Watercolor Tips for Beginners

My recommendations at a glance:

  • Buy a few quality brushes instead of inexpensive ones
  • Use thick paper, 140lb(300g) is a good thickness for starters
  • Have paper towels, cold water, and a palette prepared before starting
  • Use masking tape for clean edges


My recommendations in detail:

For starting off with watercolor painting it’s nice to begin masking off the edges of the paper with masking tape. Do this is you want a nice clean edge around your painting. Though, sometimes the watercolor can bleed a little through the tape depending on the quality of the tape or how well you apply pressure when masking it off.

If you don’t want your watercolor paper buckling it’s important to wet and stretch the paper. That will prevent a lot of buckling when beginning your watercolor paper. But, just remember a thin paper can only hold so much water, so even with this technique buckling may still occur. I recommend using a very thick paper for finished pieces such as: Arches 140lb(300g) Cold Press paper or Fluid 100 300lb(640g) Cold Press paper.


I recommend not using cheap watercolor brushes, get at least 3 quality brushes instead a cheap set of 12 because a lot of cheap brushes tend to shed. Those brush hairs will end up in your watercolor pan and painting, and those hairs are very tedious to get out.

Another paintbrush tip: don’t let your brushes soak in the water for too long, and don’t especially don’t use hot water for watercolor and let your brushes soak in water. Hot water can melt the glue that keep the hairs on the brush. Use cold water for painting with watercolor and slightly warm water with liquid soap for cleaning afterward.

There’s two most popular painting techniques applying watercolor onto paper: wet on dry and wet on wet. Wet on dry is a wet watercolor application on dry paper. Wet on wet is a wet watercolor application on wet paper. Wet on wet can also be called the wash technique, there’s less control but allows for cool gradient/fur-like affects.  Wet on dry allows for much more control and is the usual way watercolor is applied.


There’s also another very popular technique for making small dots on the painting such as starts: the flicking technique. It’s simple enough, flicked the tip of your brush to spray paint all over your piece. You can also use a sponge to apply watercolor to add a nice texture for things like stone.

There’s also ways to manipulate the watercolor like pouring salt on wet watercolor for texture, or using a waxy substance like a crayon first then applying watercolor for a cool effect.

Also, paper towels are essential, you will need them for dabbing off excess water, dabbing off excess paint of your painting, etc.



If you want to preserve your watercolor painting, it must be framed in glass or varnished. A watercolor cannot be cleaned so it’s recommended that the painting be framed in glass. If you don’t want to frame in glass the other option would be to varnish. But be wary, because varnish will change the appearance of your painting. A gloss varnish will darken the colors, while a matte or satin varnish will lighten the colors.  I would suggest using an archival spray varnish such from a trusted brand like Golden.


Tools I used:

Winsor and Newton watercolors: http://amzn.to/2nF1iQV

Princeton Brushes: http://amzn.to/2nFkdee

Canson Mix Media sketchbook: http://amzn.to/2oEgZMM

Palette (not exact but similar): http://amzn.to/2oEprLQ

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