Learning to watercolor is tons of fun, and the results are so gratifying. All you need is a little nudge in the right direction to get started on the right foot!
That’s why we’ve put together this rundown of all you need to know to have you go from watercolor beginner to pro in no time.
Check out our watercolor for beginners guide if you want to jump right into the good stuff!
Table of Contents
What is watercolor?
Also known as aquarelle, watercolor is a painting method that uses pigments suspended in a water-based medium. This timeless painting technique involves using just a few materials, with watercolor paint at the heart of it all.
The art form is most iconic for its luminous, ethereal washes and delicate blending and layering effects. This is a versatile craft that can be explored in different styles, from loose and abstract designs to highly-detailed and hyper-realistic work.
Compared to popular art mediums such as acrylic and gouache, watercolor is less opaque and hardly lightfast. It’s also best used on absorbent surfaces only, such as watercolor sketchbooks, pads, and blocks.
What can I paint with watercolors?
Watercolor is extremely versatile, and combines well with many styles and subjects.
Here are a few popular beginner-friendly themes you can try out to slowly get into the groove.
- Botanical illustration
- Map illustration
- Fashion illustration
- Children book illustration
- Mosaic watercolor
What supplies do I need to start watercolor painting?
Watercolor painting requires only a handful of essential tools, regardless of the size or complexity of your project.
Sure, you may need to make some adjustments as you evolve in the craft, but as a beginner, you only need a few basic materials to kickstart your watercolor journey.
Watercolor paint comes in various forms, such as pans, tubes, and even watercolor pencils!
You can find different products for different skill levels: student-grade and professional-grade. These will differ in quality, size, and, of course, price.
To find the best option, check out our top picks for the best watercolor sets, including nifty travel sets!
If you want to learn more about watercolor paint, we’ve put together these brief overviews comparing and contrasting watercolor with other popular types of art paint:
Watercolor paintbrushes are crucial to getting paint onto the page (unless you’re using watercolor pencils!) and come in various sizes and shapes.
Brush tips can consist of animal hair, synthetic materials, or a combination of both. Depending on each type, performance will vary — as well as cost.
Know that the quality of your brushes will impact the outcome of your projects. Therefore, don’t underestimate this tool and always aim for quality!
A great alternative to standard paintbrushes is water brush pens. These are cheap, easy to use and refill, and perfect for on-the-go watercolorists!
Watercolor paper is a must when taking up this creative hobby.
Without it, you’ll essentially be wasting your time and eventually find yourself feeling frustrated. Watercolor paint adheres only to absorbent paper; using it on other surfaces is a big no-no.
Other materials for watercolor
Besides the materials listed above, there are other crucial items you’ll need to get from start to finish. In addition, there are a few optional tools you may want to incorporate into your crafting, too!
- Water container
- Mixing palette
- Paper towels
- Washi tape (optional)
- Sponges (optional)
- Spray bottle (optional)
- Waterproof Micron pens (optional)
How can I learn to watercolor?
Learning watercolor is easier than you might think. Then, you’ll just need to stay on your toes and practice a bunch!
Luckily, you can find plenty of online resources that offer basic techniques and projects to help you get started.
For example, taking a few online watercolor classes is an affordable, convenient alternative to more costly in-person workshops. You’ll still reap the benefits of being taught by experts, only from the comfort of your home!
Additionally, many great YouTube channels and tutorials are available that are perfect for beginners; here are a few we highly recommend.
What are basic watercolor techniques?
There’s a world of watercolor techniques you can master, but some are particularly great for complete beginners.
Here are some I recommend for first-time watercolorists:
- Gradient wash
To learn more about each of these popular techniques, check out our watercolor for beginners guide!
Where can I find watercolor inspiration?
Besides creating watercolor guides for beginners and hobbyists, we’ve also had the pleasure of interviewing some pretty neat and talented creatives who incorporate the medium into their work.
Check them out for a bit of inspo!