7 Watercolor Painting Tips


Using watercolour as your medium in painting is very hard especially if you’re used to opaque mediums such as acrylic or oil. Watercolour is very transparent, after all. The colours will not show up as easily so you must decide beforehand where the areas of white will be in your painting since you won’t be able to paint white over it. Watercolour is also very hard to control. You must know and control the amount of water and pigment you use, otherwise, you won’t get your desired effect or the colours will run. Despite that, watercolour is truly a unique way to paint images since you have a lot of options as to how you’d want the image to turn out. Through watercolour, you can create beautiful images with a striking effect. Here are seven watercolour painting tips to help you get started.

Use a pan watercolour

Watercolour paint comes in three different forms: liquid, tube, or pan. You may start practicing with any kind but pan paint sets of watercolour are portable, compact, and they come with an array of easily accessible colours, unlike liquids or tubes which have separate containers for each colour. Thus, it is recommended to start with pan paints to make practicing easier for you.


Before you start painting, it’s better to sketch your desired outcome first in a small thumbnail. This allows you to shuffle and adjust the subject and composition so that you’ll know how your image would turn out. Shade the areas and arrange the tonal contrast beforehand. By doing so, you’ll avoid problems as you paint especially when it comes to painting the light and dark areas in.

Draw an outline

There is nothing wrong with drawing your desired image first then just filling the spaces in between with watercolour. In fact, it’s a great way to familiarize yourself with handling the brush and with working with watercolour as medium. Make an outline of your image first then think of it as a colouring page where you have to complete the image with watercolour.

Choose the right paper

Just as the name suggests, dealing with watercolour can get very wet. You must use a paper that would be able to handle getting wet without tearing easily because of the wet paint and brush strokes. The degree of absorbency of the paper comes in play, as well, especially if you’re using a wet-in-wet technique. Hot pressed paper is less absorbent than cold pressed paper.

Image from Watercolor Painting

Choose the right brush

The right brushes for watercolour painting are those with soft, long hairs as they can efficiently move watery medium around. The best brushes are made from natural fiber but they are often hard to find and expensive. While you’re still practicing, use synthetic brushes instead with soft hairs since they’re less expensive. Experiment with different brush sizes and see which works best for you. Typically, you’ll need one or two large flat brushes for laying a wash, and a couple of different-sized round brushes for details.

Limit your palette

In working with watercolour, it’s advisable to limit your colours to about two or three, especially in the early stages of painting. Otherwise, your work will end up looking discordant and muddy. This is because watercolour is very runny and the colours mix together, not lay on top of each other. You can add the more intense colours later on if necessary.

Watercolor washes

Basically, there are two ways you can approach a watercolour wash: on wet surface or on dry.

Wet surface wash: To approach a wet surface watercolour wash, start by dipping your brush in plain water then brush it over the area you’d like to paint on. The surface should be glistening with moisture but not sopping wet. Afterwards, dip your brush into the first colour and paint lines over the wet surface. The paint will blend into one luminous wash of colour.

Dry surface wash: To approach a dry surface watercolour wash, soak an absorbent brush such as a mop brush with a very wet mixture of paint. Use the brush to paint lines over the dry surface.