Nay to Grey- Top tips for beginners in contemporary watercolor painting

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My top tips for complete beginners in contemporary water color painting

No matter how little your budget is, I highly recommend investing in decent watercolor paper.

When you use poor quality watercolor paper, paint tends to bleed, the paper will warp or tear easily when water is added to the paper.   Paper with 300 gsm (grams per square meter) and acid free, is a great place to start. Why acid free? PH levels of the paper effect how well the paper holds on to the color, how long the color lasts on the paper and how well the paint stays true to the original color. Another benefit of using good quality paper is the ability to layer on several layers of color, without the paper pilling.


Pilling is when the paper has been overworked, going over the same area too many times for the papers ability. Greater gsm paper can handle more working, without breaking down. Great for newbies.


You do not need ALL the brushes. I recommend 3 to 4 good brushes, ranging in size from 00 to 4, depending on the scale of your working area. I use these sizes because I tend to work with small sizes of paper, around A5 in size. 

Budget watercolor pans are FINE! You do not need to spend lots of money on starter paints. From children's paint, right up to the most expensive, there are so many different types of paint out there and it can be overwhelming and confusing.  Somewhere in the range of £5-£10 is a great place to start. Finding a palette with a good range of colors that are mixable is the most desirable attribute in a pan.  The quality of the paper matters more in the early days, than the quality of your paint.  

Watercolor comes in a few different forms. 

Semi liquid in a tube.

Hard, in a small dry pan.

Pigment powders.

I much prefer to work with a dry pan paint palette, as it is less messy, easier transported for the on-the-go art and I feel there is less waste.



Two main ways of painting with watercolors is to use wet on wet, or wet on dry. Wet on wet is a method where the artist puts down a layer of clean water, where they plan to add paint, then, when they add the paint, it creates a controlled bleed of color. Wet on dry method allows more control, meaning you only put paint where you want it to go. 


As the name suggests, watercolor painting requires water. Yes, it is an obvious point, but the importance of keeping your painting water pot topped up with clean water is essential to achieving a nice clean and vivid color on your page. 

Now, the only task left to do, is to choose what it is you want to paint. A trick, when painting, which is extremely simple in its method, is to, when decided on what it is you want to paint, have a good look at it. Notice where the light source is coming from. An object, person or any other 3d object, will have some parts of itself in shade, whilst other parts of it will have highlights from whichever direction your light source is coming from. Remember to create this, if producing an image from your imagination. The lack of highlights and shadows, will cause the image to appear flat, and unconvincing. 

Also, do not assume that if you are painting an apple, that the only colors that you will use will be red. If you really paint what you see, you will realise that in any object, there are so many colors bouncing off it, that gives the object its depth.

That's all you need to know to get started. I`d love to see what you create! send me images to and your picture could feature on our social pages. Happy painting!




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