Get Started with Watercolor: A Complete Guide for Beginners

Get Started with Watercolor: A Complete Guide for Beginners

Watercolor is a unique painting medium that allows you to achieve large, fluid washes of color. In addition, you can layer transparent layers to achieve depth.

By layering, splashing, and scratching the paint, you can achieve some truly ethereal effects.

I’ve put together an in-depth PDF packed with everything you need to get started on your watercolor journey.

For a complete guide to getting started with Watercolor, enter your email below and I’ll send you the full-length PDF, for free!

What’s Inside the free PDF

  • Gear: What you need to get started
    • Paint, brushes, paper, palettes, and more
  • Top 3 Tips for Beginners
    • Values
    • Water control
    • Wet into wet vs. Dry Brush techniques
  • More learning resources

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Watercolor FAQ

Watercolor setup

Here are some recent questions I’ve been asked in my Discord server recently.

  • How to get past the fear of starting… opening new tubes, using new paint, making marks on pristine pages.
    • Think of it this way: the brand new paints and paper you have are useless unless you …well..use them. And they are the first of many. For years you will buy more paint and paper, because that’s just how it works. Your first set seems special, because it is! And that’s OK.
    • In a new sketchbook, I sometimes have a “fear of the first page.” After all, no one wants to start a sketchbook with an ugly first page.
    • To stop this fear from paralysing me, I get started by using the first page for a swatch sheet, testing each color. Not only is it useful to see how my colors look on that specific paper, but it also provides a good “warmup” and pleasing foundation for the rest of the sketchbook.
  • What are granulating pigments?
    • Some colors have granulating pigments, which means the molecules of the pigment are larger and heavier. This often results in a very “textured” look when the paint dries, even on smooth paper. If combined with textured paper, the heavier pigment will sink into the “grooves” of the texture and become even more noticable. This is great for some, and undesirable for others.
    • I utilise granulating colors in my landscapes to provide textural variation. Clouds, rocks, sand, etc. – having a bit of variety on the surface often adds to the realism.
  • How do you know when to stop tweaking the details?
    • This is subjective because we all have our own expectations that others can’t see. When I paint, I always keep my goal in mind, which changes for every scene. The majority of my paintings are reactions to a moment in nature – fleeting light, moving water, misty clouds. To capture these elements and create the *feeling* of being there, I often use very expressive marks to activate the viewer’s mind. Rather than give them all the information, I want them to be immersed in the picture, and take away something new from the experience. I know the painting is done when I look at it and I feel something.
  • What’s the best medium to start with on a budget?
    • Any medium can be used on a budget. Even with lower quality materials, with enough practice and patience someone could learn to paint what is in their mind. Don’t use materials as an excuse to stop.
    • However I have noticed that with watercolor, you can save money by buying cheaper paint, but you should avoid sacrificing paper quality. Paper can change your entire experience (good or bad)!

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I'm an independent artist living in Scotland. Always chasing the light, and painting the beautiful highlands.

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