A Beginner’s Guide to Watercolor

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About a year ago, this month actually, my sister and I stopped at Michael’s to find a couple of things from her upcoming wedding that my whole family was planning. We were passing the paint aisle and I mentioned wanting to start a new hobby and had been thinking about picking up a paintbrush.

“Well, there’s a sale on watercolors right there.”

The rest is history.

Since then, I really feel like art has come into my life in a completely new way. Growing up, singing was where most of my artistic impulses were channeled and once high school started, I was in both band and theater. So graduating and suddenly being without a steady outlet was really taking it’s toll on me.

I love the imperfection that watercolor brings to my life. I mainly focus on abstracts and florals, but the way that some things never turn out exactly how you expect them to is something that I didn’t know I needed.

So, if you’re thinking of starting a new hobby or want to dabble into watercolors, I put together a little list of my favorite starter tools and a couple of techniques that I’ve picked up. Luckily, watercolor is one of the cheaper mediums to start.

I have transitioned now to a higher quality of supplies, but I will never discredit Michael’s and their many sales and coupons.

(Side note: if you ever need canvas just wait for a Michael’s sale. Seriously.)

Artist's Loft™ Fundamentals™ Watercolor Pan Set

These colors definitely take a bit more water to keep them going, but you really cannot beat the price. It comes with so many colors too which is the absolute best because you get to mess around with combining colors and finding your favorites!

Canson® XL® Mix Media Pad

I know that this pad is actually a bit more expensive for a beginner set, but the amount of pages you get out of it plus the quality of them makes this worth it to me. Plus, I personally love the ribbed edges for easy page turning and you can easily use both sides!

Princeton Neptune Synthetic Squirrel Round

A good paintbrush will change your entire experience. I refused to buy a better quality paintbrush for a while, but now that I have, I find it hard to go back to what I started out with. I think this brush is a great place to start.

*Alternatively, if we’re sticking to the Michael’s theme, they almost always have paint brushes on sale. I would go to the ‘level two’ brushes if you see them on sale and snatch one up. Rounded brushes are my vice, but feel free to pick whatever you think looks right.

Other Supplies: A towel/paper towels, two old glasses/cups

I am a big fan of these small mason jars that I have pictured because I wrap them in the towel I use and they fit just fine in my purse for when I’m painting on the go (you can usually find me in coffeeshops on my days off). You need two glasses to get a good, clear color. One is to rinse off extra color and the other is to have a glass of clean water to start new colors. Try not to get them confused like I do. All the time.

wet on wet

Wet on wet means you wet your paper before you bring on a wet brush. You can apply the water with a spray bottle or just with a clean brush. This gives your pigment a much looser vibe and is definitely a bit harder to control. It's all about timing and trial and error. I favor this technique for abstracts. 

Iwet on dry

Wet on dry is the opposite, as the name implies. You wet your brush, but paint onto dry paper. This gives you a brighter pigment and better control over where your color stays. I usually use this for floral patterns.

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pen

Pen over paint is a measure of your patience because you have to wait until everything is completely dry, otherwise your pen is probably going to bleed everywhere. What I did here is paint a really loose outline of a flower and then I went over it with a Sharpie pen. This is something that’s really fun to do with line drawings and it can make regular doodles pop into something really special looking.

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splatter

Splatter is my favorite and definitely the easiest. The best way to achieve this, for me, is to pick up my color with a wet brush and then gently dip the whole thing into water and tap it on the index finger of my left hand. Dipping it in water after throws off more splotches. You can just splatter your initial color without dipping it to get darker splotches, but you’re probably going to use a lot more paint.

I really hope this helped you out! If this inspired you to pick up a paintbrush for the first time or for the first time in a while, I’d love to talk with you about why you’re doing it. My email is below or you can find me on instagram at hellohihunter as well. I also post quite a few stories about what I'm working on if you're interested in following me there.

Below are a couple of my favorite paintings I’ve done. I hope that soon I'll put together a little store/Etsy with prints or originals. Everything on the website that’s watercolor is also mine unless stated otherwise.

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