Learning to Paint in Watercolor

in Paper

Watercolour! The very word conjures up lightness, luminosity, and fear! Whoever thought a blank sheet of paper could be so scary?

For the beginning watercolour artist, there are a few basic rules that bring enjoyment and achievement.

First of all, paper. Watercolour paper comes in three grades:- Hot Pressed, which is smooth to the touch, Not -which is a little rougher and has more tooth and finally Rough - and that can mean really heavily textured.

It also comes in various weights, and for the beginner, a medium weight, Not surface is ideal. It is easy to work on easy to handle, stands up to rough handling and its texture makes some very interesting textures possible.

Secondly, the paints themselves. Basically of two types - solid blocks or 'pans', or tubes of fluid colour. Of course, it also comes in a whole bewildering kaleidoscope of colours. Don't bother with the pans or blocks - you have to scrub them with your brush to get any colour off, and it is difficult to mix large washes. With the tubes, however, you can squidge out a satisfying blob of colour on to your palette in a flash!

Don't bother buying the expensive artists colours either. Student quality colours are perfectly adequate (but buy a reputable brand) and the stop you being mean with that expensive colour.

What colours to have in your box? Just a few is all you need. I suggest Payne's Gray, Ultramarine Blue, Cadmium Yellow Light, Raw Sienna, Burnt Umber and Alizarin Crimson - and perhaps Vermilion if you wish. No pre-mixed greens though. There is no green that you can't mix better with the ones I suggested. Neither should you resort to white - that's what the paper is for. Chinese white is virtually opaque and is the very antithesis of what good watercolour is about.

Now to brushes. As with paints, there is a bewildering selection from which to choose. Really, though, all you need are four simple brushes. One large, (maybe one and a half inch wide) wash brush, a one inch flat and perhaps a half inch flat. You'll also need a finer brush for detail work - a brush called a rigger in Size 3 is ideal. It used to be used for portraying the fine ropes and lines of sailing ships, so you'll see how fine a line it can draw.

A pencil (soft, 2B) and an eraser are needed, and some old plates for mixing, and off we go.

Find yourself a watercolour artist whose style you like, choose one of his paintings - and copy it. Obviously, in this little article we cannot get into composition, wash techniques, wet-into-wet and all the other delights you'll learn about, so get hold of some books (preferably from the library) on watercolour and watercolour technique.

Look at a wide selection and choose what you are instinctively drawn to - then you might like to buy your own copy. Watch videos and DVD movies so that you can see the tools and techniques in use - then copy what you see. Don't waste time trying to invent the wheel - take the benefit of the work that has gone before you.

Use both sides of the paper, and date and keep everything you do. It might look awful at first, but soon you'll look back on your early efforts with a fond smile. Learn your materials and colours - get to know them like your best friends. The great watercolourists are the ones who know exactly what is going to happen when they put that paint and water on the paper.


Never give up - you will get better.

Be kind to yourself strive to improve, but accept that we all have bad painting days

Paint as often as you can every day if possible.

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Norman Munro has 1 articles online

Norman is a partner in a counselling, hypnotherapy, psychotherapy and life coaching practice in Spain.

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Learning to Paint in Watercolor

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This article was published on 2010/03/29