8 Best Watercolor Painting Ideas for Beginners to Try

8 minute read

Watercolor is regarded as an extraordinary coloring medium that can produce breathtaking artwork. It is, arguably, one of the most popular tools created. From its humble beginnings in England, more than 700 years ago, the rich history of watercolor painting has significantly influenced the world of arts and crafts. If you are thinking about picking up this hobby for the first time but have no idea where and how to start, this post is for you!

Let’s fill you in on some of the basic and must-know watercolor techniques!

Watercolor art on a handmade card

What Is Watercoloring?

Watercoloring is a painting method that uses watercolor as its primary paint medium. This water-soluble paint, known for its translucency, is made of pigments that are suspended in a water-based solution. It is a non-toxic and flexible medium that renders well to different kinds of art projects. Thanks to its translucent property, it yields beautiful, light, and flowy effects. 

Watercolor painting might be an ancient type of painting but it has maintained its popularity throughout the ages. Even with the advent of modern technology, people of all ages are still drawn to this creative and fun hobby. While it is equal parts exciting and frustrating, especially for those picking up a paintbrush for the first time, this “unforgiving art” has definitely caught the attention of crafty and creative people.

Watercolor Therapy Bundle

Watercolor Therapy Bundle

This type of painting doesn’t really require a lot of art supplies, making it even more appealing to crafty people who just want to create something without spending too much on tools. All you’ll ever need, aside from the best watercolor paints, are watercolor paper and watercolor brushes or paintbrushes. Just like with every hobby, this is an investment. Even as a beginner, you need to make sure that you get decent and high-quality supplies.

Find out more about what is watercoloring and how it started here!

Types of Watercolor

The method and use of watercolors have evolved over the past few decades. Watercolor art has come a long way, thanks to the various types of watercolors invented. Artists used to be restricted to pans and tubes, but they now come in the form of pencils, pens, markers, and more. While these paints all do the same job, each of them yields a unique result and effect. It’s up to you which one suits your needs, preference, and budget. 

Here are the most popular and best watercolor paints for beginners:

36 Pan Watercolor Set from Altenew

Watercolor 36 Pan Set

Watercolor Pan Set

Often readily available in little solid dry cakes, this looks similar to an inexpensive watercolor set for kids. Watercolor pan sets are relatively straightforward to use than other types, making them a preferred choice for beginners. Most pan sets come in a handy case with a lid, which can be used as a palette. These are not just travel-friendly; they’re budget-friendly too. If you want to try easy watercolor ideas, then this is an excellent set to start with.

Metallic Pan Watercolor Set from Altenew

Metallic Watercolor 14 Pan Set

Watercolor Pencils

This type of watercolor is in the form of a pencil. It perfectly combines drawing and painting, making it a favorite among artists and coloring enthusiasts. Its versatility and the variety of results make it more appealing than other coloring mediums. If you are a beginner who is still testing the waters and experimenting with various color combinations, you’ll find these pencils extremely helpful. With these, it is easier to play around with unique color combinations and try multiple techniques. You can either use these pencils dry (like a colored pencil) or wet (like watercolors). When you activate it with water, you can quickly achieve the look and feel of a watercolor painting.

Woodless Watercolor Pencils and Pan Watercolor Set

Woodless Watercolor Pencils Starter Bundle

Here are three step-by-step instructions on how to use watercolor pencils:

  • Pick a color. Start coloring your chosen image with it.
  • Once you’re happy with your coloring, activate the pigment by adding water to it.
  • Use a wet paintbrush or dip your pencil in water to activate it.
  • To intensify the colors, add more colors through layering, or mix them with other colors. The creative possibilities are endless!

Give these watercoloring pencils a try today!

Watercolor Brush Markers or Brush Pens

If you have used alcohol markers before, then it’ll be easier for you to use these brush markers. These are super convenient since you have a water brush and watercolor in one tool. The barrel is filled with water-based color, which can be applied straight from the marker or diluted with water for a softer look. These often come in a set with a wide variety of colors. The brush tip is soft, flexible, and sturdy and disperses the pigment easily.

Watercolor brush markers from Altenew

Watercolor Brush Markers - Spring Garden Set

Here’s how to use them: 

  1. Apply your chosen color on the paper by squeezing the 
  2. Then move the pigment and watch the paint flow like any other watercolor ink.
  3. Feel free to dilute the color by adding more water or intensify it by adding more pigment.
  4. Start blending the color and create easy watercolor paintings.

Watercolor painting on a card using liquid watercolors

Spring Garden Watercolor Brush Markers & Refill Bundle

Liquid Watercolors

Although these are relatively new to the game, it has quickly caught the attention of artists and coloring enthusiasts. Since they are much more saturated than pans, you don’t need much when using these. You can dilute it if you want a lighter color. These are pretty vivid and beginner-friendly.

If you have done your research about the best watercolor for beginners, then you may, or may not have, come across gouache.

Watercolor art inspiration

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What is gouache?

Gouache is a type of paint that is somewhat similar to watercolor but designed to be opaque. According to Wikipedia, this is a “water-medium paint consisting of natural pigment, water, a binding agent (usually gum arabic or dextrin) and some additional inert material.” You have probably seen some designs or paintings made with gouache; you just didn’t recognize it. Artists often use it to create illustrations, comics, posters, or other graphic designs. Like watercolor paint, gouache needs water to be activated. It dries to a matte finish; that’s why it’s ideal for graphic designs.

Watercolor card using watercolor paints and gouache

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What Is The Difference Between Gouache and Watercolor?

Before you seek easy watercolor paintings and ideas, you must know the difference between these two popular coloring mediums. 

Between these two paints, gouache is more opaque, and watercolor is more translucent. Simply put, when you apply watercolor pigment to paper, you can still see the paper underneath the color. Whereas when you use gouache on paper, the paper won’t show through the paint. With gouache, it’s easier to create smooth plains with just one color. It also dries lighter and has a chalk-like filler. Both of them are relatively easier to use than oil paint, and they both dry quicker. If you’re looking to build layers and achieve flowy and watery textures on your watercolor art, then watercolor paint is a better choice.

Floral watercolor card using pan watercolors from Altenew

Artists' Watercolor 24 Pan Set

Is Gouache Easier Than Watercolor?

If you’re a beginner who simply cannot decide which medium is better, you can always try both. Both of these mediums are excellent for newbies to the world of watercolor painting. Both are more forgiving, as compared to oil paint and acrylic paint. Since you can reactivate these with water, it leaves more room for mistakes and gives you a lot of flexibility. Keep in mind, though, that it all depends on the brand that you’re using. Cheap brands will most probably not create the results that you are aiming for.

Watercolor floral card made with artist-grade watercolor paints

Discover artists’ top choice of watercolor markers here!

How Do I Start Watercoloring?

There are a ton of easy watercolor paintings and watercolor art ideas best suited for beginners. It could get overwhelming, especially if you are entirely new to this art. The critical thing to remember is to start small and simple. Experiment with your chosen medium. Learn the basic techniques and practice them constantly. Like every other hobby, you cannot master any technique or skill without practicing. 

Here are eight easy watercolor ideas and watercolor tutorials for beginners!

Wet-on-Wet Technique

Watercolor handmade card using Leaf Canopy Stamp Set

Leaf Canopy Stamp Set

This is one of the easiest watercoloring techniques and is definitely a must-try for beginners. As the name suggests, this technique means adding wet pigment onto a damp paper. Water is used mainly to wet the paper. Watch the video below to get a better understanding of this technique.

No-Line Watercoloring Technique

Another must-try technique for beginners, this gives off a freehand vibe, making it look like a true watercolor artist created your work. With this technique, you use very light ink to stamp your image and blend the colors through the lines to make them disappear. Here’s a no-line video tutorial to help you practice.

Watercolor Wash

Looking to create a quick and instantly beautiful background on your watercolor art? Try this technique! This involves building up layers of pigments and applying a layer of diluted pigment, which is slightly transparent, onto your paper. The beauty of this technique is that they’re fun to do, and you can always make it your own. Almost every mistake you make is salvageable when you do a wash.

Handmade card with watercolor wash

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Here are the five types of watercolor wash:

  • Dry flat wash
  • Wet flat wash
  • Gradient or ombré
  • Variegated
  • Wet on wet wash

Watch the watercolor tutorial below to learn how to do this technique.

Salt on Watercolor

An oldie but goodie technique that you must give a shot. It follows the same process as watercolor washes and the wet-on-wet method. However, you add salt - yes, the seasoning! - onto the paper, while it’s still wet. It’s fun, quick, and easy! A great technique to try for easy watercolor paintings! Watch the video below!

Detailed Watercoloring Technique

While most techniques for beginners are more messy and free-flowing, you can always try incorporating details into your artwork. The video here will show you how to create both easy and detailed watercolor art.

Altenew watercolor set

Lazy Man’s Watercoloring Technique

Are you in need of quick and straightforward watercolor painting ideas? You definitely have to give this technique a try! The video tutorial below will enlighten you on how to do this fun little hack!

Loose Watercoloring Technique

Also known as the messy watercolor painting technique, this is also an effortless, free-flowing technique that is ideal for all levels. It is especially great for beginners! Watch this video and give it a try!

Watercolor scrapbook page using watercolor rose stamps

Watercolor Roses Stamp Set

Scribbling Technique

This method is extremely easy and fun; even kids can do it! If you are looking for simple watercolor painting ideas that you can try with your family or friends, this is it! You only need to prepare the necessary supplies such as watercolor paper, a paintbrush or water brush, and your chosen type of watercolor, and you’re all set! Here’s a short video showing how to do this fun technique!

Altenew watercolor set

Watercolor, as you already know by now, is an incredibly unpredictable medium. Wonder why it has “water” in its name? It’s only natural that it will flow and is harder to control. Don’t try to control it! Just go with the flow and enjoy the process. Whether you’re picking this up as a new hobby or trying to master becoming a watercolor artist, keep these basic techniques in mind and practice them as much as you can.

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