Thinking back to your childhood you can probably remember days spent whiling away the hours with your first set of watercolour paints. They’re usually a parent’s first choice when they’re introducing their son or daughter to art, and they’re generally purchased in tray form with small blocks of primary colours and a cheap plastic paintbrush that transfers paint to paper but does very little else.
Your first watercolour paintings will have been pale, and will no doubt have creased thanks to excessive use of water. As you grow older, the enjoyment you found in painting can be forgotten as you recall so many failed attempts. Learning to paint with watercolours isn’t as easy as your parents might have made it out to be, but if you take the time to practice and to develop a technique the results will be inspiring.
Watercolour paints are forgiving. Mistakes can be washed over with more water, left to dry and improved on. You might have to spend a while learning, but thanks to the relatively low price of watercolour painting supplies your new hobby won’t cost you a fortune.
Watercolour brushes come in a variety of sizes, and you’ll want to start by buying a variety of brushes to work with. Buy thick watercolour brushes to create backgrounds for your images using ‘flat wash’ techniques where you drag a large brush from side to side in one slow movement, and choose smaller watercolour brushes to create the foreground for your image.
The best watercolour brushes can be quite expensive, but there are cheap options available if you’re just starting to try your hand at watercolour painting. Always remember not to go for anything too cheap, however – no doubt you’ll remember finding black strands of cheap paintbrushes all over your completed childhood works of art!
You’ll also want to consider watercolour paper if you’re serious about developing your talent. Typical A4 printing paper simply won’t do if you’re aiming to create professional pieces, so you should take some time to consider your style and the look you’re going for, and to buy appropriate watercolour paper for your work.
Rough paper is filled with dips and dents that hold water in small pools creating a strong and varied image. Hot-pressed (HP) paper is smooth and fine, perfect for an even look, and cold-pressed paper, often known as NOT, offers an option somewhere in the middle of the two.
When learning to paint with watercolours, it’s best to start with cold-pressed paper and to adapt in the future if you believe another kind would work better. Choose a thicker paper (with a higher GSM) to avoid those creases you remember as a child, and if you’re not happy with one brand be sure to experiment with others.
Your watercolour brushes, and your paper, are vital tools that must be considered carefully if you’re to be as good as possible. It takes a little experimentation to find the right paper and the right brushes, but in the end your art will be far removed from the pictures of trees that you created in your early years.
South Bank Art is an online store providing watercolour brushes and other art supplies online.