Watercolor 101 for Beginners

Have you ever been interested in trying watercolor as a medium? Look no further for a guide to watercolor for beginners!

Art has been a part of history for millions of years, recording pieces of history that would otherwise be lost forever. We have seen art go from using easily obtainable means such as soil and fruits to becoming what it is today, with its synthetic brushes and pigments alike. With the ever-increasing possibility of using anything as an art medium or art support, the beauty of art continues to expand to be accessible to anyone.

Watercolor has been around for millennia, offering its simplistic yet diverse nature to anyone who wants to utilize it. The art pieces that you can capture with this medium are awe-inspiring, bringing us a whole realm of art unlike anything else.

What is Watercolor Painting?

There are generally two components to watercolor paint: pigment and the binder. The pigment is the color seen within paints and what makes your medium have its shade. The binder that I previously mentioned is generally gum arabica, a natural gum that consists of hardened sap for two acacia trees. Gum arabic binds more than just watercolor painting. It also binds the flavorings in soft drinks and is attributed to the thickening ability in icings, chewing gum, soft candies, and more. When you are painting with watercolor, you’ll use water to wet either your page, your medium, or both. Lastly, you’ll have to wait for the water to dry for your pigment to bind to the paper.

The History of Watercolor

Watercolor painting began way back in the Paleolithic era. During this era, prehistoric humans created art using their area’s natural means to capture their lives. From ancient civilizations to Egypt and then Asia, the craft of watercolor painting made its journey worldwide to become what it is today. The Renaissance brought watercolor to Europe, allowing for advances in the watercolor painting world. The discovery of synthetic pigments inspired experimenting with watercolors, artists testing its abilities, and giving us the pieces we may still see today. Watercolor grew to be a popular choice for art students focusing on botanical and wildlife illustrations. The craft would also be popular for mapmakers, as topography was easier to represent with watercolor.

watercolor butterfly

Watercolor in Modern Times

Around the time Paul Sandby, an English mapmaker, began using watercolors for his landscape paintings, watercolor painting became an established medium. The expansion of watercolor in Europe led to this medium spreading further. The craft found a place in the United States during the 19th and 20th centuries. Prominent artists took breaks from their primary medium to create a watercolor piece or add watercolor to their mixed media art. Its rise in popularity established watercolor painting as an influential craft in human history. Today, we see watercolor artists capturing immeasurable beauty, making life into delicate art pieces.

What Supplies Do I Need for Watercolor?

Now that you’ve taken the time to learn the history behind the craft of watercolor painting, it’s time for you to start gathering the materials you need. While there is an abundance of extra materials you can utilize in your watercolor paintings, you will learn the basics here! Let’s go through the things that are essential to begin watercolor painting.


As with everything, watercolor paint has different levels of quality. The two grade qualities found in watercolor are generally student-grade and professional-grade. You can find watercolor paint packaged either in a pan or in a tube, giving you an option to see what is most comfortable for you. Watercolor paints are available for purchase individually if you only need a color or two to achieve your goal piece. However, if you are new to watercolor painting and want to sample a little bit of everything, you can also buy a set of watercolor paints. Here is a collection of watercolor paints that are in pans for your convenience, along with a set of watercolors that are in tubes. The choice is yours!


It is typical to see a single paintbrush used by an artist to make their masterpieces in media. For some people, this very well could be the case. However, most of the astonishing art pieces you see probably were created with more than one paintbrush in the world of accessible art. Paintbrushes can have a difference in their shape, size, and material. If you start with one brush, your best choice would be a round brush, preferably of natural material instead of synthetics. For beginners wanting to test out various brushes, you can buy a set of 10 right here.


Watercolor paper is essential because most art paper types will not withstand being damp, at least not to the same degree as watercolor paper. You are going to need a material that can withstand quite a bit of moisture. Most products will designate whether it can be used for watercolor. You can also check websites of popular brands to see a table of different types of paper available and what mediums can be used. 

Watercolor paper is available as sheets, in the form of an art pad, or blocks. Sketchbooks are also great for beginners, as it is enough to hold the art you wish to create without occupying too much space!



You are going to need a container to hold your water. You will be using water for a lot of your time spent watercolor painting. This container can be whatever you want it to be, whether a Solo cup or a coffee mug. I personally recycle glass jars that was used to store food.

You should preferably have two containers of water while painting. You don’t want to use water for your art if it is too murky. To avoid changing your water multiple times during time spent painting, you can have one container for rinsing between colors and one container of clean water for your art.


While a palette can be anything that you want to use, a recommendation is to use a palette made of ceramic or plastic. While you could use saucers or dinner plates as an alternative, the palette gives you different sections (or “wells”) to keep your colors separated. If not for the use, a palette can bring an aesthetic during your time painting, which may inspire you to create more.


Art can sometimes be a little stressful as a beginner. While not everyone will want to use a pencil, it isn’t a tool that you should regard lightly. To know where you’re going with your art in advance helps you with your brush and color placement. If you would like to fit the aesthetic a little further and purchase a set of Sketching Pencils, it is entirely your choice!