22 Easy Watercolor Painting Tips For Beginners

22 easy Watercolor Painting Tips Every Beginner Artist Should Know portraitflip

If Instagram has ever got you wondering how to paint with watercolors, I can show you the easiest watercolor painting tips to follow.

Watercolor painting is very often intimidating—even for an artist sometimes.

But if you have been mesmerized by its sheer beauty and really do want to try creating your own masterpiece—I got you.

Here are some of the easiest watercolor painting tips and some techniques that can be really helpful for beginners.

Yes,  watercolors are difficult to tame and that is one of the most common reasons why people often quit—but this blog ain’t for no quitter.

Check out these tips to become a dexterous aquarellette…

Basic Watercolor Painting Tips For Beginners: The Basics Of Basics

Watercolor painting tips: a guy mixing watercolors in a palette.

In the art community, watercolor is said to be the choice of the bravest. 

However since everything has become too accessible, the ‘watercolor painting how to’ is a thing of the past.

These are 9 of the foremost and basic tips for watercolor beginners. 

1) Synthetic Brush Or Natural Fibre Brush?  

Synthetic and fiber watercolor paint brushes against a red background.
credits: jenniferbranch.com

When starting with watercolor painting the first thing to tick off is finding the right brush.

You have two types of brush options to choose from when starting off with watercolors: A synthetic brush and a sable-haired brush.

Synthetic brushes are cheaper and an excellent choice for beginners. They are made of nylon, polyester, or other synthetic materials. 

Sable hair brushes or natural fiber brushes on the other side are made from animal hair and are soft and supple. They are expensive and could be used when you become a watercolor artist.

Watercolor painting is intimidating for a reason. The brushes used in this painting technique are the sable-haired brushes and are sacred to watercolor painting.

Being a watercolor beginner—any brush helps.

Just remember sable brushes are the best to work with when it comes to watercolor painting tips

But you can start with high-quality synthetic brushes. 

2) Shape Does Matter!

Different types of watercolor paint brushes on a white table.

Watercolor painting just does not happen with one round brush and a flat brush.

Since it is so arduous it has its own needs and wants. One of the wants is, that it needs a brush type for every different layer that it demands.

A few main brushes will go a long way and even help you a lot. 

When it comes to watercolor different brushes help you achieve a different layer. 

Once you’ve decided to get the type of brush, it’s time to choose the shape.  

As a beginner, you don’t need to have an array of different brushes, but a few types will help you a lot.

There are a variety of brushes you can choose from like the flat, angular, mop, spotter, round, liner, and fan.

The main types you would need are the round, the big flat, the small round, and the thinnest round brush to add details.

This goes without saying but choose decent quality brushes so that they last for a long time.

3) Does Size Matter?

various brush sizes help beginners understand watercolor

Yes, it does!

Despite having to choose from what kind and types of brushes you want, you’ll need a variety of brushes if you plan to paint with watercolors. 

Your choice of brushes depends on how big or small you want your work to be. 

If you want to create smaller artworks, you’ll generally need to use brushes that range in size from 000 to six. 

It’s recommended to experiment with a variety of sizes at first to determine which are your favorites and which are most effective for you. 

Get your hands on a few brushes that are smaller than you typically choose as well, as you never know when you’ll need to add details you didn’t plan on.

4) Watercolor Pan Or Watercolor Tube? 

On the left; watercolor pans or watercolor cakes on a white table. On the right: a closeup shot of watercolor tubes in a box.

Cakes and tubes are the two packaging options for watercolors.

Here are the benefits and drawbacks of each:

Aquarelle Pans (or Cakes)

Watercolors are mounted in pans as solid “cakes” (hence called watercolors pans).


1. Transportable

2. Continue for Years


1. Is challenging to use for watercolor washes and takes time to get the necessary consistency.

2. Some hues can be difficult to blend and can be difficult to work with.

Watercolor tubes

Unlike the pressed pigmented color cakes. Watercolor in tubes comes in a paste form that can obviously be dissolved in water and used.


1. Vibrant colors since they are concentrated

2. Simple to blend and create a color scheme.


1. If left to dry on a palette, it might not revive with the same consistency as it does when used with watercolor pans.

2. The tube could dry out if the cap is not tight.

Which one would you pick?

Pro Watercolor Painting Tip For A Beginner: Your painting made with pans will resemble the one made using tubes. Whether you choose to watercolor tubes or pans ultimately comes down to personal preference. Although no matter what you choose it is the quality that matters.

(Also Read: Become A Maestro With These 6 Oil Painting Tips)

5) Never Use Canvas!

watercolor painting tips: A warning sign on a canvas which implies that never you should never use canvas for watercolor painting.

If you think a proper canvas is eligible for the use of watercolor paints on it—you are wrong.

A basic canvas is made of a layer of gesso which is practically an anti-absorbent. 

This clearly means that painting a watercolor painting on a canvas would be unethical. 

To create a beautiful masterpiece you need special tools and that tool is not a canvas.

This then brings us to the next watercolor painting tips for beginners.

(Suggested: Acrylic Painting Tips For Beginners: 5 Proven Steps To Master Your Skill)

6) Choose The Right Paper 

A comparison between hot pressed, cold pressed, and rough watercolor paper in terms of theirabsorbing capabilities.

Understanding the supplies your work needs will help you create something breathtaking.

Watercolor is very demanding. It needs proper brushes and proper paints and most importantly a proper canvas.

So if you are thinking that you can use regular paper to paint your masterpiece; you are gravely mistaken.

You see watercolor, as the name implies needs a surface that is water absorbent as well as retainable.

It means that the paper you use should be okay if it has multiple layers/ washes of water.

This is why you need ‘watercolor papers’.

Yes even as a beginner it is better if you get the full experience from the get-go itself.

So here are three options for watercolor papers you can choose from:

1) Hot-pressed Watercolor Paper (HP)

The smoothest and texture-free paper of all is produced by pressing this type of material on a heated cylinder. This is used by professional watercolor artists who are looking for exquisite detailing.

(Hot Pressed paper is referred to as HP paper which means that it is “hot-pressed”)

2) Cold-pressed Watercolor Paper (NOT)

Watercolors work well on the cold-pressed paper’s texture. It is an exquisite choice for comprehensive strokes.

(Cold Pressed paper is referred to as NOT paper which means that it is “not hot pressed”)

3) Rough Watercolor Paper 

For creating granulated watercolor designs, the rough watercolor paper has the most texture. For someone who wants to paint with watercolors in a loose manner, this kind of paper is appropriate. 

Pro Watercolor Painting Tip For A Beginner: Go for the cold-pressed watercolor paper!

7) Setting Up The Place

A desk cluttered with watercolor painting supplies, a laptop, water glasses, and a hand painting watercolor painting on a paper.

Watercolor brushes: checked!

Watercolor brushes: checked!

Watercolor paint: checked!

Watercolor paper: checked!

Supplies (including palette, water bowl): checked!

Peaceful Space: chec— umm…

One of the most popular watercolor painting tips is this one. Set up your workspace before you begin painting.

A comfortable location where you won’t be bothered is where you should gather your supplies. The last thing you want to do becomes irritated because you can’t concentrate.

If you’d like, you can also utilize an easel. Just being at ease and creating the right atmosphere is the main guideline here!

8) You Can’t Forget Good Lighting. Never.

A woman painting in her studio and making use of good lighting to her benefit.

Without enough light, you won’t be able to see the colors well, which will prevent you from producing excellent artwork.

So pick a location with lots of light. If you can Plein air painting is the best technique for watercolor painting.

Pro Watercolor Painting Tip For A Beginner: For natural light during the day, sit beside a window. Alternatively, you can paint while using artificial lighting such as focus light or a table lamp.

9) Stretch The Watercolor Paper

Yes, you can stretch a paper too. 

The watercolor paper can be stretched, although it’s not necessary. You can do it if you want to, or you can just start painting!

Stretching the watercolor paper definitely has its advantages.

  • It keeps paper from buckling.
  • It offers a flat surface on which to work.
  • Stretching the paper will be helpful if you plan to paint with a lot of water.

To stretch your paper on a wooden board or bespoke frame, you must damp it first.

Watercolor Painting Tips To Make The Whole Painting Experience Easier  

Watercolor Painting Tips: a girl painting a beautiful watercolor painting.

Getting acquainted with the basics, I hope you are already falling in love with watercolor.

Since I’ve boosted enough confidence in you, let’s see what that brush can do now.

But before your brush touched that watercolor paper kindly go through these really important watercolor painting tips.

Following these tips will help you understand some really important watercolor painting how-tos:

10) Light To Dark, Not Black To White

a painting showing how watercolor looks when painted from light to dark and from dark to light.
Credits: watercolormadeeasy.wordpress.com

There is no undo option because this is traditional art, not digital art.

There is only redoing the whole art again!

You must move from light colors to dark hues when working with watercolors.

It will be difficult and, in many cases, impossible to undo the changes if you start with dark hues.

Light colors won’t be visible if they are covered by dark colors due to the transparency of watercolors.

To avoid confusion, always move from light to dark.

11) Keep A Check On Paint To Water Ratio

Always remember you are a newbie, and you will cause blunders.

But that is what these watercolor painting tips for beginners are for right?

Always consider the paint-to-water ratio because you dont want to end up saying “watercolor is hard”.

Shhhhh…. Listen watercolor is not hard. You are just not doing it right.

Remember like it is from light to dark similarly the paint-to-water ratio also increases every layer.

When attempting to achieve various goals, the ratio of water to paint will alter. 

Light colors and paint will spread uncontrolled if there is too much water present. Lack of water results in heavy, non-flowing hues.

“You need to find a balance here and work your way as per the results you want to achieve in your painting. So keep this watercolor painting advice with you always. Never overlook the water to paint ratio.”

— Ashley Henson, Professional Watercolor Artist.

12) Understand The Basic Color Theory Wheel

watercolor painting that has a color wheel.
Credits: Witty Gritty Studio (YouTube)

Although the color theory may seem dull, it is crucial if you plan to paint anything. Don’t ignore it!

You can blend colors from your palette and comprehend how new colors are created when you mix old ones if you at least have a rudimentary understanding of color theory.

You should understand how Primary colors combine to create Secondary colors as a beginning watercolor painter. You should also understand how these two categories can be combined to create Tertiary colors.

Here is the color mixing formula:

​yellow + red = orange

​red + blue = purple

​blue + yellow = green

​yellow + orange = yellow-orange

​red + orange = red-orange

​red + purple = red-purple

​​​blue + purple = blue-purple

​​​​blue + green = blue-green

​​​yellow + ​green= ​yellow-green

But that’s not it. Changing the proportion or ratio of colors produces fascinating results!

Pro Watercolor Painting Tip For A Beginner: Make your own color wheel using watercolor paints by using a color wheel or color theory chart as a guide. Ashley wishes she’d known this expert advice sooner.

Speaking of Color theory, it brings us to our next important watercolor painting tip. 

13) Keep A Constant Color Harmony

3 different themed paintings side by side showing who important it is to have color harmony.
Credits: creativecolor.wordpress.com

Maintaining color harmony throughout the painting is one of the best watercolor painting tips for beginners.

Creating a palette of 25 different colors sounds incredible, but using them in your painting could result in a clashing and muddy painting.

The most important rule for maintaining color harmony is to keep your palette small. As a beginner watercolor painter, you should limit yourself to three colors.

Increase your color palette as you progress.

14) Watch Out For Dry Time 

A hand holding a soaked paint brush and painting watercolor on a cubicle wooden board.

When working with watercolors, you should always keep an eye out for dry time.

If you wait too long, you won’t be able to bleed colors; if you wait too little, you’ve ruined your artwork.

Although the dry time will vary depending on the effect you want to achieve, it is critical that you keep an eye on it.

Colors should be blended together by layering them on top of wet paint. Allow the paint to dry before adding details or blending colors.

15) Don’t Overwork Your Painting: Know When To Stop.

a watercolor portrait of woman that is overworked.
Credits: wal_t from wetcanvas.com

I understand that once you’re in the zone, it’s difficult to put the paintbrush down and stop.

It’s great to get into the zone, but when working with watercolors, you should know when to stop. Because watercolor paints are based on water, the color will naturally flow on the paper and form attractive shapes.

So don’t fight it, or else the painting will look muddy and overdone.
A ruined watercolor painting is just as good as an overdone one, so know when to stop.

Pro Watercolor Painting Tip For A Beginner: Although there is no simple answer to when you should stop if you find yourself wondering, “What else can I do with this painting?” It simply means your painting is finished!

16) Plan For White Spaces In Advance

On the left: masking fluid. On the right: 4 different easy watercolor paintings making use of masking fluid to
Credits: www.eliseenghstudios.com

When working with watercolors, you should work from light to dark (as mentioned in tip #10).

When working on paper, you can leave white spaces to create an effect. To accomplish this, plan your white spaces ahead of time and paint around them.

You can try to avoid coloring those spaces by painting carefully around them—easier said than done!

Cover the gaps with masking fluid! It is a liquid fluid made of latex that can be used to cover up white spaces.

It shields the area from watercolor paint and, once dry, can be removed with your finger or a kneaded eraser.

17) Embrace The Mistakes

On the left: a watercolor painting of tomato. On the right: a watercolor painting of tomato that is a little bit flawed.
Credits: vangoghgenova.it/

You should not give up just because you made mistakes!

If you make a mistake while painting with watercolors, you can always erase it with a tissue or sponge. A wash can be used to change the area, but the beauty of watercolors is in embracing the mistakes.

Any mistakes you make will add to the uniqueness of your painting.

So make errors!

Do you know that some famous paintings are the result of mistakes too?

Watercolor Painting Tips To Execute Your First Masterpiece

Watercolor Painting Tips : A person painting beautiful spheres on a watercolor paper while holding watercolor cakes in one hand.

Now that you have understood the dos and don’ts of the basics, these watercolor painting tips will help you reach your goal.

Read the following tips to execute your first-ever masterpiece.

18) Get The “Super Supplies”

Watercolor supplies on a whitetable

Aside from paint, brushes, watercolor paper, palettes, and masking fluid, there are a few other supplies that will help you improve your painting skills.

Here are some of the supplies you can use:

1. Masking tape: used to conceal elements or the border of a painting.

2. Paper towels: Working with watercolors is a messy business. Paper towels will come to your aid in this situation! They can also be used to remove excess paint from a painting.

3. Scratch paper or scraper: Use a scraper to add a wonderful effect to your painting. You can also use a pocket knife or any other sharp object.

4. Stationery supplies such as a ruler, pencils (more on this later), and an eraser will come in handy.

5. Spray varnish: Once you’ve finished painting, a spray varnish will protect your work from UV rays.

19) Use A Light Pencil For Underdrawing

A hand painting watercolor after making an outline with a pencil.

One of the best watercolor painting tips for beginners is to draw an outline with a light pencil.

Although it is not required, underdrawing will help you set the composition of the painting and create the masterpiece you seek.

Use hard pencils (H to 6H) rather than soft pencils (2B, 4B, etc.) because hard pencils produce lighter shades and are easily covered by water paint.

You can always use a kneaded eraser to get rid of pencil marks.

19) A Hairdryer To Save Your Time

a person drying their painting with a hand dryer.
Credits: ritasquier.blogspot.com

Use a hairdryer to speed up the painting process, not to dry your hair.


Waiting for paint to dry when applying paint or applying a watercolor wash can be inconvenient and cause you to lose flow.

Solution: Use a hairdryer to quickly dry the color! It will save you a significant amount of time! Before proceeding to the next step, use a hairdryer to ensure that the paint is completely dry.

21) Use Splatter Technique 

a person splattering red watercolor paint from apaintbrush. with their index finger.
Credits: dandressler.com

Splattering the brush is one of the simplest and most effective watercolor painting tips and tricks. Yes, you’re going to make a lot of messes, but isn’t it fun?

You must load your brush with paint and flick it across the paper with your finger.

Boom! You’ve created a masterpiece that rivals the work of professionals.

22) Use Alcohol, And Salt To Create Amazing Effects

On the left: cool effect created on a watercolor painting by applying a few drops of alcohol. On the right: wonderful snowflake effects created on a watercolor painting by sprinkling salt.
Credits: L: pamashdesigns.com & R: www.pinterest.com/pin/91268329922257118/

You can use alcohol and salt to create some amazing effects in your watercolor painting. Here’s how to go about it:

After painting a wash, dampen a cotton swab with rubbing alcohol and dab it across the surface to create an alluring effect.

When sprinkled, salt absorbs some of the watercolors and creates a sandy effect on the page. To create an effect, sprinkle some salt after painting the color.

Allow the paint to dry before scraping away the salt.

I’d always advise experimenting with your painting techniques. It’s more enjoyable this way, and you can learn a lot while producing amazing results.

Watercolor painting is a fun medium to work with—but only if you’re willing to put in the effort!

One of the main reasons I started this blog is to show beginners that watercolor painting is simple.

Many people enjoy watercolor paintings, but they find it difficult to practice the medium for two reasons:

For starters, they don’t understand the fundamentals. Second, they don’t put forth enough effort!

Watercolor painting is a skill that, like any other skill, requires regular practice to improve.

So begin practicing and…

Don’t give up!

That’s all she said…

Hey reader!

Thank you for going through our list of 21 practical watercolor painting tips for beginners. 

I hope that you find useful watercolor tips in the blog. 

If you have any suggestions or want to share about your art journey, you can comment down below!

You can follow us on Instagram, and subscribe to our Youtube channel. 

Also, check out our website: PortraitFlip, where we make handmade paintings from photos. You can visit our gallery down below. 

I can promise you won’t be disappointed 😉

Frequently Asked Questions


To begin with watercolors for beginners, first of all, you have to gather all the supplies and find a comfortable place to start. Once you settle down, start painting slowly. It’s best if you watch a tutorial before you start working.
Watercolors cannot be used on canvas! As the material is not so absorbent, watercolor paint won’t bind to the canvas and will come off. You need to use watercolor papers for watercolor painting.
Practicing is the key to getting better at anything and the same can be said with watercolor painting. You have to dedicate some amount of time and be consistent. You can take courses to enhance your skills.
Dry on wet, Wet on wet, Splattering, Stippling, Scumbling, Feathering, Back Washes, Lifting Color Dry Brushing are some of the most famous watercolor techniques.
Getting your supplies right, painting from light to dark, checking water to paint ratio, keeping a constant color harmony, and embracing the mistakes are a few of the finest watercolor painting tips for beginners.
Although one tip would not justify it, here is it: gathering high-quality watercolor painting supplies in the first place is the best thing you can do. Without good supplies, you cannot create good artwork, no matter how skilled you are.

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