Learn Watercolor Painting In A Few Easy Steps

painting of black grapes in a white plate on a white table cloth made with watercolors

Posted On December 9, 2018

Watercolor painting is probably one of the most popular painting techniques. The fluidity of watercolors makes this technique exciting and unpredictable. For an inexperienced artist, this might be really scary and confusing in the beginning but once you learn watercolor painting you will be surprised by the effects you can achieve.

What is important to remember is to not hold back while painting sometimes you achieve the most interesting effects by mixing chance and intent. One of the most interesting qualities of this painting technique is that you do not need a lot of tools and materials. All you need are paint, a few brushes and paper to paint on.

Materials and tools

Watercolors consist of fine grind pigment tied with patching fluid and glycerine. There are two kinds of watercolor amateur and professional. Amateur sets are much cheaper but you will get much better results by painting with professional ones. Price depends on the pigments used for producing the colors.

They come in a tube in form of a thick wet paste or in little moulds semidry colors.

You should always buy the best brushes you can afford for watercolor painting because the better the brush the better are the results gained when using it, also they last much longer than the cheap ones so you actually save money by buying them. Sable bristle brushes are the best brushes for watercolor painting. Sable hair is elastic and long-lasting if it’s washed properly after using, also sable hair naturally contracts into a fine pointed tip.

There are also synthetic bristle brushes which are much cheaper then sable brushes but they are not able to hold paint as good as sable brushes. To prolong the life of your brushes treat them properly, never use them to rub in the color, never leave them in the water while you are painting that will damage the handle and the hairs on your brush. Always clean the brushes with lukewarm water after finishing your work. Rinse them thoroughly to make sure you removed all the color.

Return the hairs into the original shape after washing by gently rubbing them against the palm of your hand. Before putting your brushes away in a closed box make sure they are properly dried otherwise they could get mouldy. Basic watercolor brushes are round and flat.

hand with a brush sketching grapes in a bowl wit watercolors
sketch of grapes made with watercolors

When it comes to watercolor paper there is a large variety of it on the market. There are papers of different textures, weight and quality. Deciding which paper to use mostly depends on your style of work and the amount of money you are ready to spend on it. My advice would be to buy several sheets of different quality and texture paper and just try them out, experimenting is the best way to learn and find out what suits you the best.

Watercolor paper can be handmade or industrial. They mostly differ in price. Plain natron paper is good for drawing but very bad for watercolor painting because it tends to lose shape in contact with water and it has a bad texture. Best quality handmade paper is made of cotton instead of cellulose. it is recognisable of its rough uneven edges and water stamp of the manufacturer in the corner.

Next best is the paper made in moulds which is a lot cheaper than handmade paper and the last is the industrial paper which is the cheapest but I wouldn’t recommend that one because the texture on the surface is not as good as on the other two. You can purchase the paper of different texture and different weight.

The weight of the paper is measured in grams by square meter. The lightest paper is 150 grams per square meter and the heaviest one is 640 grams per square meter. LIghter papers you must prim before using them for painting because they tend to change their shape and get all wrinkled due to de moist of the paint.

In order to prim the paper submerge it into the water for several minutes and then take it out holding it by one angle to let the water out of it. Place it on the wooden board and wipe it from the middle to the sides with your hand to get out all the air bubles under it. Then tape it to the board on the edges and let it fully dry before painting. Do not remove the tape until you finish painting and the painting is dry.

hand sketching black grapes on a plate with watercolors

Black grapes

Painting from light to dark is the most common method of building the watercolor painting. Here I will show you how to add overlapping layers of paint and transparent colours in order to create a three-dimensional painting.

For this painting you will need the following:

  • A sheet of 285gr/m2 watercolor paper
  • Round sable brush number 3
  • Round sable brush number 5
  • Raw sienna
  • Prussian blue
  • Alizarin red
  • Green
  • Sky blue
  • French ultramarine
  • Cadmium lemon yellow
  • Cadmium yellow
  • Viridian green
  • Raw umber
hand with a brush adding details to a watercolor painting of grapes

Sketching

Use the mixture of raw sienna and french ultramarine to define the position of the plate and the most important ridges of the cloth. In order to do that use round brush number 3. MIx ultramarine, Prussian blue, alizarin red and a little bit of green to get the grey-purple tone and start painting the grape leaving the whiteness of the paper on some parts for lighter areas of the grape.

Slowly build the darker tones by adding additional layers of the color. Add a little bit of sky blue on certain areas. With the mixture of already mixed grey-purple, Prussian blue and alizarin red paint the darker areas between the grapes.

Adding shape and form to the objects

Using the same dark and light mixtures of the paint, work on the shape and form of the grapes. Work methodically from light to dark carefully painting around the brightest areas. Determine the contour of the plate and work on the shadow below it with the pale mixture of Prussian blue, ultramarine, raw sienna and a little bit of alizarin red. Soften the edges of the shadow using a wet brush.

Continue working on the grape enrichening the grey-purple mixture with a little bit of raw sienna at certain areas. Working from light to dark is a very good technique that allows you to create a very realistic painting. Now paint the pattern on the plate with sky blue and point out the edges of it with the grey-blue mixture you already used on your painting. Slightly sketch the grapes scattered on the tablecloth with the pale mixture you used before.

Use a highly diluted mixture of raw sienna, ultramarine and a bit of brown to paint the ridges of the cloth with brush number 5. Determine the edges of the cloth by painting the shades it creates. With the darker version of the same mixture paint the decorative holes on the cloth using brush number 3.

painting of black grapes made with watercolors

Finishing touches

Pain the flower with the mixture of cadmium yellow and cadmium lemon yellow leaving tiny white areas on the petals for the brightest areas. For the leaves use the mixture of green, alizarin red and a bit of viridian green. With brush number 5 add clean water to the area of the green tablecloth. MIx green, sky blue and cadmium yellow and add it to the wet area with wide smooth strokes.

Go to the brush number 3and add the darkest tones on the grapes on the table outside of the plate using dark blue-purple gained by mixing Prussian blue, raw sienna, sky blue and raw umber. Add darker tones on individual details on your painting. Vary between shape an size of the decorative holes on the tablecloth to depict the ridges and pale shades on its surface.

At the end make the shadows around the edges of the white clots darker using the mixture of Prussian blue, raw sienna and a bit of alizarine red. Use the same mixture but a bit darker to go over the shaded areas on the tablecloth in order to point out the shaded ridges of the material.

I hope I managed to explain this technique well. If anything is still unclear I will be more than happy to help and answer any questions you might have regarding this subject. So feel free to leave them below. I hope you will enjoy painting with watercolos.

Written by Magdalena

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