Watercolor FAQ – The 10 Most Frequent Questions Beginners in Watercolor Have

Watercolor is an amazing medium, but it can be tricky. It is living a blossoming era, just take a look on the Facebook groups with massive amounts of members, the tons of resources, blogs, forums and Skillshare classes as well.

Even though there are so many resources for beginners where to start, I still had to find out in my own FB group that there are several questions that pop up regularly. Beginners tend to get intimidated and overwhelmed very quickly and the tons of resources, different opinions and options are giving them a rough time.

The reason is that most of these resources are written by intermediate or advanced artists who tend to forget the thoughts of the very beginners.

I am teaching for a decade now, more than a year online, I have a FB Group with a massive amount of members and I am daily exposed to the initial thoughts, problems and questions of very beginners.

Let’s make it clear: a very beginner is a person with no previous art education, nor experience in other medium, so you can tell them to mix all their colors from warm and cool blue, yellow and red, invest in artist grade paints, use a ceramic palette and all the fancy stuff, but it will not help them. They are at the initial stage. They need to focus on different things. Let me tell it with a different metaphor: you can have the most expensive yoga mat, practice fancy poses and stuff, but if you can’t breath properly to light up the “agni” you will not sweat yourself down to your purest form physically and spiritually.

So beginners in watercolor need to focus on painting itself, water and brush control, explore pigments, understand shapes, layers, overcome their inner fears, volume down the inner critique, level up their observational skills, be able to express themselves and create art. With watercolors.

We have an Ask Me Anything Thread every Friday in the FB Group where I try to answer all the questions and if I don’t know the answer, I do the research. There are these 10 questions that pop up regularly and I wanted to address them in this blog post and in a simple Skillshare class so that very beginners have a starting point. I am not really going into detail in all of the topics, just give short answers to give an idea how this all works. So let’s see:

1. What paints to use?

This is an ultimate question because nobody agrees. There is a tribe saying that you only need the warm and cool blue, yellow and red to mix all the other colors, but as there isn’t such a things as red, yellow and blue, but alzarine crimson, rose madder, cadmium red, indian yellow, new camboge, lemon yellow, pthalo blue, cobalt blue, celurean blue and I could go on… and all the combinations give different results… and I might like the greens that pthalo blue and cadmium yellow gives or the oranges that I can make with lemon yellow and rose madder and simply love an already made purple as my purple.

I recommend beginners to simply get a student grade halfpan set with lots of colors and explore the pigments. Later when they find the colors that fit their personality, upgrade them into professional grade tubes,then they will have their own signature palette which is a super amazing and awesome thing, but not the first step. I prefer halfpans over tubes for beginners because they get easily activated and one can start painting right away and doesn’t need to get frustrated by getting the right consistency of tube paints, wasting too much paint and even how to store them (not on open air in a palette because they get dusty). So yeah, get a students grade halfpan set for a start!

2. What brushes to use?

Round brushes. Any size, any brand, synthetic. They are cheap and durable. Cheap brushes with real fur tend to loose hair which is annoying. Good brushes with real fur are expensive. And they use real fur. From sable and squirrel. Poor sable and squirrel.

You can paint with flat brushes as well. Differently shaped brushes will give you different effects. Round brushes hold more water. But you can use a flat brush for washes. Actually there is a big flat brush called wash brush. You don’t need that at the beginning. If you get a cheap set you will have all the sizes you might need.

3. What paper to use?

As you can see I don’t recommend to spend too much money and thought on paints and brushes, but I recommend to save for good quality paper. Everything under 300 g /140 lb will buckle a lot. So get at least the 300g/140lb. Cold pressed. Hot pressed is smooth, doesn’t have that nice rough texture and is rather intended for illustrators. Any brand will work, they say Arches is the best, but I use Fabriano because it is reasonably priced and good quality. If you buy paper in pads, you eliminate the need for stretching or taping down the paper as the paper is glued together in all 4 sides, so I do recommend to buy pads. Any size. So you paint on the pad and when you are done you remove the paper. Practical.