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5 Must-Know Watercolor Tips for Beginners

For years, watercolors were a mystery to me. They seemed to have a mind of their own. I liked to be in control of my paintings, and watercolors would just not cooperate. Everything I painted looked amateur and childish. Like something I painted when I was 8.

The reason for that was that I tried to make watercolors act like acrylics, which I was proficient in! I loaded my brush with colour, and tried to blend it just like I did with acrylics on canvas. But watercolour would just not be that fluid on paper. I would lay down two colours and try to mix them on the paper, which worked for acrylics, but also did not work for watercolors.

The day I figured out watercolors was the day I stopped expecting them to behave like acrylics. I keep saying this all the time - but you have to EMBRACE each medium for its uniqueness, and that's when it'll start doing what you want it to do. After many years of experimentation and painting different subjects in different types of watercolors, here are the top 5 things I've learnt about watercolors that would have helped me at the beginning of my journey.

One of my original watercolor paintings

Water is the hero of Watercolors

It sounds obvious but you can't really paint with watercolors without understanding the importance of water in the process. Water is what makes the paint lighter, and helps it to flow. Water is what blends colours. Once you learn to control water, you will learn to control watercolors. Practice swatching different amounts of water on a paper, and see how paint reacts to it.

Use the right Watercolor specific brushes

Watercolor brushes are usually the softest of all. These brushes have to hold immense amount of water without dropping it, and the bristles should be so soft that they don't leave a mark of their own. (Unless that's an effect you specifically want that). Watercolor brushes are generally more expensive, but so so worth it! Never try to paint with watercolors using

acrylic or oil painting brushes.

A picture showing my favourite watercolor brushes

Choose the right paper

Using the right paper is actually more important than using good paints or good brushes. You can make cheap paints look good on a luxurious paper, but you can't make the best of the paints look any good on crappy paper, and I've learnt it the hard way. I have a whole block of 500 sheets of watercolor paper that I picked up on a sale lying useless! Remember - At least 300 gsm, 100% cotton paper. You won't go wrong with these two, and it'll make all the difference in the world :)

Do not go dark early

The trick to painting with watercolors is you have to un-learn everything acrylics taught you. You need to start light and go darker with each layer. And when I say start light, I mean SUPEEER light. Maybe just even water, and a tiny hint of colour. You can always make things darker, but never lighter. So keep patience, and slowly build up that saturation.

One of my newest watercolor landscapes

Wet on Wet is MAGIC!

A lot of people don't like the hard edges on watercolor paintings, and are lost on how to blend them. Wet on wet is an amazing technique which can be used to create almost hyper-realistic paintings in watercolor. You get the most amazing blends with wet on wet! But doing it the right way is important. You don't want water dripping from your paper. You need it to be just wet enough to scatter the pigment just that tiny bit! There are loads of tutorials online on how to do this, so make sure you learn the right way.

Do you have any more tips on watercolor painting? Leave them in the comments if you do!

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