I paint many mediums and many subjects – watercolor is one of them. They are fun to paint whether you are a professional or you just enjoy it for the fun it is. The watercolor paintings in this post are for an upcoming show at the Chartreuse Muse Gallery in Modesto, CA in September – but I also want to introduce (if you have not already started painting) the supplies necessary to begin painting your own watercolor paintings. You may not have a desire to become a professional artist, but you don’t have to sell them to enjoy painting with watercolor.
From the start of my art career I have heard a lot of people comment on how hard watercolor is. It is and it isn’t at the same time… Original watercolor paintings have a few secrets and a few techniques but to start it is important to know the color wheel. Many have a hard time because they do not know the color wheel and which colors mixed will make a muddy mess on your paper. If you mix complimentary colors (or opposites) on the color wheel such as red and green or blue and orange you will make brown or gray. Because watercolor is done in layers and those layers are transparent it is necessary to know what the colors do to each other in order to get the look you want. There are many things that people do that make them think watercolor is hard but that is the main thing I have seen (other than the fear of messing up clean white paper)…. Acrylic, oil or other opaque mediums can be painted over and covered but watercolor is different. It is not a bad thing to make “mud” but you have to know how and where.
That white paper is scary….
Many people starting out painting watercolor are very afraid of that white paper, but remember it is just paper and you will never know what you can accomplish until you start painting… Have two pieces of paper to start. Use one for a practice sheet. That way you can play around with color combinations and learn how they mix. Once you have that understanding it is much easier to get over the fear of “messing up the paper”. Play with what it looks like to add another layer before the first is dry and then try another where you allow the paint to dry to see the difference in how the paint acts. Try spattering the paint and adding salt or rubbing alcohol in drops… Watercolor is a very fun medium to work with – Also, working on a practice sheet will make it easier to start on your original watercolor painting masterpiece – it will help you learn how the paint and paper work together…. Order your supplies now so that by next week when I post a lesson you will have everything you need to create a watercolor masterpiece of your own!
What will I need?
paper. I recommend getting artist / professional quality even when you are starting out. If you use student quality you will find that the paper will ball up quickly and it does not accept the paint the same way. It ends up frustrating the painter and often makes people give up before they know whether or not they enjoy the process of watercolor painting. It seems scary at first to spend more money on higher quality paper but in the end it is worth it because it reduces the frustration (by a lot) . I have painted on both and absolutely recommend you never buy student grade paper… EVER!
watercolor paint. The same goes for paint. I never, ever buy student grade paint. There is less pigment in the student grade so you won’t get the same depth of color – you need to paint more layers and like paper it is frustrating to have to work harder than you really need to. Give yourself a chance to learn well and do well with good quality supplies. It is more than well worth the extra expense!
Paint tray. I use a butcher’s tray because I mix my colors a lot. Many painters keep their paint separate so the colors stay pure…. once you paint a few times, learn how colors mix and whether or not you want your colors to mix you will know what tray works best for you. Either way is fine.
Brushes. This is one thing my past instructors went crazy over is that I have never been really great about how to properly care for my brushes and make them last a long time… I can’t be that retentive, it’s not in my personality at all. I do buy less expensive brushes. The way I work I get great texture but my brushes suffer. So if you are the type to baby your brushes get the higher end brushes but honestly, that is the one thing I do not spend a lot of money on – when the brushes start to get funky like a bad hair day I throw them out and get out a new brush….
Watercolor mediums: I rarely use them but many artists do. There is a variety of them and you can try any you wish. The only one I use is masking fluid so if you are getting anything that’s what I would recommend. Some use mediums to slow drying time or create a variety of different effects in the painting, but I have found that the watercolor rarely dries fast enough for me ( I end up painting several pieces at once because I get impatient with watching paint dry) and I can get great effects in my watercolor painting with salt, rubbing alcohol, plastic wrap, foil and water.
Granulation medium – lift aid –color blending medium – there are many mediums you can use. I do not use them, but that does not mean they are not worth having and experimenting with. I do not have feelings either way about buying or not buying. These links are only here so you have the option to see them and purchase if they look like fun for the type of painting you would like to do.
Cold press paper by arches. I use arches watercolor paper for every project. Start out with 9×12 paper. It is less intimidating. I only paint small watercolor and usually smaller than even the 9×12. This is a cold press watercolor paper. It has some texture to it and makes for a beautiful painting.
Hot press paper by arches. This paper is very smooth and creates a different look than the textured cold press paper. If you can get both and play with it please do. It is good to know which you like. I use both – Sometimes I want a smooth paper and sometimes textured. If you are serious about learning watercolor then it is a great idea to play with the options and know what your preferences are……
I like Shinhan paint. I have used other brands and they are fine – as long as you are getting a professional quality paint you will be fine… but, I have this brand and have gotten great results. Below are images of paintings done with Shinhan paint. It is affordable as well, which I like… and comes with many colors, so you don’t have to try to decide which colors you want to buy individually.
This tray is nice because you can close it up when you are done for easy storage if you don’t have a lot of space. I use a tray like this when I am traveling because it makes it easy to pack up and go…..
If you know how to mix colors and you prefer colors mixed you might like this option. It is what I use for my paint. If you like to keep your colors separated to keep them pure, unmixed color this is not the option for you.
There are many….Many brushes you can buy. It can be overwhelming. These are basically all the brushes I use in my own work. Angle brush for a wider line but has a point so I get a clean line. A wide, flat brush for washes and round brushes which I just never, ever do without… they are my faves!
I use Winsor and Newton masking fluid. This is used when you want to preserve the white paper in some areas and be absolutely certain you do not accidentally paint it over. White is important in many watercolor paintings and many artists see it as absolutely necessary to retain some white paper to create a great watercolor painting. You can apply it with your brush but it can ruin a brush if you do not clean it off immediately – if you use masking fluid on every painting you will want tools to apply and remove it (it is easily removed when your painting is finished so don’t worry about the icky yellow color when you apply it, it is not permanent)
This is a ruling pen so you can create lines of masking fluid in different widths. I have one and do use it although you do not have to have one. It can also be used with ink or watercolor to create precise lines. You do not have to have this, I only included it as an option if you like lines in your work ( I know I love line work with white and then added line work when I finish painting…. but with time you will discover what you do and do not like)….
This is a pick up for masking fluid. If you use masking fluid on each painting then you want one for sure. I don’t always use masking fluid so I use my thumb but honestly it can make your thumb sore if you do that a lot so I do recommend just having the tools you need, it makes it much easier to learn and create.
You can use any old rag or paper towel to blot your brush when necessary. I also recommend you have two water bowls. One “dirty” that you use to clean paint off and one “clean” that you use after you have cleaned your brush so your brush is thoroughly clean and you always have clean water in front of you when you need it…
I have my supplies, now what?
play. Draw. Paint. Have fun….. I am going to post some paintings and the process of completion and do some mini lessons. This list above is just about everything I use in my own watercolor paintings….
if you decide to take lessons from a local artist great – there are a lot of great teachers out there that you can learn from and I recommend supporting local artists. Find one whose work you like and find out if they do classes or private lessons. That is how I learned watercolor and it is well worth your time and money! I am going to do some online demos/lessons in future posts so if there is a particular subject you would like to paint I encourage you to leave it below in the comments. I will email you when I do that post with that lesson so you can see it! Thank you for reading this article and I hope you enjoyed it! Have a blessed day and happy water coloring! Remember, have fun! that is what it’s all about! Next post….. watercolor lesson number 1!