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5 Pro Tips for the Beginning Watercolor Painter!


"Flamingo's Watercolor on HP paper

At 18 years old, I won my first major watercolor award for my watercolors "Flamingo's" Best in Show - Northern California Arts Association which began my long affection for working with this amazing medium!

There are 5 Pro Tips for the Beginning Watercolor Painter I want to share. Let me begin by saying Transparent Watercolor takes practice and we all have to start somewhere. However, once you have painted several paintings using watercolors you will come to really enjoy this dynamic medium.

1. If you do anything to help your development to improve your skills with watercolors, first, invest in at least professional grade watercolors. Start with the three primary colors (which can be mixed to any color you need) RED - YELLOW - BLUE. Using theses three primaries forces you to understand color mixing. For instance, when comparing Winsor Newton Pro vs. Cotman Student grade when I first began painting I used student grade paints only. As I continued exploring watercolor as a medium I noticed a drastic difference in several colors by comparison. Consistency with color and light fastness was an important factor for me to choose professional grade tube watercolors.

2. A general rule when working with watercolor paints, is to begin with the lighter colors and then work towards the darker ones. We do this because in watercolors, the white comes from the paper, not the paints. Due to the transparency of the paints, your light colors wont “pop” when painted over darker colors.

3. Achieving beautiful color that is rich and bold means using less water. As you add more water to color you dilute its strength. When your watercolor dries you will wonder what happened to all the color you added to your paper. Many beginning artists tend to add extra water to their paintings by not properly drying their brushes after washing them. This will make your paints spread more than you’d like them to and can create muddy areas. To avoid adding extra water, make sure you dab your washed brush on a dry cloth or paper towel before putting it back into the paint. In my Online Watercolor Courses, I have developed 3 stages of wetness to consider as well as the outcome. These three stages are excellent ways to understand how color will dispurse resulting in a vibrant or light color when fully dry.

4. Using watercolor blocks will avoid the need to stretch your watercolor paper and allow you to begin immediately working on a surface that most likely will not buckle. Many students get frustrated when stretching watercolor paper and in my online watercolor courses, I show you how I stretch sheets of watercolor paper, but you don't need to. This way you go right to painting without the frustration. I work specifically with Hot Press Paper for its smooth tooth (texture). It can take a bit of getting used to but the beauty when working realistically works best with Arches hot press paper. I work in both 156lb and 140lb.

5. Brushes. You can paint any painting with any brushes yet with watercolor I have found over the years that a brush that keeps its point will help you get the detail as well as help you pull a bead of water precisely through an area on your paper. I use the tip with a bead of color loaded to the brush to paint large areas as well as the detail. There are many sizes to choose by you can simplify this by beginning with a few choice brushes and sizes. Some brushes to consider; Rounds - Flats - Wash and Detail brushes.

This is just a short list of tips for Beginners. We go into depth in my Online Watercolor Classes and I look forward to having you in class and getting to know your strengths and areas you need to improve your skills. I will be there to help you along the way!

Happy Painting!

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