How to Paint with Watercolour: All Your Questions Answered

What is the best paper to use? Can you paint with only one brush? How do you erase painting mistakes? Learn how to make amazing watercolour paintings!

Creativity 12 min read Oct 31, 2023
How to Paint with Watercolour: All Your Questions Answered

Whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned artist, painting with watercolours can be a fun and relaxing activity. But with so many different colours and techniques, it can also be a bit daunting.

To help you get started, we’ve compiled a list of the top 20 questions about painting with watercolours.

The Basics of Watercolour Painting

1. Is it true that watercolour is one of the most difficult mediums for painting?

Watercolour painting is a popular choice for both amateur and professional artists because it is relatively easy to learn and has a wide range of techniques that can be used to create different effects.

You don’t even need to know how to draw or paint before getting started with this medium. You can begin experimenting with just a few colours and create beautiful paintings.

One thing to remember is that watercolours are very sensitive to the amount of water in your paint mixture. If you add too much water, then your colour will become muddy and less vibrant; if you don’t add enough water, then it can be difficult to get an even wash across your paper or canvas.

2. What are some of the best subjects for watercolour painting?

Landscapes and cityscapes, especially those with lots of detail, work very well with watercolour. Still lifes, as long as you choose objects that have some texture or interest in them, are also good subjects, as well as people (especially if they’re not moving), animals (pick ones that are hard to draw like dogs or cats), and flowers, especially if you choose a variety of colours and kinds of flowers.

In other words, almost anything else that interests you will do nicely, because watercolour is a very forgiving medium. So don’t be afraid of making mistakes!

Watercolour Painting Materials and Supplies

3. What is the best watercolour paint?

Watercolour paint is available in a range of different types, such as gouache and casein. But the most popular choice for artists today is traditional watercolour, which uses finely ground pigments suspended in water. This usually has a more vibrant colour than its alternatives, but it also requires a lot more skill to use.

What is important is to choose a high-quality pigment that’s made from natural materials, such as minerals and vegetables. The best brands use only these ingredients because they’re more stable over time than synthetic pigments (which can fade or discolour). The best watercolour paints also have a high pigment content – at least 40% – and you should look for the percentage on the label. This means that less filler is used in the paint, giving you more vibrant colours.

Ultimately, the best watercolour paint is the one that you like to use! And while there are many good brands to choose from, you should experiment with different types and colours of paint to find the one that best suits your needs, before deciding on a favourite.

4. Why do I need to use three different types of watercolour paint – pan, tube and liquid?

There is a difference between liquid, pan, and tube watercolour paints. The liquid form is the most concentrated and can be used with a brush or a paint pen to create some beautiful effects. The drawback of using liquid watercolour paints is that they are more difficult to keep moist than pan and tube paints, so you need to make sure your painting area has good ventilation.

Both pan and tube paints contain the same pigments as the liquid form, but they are not as concentrated so you will need to use more of them in order to achieve the same colour intensity. Some artists prefer to use pan paint because it gives more control over the colour intensity and transparency of their paintings.

If you use pan or tube watercolour paints, make sure that you dilute them with water before applying them to your painting. Of course, you can also purchase ready-mixed liquid watercolours which are already diluted for you.

5. Can I learn how to make watercolour paint?

It’s actually not that difficult to make your own watercolour paint. You can also buy dry pigment, which you can find in watercolour paint sets or on its own from art supply stores, and mix it with water yourself in varying ratios to get different effects.

6. How do I mix colours?

There are a few different ways to mix colours when painting with watercolour. One way is to directly mix the colours on your palette before applying them to your paper. Another way is to mix the colours on your paper by slightly overlapping wet areas of colour. This can create some interesting effects as the colours blend together.

You can also create new colours by adding a drop of one colour to another on your paper. Experiment and see what different techniques you can come up with to create the colours you want.

7. What is the best paper for watercolour painting?

In general, high-quality, absorbent paper that can take watercolours and other water-based media is ideal. If you’re new to watercolour, you can start with a 300gsm (140lbs) cold press paper as your first choice. Cold press papers have a smooth surface that can be painted on both sides without the paint soaking through to the back.

8. Can I paint watercolour on canvas?

Yes, you can use watercolour to paint on canvas, preferably medium weight canvas (not too thick so that it doesn’t absorb too much water). However, it’s not as simple as painting on paper and requires a few steps to prepare the surface properly.

First, make sure your canvas is clean and dry. If you’re working with a new canvas, give it time to air out for at least a few days before painting. Next, you need to prime your canvas with acrylic primer for better adhesion, although some also use gesso.

Once that’s done, apply two coats of watercolour using your preferred brush technique over the acrylic primer instead of directly onto the canvas itself. Then, let it dry completely before applying additional layers of colour or details.

9. What size brushes are there for watercolour painting?

Watercolour brushes come in a range of sizes. Your choice will depend on what you want to achieve with your painting. The most popular size is a No. 8 or 10 brush for detailed work; however, you can also use a No. 4 or 6 brush for landscapes and larger areas of colour.

If you’re a beginner, a good place to start is with a round brush (an all-purpose brush shape) that’s about 1/2” or 3/4” wide. A starter kit contains a set of five brushes:

  • a small round brush for detail work and lettering
  • a medium-sized flat brush for applying washes (wet areas of colour) or blocking out larger areas of colour
  • a large flat brush for blending colours together
  • two smaller brushes (round and flat) used together to paint fine lines

10. Can I paint with only one brush?

Yes, you can! In fact, it’s often a good idea to have at least one brush that you use for everything, because then you don’t need to worry about cross-contamination of colours and materials.

It’s not as easy as it sounds, though. You need to learn how to mix the colours on your palette with this one brush, and you also need to know how to clean and dry it properly afterwards so that it doesn’t become a breeding ground for bacteria.

While some people swear by using only one brush (or even just their fingers!) for all their watercolour painting needs, others prefer to work with two or three brushes.

Creating your Watercolour Painting

11. What is the best way to apply watercolour to paper?

One of the great things about watercolour painting is that there are no hard and fast rules about how to apply the paint to your paper. Some artists like to wet their paper first and then apply the paint, while others prefer to paint on a dry surface. Experiment and see what works best for you!

If you do decide to wet your paper first, you can either use a spray bottle or a paintbrush to wet the surface. Just be sure to not apply too much water, or you’ll end up with a soggy mess. Once the paper is wet, you can start painting. The water will help to spread the paint and create a softer effect.

If you prefer to paint on a dry surface, you can still use a wet brush to apply the paint. Simply dip your brush in some water and then blot it on a paper towel before applying it to your painting. This will help to thin out the paint and create a lighter effect. No matter which method you choose, have fun and experiment!

12. How do I achieve different effects with watercolour?

There are a few different techniques you can use to create different effects with watercolour. Wet-on-wet painting produces soft, blurry edges, which is a great technique for painting flowers, buildings, mountains, or other objects where you want the edges to blend in with their surroundings. Wet-on-wet can also partially obscure areas that you’ve already painted. Let’s say you want to paint clouds; start with a light blue wash with some water and then immediately start painting white clouds over it.

If you want your paintings to be more realistic, dry-brush painting results in the sharp edges and details for that effect. The technique is similar to wet-on-wet, but instead of using water as the blending medium, you use paint. Start with a light wash and then using a brush that’s mostly dry (but not completely), drag more paint across it in different directions. Some artists mix other media with watercolour, like pencils or markers to create bold lines and shapes.

13. When painting backgrounds first, how do I avoid contaminating it with my object colours?

The easiest way to avoid this problem is to work with a clean brush. Before you start painting your object, use a paper towel or towel moistened with water to wipe away any remaining paint on the tip of your brush. Then use that same brush for both your object and background.

But if you do end up using two different brushes for these tasks, make sure they don’t touch each other when switching from one task to another.

14. How do lighting conditions affect watercolour painting?

Lighting conditions affect the amount of light reflected off objects and how much colour you need to represent these objects. For example, if you’re painting outside in bright sunlight, colours will appear more saturated than if you were painting indoors under artificial lighting. This is because the light is more intense and reflects off objects, making them appear brighter.

If you paint indoors in poor lighting conditions (such as your bedroom with its one dim lamp), then your palette should include darker hues like reds and purples. showing whether the painting has a cool or warm tone. Now, if you’re using warm colours (reds, yellows), then you want to paint in a room with natural light and avoid direct sunlight. If you use cool colours (blues, greens), then it’s better to paint outdoors or under fluorescent lights.

15. Any tips for watercolour painting in different climates?

Watercolour can behave differently in different temperatures and impact your final results. If possible, try to find out what the temperature and humidity will be during your painting session so that you can prepare accordingly.

For example, if you’re painting outside in a hot climate, especially if exposed to direct sunlight, the paint might dry too fast, so try to keep your paints wetter than normal. In a cold climate with frequent temperature changes, avoid putting your watercolour paints away in a cold place like an unheated garage or shed because they can freeze and become unusable.

In very humid climates, watercolour may dry too slowly and even when you leave it overnight, your painting might still be wet. If this happens, simply dab a paper towel around the edges of your painting to absorb any excess moisture. On the other extreme, the lower the humidity, the more water evaporates from your painting. This can make your colours change in intensity and hue and cause them to become duller than they were when you first painted them.

Fixing Watercolour mistakes

16. Can I erase mistakes in watercolour painting?

The short answer is: yes, you can erase mistakes in watercolour painting. You just need to be careful not to damage your paper or paint surface.

To start, use a damp cloth or sponge (not too wet!) to wipe away any excess paint that might have smeared onto your paper or canvas. Then, gently dab at the area with a dry brush until the erasure marks are gone.

If you need to make a more drastic correction, another suggestion is to soak the paper in a small amount of warm water, then rub it with a small amount of dish soap on your fingers. Rinse the paper under running water until no more colour comes off.

If there are still some stains, you can use an eraser to remove them. For more stubborn areas, try using rubbing alcohol on a cotton ball. If you need a more permanent solution, try using a stain remover or bleach, which should remove all traces of the paint without damaging your paper.

17. How do I get rid of that terrible white line along the edge of my dark shapes?

This is a common problem when painting with watercolours. It’s easy to fix though: With a medium-sized brush, just paint over the edge of your dark shape with a slightly damp brush and gently pull away from it in a circular motion. This will soften the edge so that it blends in with the rest of your painting. Repeat this process until the white line has disappeared.

Protecting your watercolour painting

18. How can I protect my watercolour paintings?

When painting with watercolours, it is best to start with a completely saturated colour. This means your paint will be one solid, vibrant hue when it’s first applied. Otherwise, the chances are high that your colours will become dull and muddy over time as they dry on your paper or canvas.

To ensure they last for years, you need to protect your watercolour paintings from light and moisture. If you leave them out in the sun, they can fade – but this doesn’t mean that you have to keep them indoors! You can simply put a UV filter on your windows, or hang up some curtains to block out most of the light.

Use a frame made specifically for watercolours, as these tend to be more durable than standard frames. This will also help protect the edges of the painting from fraying or curling due to humidity and moisture changes in your home environment.

19. How do I seal my watercolour painting?

Using a fixative can protect your painting from smudging and fading, but it’s important to know that fixatives also add a layer of gloss to the surface. So if you want your artwork to look like an oil painting or acrylic on canvas, consider linseed oil or mineral spirits as sealant, instead of commercial products like varnish or shellac.

20. Should I varnish watercolour paintings?

The best way to protect your watercolour paintings from light and damage from strong chemicals is by using an archival quality varnish. This will protect your work and prevent it from fading over time. You should also keep your paintings out of direct sunlight and away from sources of heat so that they don’t dry out too quickly – a humidifier can help with this!

Ready to find some watercolour inspiration?

Watercolour inspiration is everywhere! Start by looking at some of your favourite paintings, photographs, or nature scenes. You can also find inspiration in everyday items around your house, like fruit, flowers, or fabric. Or, try coming up with your own original design and learn how to paint in a watercolour class. The possibilities are endless!

Learn to create amazing watercolour paintings!
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