6 Basic Watercolor Techniques for Beginners

Hello friends! Today I wanted to share 6 basic watercolor techniques every beginner needs to know. They’re quite simple, but they’re the basis to every watercolor painting (not necessarily all of them are in a single painting, but at least a couple will be!). Today I’ll demonstrate what they are and explain how they’re created!

basic watercolor techniques for beginners

Wet on Wet

wet on wet watercolor techniques for beginners

Wet on wet is the process of laying down a wash of watercolor, then before it’s fully dry, adding another layer of paint.  This allows the paint to really blend together and create soft edges.  You can see in the above photo that my little dot is spreading out and the edges are feathering into a blended look with no sharp edges.

Here’s how it looks after it dried:

wet on wet watercolor technique for beginners

Cauliflowers

cauliflowers watercolor techniques

Cauliflowers are created the same way as the wet on wet technique, but when it’s taken a little too far.  When adding more paint to a still wet surface, cauliflowers, or blooms, occur when the new layer of paint contains more water than the layer it’s applied to.  So if you saturate your brush in too much water before picking up your paint, that’s when cauliflowers bloom. The above photo is just after I’ve touched the brush to the surface of the paper.

Here’s how it looks after it’s sat for a couple seconds:

watercolor blooms

You can see that the original little splash has really spread out.  Cauliflowers are normally classified as mistakes in watercolor, but they can be quite beautiful if they’re intended.  The key is to know what causes them and how to avoid them if you don’t want them, and create them if you do.

Wet on Dry

wet on dry watercolor techniques for beginners

Wet on dry is the process of laying down a wash of paint, then letting it dry fully before adding another layer.  You can see the difference in the above photo compared to the wet on wet technique.  Wet on dry creates crisp, sharp, saturated layers of paint.  Combine wet on wet and wet on dry techniques to really create a finished looking painting.  Wet on wet is great for blends and base layers, while wet on dry is perfect for details and anything your want to draw attention to.

Dry Brush on Dry

watercolor techniques for beginners

The dry brush on dry technique is a variation of the wet on dry method, but instead of a normal application of watercolor on dried paper, the brush is just barely wet.  It’s just wet enough to activate and pick up the watercolor, then dragged along the dry paper.  This creates skips and streaks in the paint, showing the texture of the paper underneath.  This method is great for painting grass or adding that sparkle to water’s surface.

Pen and Ink

pen and ink watercolor techniques for beginners

Pen and ink is a classic art technique, quite similar to the wet on dry watercolor method, but using a pen instead of more watercolor. All you do is paint your watercolor painting the way you want – this could be using wet on wet or both wet on wet and wet on dry, then letting it completely dry, and coming back to it with a pen.  Use the pen to create sharp outlines and transform your image from a watercolor painting to a crisp illustration. You can outline the entire image or just certain parts, and you can even add stippling and any other ink/drawing techniques on top of the dried paint. This is very popular in mixed media and art journaling works.

Masking Fluid Resist

masking fluid watercolor techniques for beginners

A masking fluid resist is simply using masking fluid to block off areas you don’t want to paint over.  Do it on dry paper, then paint your watercolor overtop.  Once it’s all dry, peel off the masking fluid to reveal what you had covered up.  This is a great way to preserve white areas of your paper, but just know that the masking fluid creates a very sharp line, so make sure that’s the look you’re going for.  You can soften it up a bit afterwards by using some clean water and lightly brushing over the edges, but it will always be somewhat sharp.

So that’s it for this tutorial! If you’re looking for more great watercolor painting techniques, Craftsy has an awesome watercolor video course called Simple and Stunning Watercolor Techniques that builds on the techniques I’ve shown you here, incorporating more techniques and showing how they can all come together to create a bright, beautiful watercolor painting.

watercolor techniques for beginners

The instructor, Mary, walks you through the process of creating an underpainting (something I believe firmly in) and using contrasting colors for vibrancy, then demonstrates different watercolor texture techniques to add visual interest, then demonstrates adding other painting media to watercolor like acrylics and gouache to really make your painting pop!

It’s a great course, and I’d recommend it to anyone looking to learn more about or improve their watercolor painting skills.  So let me know in a comment below if you’re given the course a try, and how you liked it!

Thanks so much for stopping by, and till next time, keep creating!

-Ashley <3

***Full disclosure: This post contains an affiliate link to Craftsy and I will be compensated with a small commission from any sale resulting from clicking that link.  This is no extra cost to you, and it helps me afford to keep this site running and the free tutorials coming, so thank you for your support! I only recommend things I fully endorse and believe that my readers will gain real value from, so your support is greatly appreciated <3

 

How to Paint a Peony in Watercolor

Hi friends! In this post, we’ll go though the process of painting a peony with watercolors step by step! If you missed the first part of this 2-part blog post where we drew the peony, you can click here to read it: How to Draw a Peony.

Alright, onto the tutorial!

how to paint a peony in watercolor

How to Paint a Peony in Watercolor:

how to paint a peony in watercolor

I start by giving all of the petals an all-over wash of light pink, and let that dry.

 

how to paint a peony in watercolor

Using my main pink color, I start at the darkest areas, wherever one petal lays over the other. I lay down the paint at the darkest point, then blend it out with water.

how to paint a peony in watercolor

Here’s my brush blending the paint out. It’s the gradient that will give the peony a realistic look.

 

how to paint a peony in watercolor

Here’s how it looks after my first layer.

 

how to paint a peony in watercolor

I then go back with the same color, going over all of my spots again, making sure my most saturated areas are where the shadows are.

 

Here's my peony after this second layer is finished.

Here’s my peony after this second layer is finished.

 

how to paint a peony in watercolor

I then use a more reddish color and go into the darkest ares, right in the crevasses, and blend that out into the pink.

 

how to paint a peony in watercolor

Here it is after my red layer. I’m also not worrying about whether my layers are fully dry or not. If the colors mix it’s fine.

 

how to paint a peony in watercolor

Now I’m using a dark purple, and I’m only putting it at the darkest of the dark areas. Look for the deeply shadowed areas and just put a tiny bit of purple, then blend it out.

 

how to paint a peony in watercolor

Here’s how that area looks after I blended the purple out.

 

how to paint a peony in watercolor

And here’s the whole flower after this step is done. The purple and red touches really give it life!

 

how to paint a peony in watercolor

And finally, I add a bit of black to the darkest areas, making sure I blend it out well. This bit of contrast will help our peony pop.

 

how to paint a peony in watercolor

So here’s my finished petals!

 

how to paint a peony in watercolor

For the leaves, I do a similar technique, laying down a wash of light green first.

 

how to paint a peony in watercolor

Here they are after my second layer.

 

how to paint a peony in watercolor

And my final layer. I added a bit of paint to the veins after the leaves dried to give a bit of definition.

 

how to paint a peony in watercolor

For the flower’s center, I paint a wash of yellow to start.

 

how to paint a peony in watercolor

Then I add various yellows and yellow ochre while it’s all wet. They’ll blend together on their own and give some variety to the colors.

 

how to paint a peony in watercolor

I use a bit of light brown along the bottom to give the center some form.

 

how to paint a peony in watercolor

Here’s my finished center.

 

how to paint a peony in watercolor

And here’s my finished flower! Painting a peony isn’t so hard if you break it down and work layer by layer.

 

how to paint a peony in watercolor

Here it is sitting on my desk. I hope you give it a try!


So that’s it guys! I hope this post has helped you if you’re unsure how to go about painting a flower like a peony.  It’s all about building up those layers!

Leave me a comment below if you enjoyed or are going to try this for yourself, and till next time, keep creating!

-Ashley <3

How to Draw a Peony

Hi friends! In this two-part blog post, we’re going to make a peony in watercolor, starting with the first step: drawing one!  ***EDIT: Part 2 is now live! Click here to read the next steps: How to Paint a Peony

how to draw a peony watercolor flower

At first glance, peonies can be intimidating due to their big, floppy petals, multiple layers, and detailed centers. But they’re actually quite simple if we break them down into their basic parts, so let’s get started!

How to Draw a Peony:

Start with two circles: one small one in the middle or a large one. The small one is the size of the flower's middle, the large one is how big you want your overall flower to be. Keep them light,

Start with two circles: one small one in the middle or a large one. The small one is the size of the flower’s middle, the large one is how big you want your overall flower to be. Keep them light,

 

flower drawing tutorial

Start with the first 4 petals, like a propeller. Draw out your overall shape lightly.

 

peony drawing tutorial

Start adding details to the petals. The more squiggly and random your line, the better!

 

how to draw a peony step by step

Here I’m using my original guideline as the outside of a curled in petal.

 

watercolor peony tutorial

My finished petals.

 

how to draw a flower tutorial

Now make guidelines for the next layer of petals.

 

peony watercolor tutorial

Rough up the edges of these too!

 

how to draw a peony in watercolor

Finally, fill in any needed spaces with a few more petals.

 

how to paint a peony in watercolor

All of my finished petals.

 

how to draw a peony

Erase all of your guidelines.

 

peony drawing tutorial

For the middle, simply draw a series of squiggles, and try not to draw over what you’ve already done. Keep going to fill the area, and don’t be afraid of going outside the lines a little!

 

how to draw a peony

This is basically the Amaze zentangle pattern I shared in a previous video. I’ll link it below if you’re not sure how to draw this part.

 

how to draw a peony

My finished flower

 

how to draw a peony

I added a couple leaves to balance it out.

So that’s it! You can watch my Amaze pattern video here if you want a bit of extra help for the middle design. Check out part 2 here where we’ll paint it with watercolors and really make it come to life! I hope you enjoyed, and till next time, keep creating!

-Ashley <3

A Watercolor for Beginners Tutorial Round-Up!

watercolor techniques for beginners

Hello friends! Happy Monday! Today I wanted to share a list of some of my older posts on using watercolors, in the hopes of helping out some of the newer readers to this blog that may not have seen some of these posts that are buried in my archives.

Every now and then, I’ll be making a new one of these types of lists to resurface some helpful older posts that may be harder to find.  This blog is quite a bit larger than it used to be, so I think it’s a good idea to do a round-up post like this once in a while! Let me know if you guys like this idea, and I might even turn these big lists into a page in the main menu so anyone new to the blog can instantly get to the good stuff!

Ok, on to the tutorials! Here’s my favorite watercolor tutorials from my archives:

Watercolor Tutorials List for Beginners:

11 Masking Fluid Tips masking fluid is used frequently with watercolours, here’s some mistakes to avoid!

Watercolor for Beginners a video all about the basics: what watercolours are, and what are your options of how to use them.

My Watercolor Suppliesa video where I share some of my favorite watercolor tools

Beginner’s Guide to Watercolor Paperhot press, cold press, 300 lb, 140 lb, what is the difference!? Don’t get overwhelmed by your watercolor paper options, I’ll explain all the differences in this video!

Flat vs Gradient WashWashes are a core component of watercolor painting. This quick video demonstrates the differences in how to create the two types.

3 Watercolor Mistakes & How to Fix Themsometimes it all goes wrong. Here’s how to make it right again!

Watercolor Paper Alternative: Aquaboard! – beginners immediately think watercolor paper is the only painting surface option, but something like Aquaboard is much more forgiving than paper. Here’s the details on this cool painting surface!

Watercolor Alcohol Technique Tutorial –  a quick tutorial on how to create this signature watercolor effect.


So there they are, guys! My most popular watercolor tutorials on this site! I hope they’re useful to you if you haven’t seen them before. Thanks so much for stopping by, and till next time, keep creating!

-Ashley <3

3 Free Watercolor Painting Tutorials

Hi friends! Happy Monday! Today I wanted to share a few really great watercolor tutorials I found on Pinterest, and the best part is that they’re all free! These tutorials can help if you’re looking for watercolor painting techniques, how to blend watercolors, or how to add detail to a watercolor painting.  Click on the pictures to be taken to the tutorials, and enjoy!

Starry Night Watercolor Tutorial

This tutorial by Zakkiya of Inkstruck deonstrates how to create a pretty galaxy-style watercolor painting with a silhouetted landscape. It demonstrates the basics of painting wet-in-wet, which is how watercolors get their beautiful loose, flowy designs:

watercolor wet in wet technique

Watercolor Feather Designs in 3 Ways

This next tutorial by Rachel of Adventures in Making demonstrates how to paint a beautiful feather in watercolor using three different techniques.  The watercolor techniques demonstrated in this tutorial can be used in any other watercolor painting, so it’s worth taking a look!

watercolor painting techniques

Beginner Color Mistakes

This last tutorial by Singarl on DeviantArt shows the common mistakes beginners make when attempting to paint a scene. The tutorial itself is done on the computer, but the principles apply to watercolor, acrylics, oils, any color medium! It’s great color theory rules to keep in mind when you’re working on a watercolor landscape or still life.

watercolor blending techniques

Click the image to see the full tutorial.

 

So that’s it for now, guys! I hope these free resources help you in your watercolor adventures! It can be a big difficult to get the hang of, but painting with watercolors is one of my most favorite mediums because it can produce gorgeous effects that other mediums simply can’t. So stick with it, and till next time, keep creating!

Thanks for stopping by!

-Ashley <3