13 Basic Watercolor Techniques for Beginners

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Today we will explore 13 most basic watercolor techniques for beginners that will help to lay a strong foundation for your future STUNNING watercolor art. 

There is something in watercolor that is just – captivating and no wonder that you want to be able to cultivate its power to express your unique ideas into the world.

But mastering the techniques first is a must because:

  • Without this solid foundation, to paint anything well can be unnecessarily more challenging. 
  • Newbie artists who miss this essential step of learning watercolor basics usually end up complaining that watercolors are simply too hard. 
  • Just knowing how to dip the wet brush into paints is not enough. It is very limiting to how your artwork will end up looking and most of the time can be rather too simple and bland. 

If your dream is to become a watercolor artist that loves his/her work and proud of it, you are in the right place! 

Watercolor techniques help to create a toolkit for you to use and make art that is going to WOW the world (I believe in you!).

I can hear some of you saying

…but it’s boring. I want to already be painting. I have so many cool ideas. 

If you want those paintings to be something that you are proud of, then learning a few techniques will make the process easier. 

Let’s not make any more watercolor mistakes and start from what we need to know!

We will start with the most common and necessary watercolor techniques and finish with something that is much more fun and experimentative. 

SUPPLIES TO GET YOU STARTED:​​

There are a few supplies that you will need to complete this tutorial. You will find most of them at home and should not be a hassle to start!

If you are still not sure what king of watercolors to start with, just start with what you have, like, or suit your budget. It is best to start and then you will figure out what type works the best for you. 

The brand that we usually use is Lightwish from Amazon. That is because ir is really affordable and good for the price we pay the quality that we get. 

Also, read my review here of the top 5 watercolor paint sets for beginners. 

I discuss every budget and type and why you should be purchasing them.

 

 For this tutorial, you can use whatever kind of paper you have at home. Our go-to usually is Canson. It is great because the texture of paper and how well it goes well with the paint. 

You will need a few sizes: small, medium, and big. 

You will find that some tutorials will require bigger brushes and some smaller ones. Have that on hand. 

The go-to brand is also on Amazon, called Dugato . It is the best because the quality of the brushes and how long they have already lasted for us. 

  • 2 Water Jars:

That can be anything, just as if you will get in the flow of things, make sure that you are mixing enough paint and creating the ultimate desired result.

  • Paper Tape:  

You need it to tape down your page. My favorite is a thin one, as I think it works best for painting.

  • Salt: 

The bigger the grains will be, the cooler the effect you will have. 

  • Plastic Wrap/Bag:

 This is needed to create a technique that we are all after. 

  • Palette Knife with metal blade

It needs to be metal for us to get the desired result of the technique that we are after. 

13 Basic Watercolor techniques:

Let’s start with the very basics that you need to understand.

The first techniques that we will discuss are going to be called a wash.

What is a wash you might ask me?

Simply put it is a solid hue of color that covers a certain portion of a page or paper.

There are many variations to this wash.

1.Dry Flat Wash:

flat wash watercolor

STEP 1:

To create a solid color wash, you will need to first mix a puddle of paint.

 

The best is to mix more pigment than you think that you will need. 

 

If it ever runs out you will know that you still have some pigment to rely on.

13 Basic Watercolor Techniques for Beginners 12

STEP 2:

Start by loading up your brush with water and pigment so it is fully saturated. It will pass the test if you can create a water bead that you will be moving from left to right or right to left. 

 

Your main goal is to not let the bead dry when you are painting. 

13 Basic Watercolor Techniques for Beginners 14

STEP 3:

Begin at the very top of the page. 

Paint a horizontal line. 

Pay attention to the bead of paint. Make sure that it is never too small or big. 

13 Basic Watercolor Techniques for Beginners 16

STEP 4:

Paint the next horizontal line just underneath the first strokes. 

Make sure that your strokes overlap. 

The pigment should still have the blob of water. That way you will create a solid hue of color. 

13 Basic Watercolor Techniques for Beginners 18

STEP 5:

Continue till the end until you have a single flat chunk of color.

Once you are done with your flat wash, use a dry clean brush and hover it over your bead to absorb the excess water.

This will prevent your wash drying with a watery texture toward the end of your wash.

Dry Wash

TIP:

If you are covering a bigger surface, tilt your paper.

That way it will be much easier to control everything as the water will naturally be drifting downwards. 

This step-by-step tutorial shows you how to create a flat wash:

2. Wet Flat Wash:

wet flat wash

Wet flat wash is another variation of the wash.

A very very useful technique so please be paying attention!

It will create a very different result to a dry flat wash that you must have practiced above.

The only difference is that you will lay your pigment/color on top of the wet surface. 

wet flat wash watercolor basics

STEP 1:

To start, you will need to load up your brush with plenty of water and lay it evenly from the top to bottom.

wet flat wash watercolor basics

STEP 2:

Your page needs to be glistening with water and a good way to check it is to look at it from the table level with your eyes if you have covered the whole surface.

wet flat wash watercolor basics

STEP 3:

After that step, load up your brush with pigment and start to apply the paint from the very top. You will instantly notice how different it feels to paint on wet watercolor paper.

wet flat wash watercolor basics

STEP 4:

You should go from the very top, downwards.

Make sure that you are overlapping the lines. That will ensure that your wash is solid and that you will be proud of your results. 

3. Layering:

layering watercolor technique

What is Layering?

It is a technique that will help you to be a bit more creative and create results that you desire if you want to have something that is just more interesting. 

How to do Layering?

layering watercolor technique

STEP 1: 

Once again, you will need to load up your brush with plenty of pigment and water. Mix that color on a pallet of a separate piece of paper. 

Make sure that there is more than enough and that you are not going to run out of in the middle of this little experiment. 

layering watercolor technique

STEP 2:

Continue to cover your page from the very top till bottom.

Replicate the method of a Dry Flat Wash. 

And that was to cover the whole paper with one solid pigment, with a bead of water and making sure the lines overlap. 

layering watercolor technique

STEP 3:

The result that you will need to have is 1 solid hue of color.

If there is excess water at the end, take a brush and soak up any excess water.

13 Basic Watercolor Techniques for Beginners 30

STEP 4:

Wait for a bit to dry completely. You will know when that is. It will not glisten in the light. 

Until then grab a little snack)

layering watercolor technique

STEP 5:

Now once it is dry completely, we can move to the very next step.

Just make sure it is dry. If it is not, it won’t work. The colors can get muddy and look like a mess as a result.

If you touch the page, it feels dry and it does not glisten then you are good to pick the next color pigment to do a layer in. Choose a contrasting color for a fun effect!

layering watercolor technique

STEP 6:

Use the same logic, apply from top to bottom, and make sure to have enough pigment the whole way through. 

layering watercolor technique

STEP 7:

As the second pigment dries, you will see how it mixed with yellow paint and looks more green as a result. This is a very fun technique to experiment with. Let it dry until you move to the next layer if that is what you desire.

4. Wet on Wet

layering watercolor technique

Wet on wet technique is a must know! You need to master it!

You will have zero control over paint, only what color you choose it to be, and that is the whole point as it will dance and blend and create cool marks. 

It is unpredictable and this is exactly why it is stunning. 

watercolor techniques

STEP 1:

You will need to start by covering the whole page with water, from top to bottom. Make sure to add plenty of water so that the page glistens with moisture. 

If you will add too little, it won’t work as well as you would have wished it to be. 

Too little water will prevent the colors from spreading as well as you might have wished. 

watercolor techniques

STEP 2:

Load up your brush with enough pigment and get ready for MAGIC!

 

13 Basic Watercolor Techniques for Beginners 38

STEP 3:

Choose a spot where you will make your first dot in watercolor. From there you will need to let go…

13 Basic Watercolor Techniques for Beginners 40

STEP 4:

Watch the paint spread all over the page. It will go in ways that you might not think it would go to. You can toss your paper and hold it diagonally so it spreads into different places.

watercolor techniques
watercolor techniques

STEP 5:

Take your brush with the paint and put the second blob. It will create a very cool effect as it will ebb and flow from one side of the page to another. 
13 Basic Watercolor Techniques for Beginners 44

STEP 6:

Enjoy watching what happens. It will be truly magical. You will find that it is the best and satisfying technique of all. 

watercolor techniques

5. Graded Wash

graded wash

This is a perfect technique that you can use for painting skies.


The lightest is usually near the horizon and the darker as it is going upward.

watercolor techniques graded wash

STEP 1:

Load up your brush with plenty of pigment. Make sure that you remember the water bead. Start from the top and go down. 

watercolor techniques graded wash

STEP 2:

Next stroke will need to be first dipped in water, but not washed out completely and lay the next line overlapping the previous line that you had.

watercolor techniques graded wash

STEP 3:

For the next line, dip the brush with pigment in water and start to lay another stroke overlapping with the water bead. 


The result should be a gradient that you LOVE. Perfect for when you will be doing landscapes and more cool things.

6. Dry Brush

watercolor techniques graded wash

This is a perfect technique that artists LOVE to use to add texture to their artworks. Whether that is painting trees, forest, and snow.

watercolor techniques

STEP 1:

For this tecnique you will need to wet the brush, dap it on to a piece of tissue and then dip it into paint. Start laying the first strokes from the top corner and go down.

watercolor techniques

STEP 2:

If your brush is dry, you will notice the marks that you have created as a result. They will be scratchy and rough.

watercolor techniques

STEP 3:

Continue to go down and create the things the look that you are ultimately after. The scratchy and rough look. 

7. Salt

13 Basic Watercolor Techniques for Beginners 55

Who could imagine that adding salt can create such stunning results on a piece of paper?

 

Many artists add it as texture and a cool effect to their already very good looking art.

watercolor techniques

STEP 1:

Start by loading up the brush with plenty of pigment and go from the very top-down. Make sure that it is enough.

watercolor techniques

STEP 2:

Make sure that you are covering the whole area with enough paint and water. 

watercolor techniques

STEP 3:

Stop until you have covered the whole page.

watercolor techniques

STEP 4:

Put some salt on top of where you have played the pigment. Larger the flakes are much whiter the area will be. 

watercolor techniques

STEP 5:

Leave this overnight to dry. Salt will absorb the paint and create cool effects. 

watercolor techniques
watercolor techniques

STEP 6:

Once it is dry, the salt will fall off by itself. No need to scratch anything off. I think it looks epic and I am excited for you to try this as well. 

13 Basic Watercolor Techniques for Beginners 64

8.Lifting Off Paint

watercolor techniques

I hope that you are enjoying different and cool watercolor techniques for yourself. 

It is crazy that by adding a little plastic bag, what effect you will be able to create.  

watercolor techniques

STEP 1:

Make sure that you will load up your brush with plenty of water and pigment. Start from the very top and go all the way down.

watercolor techniques

STEP 2:

As you go down, make sure that your paintbrush has enough pigment.

Lay the strokes down and try your best to do it quickly enough so it does not dry.

watercolor techniques

STEP 3:

Continue doing that until the whole block is covered with paint. 

watercolor techniques

STEP 4:

Take a plastic bag and place it over the colored in a block. 

watercolor techniques

STEP 5:

Leave it to dry overnight. Only if it completely dry, you will get those cool textures as you have seen in the very first image.

watercolor techniques

STEP 6:

Once everything is dry, remove the plastic and admire what you have created.

9. Scrafito

scrafito

This technique will require you to have a palette knife, and you will scratch it to create some very cool effects.  

watercolor techniques

STEP 1:

The first steps would be to load up your brush with plenty of pigment and work from the very top, go downwards. 

watercolor techniques

STEP 2:

Cover the whole page with pigment.
It does not need to be neat. You just personally need to like it. Nothing more!

watercolor techniques

STEP 3:

Grab your palette knife and start scratching into the pigment different lines. 

watercolor techniques

STEP 4:

You will see as you create different lines, they will create different effects.

Some will make the lines darker and some will make them bleach white. 

watercolor techniques

STEP 5:

Try different angles until you will get the result that you truly personally desire. 

watercolor techniques
13 Basic Watercolor Techniques for Beginners 80

10. Splatter

splatter watercolor

Sometimes a fun technique like splashing pigment on paper will make all the difference one world for the quality of the art. 

watercolor techniques

STEP 1:

This technique requires 2 brushes.

 
One bigger brush that you will need to load up with pigment second one will be tapping the loaded brush with color. 
watercolor techniques

STEP 2:

Gently tap and experiment with what you will get as a result. It can get messy so do not stress over that. `just make sure to enjoy your process!

watercolor techniques
watercolor techniques

11. Tape for Clean Edges

watercolor techniques

This technique is really fun.

I LOVE to peel that tape off and get that clean and satisfying edge. If you use bright colors as shown in the example, you can create very cool art with it.

watercolor techniques

STEP 1:

So to start, you must tape the area that you want to be left as white. 

 

13 Basic Watercolor Techniques for Beginners 89

STEP 2:

Next, load up your brush with plenty of pigment and start covering the are from top to bottom. Yes, you can lay the color on top of the tape. If you stuck on well, the pigment won’t bleed through.

13 Basic Watercolor Techniques for Beginners 91

STEP 3:

 Once the whole area is covered you can leave it to dry. 

13 Basic Watercolor Techniques for Beginners 93

STEP 4:

 For the best results, I would leave it to dry overnight and only then peel off the masking tape. That is soo satisfying!

13 Basic Watercolor Techniques for Beginners 95
13 Basic Watercolor Techniques for Beginners 97

12. Scumbling

13 Basic Watercolor Techniques for Beginners 99

This is one of the last techniques that will be covered today.

Scumblinbg is great for when you want to create some abstract details.

13 Basic Watercolor Techniques for Beginners 101

STEP 1:

Start by dipping your brush in pigment and then covering the area in rough patches of color. 

13 Basic Watercolor Techniques for Beginners 103

STEP 2:

Do not overthink the process. Just cover as much area and create those results that you require. 

13 Basic Watercolor Techniques for Beginners 105

STEP 3:

 You are done when you will have covered the whole area of the piece of paper that you have. 

13. Stippling

13 Basic Watercolor Techniques for Beginners 107

This technique is inspired by pointillism, which is a technique of painting in which small, distinct dots of color are applied in patterns to form an image. 

We will be exploring it in watercolor. 

watercolor techniques

STEP 1:

Load up your brush with pigment and water. Start by touching the point of the brush on paper and create the result that you like. Make sure that there is not too much water or color. That it is just enough. 

13 Basic Watercolor Techniques for Beginners 110

STEP 2:

Continue doing that until you have the whole area covered. Load up your brush with color as you go along. 

13 Basic Watercolor Techniques for Beginners 112
13 Basic Watercolor Techniques for Beginners 114
13 Basic Watercolor Techniques for Beginners 116

STEP 3:

Let it all dry. 

Let's try to paint something!

If you have enjoyed this tutorial, then do not forget to check out online watercolor classes for complete beginners called: “The Watercolor Workshop.”

The Watercolor Workshop is a course designed for beginner and intermediate artists wishing to explore and improve watercolor painting techniques.

This course starts with the basics and progresses gradually to more complex subjects and concepts.

The 19 modules are logically sequenced so that each module builds upon concepts learned in previous modules.

Other Video Tutorials :

And at the end of the day, all that really matters is that you start painting!

Not that you have the most perfect supplies, mood and setting.

 Just start! Do not overthink it! It is that simple.

Because when you are overthinking it, it takes a lot of time. When you just start, you will be glad you did. 

Alright, now it is time for you to paint and make this world a very creative place with your awesome watercolor painting ideas. 

Watercolor Basic Techniques

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9 Watercolor Techniques for Beginners