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5 Easy Watercolor Techniques for beginners

Updated: Jun 15, 2023

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Watercolors are a fun and relaxing art medium. Watercolors are the first wet medium that toddlers are introduced to. The main reason for this is because they are easy to use, clean, and cheap.

When it comes to using watercolors as an adult this art medium can be quite challenging and many artists, beginners or experienced, find it to be intimidating. Without practice and warm-up activities, it can be really hard to master watercolor paints.

Wet on Wet

This technique is usually used for painting landscapes, simple skies, and soft washes. The effect that it gives is a soft flowy look which you can apply to your paintings in many different ways. You are adding wet paint to an already wet surface.

You can practice this technique with these steps:

Wet your brush with clean water and draw simple rectangles on your page, you can divide the rectangles with tape and secure the paper sheet to the table as well.

Pick up moistened paint from the palette and add color to your wet rectangle and slide your brush from side to side. In the next rectangle just add dabs of paint.

This activity is great because it teaches you how much water is good to use and how much paint, and also what kind of effect you get when everything is dried. When you’re painting in this technique you don’t have much control over how your paint reacts to the water and it gives you different results each time.

When everything is dried the results are very different. The paint might fade even more, and you can get interesting textures from the dabs.

Wet on dry

This technique is used to achieve more precise and defined shapes. With wet on dry technique, you can achieve most illustration-style paintings.

You start off with dry paper and pick some moistened paint with a large brush and begin to paint. The opacity of your paint will depend on how much water you mix in with the paint.

You can also use dryer paint. Use the minimum amount of water just to get the paint going, what you get is more of a sketch-like painting effect.

Once the paint completely dries it will again look different from when you put it first down on the paper. The colors again tend to fade a little.

Build UP

Going from plain water to a saturated paint mix can be difficult for some, but with practice, you can master it too. Start by choosing one color only. You’ll be trying to create an ombre effect, going from no color to a highly saturated color.

Start with a small puddle of water in your palette and a little bit of paint next to it. You can use whatever color you like. Pick up a small amount of water with your brush and start painting your strip from one side, it should look transparent.

Next, add a little of pigment (paint) into your puddle of water, make sure you add it little by little. The main focus is to slowly add color to the line and make it saturated as you go. Continue painting where you left off.

Repeat the process until you reach the other end of the strip and at the end, you are using pure color. You can also try to paint the other way round. Start by using highly concentrated color at the beginning and adding water and diluting it along the stripe.

This technique might take you some time to master but once you do it will come in handy every time you paint.


This technique is similar to the previous one, but instead of using one color, you use two and slowly transition from one to the other. This technique is great for painting skies and sunsets.

In order for the gradient to work, you might want to use colors that are close together on the color wheel unless you want your transition to become muddy.

Mix your two colors with water separately in the palette, make sure it is not too diluted or too concentrated. Then start to paint your strip with the lightest color first.

Then wash your brush and add a small amount of the opposite color in the first color and keep on painting, next add a bit more, until you get to the other side of the strip at the end add pure opposite color.

One option is also to start with pure colors from each side and slowly work toward each other until they meet in the middle where you mix them together.

In order to get good at creating gradients, a lot of practice and experiments with different colors do make a difference.


Painting around edges of different shapes in a controlled manner can be quite difficult. For this purpose, you’ll need a smaller more defined brush.

First, paint simple shapes all over your watercolor paper, and then using a different color begin painting around these shapes. For smaller detailed areas use a smaller brush and for larger areas use a bigger brush.

Prepare enough paint for the larger area so you don’t run out in the middle of painting and try to keep everything moist while painting, this way you can easily pick up where you’ve left off.

The point of this technique is to paint really close to each shape without actually touching it.

This type of painting is great practice for illustration-style painting.

There you have it, 5 simple techniques for mastering watercolor painting. The rest is up to you and how much you practice.


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