Hi Everyone! I continue to get comments and emails about watercolour tutorials. So, I have been toying with the idea of writing a series on “Watercolour For The Rest Of Us” for a while. I want to approach this from a child’s point of view of learning through playing, since that is how this journey started for me. I want us to play and dabble with paint on paper; have fun and relax while learning the basics.
Size of Paper
I find 5 in x 7 in to be a good size to work with for any sample painting. It is large enough to add details, but also small enough to not be daunting. This is simply a guideline. Feel free to use a size that best suits you.
Brand of Paper
I really love experimenting with paper. There are two that are my favorite . They are economical and good quality.
Strathmore 400 series – Make sure to get the 400 series (with the brown cover) . I never really liked the 300 series (yellow cover).
Canson XL watercolour paper – Possibly my most favourite paper.
Both of these are 140lb / 300 gsm paper, which is important for watercolour. I usually get a pad that I can remove paper from.
I use sketchbooks from these two brands as well.
Before we get into painting, we need to draw. I strongly suggest you keep a sketchbook. You can make notes in it and it is nice to go back and flip through them.
Pro Tip – I almost always start my paintings by drawing in a sketchbook, NEVER directly on watercolour paper. Erasing unwanted marks damages the paper, and you can never really get rid of the pencil imprints.
The best sketchbook is the one you will use most. I have a 5.5 in x 8.5 in sketchbook that I use most frequently. It is small enough to toss in my bag, and I can balance it on my lap while listening to audio books. It is the perfect size for small spaces.
Pro Tip – I like using a ring binder sketchbook because I like folding the pages over to the back while drawing and it makes tracing really simple.
For the next couple of steps you will need a lightboard. If you don’t have a lightboard, you can always use a sunlit window.
Use a photo instead of drawing from scratch
You may often shy away from painting because the thought of drawing is daunting to you. Tracing from a printed photo is a great way to start. No, it is NOT cheating!
As you get more confident, you can start drawing freehand like I do.
NOTE – Please make sure that you are using a photo that you took or are using with permission.
Tracing becomes super easy with ring binder sketchbooks. You move all the pages to one side, leaving just a single sheet on the other side. Place the single sketchbook page on top of the photo and secure both with tape on the lit-up surface of the lightboard. Start tracing.
Pro Tip – Use a red pencil for drawing/tracing. When you trace on your watercolour paper with a black pencil, you can easily make out the parts that have not been traced over yet.
While tracing, you are mostly looking to add the primary shape with a few details. Stay engaged and enjoy the process.
Once you have the basics down on your paper, you can proceed to the next step: painting. OR, you can play with the lines – add to them, erase the parts you don’t want, etc. You can play here to your heart’s content.
Tracing on watercolour paper
Once you are happy with what you have in your sketchbook, let’s move on toward tracing the drawing on watercolour paper. If you have a ring binder sketchbook, move all the pages to one side, keeping just the sheet with your drawing on it on the other side.
Place the watercolour paper on top of the sketchbook page and secure both with tape onto the lit-up surface of the lightboard.
Take care to trace the lines gently with light pressure and try not to erase too much. A little shift here and there is fine.
Pro Tip – Start tracing from left to right to avoid smudging.
Getting ready for painting
Get a piece of stiff cardboard or an MDF board that is larger than your paper. It needs to be smooth.
Watercolour paper tends to wrinkle and fold if not taped down when wet. That makes paint flow into unwanted places. Don’t worry about “stretching” your paper. I will teach you how to flatten your finished painting.
Using masking tape, tape the edges of the watercolour paper onto the board. I usually cover about 1/4″ of the edge on each side. Try to make it very flat and taut.
Now you are ready to paint.
I hope this gives you enough info to start with watercolour. Look around you, find something easy. Try to draw it freehand or take a photo and trace. Play with the lines.
Keep it simple! You are doing this for yourself to unwind and relax. So have fun!
If you know anyone who would love to join, I would be ever so grateful if you pass on the website link to them.
Next time I will go over paint and brush, and share an easy painting!
I am linking up with the linky parties on my Events And Links page. Please pay a visit to some of them.