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The Watercolour Guide | Things To Know When You're Starting Out

Why hello there m'darling, I'm guessing you're here because you want to know where to start with watercolours, am I right? Probably not but that's what this post is going to be about today, yay. 

For almost a year I have been using watercolours and I've already learnt so much about how to use them and what works and what doesn't so I've decided to put my little-to-somewhat knowledge to good use and write a post for you budding watercolour enthusiasts. Don't get me wrong, I absolutely LOVE art but I am no professional, I'm just sharing tips I've learn throughout my watercolour adventure.

Don't buy expensive materials at first
When you first start your adventure with watercolours don't rush to buy the most expensive paints and brushes you can get your hands on, experiment with a cheap set first! You could invest your money into a beautiful quality pallet but absolutely hate working with the medium, start out with a cheap pallet and then invest in a bigger and better quality pallet once you're more familiar with how watercolours work. Don't worry about how many colours are in your paint set, you can mix loads of combinations with just the basics. A set of 12 paints and a colour wheel reference will get you a long way.

Trial and error is the only way you're going to learn
It doesn't matter how many books you read or how many youtube videos you watch on how to paint flowers or whatever, the only way you're going to master the art of watercolours is by practicing. Hell I don't even know if you CAN master watercolours, they're pretty unpredictable. Over time you'll learn what to expect and what sort of textures and shades you can achieve but you'll never 100% know what the outcome will look like until it's dry.

Layers are your friends
Man, layers are just so darn cool but I hate waiting for my previous layer to dry before I work on the next one, but hey ho. Because watercolours are naturally ~ahem~ watery, it is a transparent medium and therefore needs to be built up in layers for a darker, richer tone. Using layers will also add depth, texture and interest to your work.

Do your own thing
Don't worry about what anybody else is painting, don't worry about what's trending and what's "cool", focus on putting paint to paper and have fun! Whether its abstract you're going for or just adding dashes of colour to illustrations, there's so many ways you can use watercolours. They're such an amazing medium to work with because they're so forgiving and dry beautifully.

Quality over quantity
After you've got to grips with your cheap watercolours and brushes invest in some better quality paints. My favourite paints will always be Winsor and Newton and I have both tried and loved their Cotman and professional watercolour lines. 

For beginners or someone who has a rough knowledge on watercolours then I recommend their student grade Cotman line. These paints are affordable, customisable and great quality! The sketchers pocket box set of 12 paints is a perfect first pallet for a beginner, then you can look into buying a bigger one like their 45 half pan studio set. 

Pans or tube paints?
To me this all depends on personal preference, I use both. Pans come in full pans and half pans, half pans are a lot more popular and although they are small they last a long, long time! Tube paints however are a little trickier. You can squeeze paint from the tubes straight onto a pallet but I find that you waste a lot more of the paint that way, however I have learnt a trick with them. You can fill up a half pan of paint 2 and a half times with a 5ml tube of watercolour paint which costs the same amount as 1 half pan but you have to buy all the empty half pans separate which could be a little more pricey. 

Paper problems
Don't run to the art store and buy a £30 pad of arches paper, there's no point in wasting so much money on paper that you're probably going to ruin when you're only just starting out. I learnt this the HARD way, sigh. For painting experiments use a thick sketch or cartridge paper or pick up some cheap watercolour paper pads from amazon. After a few weeks or so invest in some 300gsm watercolour paper. I always this paper from Cass Art. 

Hopefully this post outlines a couple of major things to go by when you're starting out with watercolours. They're not exactly tips but more along the lines of advice. Watercolour is such a beautiful, forgiving medium and can take a little while to get used to but once you've learned the ins and outs of it you'll get some wonderful results.

Keep your eyes peeled for my watercolour essential supplies post which will be up shortly.

For daily images of my doodles & watercolour paintings follow me on instagram.


  1. I used to love working with watercolours when I was younger but I haven't done any painting in ages, thanks for re-inspiring me & I'm sure I'll need these tips when I so start up again!


    1. You should get back into it! I'm not the best at it but it's so relaxing and rewarding! :)