Looking for some escapism? Watercolour painting is one of the best ways of escaping everyday life to throw yourself into a place of peace and serenity. After reading this guide to watercolour painting, you can start to create beautiful landscapes and revisit a place you have been or create something brand new. If you’re ready to get lost in the endless possibilities of watercolour painting, then read on!

What do I need to get started?


It can be overwhelming when browsing the many types of watercolour brushes, so let us help you! You may feel that you need to get lots of brushes when taking your first steps with watercolour painting, but acquiring the full range isn’t essential just yet. We recommend having four brushes: a large round brush (size 14-20), a medium round brush (size 10-12), a small round brush (size 5-6) and a detail brush. Synthetic brushes don’t absorb water so they are great for watercolour, but natural brushes are also more than fine. A little tip for you – once your brushes have been used a lot and have stiffened, don’t rush to throw them away as these can be very helpful for lifting paint when you’ve made a mistake. You will find much of the watercolour bits you’re looking for from SAA.

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The first thing to understand about watercolour paints is that there are two different types: pans and tubes. Pans are simply blocks of dry paints that you add water to – they are ideal for using outdoors or on the road. However, you might struggle with keeping the colour consistent if you’re creating a large or dark wash. Tubes, as its name suggests, are tubes of wet paint that you squeeze onto a palette. Unlike pans, you can easily vary the consistency of the paint! We recommend using artist quality paints as they will last longer.

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High-quality paper is essential when creating a watercolour image, as this helps you avoid curling – using a paper with a weight of 140lb/300gsm or more is recommended! There is a nice variety in purchasing papers are they can be bought in pads, blocks or as individual sheets.

The next thing to consider is which of the three types of texture you need in your paper:

Hot Press: This has a smooth and very even texture, ideal for drawing and more intricate prints.

Cold Press: The most common texture used for watercolour painting. It has a slight bump, known as being perfectly textured and an ideal starting place for beginners.

Rough: A rough and bumpy texture. This is a good choice when aiming to create a lot of texture throughout your paintings

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Palettes and More

Palettes are essential for separating and for mixing your colours. If you use tubed watercolour paints, you will need to buy a palette. Alternatively, you could just use a plain plate from your cupboard. If you are using pan watercolour paints, they generally have a built-in fold out palette that can be used in various ways depending on their orientation and size.

You will also need a water pot to rinse your brushes in – you don’t need to break the bank, just a clean jam jar, yoghurt pot or mug will do the trick! You will also be needing kitchen paper for mopping up those inevitable spillages or for use alongside your paints to create new and interesting textures. Finally, keep a hairdryer nearby to help speed up the drying process, as it can otherwise feel like watching paint dry!

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Watercolour Techniques You Need to Know

Wet-on-Wet Watercolours

Applying wet paint to a wet background will dilute the colours, but timing is everything here, making this technique a little tricky! The best thing to do is to use a sponge to create an even spread of water on the paper, then you can start to apply a few marks of paint to see how it reacts and moves. If it’s moving too quickly, wait a little longer for the page to dry slightly, but don’t wait too long as it will completely dry out.

Wet-on-Dry Watercolours

This technique is used for creating a hard edge on a painting, such as a straight line. This will help your masterpiece pop out of the page! Using a small brush, apply wet paint onto a dry page. Make sure that when trying to paint a hard edge onto a pre-painted layer, the paint below is completely dry. If not, this will cause the shape to blur and distort.

Drybrush Watercolours

Perfect for adding detail to paintings. The aim of this technique is to build up or mix paint colours. The brush tip needs to be wet but not overloaded with paint. The paint must be fluid enough to transfer to the paper but not dissolve the layer below.

For more inspiration, check out Watercolour Top Tips for Absolute Beginners with Matthew Palmer – you can also watch Matthew Palmer in action below!

We hope you’re raring to get started! Remember, you can get all of your supplies from our website!

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