Watercolor Paint – 4 Top Tips For Getting Started with Watercolors

by Neadeen Masters on March 22, 2013

How to paint with watercolors – where to begin?

The paint selection is endless, the brand names many and the costs vary greatly.  Where does a beginning artist start when they want to learn how to paint with watercolors? It’s simple, talk to an experienced water colorist or to another artist or to a teacher who has experience with this kind of media. It’s easy to select paint based only on the beauty of the color, but when it comes to painting in watercolor and painting in general, we need to select paint based on certain criteria that leads to success. Many colors look very similar, yet they perform quite differently when used.  So let’s get started…

Selecting the best watercolor paint when learning how to watercolor paint.

  • Begin with a palette of colors that will give you the best range of hues, and choose a professional grade of pigments.

Select Professional Watercolor Pigments

  • Like all paint brands, there are both student and professional grade paints in most paint collections. The student brands tend to be less expensive, but don’t let the price fool you. While they may be some savings for your pocket book, the purity and strength of the colors is lower. Student grade paints have less pigment. They are often formulated using two or more less expensive pigments. They don’t result in the same ‘look’ of a rich vibrant painting created with professional, artist grade paints. Artist grade, professional paints are made with the highest grades of pure pigments and have no filler in them. It’s always better to start out with good paint and good quality papers. Your chances for success will be ten times greater when you paint with professional supplies. Most especially when you are a beginning artist or just getting started in watercolors. Choose a professional grade, you’ll never regret it!

Work with a Limited Palette To Start

  • Next, work with a limited palette,  start with 10-12 colors that are chosen for specific reasons. Understand this, each pigment has specific qualities.  Some are opaque, some transparent, some are earth tones, while some have greater staining qualities. Each color pigment plays a role and allows you to create certain effects using specific watercolor painting techniques. Some pigments are very useful for mixing, while others allow you to create interest and balance with contrasts of cool and warm temperatures, and some are used for creating beautiful luminous effects. Knowing how each pigment will perform comes with experience and an understanding of the pigment properties. Making choices without this knowledge can lead to disappointments and frustrations. Mission Gold Watercolors has put together an excellent starter set that provides an excellent range of hues. (see graphic below)

12 color starter set - Mission Gold Professional Watercolors

Watercolor Paint Sets

  • Select  watercolor sets and you will enjoy a wide range of hues for creating luminous watercolor techniques. Many top brands of watercolors put together specific combinations of colors. These are for the beginning artist who may not have the necessary experience selecting the right combination of pigments. This removes doubt and helps the artist start off on the right foot. A collection with 12 colors will often have representation from the most important colors of the color wheel. There will be equal representation for reds, orange, yellow, green, blue green, blues, violets, and red violets. This way the artist can easily mix colors, shifting between the color families with greater ease. A palette like this can also provide a very wide range of hues for painting most subjects. Color sets are a great way to begin. They will not only help you learn how to watercolor paint, but they will remove most of the frustrations of making mountains of mud!

If you have questions regarding painting in watercolor or Mission Gold Watercolors, please mailto: info@artapprenticeonline.com

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Paula Hales October 26, 2013 at 2:59 am

Hi Neadeen, you have been such an inspiration to me. I quite often have treatment at hospital and I love to paint. I use to be a student of Hazel Anthony’s and painted some of your beautiful pieces through the courses I took with her. I just adore you and your art work.
Paula Hales xxx


Neadeen Masters November 19, 2013 at 7:16 am

Sorry I missed your posting to our blog. Thank you for the great feedback. hazel is one of my favorite artists. She’s a lovely lady, you are lucky to paint with her.


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