• Kirsty Partridge

5 Watercolor Mistakes You Should Avoid

There are lots of common beginner mistakes when it comes to using watercolors. I’m going to give you some tips on how you can avoid 5 of the biggest mistakes I see out there, whilst painting a tiger and avoiding said mistakes. You can follow along to lots of real-time watercolour tutorials here.


Mistake 1;

Picking the wrong type of paper for your watercolor paintings.It is one of those mediums where it is very important to have paper of good quality and which is designed to be used with watercolors. My favorite type of paper for watercolors is Fabriano hot pressed or cold-pressed watercolor paper – hot pressed is quite smooth, whereas cold-pressed has more texture to it. You don’t need something expensive, just some watercolor paper that is about 140 pound in paper weight.


Before you start painting, tape either side of the paper down to prevent warping and buckling.


Mistake 2;

Not using the right amount of water for the effect you are trying to get. It’s ok to use lots or very little water, but make sure it’s right for the effect you want.


Using too much water results in pooling, where lots of water forms in one spot (especially if your paper is wavy from warping). It means you don’t get an even layer or wash on your painting, and it dilutes your colors. Also, the colors will run and bleed into each other, giving you less control of the painting and making it harder to get those finer details.


Using too little water gives a less fluid and smooth look as the paint is thicker, making it less spreadable and so more paper texture shows through. However, less water can be good, for example when using the wet-on-dry method and want to paint details.



Mistake 3;

Not planning enough and thinking about techniques. This can lead to a lot of issues, such as not picking the right colors and not preserving highlights – it is hard to get natural bright white highlights by putting white paint on top of watercolors. Therefore, it is really important to plan everything out, so you know where to avoid adding watercolor and can preserve the brightest highlights in your painting.


Think about which techniques best represent the effects you want e.g. for a blurred, out of focus effect you would use the wet-on-wet technique, but for finer details and crisp edges you would use the wet-on-dry technique.


Mistake 4;

Not waiting long enough for your layers to dry. It is important to work in layers to build up details and add depth to the painting. Start with lighter washes and build it to those dark ones. Not letting watercolours dry will cause new layers of watercolour to bleed into previous ones, making it hard to paint in sharp details.


You can use a hairdryer on the cool setting to speed up the drying process.


Mistake 5;

Not utilizing the large range of effects you can create with watercolors to make your piece more interesting. It is such a fun medium and you can use things such as salt, cling film and tissue to get cool effects.


For many more ways to boost your watercolor skills, have a look at my online watercolor painting courses.


To see this ferocious tiger being created as I talk through these mistakes and how to avoid them, watch the video below:

Materials used:

Windsor and newton cotman watercolours: http://geni.us/StarterWatercolorSet

Arches Cold pressed: http://geni.us/Archescoldpressed

Windsor and newton gouache: http://geni.us/DesignerWhiteGouache

Sakura white gel pen: http://geni.us/SakuraWhitePen

Disclaimer; some links are affiliated.

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