I recently received an email from a Customer who wants to teach her Daughter how to paint using watercolours but really did not have a clue where to start:
With homeschooling I have started showing my Daughter how to use watercolours properly where we are painting flowers. I don’t know what I am doing so a complete novice myself. Can you please advise me on which paints I can get as an adult to get set up or any places for tips so I can learn then help my 11 year old? Any advice on where to shop?
I would appreciate your help.
It occurred to me that there may be more of you interested in watercolour painting that are unsure where to start so I thought I should share my reply to her in the form of a Blog!
I buy my materials from several places, all online, links below, I buy different things from different sites, The SAA are very good to join for free postage on any order regardless of size, they also have loads of tutorials in the community section. You can also follow them on social media.
The main thing I would say is to buy the best quality paper and paint that you can afford. Brushes are maybe not so important, as long as you choose specific watercolour brushes you should be fine, some of the sites above do their own branded ones which are good.
As far as watercolour paper goes, there are 3 main types, hot pressed (super smooth), NOT (not hot pressed, slightly textured) and rough. When starting out I’d suggest NOT. It come in different thicknesses, shown as either lb or gsm, the bigger the number the thicker the paper which basically affects how much it ‘cockles’ or wrinkles up when you add the paint. The blocks are quite good which are gummed on all sides and so stop it wrinkling too much, otherwise you can buy sheets and stretch it yourself…..this is probably a whole different blog in itself and something I’m very happy to talk about if you wish! The SAA do some pretty good practise paper although it will not necessarily always give quite the same effects as more expensive papers, but useful to try out techniques. It’s also possible to buy sample packs from different manufacturers which contain several different types for you to try out.
I’d say 3 brush sizes are useful, all ’round’ to start with, very small for detail, medium and large. Sable is the very best but you’ll pay for it – Jacksons have a lovely one for £603! The SAA Gold and Silver brush ranges are good. Writing these words has prompted me to photograph my own selection of watercolour brushes and I don’t have many as you can see below, something that goes to a fine point is the key really then you can paint the tiniest details with the largest of brushes:
As far as paint goes, it’s very easy to buy every colour by every brand, sometimes the same colour can be named differently by a different manufacturer so it’s worth checking the pigment number either on the tube or the manufacturers colour chart to make sure they’re not a duplicate of something you already have.
I have nothing against black and have several tubes, although many teachers will say never use it, I well remember our school art teacher smacking our hands when she caught us with it! Sometimes it’s the only way to darken the tone without changing its actual colour but use sparingly and try other mixes as well. Daniel Smith make a beautiful one called ‘Lunar Black’ which granulates to make the most gorgeous effects. Granulation is where the pigments clump together to create ‘speckles’ rather like tea leaves and is a good way to depict, for example, the bark on trees.
I’d suggest a basic choice of 6 colours, 3 ‘cool’ and 3 ‘warm’, if I had to pick for myself I’d choose:
Cool – cerulean blue, cadmium red, lemon yellow
Warm – Ultramarine blue, alizarin crimson, cadmium yellow
This link explains warm and cool well : https://justpaint.org/defining-warm-and-cool-colors-its-all-relative/
You should be able to mix most colours you want with those, it’s a good exercise to produce a colour chart, make notes to say what the mixes are, of all the colours you have, it helps to understand colour better.
Hope that helps a bit, I’d say don’t get too hung up about painting actual flowers to start with, just play around and get confident in the paint and what it does,
Very best wishes,
I should just add that these are all just my own opinions and that I haven’t been paid to endorse any particular brand or company. It’s just a question of seeing what works for you!