You have seen them in the windows of galleries and gracing the walls of your friends' homes - beautiful watercolor paintings. If you have always thought that someone else has the talent and you would never be able to create professional-looking artwork, think again. As a professional watercolor artist, I am here to tell you that it is not as difficult as you may think.
To become a watercolor painter requires a few simple steps to get started.
1. Get the right equipment
Visit an art supply store near you and speak with the staff. Most art supply stores are staffed by artists, art students, and art lovers. Ask for their advice on what are the best brushes and paper to purchase for a beginner. You don't want to buy the cheapest equipment, but you may want to leave the expensive materials until you are more proficient. You don't want to feel like you can't practice without spending a lot of money and you will want to practice a lot. You need to give yourself permission to waste paper while you learn. You will need a palette to squeeze your paints into. I recommend you find a large one with more than a dozen wells for your paints and a large flat area for mixing colors.
2. Buy the right supplies
Watercolor paints come in little tubes and in several different grades including student and professional. To begin with I recommend that you choose student grade watercolors. The colors you choose is a very individual decision, but start out with a few basics. Your art store staff should be able to help you choose, but aim to purchase ten to twelve colors that represent the color spectrum. Watercolors do not come in white, since the paint is transparent and the color of the paper showing through creates white spaces. Black is seldom used and easy to mix using other colors, so you will want to choose a range from yellow through brown, plus reds, greens, blues, and charcoal grey.
3. Draw your subject
Drawing accurately is one of the most important aspects of creating a beautiful painting and you will need good drawing tools. To become a watercolor painter, you must develop your sketching and drawing skills. In my experience teaching art, I have found that the biggest mistakes that beginners make is to draw what they think they see, rather than seeing their subjects as a series of shapes, dimensions, light and shadow. For example, when you think of an evergreen tree, the picture you see in your mind is likely to resemble something you have seen since elementary school days - a cone shape with drooping jagged edges. However, if you were to go outside and really look at an evergreen tree you would see that the limbs usually reach upward. Notice where the light hits the tree and where the shadows fall. Notice the colors and the contrasts. Draw what you actually see, not what you think you see.
4. Practice with your paints
When you get home from the art supply store with your package of new supplies, squeeze some color into each well in your palette. You can use your paints straight from the tubes, but they will last longer if you squeeze them out into your palette wells and allow them to dry. Next, practice dampening your paper and painting into the wet surface. Also, paint on dry paper and see how your paints perform. When you are ready to start a painting, you will want to soak your watercolor paper in a clean water bath, lift it out an allow the excess water to drain off, then attach it to a board or table top using masking tape around all sides. As your paper dries it will shrink creating a nice flat surface that will not buckle when you apply paint and water to it later. This is especially important if you find you like painting with a lot of water, or painting wet paint onto wet paper.
5. Paint your picture
In order to become a watercolor painter, you will need to choose a subject for your first painting. It's best to choose something with which you are familiar, but that is not necessary. Find something you like and begin by drawing the subject lightly onto your dry paper. Do not be afraid to erase your lines if need be, just be sure to use a gum eraser so as not to disturb the surface of the paper. When you have completely your outline, which can be as simple or as detailed as you like, begin by defining the areas where the white paper will show through. You don't want to paint on these areas at all. Start painting with your lightest-colored areas and paint toward the darkest colors, layering your paint until you have achieved the desired effect. Remember that watercolors are transparent so you will have to apply layers to achieve a deeper color effect.
If you are ready to become a watercolor painter, an at-home study course is a great place to start. You can work at your own rate and the instructions are generally clear and easy to follow. You can learn a lot on your own from a good course and practice. To become a watercolor painter, you just have to paint, paint, paint. Click here to get started with a great course.
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