• Tia Brown

Watercolor Tips for Beginners

  1. Don't quit

  2. Have a shopping list

  3. Learn basic drawing skills

  4. Experience builds experience

  5. Have fun

This is for anyone who wants to get started with watercolor for the first time! Or maybe you've already tried it and are not sure where to go next. These are things that I've personally learned along the way or heard from professionals that have been invaluable to me. They kept me going when it was tough and got me to where I am. I hope these tips help you as well!


I cannot stress this enough! Do. Not. Quit.

You're not "becoming an artist" or even "learning to watercolor." You ARE an artist. Congratulations!

This is the single most important piece of advice you'll ever hear about developing a new skill. It could be art or music or woodworking. Doesn't matter. Bottom line is that success is not from inner "talent" or chance or knowledge or expensive classes. Those may play a part in getting someone started, but they're not enough to FINISH.

Anyone can start a race but what really matters is if they finish.

There have been SO many times I wanted to quit on a painting. Or give up altogether. But I had decided that no matter how many times I failed, I wouldn't quit. I'd keep going. And if for no other reason than to honor that decision, I picked the brush back up.

When you get stuck or frustrated, try something different. Grab a scrap paper and doodle random lines. Watch a different teacher explain it. Search for a different angle. Find something else to work on and come back to it later. Anything! Just don't give up.

Don't ever give up! That's all it takes. I promise.

2. Have a Shopping List

When I first started out, I found myself in the aisle of Hobby Lobby suddenly overwhelmed at how many choices there were and so little money I had to spend. I know almost nothing about watercolor and had no idea where to start. I don't want you to be as lost as I was, so here's the shopping list I wish I had when I first started:

  • Any cheap watercolor paper (140 lb cold press)

  • Arches 100% cotton cold press

  • Escoda or Black Velvet brushes--size 10, 6, and 4. Round synthetic.

  • Tube paints (cheap will do): cerulean blue, burnt umber, yellow ochre, Paynes grey

  • pan for mixing (largest one they have)

  • cup for water

  • painter's tape

  • sketching pencil and eraser

  • coffee mug with a lid (trust me)

You'll hear tons of different advice from artists about what makes the best "beginner set." It's totally up to you if you follow my advice or pick a different artist's shopping list. But at least have a shopping list that includes what type of brush, paper, and paint you want.

About the Paper

Arches is THE BEST paper ever! Nearly everyone I meet uses it. It's 100 % cotton cold-pressed, which keeps it stiff and able to soak in water without buckling so easily. You do NOT want to go cheap on paper! The cheaper paper will not produce those really awesome watercolor effects you want. It just won't. It can't blend, flash wash, gradient, nothing.

So why is the cheap paper on the list? It's actually really useful for just practicing "drawing" with the brushes. Since it's cheaper paper, I feel less intimidated using it to experiment.

I use my cheap paper for basic exercises or learning to draw leaves. You can even paint on it, just don't have your expectations too high. If it turns out poorly, blame the paper! LOL

About the Paints

The cheap paint works just fine. No one will notice the difference. I like using tubes, but some people prefer the dry pan. You can get both and try them out if you want.