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Are you trying watercolors for the first time? If so, here are 5 tips to kickstart your watercolor painting experience:

1. Start off light

With watercolors you have to paint from light to dark (the reverse is almost impossible). So try to go as light as possible for your initial layers, and plan for your darker layers later.

2. Add multiple layers to increase contrast

Due to the transparent nature of watercolors, you may need to put down multiple layers to really get good darks. Let the paint dry in between layers to avoid lifting any wet pigment, and be careful not to “scrub” subsequent layers as that can lift color from the dried layers.

3. Keep some of the paper white

The bright white of your paper can be used for the highlights and lightest areas of your composition. This means leaving some of the paper unpainted.

Alternately, you can use masking fluid before you start painting. (Do this if it is too hard to leave white areas white, i.e. if you feel the sections are too small, or that colors will bleed through.)

To use masking fluid, brush it on and let it dry completely before adding any wet paint to the paper. The dried masking fluid will protect those areas from soaking up any color, and can be peeled off after your painting is finished to reveal the untouched paper beneath.

4. Divide and conquer

I find it helpful to separate my painting into smaller areas and tackle them one at a time. In my video demonstration for these tips, you’ll see that I have done the sky first, then the water, then the beach and finally the sea-shell and the girl.

5. Paint “soft” things wet-on-wet

Choose carefully when you will paint wet-on-wet and when to go for wet-on-dry. I think it is advantageous to work wet-on-wet for things like clouds, where you do not want harsh edges anyway. You want the colors to bleed into each other and thus blend easily. To paint this way, wet the paper with water, then get color on your brush and place it on the paper. It will spread softly through the pre-wet areas.

At other times, however, you may want crisp edges and lines. In that case, paint with a wet brush on dry paper, and focus on painting specific details. The color won’t spread nearly as much as wet-on-wet.

Special thanks to Sayanti Chaudhuri for today’s post! To watch her demonstrate these tips, check out this video on her YouTube channel.

*Note: this post may contain affiliate links*

Do you mix your own black oil paint, or use a black paint straight out of the tube? It's certainly more convenient to buy black paint in the tube, but there are some definite benefits to mixing your own—like the ability to shift the color temperature of your black paint to harmonize. . . read more

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