When discussing watercolor painting for beginners, you generally start with what materials you will need and why.

Painting with Watercolor can be a little daunting for beginners starting out with this wonderful medium but there are steps you can take to make learning it as easy as possible.  These steps will also ensure you develop good habits which will make your watercolor painting much more fruitful in the years to come.

Watercolor (watercolour) is a great medium as it is very portable, does not give off fumes (its relatively clean) and can be fast to paint with. Also your paint generally will not go off, even after it has been allowed to dry, you can rewet it and continue painting.  Once you have developed a level of proficiency it will help you paint your paintings in a way no other medium can.

Your first step is to start with the correct materials.  While a good tradesman can do a reasonable job with poor tools, it is also true that a beginner will have a very difficult time with those same tools. The same applies when you start out with watercolor.

Watercolor Materials

The correct watercolor materials in order of importance are: watercolor paper, brushes and artist’s quality paints. In addition to these you will need a white palette which has large mixing areas and big wells to hold lots of watercolor paint, a backing board (sealed light plywood would be fine for starters), a simple easel (or you just use a book or something to hold you board at an angle), old towel to adjust the moisture content of your brush, tissues, HB pencil (I use a .7 mm clutch pencil as its point is predicable and I can store a lot of leads within the body of the pencil) and a knead able eraser.

I will devote my time talking about the first three materials as they are the most important of the above list, though there is one material I have not listed which is actually the most important – water! But I will discuss that on its own in a later article.

Watercolor Paper

There are many good watercolor paper brands on the market, Arches and Saunders Waterford are the main ones I use but there are many others. They each have different textures and properties which you should try out to find which best suit your particular interest in painting.  You want paper with good sizing (this is like glue that is used to stop the paper from acting like blotting paper which would be very bad for most watercolor techniques).  The sizing also makes the paper tougher, so it minimizes the damage to the paper as you work and lift color from it.

Watercolor paper come is various weights (think thicknesses) and usually when you start out you want to use paper of around 300gsm (140lb) weight.  If you select paper that is too thin it will very easily cockle (buckle) as it absorbs moisture. This will happen anyway but the thinner the paper the more this will happen faster making it difficult for you to paint.

Textures on watercolor paper vary from supplier to supplier, however there are some terms you should know which can help you in your selection within a particular suppliers range.

The three surface textures used when talking about watercolor paper are: Hot Press or Smooth, Cold Press or Medium (also known as NOT – Not Hot Press, though is not so common) and Rough.

The smoother the paper the faster the paint will dry. The reason for this is that the texture of Rough Paper has lots of little troughs which hold water, hence keeping the paper wet longer. Cold Press has smaller troughs so dries faster and smooth dries the fastest.

As your skill level develops you will be able to use smoother paper but when just starting out the Rough Paper is your best choice, especially for doing landscapes. Obviously if you are doing very detailed work like botanical art then you will need to start with Smooth watercolor paper right from the start.

Key points for Watercolor Paper selection: 1. Not too absorbent (good sizing). 2. 3oo gsm weight. 3. Rough texture.

Continue to: Watercolor Materials for Beginners