Does watercolor painting intimidate you?
I’ve been there. Actually, these paints scare the hell out of me sometimes.
However, I’m certain you and I can make wonderful watercolor art journal pages with a simple beginner’s approach.
That’s why today, I’m sharing ideas for easy watercolor paintings for beginners.
After you’ve done these mini-tutorials, you’ll be amazed at how watercolor painting can be fun and I’m sure you’ll discover how lovely it is to use watercolors.
To satisfy your curiosity right away, this is what we’re going to paint today:
1. Watercolors and geometry
2. Watercolor circles/ovals
3. Watercolor cactus
4. Watercolor galaxy
5. Watercolor + doodles
Also, I’ve prepared a very simple color theory guide for your paintings. You can download it by filling out the form below.
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What is watercolor
It’s an art medium. The paint has pigment in it and is water-soluble. This means that when you add water to this pigment, you can spread the pigment with a brush.
Is this way too technical?
In other words, watercolor paint is an amazing translucent medium used with water, and in some cases, a lot of water.
As opposed to acrylic paint, watercolors are lighter, transparent and I would say, more gentle than acrylics. And so soft-looking!
However, they can be intimidating. This mostly happens if you paint with watercolors and don’t add enough water, or you don’t spread the pigment enough with your brush.
This happened to me a lot until I realized that I should always have some water running on the paper.
Remember, watercolors are not supposed to look like acrylics, which are opaque and not transparent.
On the contrary, watercolor paints should have the effect of transparency and softness.
Oh, I love using them so much!
That’s why I want you to try some easy watercolor paintings to see how lovely they can be.
Watercolor painting supplies
If you’re wondering what is needed for watercolor painting, here’s a simple list of the art supplies you’ll need to get started.
1. Watercolor paper or an art journal with watercolor paper inside
If you try using watercolor paints on a regular thin paper, you’re up for some disappointment.
However, since art journaling is rule-free and carefree, there should be no limits to what you can use or make. I use watercolors whenever I can and this sometimes includes shitty paper.
But, if you want to see how perfectly watercolor behaves on watercolor paper, please find the paper.
You can find this paper anywhere, like stationery shops, hobby and craft stores, and of course, online. Search for the paper that is 300gsm/140lb. This is the weight of the paper or its thickness, to put it simply.
As far as art journals, I can say that I’ve been using these amazing journals with watercolor paper inside. They’re designed by a mixed media artist Jane Davenport, who I admire a lot. (Yeah, she’s a role-mode artist for me.)
You can check out the journal here, but I must warn you because once you try this journal, all others will just seem “meh”. That’s how extraordinary it is.
Which ones to pick?
The only thing I look for in a brush for my watercolor paintings is to be soft and round.
This is not to say you can’t use flat brushes. It’s just been my preference and I love working with round, soft brushes. They tend to soak up just the amount of water you need.
These are one of my favorite tools for watercolor paintings.
These watercolor brushes already have a water container, so they’re always wet and you apply water just by pressing it firmly.
This is why they’re an excellent choice for a travel journal kit or a small kit you always carry around with you, without worrying about having jars of water always ready.
Having these brushes lets me sit on my couch, under the blanket, and still paint! I don’t have to sit at the table, and making art on the couch is a special kind of creating, a more loose and carefree one.
You can check the brushes here.
It’s obvious that you need water for painting with watercolors.
The container is not that important, you can use jars, mugs, plastic cups, anything you feel suitable for this.
I usually reuse jars or plastic containers.
So, what you’ll need are two of these containers.
First, you clean the brush in one container and then dip it in the second one to further clean the brush.
The first jar will always be dirtier than the second one, but this way you save time instead of changing the water in the jars more frequently.
4. Paper towel
You’ll need a piece of folded paper towel in order to clean your brushes quickly or to dry them when you need to.
The great thing about this is that you can reuse the paper after it’s dried. Well, not for eternity, but I’ve been using just one piece of paper towel for many paintings.
5. Watercolor paints
Yes, I left these for the end. It’s pretty obvious that you need these, right?
So, if you’re just beginning with watercolor painting, you can buy cheap, student grade watercolors at any craft store.
However, if you’ve tried those and want something better and more up the artsy ladder, I have an amazing solution for that.
I’ve been using a watercolor set I instantly fell in love with. The colors are vibrant and they’re already mixed so you have a nice choice of shades. But it still contains the three basic colors: red, yellow and blue, if you’re into mixing colors.
These watercolors are made with love by an amazing artist Jane Davenport (Yes, the same artist that makes those beautiful art journals.)
They’re called the Bright Watercolor Set. Check them out here.
Ever since I discovered her art supplies, I can’t seem to get enough of them.
Recently, I bought another of her watercolor sets called the Neutral set. And surprise surprise, I’m loving it!
The colors are amazing for painting skin tones, which is awesome if you’re into painting whimsical ladies like I am.
Combine these two sets and all you’re ever going to do is more and more watercolor paintings, I’m telling you.
Basic watercolor techniques
I’m not going to write novels about this because it’s a topic for a whole other article.
However, I’m going to introduce you to a few basic watercolor techniques that I’ve been mostly using and that you’ll be using for these easy watercolor paintings.
Don’t worry about the terminology like “techniques”. These are just guidelines coming from my own experience. In fact, I’m not using technical terms either, but the names you’ll more likely to remember.
And while you work on these easy paintings, you’ll start noticing how watercolor behaves and see different techniques that I mention below.
1. Wet on wet (soft blending)
Basically, you put some water on the paper first and then add more watercolor and water on top of that.
A wet paintbrush on wet paper.
Does that make any sense?
Maybe it’ll make more sense if I tell you that watercolor paint goes where there’s water. If you paint a circle with water and then add watercolor, the paint only flows on wet areas, not the dry ones.
This is one of my favorite neat things about watercolors.
I love this technique because the watercolors blend so softly and the transitions between shading and colors are not visible.
Here’s an example:
I applied the wet on wet technique and see how the colors blend nicely and have no definite lines between them?
This is the opposite of wet on wet technique. So there must be some drying involved, right?
The point is, with this technique, you paint the first layer od watercolors, and then you let it dry.
After that, you add another layer and you’ll notice that the first layer is visible beneath. You can see exact lines of the shapes, or “borders” between shapes.
If you look at my art journal page above, you’ll see how blots of watercolor dance together but each of them is visible and unique on its own.
This way of painting lets you make beautiful markings and shapes.
Easy watercolor paintings for beginners
We’re going to make 5 amazing and oh-so-easy watercolor paintings and most of them are going to be more abstract than specific objects.
I figure it’s a lot easier to start with abstract paintings than immediately set off to painting portraits or complex still life. Because this would scare the hell out of you and I’d see you running away, cartoon-style (clumsily running, hands in the air, frantically yelling: noooo!)
I want you to feel confident and believe that you can paint these, so we’re keeping it as simple as we can.
Let’s do this.
1. Easy watercolor geometric shapes
The technique you’ll be practicing: glazing.
Supplies you need: watercolors, a brush.
We’re going to paint some shapes, leave them to dry and then paint more shapes on top of that.
This way, the shapes underneath will be visible, too.
For this purpose, I’m painting squares, rectangles, and thick lines but you can add triangles and circles, too.
Watercolors are water-soluble so they react to it always. Just have in mind that if you dance around with your brush too much on the layer beneath, you’ll eventually pick up the paint again. Although this can turn out great if you’re into blending and having a distressed look.
First, paint shapes with any color you like. I chose different colors because I want my page to be colorful. Let dry.
After the first layer is dry, add more shapes over the first layer. Just play around, overlap the shapes, and if you pick up some paint off the first layer, don’t worry. Then it’ll just be a loose painting. Lovely!
After these layers are dry, I added some thick lines, horizontal first, then vertical.
You can play with color here. For example, I chose the yellow paint for my vertical lines to brighten up the page a bit.
Now, I can use this page as a background, or just journal on it with a white pen or marker.
You can even take a photo of the page, crop it to fit the screen and use it as a background image for an Instagram post, or print it on a paper and use it as paper scraps for your art journal.
2. Soft watercolor circles
I must say that these aren’t really circles, more like oval shapes. The choice is yours, it works great with circles or ovals.
The technique you’ll practice: just simple shape painting, no blending or glazing
Supplies you’ll need: watercolor, larger brush, a pen for doodling
Decide which colors you’re going to use. I love the idea of only one or two colors with different tones. For me, it was blue and pink.
Dip the brush into the water, pick up some paint and just paint the round shapes like in the photo below. Add more water or paint if you feel there’s not enough.
However, don’t worry if they turn out imperfect, that’s even better!
Take the pen and start doodling inside the shapes.
You can doodle trees, flowers, more shapes, abstract doodles, dots, words, whatever comes naturally to you.
You might turn these shapes into short messages for yourself.
There’s really no limitations to what you can do here. Enjoy!
3. Watercolor cactus
The technique you’ll be practicing: soft blending (wet on wet)
Supplies you need: watercolor paint, all shades of green you have, plus something pinkish for the flower + brush in two sizes, larger one for the cactus and a tiny one for the details.
Draw a shape for the cactus lightly with a pencil, just so you know where’s the painting area.
Don’t forget the pot at the bottom.
Take the larger brush and put water in the cactus shape. Like you’re painting it with water. Cover the whole cactus.
Start adding the lightest green you have. Paint the most of the cactus but just leave some white spaces on one side, left or right. That’s for the highlights.
While the painting is still wet, start adding a darker green, especially on the edges.
You don’t need too much water now if the cactus is still wet, just add color with a slightly wet brush. Play with it, the less perfect it is, the more dreamy and unique it will look.
If you have an even darker green or dark blue, continue adding it on the edges on the side opposite of the highlights (because these parts would normally be in the shadow).
Now, we’re going to add some lines, thorns, and flowers on top.
Take the darker green, a small brush and draw horizontal lines on the cactus and its “hands”.
Then, draw small cactus thorns randomly on the lines. I just draw the letter V for this.
Let’s paint flowers on the top. I chose light pink, dark pink and yellow for the pistil.
Do this with wet on wet technique again.
First, paint the flower with light pink. The shape doesn’t matter, make it just flower-like and that’ll be great.
Secondly, add a darker tone in the middle and when this is a bit dry, add some yellow for the pistil.
However the paint blends, it’ll look wonderful.
You can color the pot any color you want. Put a lighter layer first and then add darker areas around the edges. And that’s it.
4. Watercolor galaxy
How amazing are those images of galaxies? I love looking at them and I love painting them, especially with watercolor.
The technique you’ll practice: soft blending (wet on wet).
The supplies you’ll need: a pencil, brush, white acrylic paint, an old toothbrush, watercolors in different colors like pink, blue, purple, yellow and black.
Lightly draw a circle in your art journal. Take the brush and wet the whole circle (like we did with the cactus).
Start painting with pink and paint the whole circle without worrying about where the paint will go.
While it’s still wet, add darker pink or purple and start painting from the edges. Use your brush here to blend the paint with the previous layer. Just don’t cover the whole circle with darker tones.
Choose darker blue or black and continue adding paint on the edges and add a bit towards the center, too. For more interest, add some yellow in the middle.
Play around and don’t try making it perfect. The paint itself is going to flow and blend nicely.
If you feel the paint is dry, try adding a bit of water with your brush.
After that, take the toothbrush and put some white acrylic paint on it.
Then, go with your finger over the hair on the brush and splatter the paint over the circle.
Do this more in some areas, and less in others. These are supposed to be stars.
I think I screwed mine. Some big blobs of acrylic paint ended up in my galaxy. But, hey, I shouldn’t care, right? Let’s celebrate imperfection.
You can add stars with a white pen or marker, too.
5. Watercolor + doodles
The techniques you’ll practice: glazing.
Supplies you need: watercolors, brush, white or black pen/marker.
We’re making an abstract painting consisting of just a few shapes and some doodling inside them.
I decided to go with only one color but different shades. Blue was my first choice.
Pick the lightest shade of the color you’ve chosen and paint a few irregular shapes, imagining a bouquet. Let dry.
Paint as many shapes as you want to on top of each other with different shades.
I suggest you do this in threes which means to paint 3 shapes with each shade of watercolor. Let dry.
Now it’s time for doodling. Take the pen or marker that you’ve prepared and just draw lines inside each shape. Play around and have fun.
Be careful where the shapes overlap.
I would do this with a white marker rather than with a black pen, and I also used a gold marker because I love how it makes the doodles more sophisticated.
If you choose darker colors for the shapes, try a white/gold pen for doodling, but if you paint the shapes with lighter tones, then the black pen would be effective.
Did these easy watercolor paintings help you?
I sure hope they did. I know how it feels when you badly want to do something in your art journal but still need some guidance and practice.
That’s why I made these mini-tutorials, to show you that, even if you’re only a beginner, you can paint with watercolor and still be happy with it.
Painting with watercolors is enjoyable and I love the looseness and the softness it delivers.
Every skill needs practice, so don’t neglect your watercolor stash and I promise you that, after practicing, you’ll get better and better at it.
If you need more help with choosing colors, I’ve made a color wheel for you to help you pick the colors that go perfectly with one another. Get it below.
GET MY FREE AND SIMPLE COLOR THEORY GUIDE FOR YOUR WATERCOLOR PAINTINGS!
Download the free color theory guide that you can use for experimenting with your watercolor paintings. It’s not complex or academic, it’s a simple visual representation of the color wheel. Just fill out the form below!