Are you interested in learning how to draw with watercolors? You can succeed at watercolor drawing with patience and diligence, though it is a challenging process. Using this medium can be a challenge when you are not familiar with the tips and techniques. In addition, you will find at the end of the post a few ideas for creative prompts.

It’s important to have the right tools when drawing with watercolors. Below are a few tips for selecting the right tools. Start by deciding what you’d like to paint, then sketch lightly on watercolor paper. Add contrast and values to the drawing after water-cooling. Finish your painting by highlighting the details. 



1. Prepare the appropriate tools

Artists who are new to painting tend not to prioritize the right tools first. It is true that the material and tool choices you make will impact the quality of your watercolor painting. To create watercolors, a few basic tools are required: watercolor paper, paint, brushes, a rag, a mixing tray, and something to hold your water.

Painting with watercolors

You should use cold-pressed watercolor paper with at least 140 lb (300 gsm) tooth and absorbency when you paint with watercolors. It is especially important if you are adding paint to a wet surface using wet-on-wet technique that the paper does not disintegrate.

If you are a newbie and unsure of the different techniques, such as rendering, stay away from hot press paper. It is smoother and shinier. You might also consider cotton paper or wood pulp paper. For professional artists, cotton is preferred because of its strength. 

When selecting wood pulp paper, be sure to check if it is acid-free and lignin-free. Several months after using the paper, it discolors and disintegrates due to lignin. There is also concern with the size of the paper. Try using smaller format paper such as those found in watercolor journals for practice.


Each type of watercolor has its own advantages and disadvantages, such as cake, pan, tube, and pencil. Tubes are usually preferred by professionals because they are easier to handle and mix without activating the pigments. Young and novice artists should use cake watercolors. 

As the watercolors are in pans (half pans or full pans), watercolor artists can hold them while painting, making the watercolors in pans more convenient for them. The cake watercolors are less moist than the watercolors in pans.

If you wish to activate pigments later using pencil watercolors, you can pick pigments with a wet brush from your watercolor pencil or apply it directly to the wet watercolor paper. 

The watercolor pencil is the perfect tool for beginners who have not yet mastered watercolor brushes. If you are buying watercolors, remember to stick with a few good quality colors rather than buying many colors that will not add value to your paintings. 

Brushes for watercoloring

Painters invest a lot of money into watercolor brushes. It is important to get a brush that has enough spring, snap, and capacity. Make sure the brush is not made from pony hair, which is inferior. 

However, they are also very expensive. The best brushes are Kolinsky sable. Squirrel and sable are also good options, but you can also use synthetic nylon brushes, or a combination of natural and synthetic bristles.

Make sure the watercolor brush is the right size and type. The best brushes to add washes are flat and mops, while the best brushes to add details are fine brushes. Purchasing a good brush is more important than buying a cheap one for watercolors.

Tapes of the artist

Keep your watercolor paper from buckling after it has dried with painter’s tape, masking tape, or washi tape. Before they start to create art with watercolor, watercolor artists stretch their paper flat, especially if they are using the wet-on-wet technique.

The border can also be kept clean by taping around the paper. Ensure the tape is pushed all the way down, so water will not seep into the paper underneath.

Mixing tray or palette

The watercolor artist will also need a palette or mixing tray. Prior to the artist transferring their work to paper, the mixing tray is where the magic happens. A palette may have wells for mixing paint, but compartments for keeping colors separated are a must-have.

Styrofoam plates were divided into compartments by hot-gluing them. Using a plastic palette, however, may result in beading issues. For more information on the best watercolor palettes, please visit our article.

Glass or dish for water

The most important thing you need before starting with watercolors is water, despite the fact that it is free. Your painting’s quality and the pigment it uses will be affected by dirty water.

Water for watercolor paintings should be readily available in at least one dish. Regardless, if you’re planning to do negative painting, you’ll need more than one water dish to clean and mix the brush. Watercolors also have an effect on the paper depending on how much water you add. 

More water results in a faint wash, while less water produces more color. Whenever you mix paint, make sure the water is clean to preserve the color. If it becomes muddy, replace it immediately. You don’t want your painting to be ruined by dirty water.

Paper towel or rag

A paper towel or rag is a powerful tool. Don’t underestimate it. To prevent too much water from getting on your paper, especially when using wet-on-dry, you need to absorb the water from your brush. In addition to a sponge, you may also use a paper towel.

2. Select a topic

You can plan your watercolor composition better if you choose your subject before you begin. You can take inspiration from your reference photo, an outdoor scenery, or a printed image. If you are using high-definition images, make sure they are of good quality.

3. Sketch lightly

To create a successful artwork, you need to plan your composition. Your plan should be sketched on scratch paper before being placed on water-soluble paper. When you want to remove any marks, you should apply light pressure.

4. Add watercolors to the sketch

After the sketch has been completed, begin painting. To add more layers to your paper, wash the paper lightly and let it dry completely.

5. Increase contrast and value

Increase contrast and value

You can create depth and contrast in your paintings by changing the values. The first thing you should do is lay down your midtones and then define some light- and dark values. Consider the areas in the reference photo with darker values by using your observation skills.

On the left half of the painting, you can observe that there is little contrast, and the values are subtle. Contrast and values were used, however, in the right half of the painting. Despite the very similarity of the paintings, the result is more appealing.

6. Describe in detail

Put the final touches and details on the image once the contrasts and values are in place. For a mixed media effect, you may also use ink.



Mixing colors

Mixing colors

When you are first starting to use watercolors, one of the things you should master is mixing colors. Colors perform differently when mixed because they are not all opaque, opaque, translucent, and transparent. It’s a good idea to understand your watercolors before you begin painting, since some brands have varying transparency.

To illustrate how one color blends with another, many artists recommend making a sample color swatch. Mixing secondary and tertiary colors isn’t as straightforward as mixing basic colors, so the sample swatches help.

For a better understanding of color mixing, you should be familiar with the color wheel and the color theory. Finding the right color combination is a challenging task that requires practice.



The smooth blend of watercolors makes them perfect for visuals. You can paint realistic watercolors by adding darker shades of similar colors using contouring techniques. You can also use different opacity levels to achieve realistic results.

An apple, for example, isn’t always painted red. By seeing the contours of the apples on the right, you can see the left image to appear juvenile and amateurish while the apples on the left seem more realistic.

Make sure you leave enough white space

Leave plenty of white space on your paper when planning your composition. If you need to protect your whites, use some masking fluid. While adding the mask, letting it dry, and removing it after painting take more time, the results are stunning.

There is a hint of white near the horizon in the above painting, making it the lightest part of the painting so the viewer can clearly view the light coming from that point.

Be careful not to overdo it with colors

Instead of darkening your colors from the very beginning, you should build them over time. Typically, light washes are easier to lift colors from than dark ones if you make a mistake. Before adding more colors, let the first layer dry completely to avoid unnecessary blending and color bleed. Doing so also makes colours stand out instead of blending together.

If you want extra protection against accidental smudges, you can use a mask before painting. To remove your mask, tilt it at a 45-degree angle so that you do not remove all of the dried watercolors at once. This type of painting requires one steady brush stroke for each solid color. 

Considering the brush’s capacity is also important. In spite of its short length and flat shape, it can still reach a fair distance. Although practicing several styles helps to improve your skills, we discourage beginners from taking on such a challenge early on. Before taking on more challenging projects, you should continually work on improving your skills.

Avoid using too many colors

There is no need for you to use too many colors on your painting as others may get away with it. In order to avoid overwhelming the piece with too much detail and color, it is best to stick to a limited amount of colors.

When you stay within the confines of three colors, use their analogs so you can still use values and tones so that even when you are limited to only three colors, your painting does not look flat.

Maintain pressure

Watercolor drawings are characterized by their casual expression. Others work on their paintings solely with their wrists. Stiff strokes result from this technique. Instead of concentrating on your wrists, you should concentrate on your whole arm.

Standing may enable you to observe masters painting. There is more control and a broader range of motions available when standing. When holding your brush near the middle, you will have more control over it. Practice controlling your stroke pressure. When painting broad strokes, apply more pressure, while when painting details, use less pressure.

The key is simplicity

Make sure the soft wash you apply before painting is simple. Try not to perfect your strokes when you are sketching with watercolor. A rough surface adds character to your work.

Feel relaxed

Not stressing out while painting is the best way to enjoy the process. Enjoy the entire painting process and avoid dreading it. When you feel yourself becoming tense during a painting project, take a break or ask someone else for help.


Drawing under a painting before it is painted has many benefits

In order to paint with watercolor, you need to draw an initial sketch. The reasons not to underdraw are plausible, but there are also compelling reasons to underdraw.

The first thing it does for you is provide you with a foundation for your drawing, especially if you’re a beginner. You should, however, sketch lightly and avoid leaving a deep impression on the paper. This will allow you to monitor the progress of your painting process.

Additionally, when you plan your design using a pencil sketch, it is easier than painting directly. You can more easily erase mistakes made while sketching than when using watercolors. You can make watercolors lighter, but you cannot erase them when you work with them.

A mixed media effect is also achieved by underdrawing. You can use a variety of pencil techniques as well as the outline sketch, including hatching, cross-hatching, and shading. This technique requires a pencil with HB lead, since graphite tends to smudge easily. However, graphite can also be used to sketch simple outline sketches.

On the left, you can see a more structured watercolor painting, while on the right, you can see an abstract painting that’s more accessible. While they both require careful planning, a pencil sketch will help make a more detailed painting.

The benefits of painting with watercolors before drawing

Drawing outlines with pencils or graphite is the preferred method of many artists who prefer structure to their paintings. The following reasons explain why it is not recommended to draw before painting with watercolors.

In general, underdrawing defeats the purpose of watercolor for some artists that want to take advantage of its properties. Its spontaneity is a characteristic of watercolors. Watercolors are designed to flow naturally within a painting, so restricting their flow defeats this purpose.

The outline can be drawn directly with the watercolor pencils if you are using watercolor pencils instead of a pencil. A water-based watercolor pencil also tends to smudge and bleed when exposed to water, especially if used with graphite.

It is not necessary to sketch your abstract before you paint it. Taking advantage of watercolor’s freedom will help you appreciate your paintings more.



Watercolor painting techniques can be used to create landscapes and all kinds of scenery. Make sure you know what style and what color scheme you want before you start painting.

Paintings that reflect negativity

The technique of negative painting involves painting around objects instead of using them as subjects. Using this technique, you can ensure that nothing distracts from the subject and that the object has prominence.


It’s probably the easiest to paint flowers, but they’re also probably the most common subject. Drawing out your flowers first is an excellent way to approach this subject.

Start with something familiar and develop from there, so start with a simple flower instead of one that is complex. Gradually increase the complexity of your subject as you gain more experience.

Life as a Marine

If you love working with analogs of blue, marine life makes for an interesting watercolor subject. Still images captured from videos are difficult to use as references when using live subjects.



You can paint a portrait using masking techniques, or you can use it as a subject for your watercolor painting. To create the patterns on the paper, the artist used torn parts of the paper to mask parts of the paper.


An introduction to drawing with watercolor is provided in the following article. In this blog, you can read about negative painting and abstract watercolors. The benefits of watercolors include affordability as well as endless possibilities for creativity. You can let us know in the comments below if one of our posts helped you on your project.

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