How to Get Better With Watercolors - 5 Tips

All watercolor artists would like to improve their paintings. Here are five tips to help you to do so:

1. Plan your white spaces ahead of time. This is important when painting with watercolor. Unlike oil painting, where whites are added as a last step, watercolor whites must be planned for and "saved." This can be accomplished by either painting around them, or by using a masking fluid to block out the sections of your painting you want to remain white.

2. Know your color wheel. Having a basic knowledge of primary, secondary and tertiary colors, and their relationships to one another will help you to know where to place them in your painting for the best effect. Knowing which colors are each other's compliment will give your watercolors balance and appeal. Complimentary colors are located directly opposite one another on the color wheel. For example, red is the compliment of green, and yellow is the compliment of violet. Placing complimentary colors adjacent to each other is pleasing to the eye.

3. Use a full range of values. Using a full range of values will help give your watercolor paintings depth and make your whites pop. Make a "back and white" sample using a row of ten empty squares you have drawn on your watercolor paper; leave the first block white, and paint the last square nearly black (I never use black in a watercolor. Indigo Blue works well, or a mixture of Alizarin Crimson and Winsor Green.) Now mix combinations to make the various shades of "gray" in between. using this wide range of values will help you to improve your watercolor paintings.

4. Avoid making a muddy mixture. Knowing which watercolors are transparent and which are not, will help you to avoid mixing a muddy brown. There are many colors which are transparent such as Rose Madder Genuine and Cobalt Blue. When combined these make a lovely transparent violet. Other blues and reds with more opaque qualities will make a "duller" violet, and if a third color is added, the possibility of a muddy brown exists. So study by practicing using a wide variety of colors to determine their degree of transparency.

5. Last, but not least, be yourself! Don't try to imitate other artists' styles. Paint the way You paint, and your own style will evolve. You will come to have a favorite palette and your watercolors will reflect this. Don't let others tell you are painting too "tightly" or too loosely. Be yourself and paint in a way which feels most natural to you!

Sue Doucette, Author/Artist

I have been painting with watercolor for many years and am happy to share with you what I have learned along the way. I write a monthly page of tips for fellow watercolorists which I post on my website. Please visit

To see more watercolor paintings, visit

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