Watercolour for Beginners: How to get started?

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Summer floral watercolour by Sades at The Handmade Hollow 2021

This summer, I fell in love with painting in watercolour. Painting in general can feel daunting, but if you let go of expectations for perfection it is so much fun! Painting brought a little magic into my world. I am by no means a fine artist but I have learned a thing or two along the way to share with you!

Basic materials

Pictured: Magicfly Paint Pans and palette (linked below). Here I’m using old silicone molds instead of a jar to hold water. Use whatever you have at home!

You’ll need a few materials to get started with watercolour painting. When it comes to art supplies, quality is key, however when trying something new it’s best not to splurge right away just in case it ends up not being for you. Watercolour paints are available in a tube or in a dry pan. I prefer the latter so thats what I’ll be talking about today but I will link in some options below as well.

If you’re anything like me, you’ll want to buy everything and anything remotely related to painting in watercolour. Many things really aren’t necessary especially when just starting out. Here are some key products I have tested and loved:

  • Canson XL Watercolor Paper (my favourite paper!)
  • All in One Kit from Magicfly. I love the paints in this kit. For the paints alone the price was worth it. The watercolour paper in this kit has a lot of “tooth” (texture) which wasn’t my preference but it may be yours. The water-filled brushes were fun to play with for calligraphy but I prefer traditional brushes
  • If you’re looking to splurge on paint: Winsor & Newton You get fewer paint bricks
  • If you want to try out tubes of paint, these come highly recommended. If you want to splurge these Daniel Smith tubes are quality and come highly reviewed *note: you may need a palette or area to mix these paints. They may not be included
  • These brushes were inexpensive compared to many and I love them! They don’t shed and have a nice weight to them.
  • An old mason jar or the like to hold water,very light pencil and an eraser
  • You may also consider: painters tape, white highlight, masking fluid and a sponge These are not necessary to purchase

Practice makes perfect

When your supplies arrive, don’t worry about creating your first masterpiece. Grab a jar of tap water, a piece of watercolour paper and your paints (maybe a paper towel or two). Get a feel for the brushes first. How much water do they hold? How can you control their movement across the paper? Practice applying pressure so the bristles create different shapes as you run them across the page.

Experiment with colour and the unpredictability of watercolour paints . Try painting a square with only water. Then dip your brush into the paint and touch the tip of your brush to the square. Watch what happens as the colour spreads across the wet area. You’ll see exactly what I mean about finding magic in watercolour painting. Also try mixing colours in the mixing section of your palette. If you feel like you’ve made a mistake, try gently soaking up the paint with some paper towel- this is a simple way to pick up colour or too much water when painting.

Your first painting

My first watercolour painting, July 2021.

Once you have a feel for how to use the materials, try your hand at a simple painting! I really love creating colourful, simple floral pieces. They turn out so beautiful but feel beginner friendly.

Start by taping off 0.5”-1” from the edge along all 4 sides of your watercolour paper with low-tack painters tape. You don’t have to do this, but it provides a clean, white border around your finished work. I’ve also used washi tape in a pinch!

If you want to, very lightly use a pencil to outline shapes or objects you wish to paint. When making florals I skip this step. When you’re finished outlining, you’re going to lightly erase what you’ve done so you can just see what you’ve drawn. Watercolour is not opaque, so whatever you put down may still be visible once you paint. We want to minimize the pencil lines (unless that is your style, then go for it!).

Take a look at your palette and consider what colours you want to use. You may opt to pre-wet those pans to make them easier to dip into. Make a mental plan for where you want to begin your painting.

Start painting using the techniques you practiced. My first watercolour painting, pictured above, was not my favourite. However, diving in and experimenting with shape, colour, using different amounts of water, brush strokes etc really set the tone for my future pieces. I learned a lot and you will too!

Happy painting!

I hope this post encourages you to try watercolours for yourself! They are so much fun and add a touch of magic and relaxation to busy days. If you’d like a more in-depth tutorial, let me know! Happy painting! xoxo Sades.

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