WATERCOLOR 101 – tips & technique


I wanted to quickly touch on how you should set up your materials, of course these are suggestions but they really will be helpful.
You may not think that how you set up your water matters, just a plain cup of water, right? Wrong. Try TWO cups of water, one to clean your dirty brushes and another to use to for your mixes. This will ensure that your colors don’t become muddy or you don’t ruin your paints by contaminating them with a dirty brush. And when working on a single piece of paper, try taping it down to your working surface with masking tape or painters tape. This will minimize the warping of the paper while working and it’ll leave you a pretty, clean border. When removing the tape, peel it back on itself to give it less of a chance to damage the paper.

Now into some basic tips okok

Most importantly, practice color theory. When painting, if you’re a beginner, you might have to have a palette that’s just limited to the primary colors, red, yellow, and blue. It’s very helpful to have knowledge of these colors to you can get the mixes that you want. Practice with your paints is honestly how you’ll get better.
Something not many people know is that there are two sets of primaries, warm and cool. Here’s an example of a color wheel for each set (please excuse the pen, my niece got her hands on it)

If you wanted to mix a vibrant purple, you would mix you warm red and blue. When mixing you’re going to start with your lighter colors and add bits of your darker colors until you get the mix you want. But if you mixed a cool red and a warm blue, it wouldn’t turn out like the purple you probably had in mind. Here are some examples of mismatched primary mixes:

But this can be useful if you needed to know how to mix that type of color with your sets of primaries.
Also, to understand the full range of colors you can make if a single set of your primary colors, make a swatch chart like this:

this is a set of cool primaries. and of course color wheels will be your best friends and they’re really fun to paint.

here’s a list of more random tips

– use an H pencil when you sketch out what you’re going to paint, they don’t smear
– if you want a lighter color, don’t add white becaue it will make the color cloudy, just simply add more water
– if you want something to be white in a painting, leave the paper untouched in the spots you want white
– instead of using black, mix your own for a more natural look. it will be mostly blue and then equal parts red and yellow, but just keep adding until it’s a dark grayish brown. I made the “black” in the lighthouse painting below this way

– be patient and work in layers, if you don’t have time to let something dry, blast it with your hairdryer
– if you want the colors you’re painting with to blend, work with them while they’re still wet
– you will have a different outcome different outcome if you wet your paper instead of dry. example:


– SALT!! SaLT!! okay, this is what it looks like:

to do this, just sprinkle a bit of salt over the paint while it is still very wet
– making a soupy mixture of an color and spattering it over with a toothbrush will add a cool texture, do it with white to add stars to a galaxy or with green or red to take your foliage to another level
– Inking your paintings with pens gives a really cool look. But you’ll want to use something with a waterproof ink or it won’t look so cool. Pens like microns or copic multiliners are great.
pen under paint:

pen over paint:

– Metallic watercolor paints can add a lil somethin special to your paintings and there’s some super cheap options out there. here’s some ways I’ve used them:

– white gel pens can be used to add some highlight or detail but you can also use them to give you painting a cool look, like I did with this painting of a crystal

– use a paper towel to create clouds by crumpling it and dabbing it on the wet paint to lift some of it

– negative painting is a technique where you paint in layers and create shapes in each layer to show depth and give an interesting look. but it’s a bit easier to understand if you look at it:

  – and somethings super random but it’s my new favorite thing, use watercolors to color in your adult coloring books!!

and that pretty much wraps it up, i know i’m probably leaving out so much but I hope you enjoyed this and learned something and you can always come to me with more questions!!

About C.A. Jacobs

Just another crazy person, masquerading as a writer.
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