Ultimate Guide to Watercolour Painting for Beginners

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Like any painting style, becoming an expert doesn’t just happen overnight. Even J.M.W Turner had to start somewhere and as the saying goes, practice makes perfect. The main thing to keep in mind with watercolour painting is that it’s okay to mistakes. It is through making mistakes that you will learn the most. Hopefully with this list of supplies and application techniques, you will be more than ready to start your watercolour painting today. 

Start With Having The Right Supplies

Stop right there! Before you dive head first into watercolour painting, you need to make sure you have the right supplies. Your list of essential supplies must include:

  • Brushes
  • Watercolour Paint
  • Watercolour Paper
  • A Paint Palette
  • Two Water Jars
  • A Rag or Old Towel

It’s not only about having all the right tools, but also knowing what they do and which is the best option for you.  


A hot tip with paintbrushes – especially for beginners – is that you only need three or four different brushes. Just make sure that they are regularly and thoroughly cleaned. The amount of different brush types out there almost makes your head explode. So, to make things easier for you, these are the four main brushes we recommend:

  • Spotter, Size 10/0 – Perfect for fine details
  • Script Brush, Size 1 – Great for line work
  • Round, Size 8 – Holds water well and is versatile
  • Wash Brush, Size 3/4 – Ideal for covering large areas
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Watercolour paint comes in two different ways: in tubes and pans. Tubed paint is perfect for mixing large quantities and more accurately controlling your water to paint ratio. On the other hand, paint in pans is great for smaller paintings and requires less fiddling.


When choosing paper for your watercolour paintings, just choosing any old paper won’t do. You must choose watercolour specific paper – which basically just means that it is textured. Watercolour paper comes in three different types:

  • Hot Press – This paper contains the least amount of grain and is perfect for detailed illustrations.
  • Cold Press – This paper is a semi-rough texture and the most commonly used watercolour paper.
  • Rough – This is the watercolour paper with the highest amount of grain and texture.

watercolour paintingPalette

  • Owning a palette is ideal when using tubes of watercolour paint. Your palette is not only great for mixing your paints with water, but for also mixing colours together. 

Water Jar

  • One of the best tips I can give you is that two water jars is better than one. By having two water jars, you can wash your dirty brushes in one and wet your clean brushes in the other. This will help you avoid accidentally mixing and contaminating your colours. 

The Basics of Application Techniques


Wet-In-Wet: The Ideal Technique for Free Flowing Artwet in wet painting watercolour

  • The wet-in-wet technique is exactly what it sounds like. The use of a wet paintbrush to paint on an already wet surface. The quickest and easiest way to wet your paper is by using a spray bottle. You then need to smooth out the water with a damp sponge. The next step is to apply paint to a wet brush and start painting. Be aware that with this technique the paint will spread (paint deserves its freedom too).
  • The key thing to note with this technique is that the paper dries pretty quickly. So this is not the technique for a firm believer of “slow and steady wins the race”.


Wet On Dry: The Ideal Technique For Outlines

  • Once again the name is a dead give away. The wet on dry technique involves… wait for it… a wet paintbrush and dry paper. This technique gives you more control and is typically used to paint sharp edges and outlines. If you use this technique to add extra elements to your artwork, make sure all other paint is dry before you start. The next thing to make sure is that you choose a brush of appropriate shape and thickness.
  • Dip a wet brush into the paint colour your heart desires and start painting. You control what you paint with this technique, so a steady hand is key.
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Drybrush: The Ideal Technique For Details

I think we have established by now that you don’t have to the great Sherlock Holmes to work out what these techniques mean. This one involves a dry brush and a wet surface. Don’t get ahead of yourself though. A dry brush does not actually mean what you think. Without any water at all, your watercolour paint won’t even transfer on to your brush.

It is important to make sure you still wet your brush, but with this technique only use a minimal amount of water. After dipping the damp brush into your paint, give the brush a quick wipe off on an old towel. This is to ensure that your paint won’t spill or leak, which is perfect for if you want to add precise touches.

If you are interested in learning more watercolour tips, tricks and techniques contact Diane at Now & The Fine Art Studio on 0434 193 392.

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