Basic watercolour paint techniques

paintbrushes in a glass jar

Learning a new skill can be both fun and frustrating. Fun as you explore the possibilities and feel proud of your results and frustrating when what you imagined doesn’t fit the reality. This will also happen when you’re playing with watercolours: some things will look really nice, while others… rather disappointing. In this blogpost I will sum up some of the basic watercolour paint techniques I learned recently.


watercolours on a newspaper

I don’t believe in buying the most expensive tools when you’re just starting to learn something. Many tutorials on YouTube start with the different brands of paint you should buy; I think you should first get the most basic tools as you learn and when you get to the point where you really understand the difference, switch. Don’t make things more complicated than they should be.

I use:

  • kids watercolour set from Ikea
  • watercolour pencils from Ikea
  • acrylic paint for washes and accents
  • a mix of old and new round tip and flat brushes
  • a repurposed glass coaster
  • a reusable and handmade cotton cloth
  • watercolour paper (the cheapest I could find)

Basic techniques:

How to make a watercolour wash:

There are 4 very basic watercolour painting techniques and they all depend on the amount of water you use on the brush or on the paper: wet on dry (a wet brush on a dry surface), wet on wet (a wet brush on an a wet paper), dry on wet (a dry brush on a wet paper) and dry on dry (a dry brush on a dry surface).

How to paint your first watercolour

From all the beginner watercolour videos I watched on youtube, this is the one that really cliked for me. The teacher and painter Stan Miller explains in a very clear, to the point way how to get started with painting. No fluff.

To sum up his lesson:

  1. find an image you want to paint
  2. turn it black and white and increase contrast
  3. draw a sketch lightly (i like using a watercolour pen for this)
  4. start by filling in the background with black
  5. look at your model drawing/picture and make a note of the light areas, the shadows, the medium greys and try to replicate it on your paper

Congratulations, you’re painting with watercolours!

black and white watercolour with khaleesi daeneris tagaryen and dragon

This is the portrait I made following his technique: (can you recognise the character? 🙂

1 thought on “Basic watercolour paint techniques”

  1. Pingback: TateShots: Watercolour | mostly music

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