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Intro to Watercolors


EVERY technique is based on the use of water.

  • How much or how little, either on your paper, and/or your brush, and/or or paint mixture

  • "Water" will always want to "Equalize" itself.  Understanding how much water for each technique.

  • Water is your “White”. More water in your pigment, the lighter/tint your color will become.

  • Watercolors dry LIGHTER than they look like when they are wet.

  • Knowing when the time is right to continue, depending on the technique, wet-into-wet, wet into dry, etc.

  • Patience. It can and will be frustrating. If the technique requires the paper/paint is dry, then LET IT DRY! Sometimes I will start two paintings at a time, work on one while I am waiting on the other to dry. Sometimes a "hairdryer" is very handy.


1. “Life is too short to use cheap paper!

Watercolors are more expensive than it seems it should be, but that is the reality of it. This is not like the "paint sets" our parents or school teachers supplied us with when we were younger. If you are going to prioritize where to spend the bulk of your finances, spend it on the PAPER.

  • 100% Cotton/Rag

  • Cold Press, Rough, Hot Press

  • 140#, 300# (90# is fairly useless, in my opinion, it does not hold up to water),

  • Sheets (22”x28”), Pads, Blocks

  • 140# Cold Press is the "standard"

2. “Brushes; round, mops, flat, fan, wash, riggers, natural, synthetic”

  • Watercolor brushes are soft bristled, made from natural or synthetic fibers.

  • Typical/Standard Brushes; Round, Mops, Flat, Liner/Rigger, Fan, Large/Wash, Sumi


3. Pallets

  • Smooth surface, plastic, porcelain, tin, enamel coated, or Styrofoam plate (in a pinch”)

  • Must have “wells” and “mixing” areas.


4. The often forgotten tools!

  • 2 buckets of water a. one, “dirty” for cleaning your brushes b. one “clean” for mixing with new paint.

  • 5. Rags. I prefer an old terry-cloth towel for cleaning my brushes.

    • Paper towels for soaking up excess water/paint. c. Facial tissues/T.P. can be used like paper towels and special effects.

    • Other Stuff a. Masking tape (I prefer “Blue painters” tape) b. Sea sponges (for special effects)
    • Ear buds aka "Q-Tips"
    • Liquid Masking
    • Spray bottle
    • Salt
    • Painting board, I prefer “Gator board” (Plastic coated foam core board)
    • Color Wheel (Red & Blue don’t make Violet) Also, you can/should read my "Color Theory" PDF below.
    • Small travel hair dryer
    • You can/will find other things you can use as your experience grows.
    • a Place to paint.

  • 7. Watercolors are mostly painted in LAYERS


    • Make sure you use patients and let your painted areas dry before proceeding onto the next step.

    • If you do not let the paint/paper dry completely, you will run into problems.

    • Make sure it is dry. Touch the back of your finger onto the area you want to put your next layer, if it is still COOL, it is NOT dry. Cool touch means the water is still evaporating.

    • You can add more wet paint to a still wet area, if you are doing the technique of wet-into-wet.

  • Do all your THINKING before you paint.

    • Before you start, make a “Value” drawing of what you are going to paint. Lights, mid-tones, & darks.

    • Think “Back to Front” when you plan your painting execution. What to paint first, second, etc.

    • Focus on the “Mass shapes” first, then the mid-sized shapes, leave the details for last.

    • Remember to allow areas to dry that need to dry, know how wet, moist, damp or dry an area is for each particular technique you are using. It’s about Timing.

    • REMEMBER TO SAVE YOUR “WHITES” f. When you know how you are going to paint your painting, the process is much easier and a lot more enjoyable.

  • NOTE: Always prepare everything BEFORE you start to paint. Have all your supplies on hand and spray your paints just a little to get them wet.

Print version of Introduction to Water Colors.

Also printable


How to squeeze paint from a tube.

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