Tips & Tricks for the Watercolour Artist


Watercolour is a timeless medium, used by artists from Vincent Van Gogh to Georgia O’Keefe. And while anyone can just pick up a brush and get started, we’ve found a few tips and tricks to help you optimize your watercolour experience.  

1. Using the right watercolour surface

Have you ever seen how water colour paint looks on regular copy paper? The paper buckles, the paint starts to pill, and you don’t get that smooth, even wash that you see with watercolour paper. We mean it when we say that using paper designed for water colour paint makes ALL the difference.

Here are a few of our favourite water colour paper options to get you set up:

 2. Stretch your watercolour paper

Watercolour paper

Stretching your watercolour paper creates a tight, flat surface that is better able to absorb paint. To begin, you’ll want to get the paper wet. Then, simply adhere the paper to a hard board using staples or tape and blot it with a towel to remove excess water. Once it’s dry, you’ll have a stretched surface ready for painting.

3. Test your colours

Before you dive into your art piece, it can be helpful to see what your paint actually looks like on paper. We suggest creating swatches of each colour on a separate piece of paper. It is SO convenient to have them to refer back to as you select the colours for your piece.

4. Do a light sketch

Often, watercolour artists will begin with a light drawing of their chosen design. This is a key step in any watercolour project, but it must be done with caution. You need to make sure you don’t press too hard with your pencil. By keeping it light, you won’t have harsh lines poking through your painting at the end.

Some words of advice:

5. Explore your paint options

Watercolour paint
In the watercolour world, you have options, with each type of paint having its own unique strengths. Here are a few of our favourites:

Pan watercolour – compact and portable, pans are a great option for the on-the-go painter. We recommend the Neva Palette – it features high concentration pigment, high lightfastness, and is great for mixing.

Tube watercolour – termed ‘grown up watercolour’ by some, these paints are great for larger pieces. And if you squeeze out too much and it starts to dry, you can always make it soluble again with just a little water.

Watercolour pencils – this option offers more control in your painting, allowing you to draw your piece first, and then paint over it with a brush. Plus, pencils are incredibly portable.

watercolour pencils

6. Try new techniques

Blooming is a technique used to bleed colours into each other. Looking for a visual? Check out this helpful how-to article complete with photos.

To achieve this effect, soak your brush with water and pigment and apply it to your paper. Next, add a second colour to your brush with the same concentration of water, and apply it to the area. At this point, the colours will be easy to move and blend, allowing you to shape and create a gradient of colour. The last step: just let it dry.

You can also check out the salt technique, the lifting technique, the splatter, or the scratch off.