Art for Everyone: A Beginner’s Guide to Watercolor

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No matter your skill level, escape into the world of watercolor with these 5 tips…

This post comes from our blog intern, Natalie.

For some, art can become a guiding force, a spark of magic, at a time of uncertainty and transition. For me, embracing this form of creative expression served as a release and a way to ground myself, to keep in the moment. I realized early on that, to truly create, it’s imperative to leave behind any doubts or expectation of being good or bad. In time, I adopted the mindset that the process of creating is just as crucial as the outcome, which is something I remind myself of every time I pick up a paintbrush. At its core, art is a means of release. To truly benefit from it, all judgment has to be forgotten.

More recently, I’ve noticed myself gravitating toward one medium in particular — watercolor. After a long day, nothing is more relaxing than pulling out the paint set, and letting each brushstroke color my mind with calm. Painting can be a brief escape from reality, and a moment to relish in the here and now.

Many of you may be thinking, well that sounds great and all, but painting is not for me. Please stop there. Painting, watercolor in particular, IS for everyone. Plus, with the right mindset, the focus can remain on the process rather than the final product. If you’re looking to explore your creativity further, or perhaps dabble in watercolor as a new medium, you’ve come to the right place. Below is a guide of essential tips for beginning a journey into the wonders of water, brushstrokes and pigment….

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Use the right materials.

For this medium in particular, using the correct materials makes a huge difference. So what do you need? First and foremost, watercolor paper. It doesn’t have to be fancy, but the texture and paper weight is essential to withhold the wet brushstrokes. Splurging on a few nice brushes can improve the experience and quality of your work as well. I find myself gravitating most often toward a medium round brush, a medium or large flat brush, and a tiny round brush for details. Lastly, while a simple eight-color paint set will work, I find it helpful to have on hand a slightly larger set for more options to create many hues with ease.

Water is your best friend.

Before you begin, fill a large jar with clean water. The water will be used for much more than just rinsing off brushes, so make sure to refill it if it becomes too murky. Use the water to maintain light and translucent strokes of color, create seamlessly blended hues, and to keep your brush moving effortlessly. The amount of water on your brush and in the paint allows for variety in the richness of pigment and the thickness of the stroke.

Use scratch paper.

Having a piece of scratch paper can prove essential in testing out colors, practicing with a new brush, and even creating a “rough draft” of the painting. Familiarize yourself with where to put the highlights and shadows, and which colors work best.

Paint from light to dark.

Unlike other mediums, watercolor dictates that you paint the lightest parts first, and then build on them with darker colors. Begin each section of your painting with a very light translucent wash. Then, add in the darker colors in subtle layers, leaving the darkest areas for last. Remember, with watercolor, it’s easy to make it darker, but difficult to lighten things up. Another option is to leave the lightest areas white, with no paint.

You can fix mistakes.

The good news is, it is very possible to fix mistakes. If you accidentally place color where you did not intend to, use a damp tissue or sponge to blot it up. This does not always work, however, so be prepared to embrace mistakes and make them a part of your painting, always keeping in mind that the true joy of art comes from the journey, not just the outcome.

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Leave any further tips or questions in the comments below!

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Comments

  1. I’ve actually been thinking about trying watercolor painting lately! This helps a lot, thank you!

    xx

    bombshell-to-be.blogspot.com

  2. Nice tips! I love the point you make about embracing the mistakes. I think watercolour isn’t the medium for someone who wants very strict results with very little surprises. Even with skill and experience there’s often some unexpected colour blending and flow, especially when there’s more water in the play. And that’s what makes it lovely!

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