Five Basic Watercolour Painting Methods For Beginners

Watercolour paints are generally known for their two qualities. First, they are translucent as we can clearly see the multiple layers of watercolour applied from the first wash till the finishing detail. Second, they are water-based and non-toxic, making an ideal tool to teach painting to beginners or even children. The blog mentions some easy to adapt techniques to start watercolour painting comfortably.

Some artists at first find watercolour painting hard to use after using either acrylic or oil-based paints. But if they have basic knowledge about how to use watercolour paint in the best way, they will start to love this style of painting.

Watercolour Painting

5 Basic Watercolour Painting Techniques

Out of many techniques available for watercolour painting, some of the basic techniques are easy to practice and helpful for the beginners to paint comfortably.

Wet-On-Wet Painting Technique

In simple words, a wet-on-wet technique means applying watercolour paint on a wet surface. This painting technique is quite helpful in preparing a light colour background or adding texture to painted shapes later. For this technique to work well, first choose a thick and porous paper with enough capacity to absorb water. It reduces the risk of paper getting shredded or torn with water application. 

Below are some steps mentioned to use this technique in the best way

  1. The first step is to wet a small brush and draw a circle on a piece of paper (only with water) without using any pigment.
  2. In the second step, apply a small amount of paint from your watercolour palette and add colour to the circle drawn on that paper before the water dries out. 
  3. The third step is to wait for the water to dry out. At this stage, we are unaware of how the colour will appear on the paper. This step makes the wet-on-wet technique more interesting as it reveals the colour and texture on the paper in a different way.

When the water dries out completely, this is the final stage. Water colours are more subtle than being vibrant so they get lighter when water dries out completely.

Wet-On-Wet Painting Technique

Suggested Read: Acrylic Paint: Origin And Making

Wet-On-Dry Painting Technique

Just like the wet-on-wet technique, this technique also defines itself which means applying wet paint on dry paper. This technique is best if you want your painting to be more defined and vibrant. Mostly realistic or illustrative paintings are done by this technique. Simple steps related to wet-on-dry techniques to practice are mentioned below

  1. The first step is to take a large brush, dip it in watercolour paint and start painting on dry paper. In this step, colour opacity and texture depends on how much water you mix with the colour. If you mix more water, the colour will be less vibrant, and if less, the colour will be more vibrant and opaque. 
  2. At the last stage, when the paint is completely dry, you will notice how colours tend to fade and can look quite different at this point than before.
Wet-On-Dry Painting Technique

Single Colour Gradient

This type of watercolour painting technique is an excellent way to learn about the variety of shades of a single colour. It teaches you how much water is needed to get a specific colour shade.

Some steps to master in single gradient are mentioned below

  1. First, put concentrated paint on one side of the paint palette and drop a small puddle of water on the other side. 
  2. Start with dipping clean brush into the water first and then apply 2-3 small strokes horizontally. 
  3. Start mixing pigment little by little and repeat this step till you have a dark colour shade. Make sure to clean your brush every time after you make a stroke. 
  4. By the time you reach the end of your paint strip, you will see your watercolour mix thick, and the colour gets more concentrated and opaque. You get a nice watercolour painting transition from light to dark in the end.
Single Colour Gradient

Multi Colour Gradient

This technique is similar to a single colour gradient. Main difference is that this technique uses two or more colours, to create a transitional gradient, giving an ombre effect of various hues in the painting. 

At first, try choosing colour combinations from Six Tertiary Colours made by combining primary (Red, blue and yellow) and secondary colours(orange, green, and violet), Red-Orange, Yellow-Orange, Yellow-Green Blue-Green, Blue-Violet, and Red-Violet. This technique will help you experiment with different colour combinations and help you choose the shade you desire.

Color Wheel

Also Read: Types of Oil Paint Brushes

Following are steps mentioned to make a perfect colour blend

  • Take two colours, let's say yellow and red, and place them separately on a painting tray. Make sure to dilute colours with water, maintaining a 50:50 ratio of water and pigment. 
  • Start off by applying small strokes using yellow. 
  • Clean your brush every time when you pick up a new colour shade. Now start off by applying red shade. The transitory effect should be soft and subtle so make sure to use red shade by mixing it with a little more water.  
  • By the end of the painting strip, you will clearly see the middle part of the strip showing a light orange but the end showing a vibrant red. Your original colour mix which was yellow will completely transform from orange into pure red in the end.
Multi Colour Gradient

Precise Painting Technique

This technique helps a beginner to paint around the edges of a shape in a more controlled way. Below are steps mentioned that will help you get familiarize with this watercolour painting technique

  1. The first step in this technique is to draw simple small shapes on a piece of paper. Draw any shape you like. Use two paint brush sizes i.e. a large one covering large areas and a small size for painting on the area around the shape. 
  2. When you start painting in this technique, make sure to mix your colour with water maintaining a 50:50 ratio. 
  3. For painting the area near the shape make sure to get very close to the shape and try not to touch the shape. Make a thin white border near the shape. This tip saves the colour from not getting merged a lot with the colour of the shape.
Precise Painting Technique


Watercolour painting can sometimes be a little intimidating to work with for beginners and even for some experienced artists. The only way you can remove this fear is through knowing some easy and proper techniques. This blog tells you about how beginner artists can start and get comfortable with watercolour painting, observe how it works, and think of more innovative new ideas for their creations.

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