How to Watercolor Paint

Watercolor painting of three pink tulips

With its translucent layers of color, soft blending, and perfectly imperfect lines, watercolor painting is a truly unique medium. Unlike some other forms of art, such as pencil drawing, it requires the artist to lean into the unpredictability of the technique. After all, water is fluid and very difficult to control. Plus, unless you want the painting to be very dark, you can’t continually “paint over” your mistakes to hide them. If you’ve always wanted to learn how to watercolor paint, why not start now? Use the tips below to get started. It may take a little practice to hone your technique, but if you embrace the uncertainty of watercolor painting, you’re sure to have fun.

How to Watercolor Paint

Pick up some supplies.

Watercolor painting doesn’t require a haul of expensive supplies. At minimum, you’ll need just six things – one of which is free! To get started, head to your local art supply store and purchase the following:

  • Watercolor paper (you could also use parchment or rice paper)
  • Watercolor paint set
  • Paintbrush (a natural round brush is a great all-round tool for beginners)
  • Palette (tin foil or a dinner plate will work in a pinch!)

You’ll also need water (in a jar or cup) and paper towels (to remove excess water or paint).


One of the first things you’ll notice as you begin painting is that watercolor doesn’t work like other types of paint. Sometimes it may feel like it has a life of its own. You have to wait until the paint has dried to layer over it, you can’t erase imperfections, and you can’t add white to create bright spots (unless you come back in afterward with another type of paint or pen). One of the best ways to get used to these unique qualities is to play around with your paint.

Try to paint something, whatever you like, and take note of how the paint moves and spreads. Let the paint dry and layer over it. Play around with adding more water or more pigment. Try creating a bunch of lines that gradually darken in color, to get a handle on how the water and pigment meld together.

In addition, when you do start working on something more intentional, be sure to use a piece of scrap paper to test colors before you add them to your masterpiece.

Learn the basics.

As you play around with your paint, you’ll start to notice different truths about the process. For example, pay attention to the following:

  • The color of the hue in the paintset is not the color you’ll see on your paper. When you add water, it will appear much lighter.
  • The paint will lighten as it dries.
  • If the color is too strong, add more water. If it’s too light, add more pigment.
  • If you make a mistake, you can sometimes carefully blot it up with paper towels. Wait until the paper dries to paint over it.

Check out books and YouTube tutorials.

To hone your craft, turn to the experts. Visit your local library or bookstore to find helpful guides for watercolor painting. In addition, explore YouTube for video lessons, tutorials, and inspiration. Some popular YouTube channels about watercolor include the following:

Don’t aim for perfection.

Instead of going into the project with an exact target you wish to achieve, try to go with the flow. Don’t try to control the paint. Instead, work with the paint to create something unexpected.


Now that you’ve learned some basics techniques regarding how to watercolor paint, give it a try! This is the perfect time of year to head outside with your art supplies. Look for something that inspires you – a flower, a tree, the sky, a bird – and simply start painting!

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