How Do You Start Watercolor as Beginners?

When we marvel at the subtle ways that an artist has created a landscape or a seascape, or similar paintings, with very few colors and a few – what looks like random – splashes of paint, we are surely marveling at a watercolor painting.

Indeed, paintings made from watercolors are completely different and unique than the ones made with oil paint, acrylic paint or pastels.

Although not as detailed or as vibrants as the other types of painting, watercolor paintings have an unique charm of their own. Details aren’t highlighted in watercolor paintings, but they are an expression of subtle colors and shapes.

Watercolors aren’t a medium most artists begin their practice with. Although versatile and wonderful to look at, watercolors are harder to work with than the other types of paint.

In fact, because they need to be mixed with water, they are quite difficult to handle by a beginner.

However, if a beginner knows the tips and tricks to start working with watercolors, they can master this medium much faster.

How do you start watercolor as beginners?

Here’s what you need to know to start painting with watercolors as an absolute beginner.

  1. There are actually three types of Watercolor Paint. As with most other colors, watercolors also come in three grades: children’s grade, student grade and artist grade. While the children’s grade is perfect for youngsters to play with, a beginner’s first choice should be a set from the student’s grade.

The student’s grade watercolor sets aren’t just affordable, they are also much easier to blend with other colors and mix with water. For a beginner, these are the perfect colors to choose.

2. Start with a Larger Color Option. Unlike other kinds of paint, watercolor sets come in a large color option.

Even most of the smallest and the most basic sets come with 24 colors or more, which makes it easier for the beginner. With so many colors already installed in a set, the artist doesn’t have to mix two or more colors together to make a particular shade.

3. Get Good Brushes. Just like the paint themselves, the painting brushes are also an important part of the whole experience. It is important to invest in some good quality brushes as a beginner.

Any basic brush set has different-sized brushes in them; a beginner should start with the largest ones in the set.

Since the first steps of a new artist is to simply mix the colors together and test their affects on canvas, they’ll need the help of the large and round brushes first.

4. Get the Right Kind of Paper/Canvas. As watercolor is mostly ink mixed with water, there is a high chance that most of the paint would be absorbed by the paper or canvas that is used.

Unless the specialty paper or canvas made for watercolor is used, most of the ink won’t be visible on the surface, but be absorbed by the material.

This is why, it is very important to choose the right kind of watercolor paper or canvas when you are using these types of paint.

5. Choose an Easy Method. There are two chief methods of using watercolor paint: wet-on-wet method and wet-on-dry method. Between these, the wet-on-wet method is the easier one, and the one most typically used for simple landscapes or natural paintings.

This method calls for using plain water to paint the canvas or the paper you will be using, without using any paint at first.

Color is later added to the wet areas of the canvas with a painting brush; the paint reacts automatically and spreads over the wet areas of the canvas, and creates a flow of colors.

When the paint dries later, it looks completely different than when you added the color to the canvas.

6. Always Start with Lighter Shades. With watercolor, it is important that you start with the lightest shade of the color you have in mind.

It is always possible to add darker shades to the same area. For a more concentrated look, use more paint than water, and you’ll have both a darker shade and a concentrated texture.

7. Try Painting Gradients Next. To create gradients means to build up color with watercolor paint, with two or more different colors instead of one.

Or, you can create gradients with different shades of the same color. The transition between the two or more colors is a slow process and something that can be best achieved only with watercolor paint.

For gradients, it is always advisable to use different shades of the same colors, or colors that are close to each other on the color wheel.

Otherwise, using colors that have nothing to do with each other will ruin the whole look of the painting. Gradients are a good practice for real paintings where you’ll have to concentrate on placing different objects close together.

8. Try your Hand at Contouring. Contouring is another way to add details to your watercolor. With this method, different shades of the same color are added to a single object to make it look more life-life and real. This is actually a difficult process that requires a lot of practice to master.

To try contouring, the first step is to paint the shape of the object in the lightest shade of the color you have in mind.

Next, you have to pretend there is a light source on one side or one corner of the object; as per the science of light and reflection, the shadow will fall on the other side of the light source.

Use a darker shade of the same color on the opposite side or opposite corner of the object so that the part looks relatively darker.

The division between the two different shades of the color in the middle can be faded by using a wet painting brush with little or no paint on it.

9. Start with an Easy Subject. Even if you are feeling really confident, it is not advisable to start a landscape or a detailed painting as your first project. Instead, start with something simple, i.e. a flower or still life.

These will be perfect subjects for practice as you can change the shape, size or position of your objects as per your level of expertise, which you can’t do with a more detailed subject matter.

10. Practice a Lot. It is important to practice a lot when it comes to watercolor. There are a lot of details in using watercolor paint that you can learn only from practicing with the paint yourself, instead of following someone else’s instructions.

Watercolor paint can be difficult for everyone at first, even when you’ve been painting with other paint mediums for a long time in the past. However, once you get the hang of using watercolors, the results will be extremely satisfying and soothing.

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