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Beginner Watercolor Painting

Painting is fun! Watercolor painting is the most exciting medium of all. You can take your watercolor kit everywhere with you and play with it. Watercolor painting is the perfect way to explore and appreciate the world around you every day!

Even for complete beginners, exploring with paint is fun!

Watercolor journal and palette

This is all you need to get started painting watercolor!
Pentalic sketchbook, Escoda Squirrel Round #14, Winsor and Newton Cotman (Cotman is W & N's student grade paint) Pocket Box Palette.
Paper towels, a cup of water and you're ready to go!

First, you're going to need some art supplies. Watercolor painting requires just a few things to get started.

I've listed the minimum you need to get started below. I highly recommend start with just the basics and letting your supplies grow with your skill level. When you start, you don't know what you'll need in a month or two of practice.

Next, while your supplies are on their way and your fingers are itching to start painting, really notice the world around you. What colors are in the trees, the sky or a shadow pattern on a concrete wall? They're generally not just green, blue or gray!

What are the most striking parts of a beautiful view? What do you like about the view out your window? What would you leave out in a painting?

Painting starts in your head!

Art Supplies to Begin Watercolor Painting

Beginner watercolor supplies

Link to my Amazon affiliate store
where I list all my art supplies.

Immediately throw out the white gouache. It's not thick enough to use as a white gouache but it will mess up all your beautiful transparent colors. Replace the gouache with a second yellow (azo yellow is excellent for mixing greens) or nickel azo yellow. Buy your replacements with artist quality tube paints ( I love M. Graham but Schminke and Daniel Smith are excellent watercolors too.) and just squirt a dab (artist quality watercolor paint goes a long way) in the pan.

I keep my white gouache for touchups in a separate tube and never mix it with my transparent watercolor palette.

This is my quick travel palette, as seen above!
I do change the paints around.

My Paint Palette

I change my paint colors around, but I always have a warm and cool version of most colors. (And a few pigments I always have!)

On my current little plein aire palette I have:
Paint Warm Cool Transparent Opaque
Azo Yellow X X X  
Cadmium Yellow X     X
Cadmium Red X     X
Quinacridone Red   X X  
Nickel Azo Yellow X   X  
Quinacridone Rust X     X
Cobalt Violet X X  
Viridian X   X  
Cobalt Teal X     X
Pthalo Blue X   X  
Cobalt Blue X     X
Ultramarine Blue   X   X

Obviously, cool and warm colors are relative, as are transparent and opaque. And some colors, such as cobalt blue, are a lovely transparent in a very thin wash, but opaque when painted with a heavy hand. You just have to use the colors and get to know them!

Video on water / pigment proportions!

Always replace student paints with artist quality paints as you run out of them. Here's why.

  • Good Round Brush
  • I use this brush in my Go Paint bag!

    Unfortunately, the adorable little brush in most painting kits is not good for much. Keep it for finishing details, but get a size #12 to #14 Round Brush. I recommend an Escoda Squirrel Hair Round #14 (link to review). It's a very nice beginner to professional brush. It's what I keep in my to Go Paint bag! That and the tiny brush are all you need to get started. The #14 Round for 98% of your painting; the tiny one for the finishing 2%.

    A slightly less expensive brush option is a Cheap Joes Golden Fleece Round (link to review). I used this synthetic brush for years for professional painting; however, I think the squirrel hair is easier and better to paint with.

    Comparing watercolor brushes

    All about choosing the best watercolor brush for you.

  • Paper towels

  • 2 Water Containers.
  • Add a water thermos or jug if you're on location. One container for clean, one for dirty.

  • #2 Pencil and Eraser

  • Paper
  • I'm currently using this 4" x 6" and the 5" x 8" size.
    Very nice 140# (300gsm) paper in a watercolor journal!

    Paper is the most difficult art supply to recommend because so much depends on your painting style. I highly advise getting paper you don't mind using and throwing away to start! However I also recommend not buying too cheap paper because you simply can't paint on it. So, a minimum weight (listed on the label) of 140# or 300 gsm paper. That prevents it from not being heavy enough to use!

    The journal option is terrific for keeping track of your progress and painting on location! You have to enjoy and appreciate the process, though. Feel free to tear out duds, but it's much better to realize that even for professional artists, 1 / 3 good is excellent odds!

    You can buy blocks of 140# paper. Arches is a good brand for any level of painting. Cold press texture is a happy medium.

    You can buy sheets of paper, cut it into 1/4 sheets and stretch or clip it to a melamine board. This is probably the cheapest option for people who don't like sketchbooks or want to frame their finished work.

    Remember, always use at least 140# watercolor paper. The heavier paper holds up to many washes, unlike a lighter paper which disintegrates in 1-2 washes. More washes mean you can get richer, darker colors. It also means you get twice as many paintings out of each sheet. If you like the painting, keep it. If you don't, flip it over and paint another!

  • Wax Crayon

  • This is the one item you don't strictly need, but it's definitely nice to have!

    Wax crayons are great on location for reserving areas of white paper so you don't have to think about it during a wash! See my lesson on wax resist for some ideas!

    An alternative to wax crayons are white birthday candles. They are a little softer to use, but workable. I show the difference here!

    Beginning Watercolor Painting Tutorials

    The first thing you need to know is how to hold your brush.

    This is such an easy way to improve your painting quickly!

    Next, there are only 3 Watercolor Washes to learn!

    How to mix the right amount of water with the right amount of pigment!

    An easy way to get vibrant colors!

    How to use a Rigger Brush

    Rigger brushes make it easy to add fun details to your paintings if you know how to use them! Nothing complicated, just a simple trick to using them correctly! Here's a video and lesson showing how!

    Using Wax Resist (Crayons!)

    This is the one extra, but it makes painting easier!
    This lesson and video makes wax crayons fun!

    Beginning Watercolor Painting Demonstrations

    One of the easiest things to start painting are skies. There's always one available! Have fun and splash some color around! Here's a fun video painting demo inspiration for sketching on location!

    Painting on location is the fastest way to improve your painting skills!

    This Rooster video tutorial is a good simple start! This video painting tutorial of a lighthouse is also very easy!

    Beginner Watercolor

    I've listed all my beginner watercolor painting supplies in one place so you can easily find what you need.

    Disclaimer: Jennifer Branch Gallery is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to I receive a small rebate for your entire order (starting at 4%) if you choose to purchase through Amazon. Most items can be bought multiple places and I highly recommend local art stores if you have one! Any other recommendation links I receive no compensation for.
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    Beginner watercolor supplies

    Link to my Amazon affiliate store
    where I list all my art supplies.


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