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How To Stay Consistent With Watercolors

Updated: Dec 26, 2023

When I painted the same thing for the fourth time, it was clear that being consistent with it makes you better at watercolors. In this post, I'll show you “how to stay consistent with watercolors"

Here are eight tips:

  • Quality of Materials

  • Understanding Your Medium/Paints

  • Mixing Watercolors

  • Brush Techniques

  • Planning Your Attacks/Layering

  • Patience Is King

  • Learn From Mistakes

  • Consistency Through Practice

Quality of Materials

The first step in watercolor painting is the quality of the materials you use. It is essential to use high-quality watercolor paper, paints, and brushes. Whether you are starting as an artist, a student, or a hobbyist, it's a good idea to begin with small watercolor paper blocks or loose papers, as well as small tubes of paints before investing in more expensive supplies. This allows you to experiment and find what works best for you.

I can recommend specific watercolor paper brands like Saunders Waterford, Arches, and Baohong. However, you should also be open to experimenting with different watercolor papers to discover which one suits your style and preferences. That's why I suggested starting with smaller blocks or papers to try out various options.

In the end, as you work with different materials, you'll develop a feel for what works best for you. It's kind of moving to a new house where you gradually add essentials to make it look good. The quality of your materials will also improve as you gain personal experience.

Understanding Your Medium/Paints

The next step is to understand your medium. In watercolor painting, it's crucial to understand the difference between transparent and opaque watercolors. Transparent watercolors allow light to pass through them, creating a translucent effect. On the other hand, opaque watercolors provide more solid coverage, obscuring the paper underneath. Opaque watercolors are similar like gouache, are suitable for creating solid and opaque watercolor paintings.

Understanding your pigments and colors is also essential for artists, beginners, and students. This knowledge helps you create the colors you want and prevents your artwork from changing colors over time. It also aids in understanding how to layer colors in watercolors. If you ever have trouble identifying colors, you can label them in your swatches to keep things organized.

Mixing Watercolors

Color mixing is a fundamental aspect of watercolor painting. It involves blending different colors to achieve the desired shades. One helpful approach, I use for color mixing is to think in terms of cool and warm colors. If I encounter a cool color, I mix it with other cool-toned colors like Cobalt Blue, French Ultramarine Blue, or Cerulean Blue. On the other hand, if I'm working with warmer colors, I blend Yellow Ochre, Cadmium Red, Burnt Umber, and Burnt Sienna, which fall in the warmer spectrum.

Thinking in cool and warm tones simplifies the process of color mixing, making it easier to achieve the desired hues. An exercise, I often recommend to my students is to maintain a journal. In this journal, they can reference different shades they want to reproduce in watercolor. By painting these shades and labeling them, they create a reference for future use, ensuring they know exactly which colors they used and can replicate them in their artwork.

Brush Techniques

When it comes to brush techniques in watercolor painting, having a variety of brushes is essential, ranging from rounds to flats. You can find this video showcasing different brush types used for watercolors and you can find the right ones for your needs. Good brush control is also crucial for confident and precise strokes in your paintings.

One effective exercise I recommend before starting to paint is to train your dexterity. Take a blank piece of watercolor paper and practice creating straight lines with different types of brushes, such as a rigger, flat brush, and round brush. Experiment with different line variations, going from straight to thick, thick to thin, flat to thin, and thin to flat. Additionally, try to create various textures using your brushes. This practice helps you develop the skills needed for creating different brush strokes in your artwork.

I can't emphasize enough the importance of washing and keeping your brushes clean. Proper brush maintenance ensures that your brushes are always ready and in good condition for your next painting session. You will thank me later for this tip 😊

Planning Your Attacks/Layering

Planning your layers is crucial for achieving consistent and vibrant results. Thinking in terms of layers allows you to control the values and color vibrancy effectively. There are three key layering techniques that every watercolor artist should know: glazing, wet on wet, and wet on dry.

Glazing: This technique involves applying a transparent layer of color over a dry base layer. It creates subtle layer effects, and you can achieve darker tones by layering glazes. For mid-tones, you should avoid excessive glazing.

Wet on Wet: When using this method, you apply paint to wet paper, allowing colors to flow and blend together organically. It results in a more fluid and blended look.

Wet on Dry: This technique involves applying paint to dry paper, resulting in more controlled and precise brushwork. It's ideal for detailed work. I highly recommend experimenting with these three techniques, as mastering them allows you to create beautiful watercolor artwork.

Patience Is King

Patience is another essential aspect of working with watercolors. You must be patient when waiting for layers to dry before adding more colors.

Rushing can lead to undesirable blending, muddying colors, and the appearance of unwanted bubbles or cauliflowers in your painting. Using a hair dryer can speed up the drying process, but as you gain experience, you'll understand the medium better, enabling you to plan your approach and avoid unintended blending or loss of vibrancy in your work. So, take your time and embrace the patience needed in watercolor painting.

Learn From Mistakes

One of the important steps in watercolor painting is to embrace the idea of learning from your mistakes. Remember, mistakes are some of the best teachers in your artistic journey. Rather than getting discouraged when you make a mistake, see it as an opportunity for growth. Even experienced artists make mistakes all the time, and these mishaps often lead to breakthrough techniques and newfound creativity.

In watercolors, mistakes can be beautiful and lead to happy little incidents that enhance your work. Embrace these mishaps as a chance to experiment and evolve as an artist. One valuable tip I've learned from a favorite artist of mine is to respond to mistakes by saying, "That's what I wanted." This mindset shift allows you to see your errors as intentional choices, refining your skills and creating unique, meaningful art. So, the next time you make a mistake, view it as a step toward improving your skills and developing a distinctive artistic style.

Consistency Through Practice

The final tip is all about achieving consistency through regular practice. I cannot emphasize enough how important consistent practice is for improving your watercolor skills. Personally, I start my day by painting, aiming to create one painting each day. In fact, I've taken on the challenge of creating a thousand paintings, and I'm currently at Painting #320, you can follow my journey in Instagram.

You can set your own practice goals, such as creating ten paintings in a month or two paintings in a week, and gradually increase the challenge. Setting a goal gives you something to work towards. Keep in mind that when you start, it may be a bit challenging, but after a few weeks, it becomes easier, and you'll find the motivation to keep going.

Becoming a skilled artist is a journey that takes time and persistence. It's like going to the gym; you may not see results in a month or even in six months, but if you keep at it and persevere, you will improve. To maintain consistency, establish a specific time for your regular painting sessions. You don't always have to create complex artworks; sometimes, it's beneficial to paint simple objects, still life, familiar scenes, or anything that piques your interest. The key is to maintain your momentum and steadily increase your practice. This way, you'll continue to grow and evolve as an artist.

I hope you found this article helpful and insightful. If you have any thoughts or experiences related to the tips provided that helped you in your artistic journey, please feel free to share in the comments. Your feedback and personal insights can be valuable not only for your own growth but also for other artists looking to improve their watercolor skills.

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