If you are a creative who loves scrolling through Instagram posts of watercolour artists whose beautiful botanicals and softly detailed illustrations inspire you and fill your Pinterest board, then today is the day to shop watercolours online and start your own visually expressive journey.
It’s really not hard to fall under the spell of watercolours and their magical paint effects. As a beginner, watercolours are an ideal medium; you only need a few art supplies and you can easily pack them up for travelling or painting on the go.
#1 Fall in love with watercolour supplies
Every visual creative story starts with a few basic art supplies and watercolours provide the simplest starting point.
As a beginner watercolour artist, here’s what you’ll need:
Watercolour paints: You have 2 options – pans or tubes and the final choice comes down to personal preference.
- Watercolour pans offer versatility in that they come with a palette included and there is less wastage. They are also fantastic for on-the-go or Plein air painting.
- Watercolour tubes are great for large washes and easier to mix. But, the principle of quality over quantity always applies.
- The essential starting colours you will need in your watercolours art supply stash are warm and cool versions of red, yellow and blue. (These will include your cadmium red, cadmium yellow light, vermillion, lemon yellow, ultramarine blue, phthalo blue or Prussian blue, scarlet, burnt umber, burnt sienna and raw sienna or yellow ochre). From these, you can mix almost any colour you desire. As a beginner, it is perfectly fine to start with student quality paints; they have a little less pigment but will still give you the desired results. When you go pro – invest in Artist quality watercolours. (A tube of white gouache is useful for adding finishing highlights).
ARTIST TIP: When the original paint in your pans in your paintbox is used up, simply re-fill them with tube colours which will dry out but will be easier to re-work when you come to paint again.
Watercolour brushes: Once again, watercolours offer you simplicity when it comes to shopping for brushes. Avoid buying cheaper brushes as they will not hold enough water, will not keep their shape and will shed bristles on your paper. Start with 3 quality brushes – a flat edge brush for large washes, a medium round brush with a fine tip for thicker and thinner strokes and a small fine-tipped brush for detailed lines.
Watercolour paper: To achieve the results you are after you will require specialised watercolour paper which comes in loose sheets, pads or blocks. The ideal minimum weight is 300g/m’ or 140lb which prevents the colours from bleeding through and the paper from warping. Depending on the finished look you are wanting to create, watercolour paper also comes in 3 textures – hot pressed (smooth for detailed illustrations), cold pressed (a slightly textured finish) and rough.
#2 Fall in love with watercolour techniques
The delicate hues and gently layered washes are the allure of watercolours. There are various techniques you can experiment with to get a variety of effects.
Here is an introduction to 2 basic watercolour techniques:
Wet on wet: This method is for loose backgrounds and involves painting your paper or sketched design with a layer of water till you see alight gloss. This is followed by adding your watercolours and allowing them to do their own magic as the diluted pigments bleed and blend into each other, creating diffused gradient washes and no harsh edges. You can slowly build up the colours for added intensity.
Wet on dry: This watercolour technique offers more control as the colours don’t run into each as easily. You can also achieve finer details. You will get harsher lines but depending on the amount of water and pigment on your brush, you can also add layering and beautiful blending effects.
ARTIST TIP: Unlike oils and acrylics, when using watercolours you always start with the lighter shades, slowly adding darker shades.
Watercolours is not a medium you should be scared of. All it takes is a little practice, some experimenting, and a lot of creative fun. The first step is shopping for your basic watercolour supplies online.