Watercolor painting

Watercolor painting on canvas

Watercolor painting

Watercolor painting on canvas is rightly considered one of the most difficult painting techniques. It is not without reason that they say that it does not forgive mistakes. Nevertheless, it is still worth learning how to paint with these colors. Patience, time, and lots of sheets of watercolor paper-and the great result will surpass all expectations. And after reading our article, you’re sure to succeed!

History of watercolor

Just like paper, watercolors were invented in Ancient China. They were used for painting black and white color sketches. The painters of the Renaissance were the first to appreciate the power of watercolor painting: Albrecht Durer and Lorraine Dyck were perfect watercolorists. Until then, this effect of translucency and smooth transitions could only be obtained in the frescoes painted on wet plaster.

Nevertheless, the great popularity of watercolor received only in the middle of the 18th century, when the portrait miniature came into vogue. This genre was actively mastered by almost all those who were interested in drawing. Since that moment and we can say that watercolor painting became an independent direction in art.

What do you need to start painting?

Watercolor is a difficult technique to master. At first, it’s important to choose the right tools. Here’s how to choose them.

Types of water colors

Watercolors consist of a water-soluble glue and pigment. In professional colors as a glue they use gum Arabic, in amateur and children colors – dextrin, cherry glue, molasses.

Solid watercolor comes in the form of bricks, placed in separate cuvettes. It’s a good option for beginners.

Soft watercolor is packed in small tubes. It is economical and has saturated color. It is used for large works. Before drawing, each color is squeezed into an empty cuvette or palette.

Liquid Watercolor. Strictly speaking, it is not exactly watercolor, because it does not contain pigments, but colorants. Nevertheless, this paint has all the qualities of a solid watercolor. Mostly it is used for drawing sketches.

Children’s watercolor has molasses or corn glue as a glue base, so it is often called honey. Pigments are of low quality, so the paint is only suitable for quickly drawing a sketch.

If you’re serious about it, it’s better to splurge on a small professional-grade set of 12 colors because:

Quality paints are easier to work with, which means you’ll be happy with the results.

They give pure colors, have no lumps, and mix well.

They are highly pigmented and have good light fastness.

The kit has all the basic colors you may need for work in different genres, from still life to portraits.


This is a very important tool that determines not only the quality of the finished work, but also the comfort of the process of creating it. Each stage requires a different brush.

Fills and wet techniques involve the use of a large volume of water. Soft brushes with natural pony, squirrel or goat hair absorb and give off paint with water the best. Shape and size are not of fundamental importance.

Working with the background is basic in any drawing. It can be foliage, sea, mountains, buildings etc. Brushes with a small length of hair are perfect here. It’s better to use column and synthetic brushes.

For finer details and finishing touches, it’s better to use brushes of well-known producers. In general, it is better not to save on thin brushes, otherwise there is a high risk to spoil the whole work.


The right paper is sometimes more important than the colors themselves. Only special paper is good for watercolor; ordinary paper will turn a picture into a dirty spot. But here there are nuances.

Much depends on the texture, the characteristics of the surface, the paper and the way it is produced.

Satin (labeled Satin, HP) is a hot pressed paper that has a very smooth or fine-grained surface. It is an ideal choice for illustrations, quick sketches, and liner work. It’s good for drawing subjects with lots of detail.

Fin (labeled Fin, CP) – This paper is made by cold-pressing, and it has a medium grain. Suitable for all watercolor techniques without exception.

Torsion is a coarse-grained paper, a great base for works where you want to emphasize the texture. Thanks to the “unpainted” areas, you can achieve an interesting artistic effect. But detailed detail will have to be sacrificed.

Watercolor paper is made of cellulose or cotton (fiber content varies from 25% to 100%). Which is better?

Cotton paper retains moisture longer, so it is ideal for “wet” techniques, glaze and fillers. Minus: high price.

Cellulose paper perfectly retains color, but it is a little more difficult to draw on it than on cotton paper. But it is a budget option, so for the beginner who is sure to have a mountain of paper, it is just right.

As far as density is concerned, the value of 300 g/square m2 is considered the most optimal variant. On such paper the paint will be put without flowing and without soaking the sheet through.

Drawing techniques

So, now that all tools and materials are ready, it’s time to start studying the basic watercolor techniques.

Working with a flat brush

It is better to fasten the sheet of paper to a tilted easel, this is necessary so that the paint flows freely from the top layer to the bottom and the fill was the same throughout the fragment.

Draw the outline of the drawing with a hard pencil.

Paint with a brush and paint from one outline to the next. Start at the top and work your way down, layer by layer. Lines should be straight and even.

Try to slightly overlap the previous layer.

When the last line is complete, rinse the brush, squeeze it and pick up clots of paint left on the paper.

The work can be left to dry at an angle, and then it will appear original effects.

Watercolor painting on canvas

Dry Brush

The essence of the technique is that more pigment than water is applied to dry paper. Usually in this way, to draw on paper with a pronounced texture – fin or torsion. The technique perfectly conveys the structures of different materials, such as wood or fabric.

Paint with a brush and lightly squeeze out with a paper towel.

Run the side of the brush across the paper. Allow to dry and repeat.

Try to touch the sheet lightly.

Round brushes with a small tip are best for this technique.

Wet technique

This method is used when you want to create soft, smooth transitions between colors. For this technique, a sheet of paper is first abundantly moistened with clean water.

Wait until the wet sheen of the paper disappears. The excess water can be removed with absorbent cotton or sponge.

Start drawing. Use only clear colors and make strokes as precise as possible.

If you want more transparency, you can apply another layer of water on top of the paint.

As you move on to a new color, be sure to wait until the wet sheen of the previous color is gone.

If you need to add detail to the foreground, first dry the watercolor for two to three hours.

Wet technique gives airiness to the work, the contours are not clear, and the transitions are very smooth. In the process of drying, the picture can change.

Combined technique

Artists often combine wet and dry techniques, for example, one performs the background, and the other – the foreground. This occurs in the following way.

The paper is not completely saturated, but only where necessary.

Wet technique is used to work through individual fragments.

Dry and work in dry technique, laying out layers of paint sequentially.

Add details where they are needed.

Carefully watch that water does not get on those areas of the sheet that should remain dry. Remove excess moisture with a sponge or cloth in time.


It is a multilayer technique, when the paint is applied in transparent layers, from the lightest shades to the darkest, so it allows you to create realistic works. The beauty of glazing is that you can work in peace and quiet for as long as you like.

To avoid mixing of the different layers of paint, be sure to dry the bottom layer of light strokes before applying a darker color on top of it.

The strokes should be neat and the border between them should be well visible.

This technique is usually drawn with a squeezed out (dry), semi-moist or wet columnar or squirrel hairbrush.

As a result, you will have a work with soft, almost airy plans and a lot of details.

The most important thing in watercolor is not to be afraid and not to give up. Of course, there will be many failures and crumpled sheets of paper, but gradually you are sure to learn. For example, the basic exercises in this video are a great help:

Watercolor Techniques for Beginners

Watercolor Techniques for Beginners

The strokes can be in many ways. Artists recommend: experiment with them boldly. Put dots with a brush, draw lines, make them solid and discontinuous. Look for your own way of writing.

You can mix colors on a palette or on a separate sheet of watercolor paper. Don’t be afraid of bold combinations, but don’t forget to look at special color mixing tables and use the color wheel.

Filling is a covering of large fragments of work with one color. It’s more convenient to do it with a flat brush.

Use a wash to create an overall tone. The paint is applied in no more than three layers, each of them must be allowed to dry so that the shadows and details can be easily painted over.

Gradient involves a very smooth transition of strokes from one darker to a lighter color.

Paint pulling is performed as follows: with a clean dry brush, collect the excess paint on the sheet and make a stroke. It turns out to be a tone and a half lighter than the others.

The white color in watercolor is very simple: they do not paint over the desired fragment of the paper, leaving it white. This is called a reserve.

Go beyond the contours or not?

As a rule, before painting the outlines, sketch with a pencil. Use light strokes, trying to make lines that are barely visible. You won’t be able to erase them after drawing. When painting over the contours, it is possible to overstep them slightly, to cover them with a layer of paint. But it’s better to learn to create an image without outlines at all.

How to fix a blot?

Did you get a spot? That’s okay. Spray it with a spray gun with clean water and blot it with a paper towel. Repeat until you have removed the blot completely.

You can also remove the smudge with a dry-clean brush, but act quickly before the paint spreads.

Do I need a masking fluid?

If you are worried that the paint will drip where you planned to leave the white area, then apply a special masking liquid on it and let it dry. Then you can remove it with an ordinary eraser.

Can watercolors be used on canvas?

Watercolor painting on canvas can be done by using a watercolor technique, which is popular for its bright and vibrant colors. This technique does not require any kind of paintbrush. Instead, the artist uses their fingers to apply the paint on the canvas.
The watercolor technique is often used for paintings that are meant to look realistic or naturalistic. It is also a popular medium for many abstract and modern artists because of its versatility in terms of color and texture.

What canvas works well with watercolor?

Watercolor painting is an art form that is popular among artists and people who love art. It is a technique of painting with water-based pigments that are bound by a pigment-binding medium such as gum arabic or egg.
One of the best canvases for watercolor paintings is cotton canvas. Cotton canvas is a type of fabric made from cotton fibers and has a natural finish to it, which can be ideal for watercolor paintings. It allows the paint to flow easily and has good absorbency properties.

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