper as it's easier to work with.

  • Other supplies: You may also want to have a few other supplies on hand, like a paint palette, a clean and dirty water container, and a paper towel or two.

Person practicing paint brush strokes on paper.

Basic Techniques of Watercolor Painting

There are a few basic techniques that are helpful to learn to get you started in the right direction.

  • Washes: A wash is a thin layer of paint that is applied to the paper with a brush. Washes can be used to create backgrounds, fill in shapes, or create gradients.

  • Drybrushing: Drybrushing is where you brush the paint onto the paper with a dry brush. This creates a textured effect that can be used to add highlights or create a sense of depth.

  • Blending: Blending is the process of mixing two or more colors together to create a new color. You can blend colors by using a damp brush or by rubbing them together with your fingers.

  • Lifting: Lifting is the process of removing paint from the paper. You can lift paint by using a damp brush or paper towel, or by scraping it off with your fingernails.

Person painting green leaves on paper.

Tips for Watercolor Newbies

Below are a few tips that will help you get started with watercolor and find joy in the experience!

  • Start with simple subjects. Don't try to paint too much detail at first. Learning the basics of the medium before you move on to more complex projects will help you build confidence

  • Experiment with different techniques. There are many different ways to use watercolors - see what works best for you and follow your intuition!

  • Don't be afraid to make mistakes. Watercolor is forgiving and it's meant to be experimental. If you make a mistake, you can usually fix it by blending or lifting the paint.

  • Have fun! Watercolor painting is a great way to relax and express your creativity without having to conform. So relax, have fun, and enjoy the process!



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