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Learn watercolor painting for beginners: the ultimate online course

Table on which lies a bowl of flowers, rolls of tape, watercolor pictures of flowers, half a drawing with pencil, watercolors, a palette, a glass of water, various types of pencils and brushes on a paper towel.

If you've always thought, "Watercolor paintings look so beautiful, painting them must be hard" then you're not alone. Many of us have a great desire to learn watercolor painting, but don't know where to start.
You might be quickly overwhelmed and discard your plans to learn, but with the right guidance and a few exercises, it can become a lot of fun to paint your own watercolor pictures!

Talent and experience do not play a major role in this type of painting. Much more decisive is:
✔ The correct handling of the colors ✔ How you use the brushes ✔ What material you use.

Nadja

An article by Nadja

How to learn watercolor painting

In our online watercolor painting course, you'll learn from our artist Nadja everything you need to get started successfully!
We give you answers to questions like:

  • What is important when painting in watercolor?
  • How do you prevent mistakes when painting in watercolor?
  • What materials do you need for watercolor painting?
  • How do you paint correctly with watercolors?
  • How to start painting a watercolor picture?

With the help of our videos, templates, as well as explanations of the different materials, drawing styles and techniques, you'll be able to successfully conjure up your own watercolor paintings in no time!

Before you start

Before you start each watercolor class, you can find some helpful content to assist you with the classes via the following link:

► Materials needed for watercolor painting

► Downloadable templates for transferring them onto watercolor paper

► The most common mistakes and how you can avoid them

Before you start

One hand drawing different flowers with watercolours

Watercolor painting with watercolor paints

Go to course

In this course you will learn everything about how to use watercolor paints correctly: which colors are available, which painting techniques can you use and how do you mix the colors correctly? To try everything out after reading, you can also download a free template to practice! Finally, our watercolor expert Nadja will show you how to create your own artwork using your newly learned skills.

 

a hand draws a flower meadow with a watercolour pencil

Watercolor painting with watercolor pencils

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From the smallest details to the whole picture - watercolor pencils are great all-rounders that you can use in many ways. In this course, Nadja explains everything about watercolor pencils: what makes the pencils to use and which watercolor techniques you can use. Put what you've learned directly into practice and download the template to start! Under Nadja's guidance, you'll put your new skills to work in your own artwork.

a hand draws different coloured leaves with a brush pencil

Watercolor painting with brush pens

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Our brush pens can be used not only for lettering, but also for watercolor paintings. Since the color of our pens is water soluble, you can decorate your watercolor painting with many small and fine details. In this course, Nadja shows you the important techniques for watercolor painting with brush pens! Afterwards you can create your own beautiful floral motif.

a hand draws flower tendrils with a watercolour pencil

Watercolor painting with graphite pencils

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Our watercolor graphite pencils are anything but ordinary! In this course, Nadja shows you how to use pencils not only for sketches, but for entire watercolor artworks. A free download template for this expressive motif will help you get started!

Before you start:

What materials do you need for watercolor painting?

To learn watercolor painting, you need a few special materials. Nadja explains exactly what they are in the following video:

Watercolour block example

Watercolor paper

Unlike traditional paper such as printer paper, watercolor paper has a different paper thickness and surface texture. You can usually buy the paper in the form of a watercolor block. The thicker the painting surface you choose, the better it can absorb water and consequently does not curl. For beginners, cold-pressed paper with a thickness of at least 300g/m² is best. This information can be found on the cover sheet of the watercolor block.

Watercolour colours STAEDTLER

Watercolors

You can also buy watercolor paints in sets. These usually contain the most important basic colors, which are well suited for beginners. The colors are available either in small tubes, boxes, or as liquid form.

Watercolour pencils STAEDTLER

Watercolor pencils

They look like conventional coloring pencils, but these special watercolor pencils are also water colorable. The drawn sketches can be easily painted with a wet brush, which creates beautiful effects.

Watercolour Brush Pens STAEDTLER

Watercolor brush pens

You can use these brush pens like normal felt pens or for hand lettering. The special feature of this product is that they are also water colorable and are therefore ideal for painting or drawing watercolor pictures.

Watercolour pencils STAEDTLER

Watercolor graphite pencils

These graphite pencils are designed especially for watercolor painting. They are ideal for sketching watercolor pictures because the color can be easily overpainted with water afterwards. Shadows in watercolor paintings can also be created with the help of these pencils, for example.

Three different watercolour brushes and one water brush

Paint brushes and water brushes

There are different types and sizes of watercolor paint brushes: flat and round brushes, as well as different thicknesses. It's best to get a few different models for a variety of styles. Round brushes in size 8 are ideal if you want to draw large areas or flower patterns. Smaller, round brushes in size 2 are suitable for drawing fine details and elements.

Water brushes are the perfect choice for on-the-go: fill them with water and you're ready to go. You will also need 1 or 2 water containers and a paper towel.

Two hands holding a palette for watercolour paints

Paint palette

Paint palettes are needed to mix the different paint colors. You can mix the paint as like in the individual predefined areas. After you are done, you wash out the palette and can then reuse it as often as you like.

Two examples of STAEDTLER watercolour pencils sets

All-in-One sets for beginners

The All-in-One watercolor sets are the perfect starting equipment for beginners. They contain not only the watercolor pencils or brush pens in assorted colors, but also drawing pencils, water brushes and erasers.

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Let's begin: Transfer templates onto watercolor paper

Once you have your material ready and have "warmed up", it's time to transfer the template for your first watercolor painting onto the paper. To do this, watch the video follow the below steps:

The individual steps:

  1. Print the template on normal paper.
  2. Shade the back of the template with a very soft pencil (such as 6B).
  3. Then place the template face up on the watercolor paper. To prevent it from slipping, you can tape both sheets to the table or other painting surface.
  4. Now trace the outlines of the printed template with a hard pencil (such as HB grade). By doing this, the motif is transferred to the watercolor paper with the help of the shaded back.
  5. Tip: Before you fully remove the tape, check the watercolor paper to make sure that the outlines of the motif have been successfully transferred to the paper so that they are sufficiently visible.

Watercolor painting: The most common mistakes and how to avoid them

Even when painting with watercolor, mistakes happen, that's not a bad thing. To avoid making mistakes and so that you do not get used to the wrong techniques, Nadja explains in the below video the most common mistakes and how you can avoid them.

But don't worry: there is no right and wrong when painting watercolors, just try yourself, experiment and don't get discouraged - practice makes perfect!

Watercolour paper

Mistake #1: Wrong paper

Many beginners use the wrong paper when they start watercolor painting. The most common mistake that is made: not using a special watercolor paper. Watercolor paper has a very high component of cotton for a reason. It makes it very absorbent, not only for water but also the mixed colors. Conventional printer paper, for example, curls a lot when it gets wet. So not only do the colors melt, but the picture ends up looking distorted when the paper dries.

Various watercolour brushes

Mistake #2: Wrong paint brush

There are round and flat watercolor brushes for watercolor painting. Beginners often use paint brushes that are too small because they lack the necessary confidence. However, if you use a brush that is too small, you will need more brushstrokes for your painting and the work will quickly look overworked. A size 8 paint brush is best for beginners: you can use it to paint many different shapes, as well as finer and coarser strokes. A flat brush is best for painting backgrounds. For the smallest details you ideally use a round brush in size 2.

Dirty water in a cup held by a hand, watercolour pencils and watercolour paper

Mistake #3: Dirty water

You will quickly notice the first time you try and paint with watercolors: the water discolors relatively quickly. If you also use many colors in succession, it will soon look very similar to a muddy puddle. Therefore, make sure to change the water regularly so that the color pigments on the watercolor paper continue to show to their advantage.

Watercolour brush with blue watercolour paint running on watercolour paper

Mistake #4: Too much water

It often happens that beginners use too much water when painting in watercolor. If the brush is too wet and the mixing ratio of water to color is not right, the paper will curl very strongly. This leads to unwanted water edgesand outlines around the color area.

blue colour blobs

Mistake #5: Too little water

On the other hand, you can also make the mistake of painting with too little water: there is the so-called "dry brush effect" that you can use specifically. To paint beautiful transitions and color gradients, however, you should use the right amount of water. If you make a mistake and the color is too dry or dark, you can easily fix it by dipping the brush in water and squeezing it out in the brush cloth. Now you can simply soak up the excess paint on the paper with the brush.

Watercolour brush tip with colours blue and pink running into each other

Mistake #6: Color bleeding

A mistake that happens often with impatient artists: the first layer of paint is not yet dry, and you continue painting with another color. The result: the colors mix and run into each other. In so-called "color bleeding" you then have no clear edges on your painting. Layering the colours always works better once the paint is dry.

Two pink brush prints and splashes on watercolour paper

Mistake #7: Unwanted paint splashes

If you accidentally drop the brush onto the painting and unwanted splashes appear, you can remove them quickly and easily: by washing the brush in clean water and letting a drop of the clean water drip onto the watercolor paper. The paint will dissolve, and you can remove the splashes with a kitchen towel. However, it is important to let the paper dry completely before you continue drawing!

Blue and pink watercolour drawing on watercolour paper, pencil

Mistake #8: Too dark underdrawings

Sometimes it happens that you have drawn your sketch with the pencil too dark. If you want to erase it afterwards, you unfortunately also remove the watercolor. You can avoid this mistake by making the preliminary sketches with a water colorable colored pencil in light grey. This preliminary drawing is blended in combination with water and can hardly be seen afterwards.

Watercolour paper, paint, drawing, pencils and palette

Mistake #9: Perfectionism

The picture is finished, but you are still not satisfied? Sometimes beginners make the mistake of always wanting to change something to improve the artwork. Unfortunately, it then happens that it does not become more beautiful but appears overworked.

In the end, look at your painting favorably, even if you are not 100% satisfied. Trial and error are part of the process - if you made mistakes in this painting, they won't happen again in the next one.

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Click here for the courses

The STAEDTLER Design Journey Art Class

Have you successfully drawn your first watercolor paintings? Share it with everyone and link us on social media using the hashtag #myDesignJourney!

If you're also interested in different drawing techniques, check out our other Design Journey Art Classes. Here you'll find online classes on topics like:

  • Drawing Animals with Sine Hagestad
  • Perspective Drawing with Dan Beardshaw
  • Drawing with ink and watercolors with Kalliopi Lyviaki
  • Drawing techniques with colored pencils with Melanie Übleis