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Beginner Watercolor Painting Tips - Getting Started With Watercolor

Nov 20, 2007
Like any new form of art, watercolor painting can be difficult at first. It is only with time and practice that one becomes a better painter. Never become discouraged by your mistakes or lack of progress.

To start watercolor painting you will obviously need to purchase supplies. Purchase the best possible materials that you can afford. We all want to save as much money as possible, but if you work with cheap materials, you are not going to be happy with the end result, especially if you spend days or even months on a particular painting.

This does not mean you should go out and spend hundreds of dollars on top of the line supplies right away. Start off buying a small amount of good quality supplies until you become more experienced.

PAPER:

The quality and texture of the watercolor paper you choose will have a dramatic effect on the final outcome of your painting. Watercolor paper comes in several different categories: cold pressed, hot pressed, and rough. Rough paper has the highest tooth of all watercolor papers, giving you the most texture. Hot pressed paper has the smoothest surface available. Cold pressed paper has a slight texture to it and is more versatile. Cold pressed paper is the most popular paper amongst watercolor artists.

Two other things to be aware of when purchasing your watercolor paper are sizing and weight. Sizing is when the fibers of the paper are treated to make them less absorbent. The weight of the paper is the weight measured in pounds of one ream (approximately 500 Sheets). A heavier paper would have a weight of 300lbs or more, while a lighter paper would have a weight of 90 or 140lbs for example. The lighter the paper, the more likely it will wrinkle when wet. Lighter paper should be stretched to avoid this.

You will have to experiment with the different papers to find the one you like most.

PAINT:

Watercolor paints come in both Student and Artist quality. Artist quality paint has a more intense vibrant color. Student grade paints have more fillers in them rather than pigment, which is why they are less expensive. Many artists recommend only using artist quality paints, but it really is a matter of taste. Experiment on your own with both grades to form your own opinion.

Watercolor paint is available in tubes and pans. With watercolor pans, you have to add water to the dry cake in order for it to be workable. With pans, make sure your brush is clean before picking up a new color; otherwise you will dirty your colors. With a tube, the paint is more workable, but be careful not to squeeze out more paint then you need.

Purchase only a few primary colors and learn how to mix your own colors rather than purchasing premixed colors.

When you become more experienced, you can then start incorporating more colors into your palette.

BRUSHES:

Brushes are probably the most important part of an artist's supplies. The watercolor brush should be of good quality, with the ability to perform well under most conditions.

Brushes come in an assortment of sizes and shapes. There are both natural hair brushes and synthetic brushes. Natural hair brushes are more expensive, while synthetic brushes may not perform as well as natural brushes. It is therefore recommended that you purchase a blended brush that is made with both natural and synthetic hairs.

You do not need a ton of brushes to get started in watercolor painting. In the beginning, a few good brushes should do the trick.

You should at least purchase a round brush, a flat wash brush, an oval wash or mop brush, and a rigger or liner brush for fine details.

PALETTE:

You will need a palette for mixing your watercolor paint. The best kind of palette for mixing watercolor paints is a white palette. Since watercolor paint is transparent, a white surface seems to be the best color for clearly seeing your mixtures.

GETTING STARTED:

Now that you have a basic of idea of the watercolor supplies you need, it's time to find a place to setup your studio. You will want a location in your home or elsewhere that is quiet and where you will not be interrupted.

Next you will need a painting table. If you can, invest in a drafting table. If not, you can use a regular table. Whatever kind of table you use to paint on, it is important that your painting surface is inclined to a 15 or so degree angle.

Next you want to make sure you have an organized and clean painting area before you begin. Make certain that you have all the materials you will need within reach for that particular painting session.

Here are some things you should consider having in your watercolor studio:

- A large see through plastic jug to hold water.
- A clean absorbent cotton rag for drying your brushes
- A spray bottle filled with water to keep your paint wet and your palette clean
- Pencils for sketching
- Erasers
- A sketchpad for doing preliminary sketches.
- Container for your brushes

WHAT SHOULD I PAINT?

Many painters often struggle with this question. If you find yourself feeling uninspired or confused about what to paint, simply remember what subject in life that you feel an emotional or deep connection with. When you have this type of connection to a subject, your painting will reflect that passion and you will not lose interest.

You can develop great ideas for subjects in a variety of different ways. If you are a lover of the outdoors and nature, simply taking a trip with a camera can do wonders. If you love animals, you could take a trip to the zoo and snap off some shots or head to an aquarium and do the same. Take your photos back to your studio and find the most desirable subject for your painting.

I wish you the best of luck with your watercolor painting. If you become frustrated or discouraged remember that every artist has been there. The key is to never give up.
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