Watercolor Tutorial: Getting Started

watercolor tutorial by artist Michelle Schneider

watercolor tutorial by artist Michelle Schneider

I'm SO excited to be sharing my very first watercolor tutorial with you today! I've had a desire to teach for a long time, and finally, after testing the waters on Instagram and Facebook, your feedback and affirmation has given me the courage to start. Thank you! This is going to be incredibly fun for me and hopefully for you too!

Just a few things to keep in mind before we get started:

  1. I'll try to post a tutorial once a week on Thursdays. (Please be gracious with me as I have a toddler!)
  2. I'm an illustrator at heart and will be teaching you how to paint in my personal style.
  3. When getting started please don't worry about creating a "perfect" painting. These first few lessons are all about FUN and exploring and learning and NOT about creating a finished piece to hang on your wall.
  4. Lastly, please DO NOT get discouraged if your painting/drawing skills are lacking at first. Give yourself time to learn and grace throughout the process. Don't be afraid to make mistakes!

 Ok, let's get started!

First, you'll need the proper supplies. KEEP IT SIMPLE. If you're just starting out, buy inexpensive versions of everything I recommend until you get more comfortable with the medium and confident in your skills. Then, and only then, upgrade your tools. (Inexpensive supplies can be purchased at any local craft store like Hobby Lobby or Michaels.)

watercolor tutorial, supply list for painting, how to paint

watercolor tutorial, supply list for painting, how to paint

BRUSHES

My favorite brushes right now are Winsor & Newton Cotman Designers Round brushes. I currently use sizes 10, 8, 6, 4, and 0. For larger areas of color I use Master's Touch round brushes in size 16 and 24 (look for these at Hobby Lobby).

PAPER

I use ALL different kinds of paper, so narrowing it down to just a few types to recommend can be a bit tricky. Currently my favorite sketchbook paper is Strathmore Watercolor "Paper for Practice" 140lb and Moleskine Watercolor Sketchbooks.

4 things you want to look for when buying paper:

  1. Weight- Almost every weight of paper will, in some way, warp when water is added. I typically use 140lb paper because it doesn't require stretching.
  2. Texture- Cold Press paper will feel rough when you run your hand along it. Hot Press is smooth. The rougher the paper, the more texture your painting will have. I tend to buy smoother papers.
  3. Size- The smallest sketchbook I have is this one. The largest watercolor pad I use is 18x24." If you're just starting out, I'd recommend anything in the 9x12" or 11x14" range.
  4. Make sure it says watercolor somewhere on the label!
watercolor sketchbooks and supplies, learn to paint with watercolors

watercolor sketchbooks and supplies, learn to paint with watercolors

PAINT

My favorite brand of watercolor to use is Sennelier French Artist's Watercolor Tubes (which also happens to be the most expensive). I also use Cotman Watercolor Tubes and occasionally Grumbacher. These are all paints in tubes. A liquid watercolor that is especially pretty and bright is Dr. Ph. Martin's Hydrus Watercolors which come in glass bottles. 

If you're just starting out, I'd recommend a dry watercolor set like this one. It's actually a traveling watercolor set with a lid for easy clean up. (I've never used this particular one but have one that's similar that I purchased at a craft store.)

YOU'LL ALSO NEED:

  • a jar of warm water
  • a palette (I use one similar to this one.) or a paper plate
  • paper towels
  • and perhaps a pencil and eraser later on

Are you overwhelmed yet? Ok, just remember, all you really need to get started is one or two brushes, a pad of watercolor paper, a few tubes of paint, and water. Don't rush out and spend a small fortune on supplies. Just get the basics and grow your supply over time if you find out you like it. 

Feel free to ask questions in the comments!