Fresh Watercolors

getting fresh watercolors, avoid dull paint, simple beginner watercolor steps,


How do I avoid dull watercolors?”

This is the question I’ve been asked a lot lately. So I’m going to share with you with the solutions and options, that have worked well for me.


getting fresh watercolors, avoid dull paint, simple beginner watercolor steps,
Fresh. Watercolors!




Problem:  Dull Watercolors

You want to know why you keep getting lifeless, dulled looking watercolor paintings and you want to know how to stop it from happening!




Causes and Solutions


A.  Paints:

Inappropriate paints for the task at hand


  • Mixing Opaque paints (such as Cadmiums, Light Red, White, Ochre, etc)  into your mixes cause troubles.


  • Mixing student…. grade paints,  cause troubles and dullness as well.


  • Using a Stainer when you really need a Granulator, creates troubles.  A Stainer is transparent, deeply dark, and shoots Forth like a jet rocket. Whereas Granulators, settle and sink into the paper’s crevices to create more textural effects.


  • Mixing 2 warm colors together (ie Cadmium Scarlet Red and French Ultramarine blue)  Both are warm versions of their Color –   creates –  mud, dullness, listnessness.


  • Learning and knowing the warms and cools takes time.  Some effort. And a keen desire to improve.   This part, is not an overnight quick solution, but slow and steady.




EASY to strip back.   123

Limit dramatically the paints you use:   3 Paint colors.

(Perhaps a 4th, if  Required.)


My featured art work – Fresh Watercolor,  has 3 paints with about two drops of a 4th paint.

I used Quinacridone Gold,  Permanent Rose,  (these were artists’ Winsor and Newton) and   Cobalt Teal Blue and   Indigo (these were Daniel Smith Watercolors.)

The Indigo, I literally only used 2 dashes at the very final end of the painting to create a lovely luminous Fresh Watercolor.





B.   Timing:

Placing more paint on instead of waiting til the area is thoroughly dry

ahhhhh.   The dilemma of impatience!


and fiddling.   fiddling… yes,  it ranks in my mind as a 4 letter word. It creates Ruin!


A helpful sequence for painting is to remember to use first transparent paints, and then stainers, then  granulators,  and LAST…. if you must,   opaque paints applied on the dry surface.

This, is the Secret to Fresh Watercolors!





C.   Paper:

dull paper creates dull watercolors


If I use nice bright, 100% cotton rag paper I will invariably get a clean fresh lively energised look to the watercolor artwork.

But when I try to ‘go cheap’  and use student papers, Troubles Arise.


What trouble?  The student papers aren’t cotton but a mix of ‘cellulose pulp’  ie like a tissue or napkin really.

Thus, the paint doesn’t quite absorb in nor does it sit right.


The paint washes do not transition and give that smooth and gorgeous seamless blend, that I so love about watercolor!

I get an inferior work every time. In my opinion, its never the same luminosity and “Freshness”  I’m looking for. My Featured work is  fresh and lively, its on Arches 100% cotton cold press 300gsm paper.






So you can see, there are several very simple, very easy steps and techniques you can start doing today.

These simple methods are going to help you prevent tired, lifeless and overworked watercolor paintings.


Yes.  You can improve the freshness, the clean look, the vibrancy, the luminosity of your paintings…. if you simply remember

1  Paints

2 Timing

3 Paper





For more information on Watercolor Beginners  Basic Tips, Techniques the following articles provide great additional insights – to  get started on Fresh Watercolors! 


Watercolor Basic Beginner Tips 

Watercolor 3 types of edges 

Watercolor Techniques Trees 

Watercolor Spectacle of Trees 

Watercolor Mixing green 

Watercolor Secrets  

Watercolor Textures 

Watercolor 10 Great Brush Tips 




Published by debiriley

The act of creation, in any media is a fascinating and magical process. I simply love to create. Expressing in color, line, tone, texture - as if, they were words upon a page. Creating a uniquely me, interpretation. Enjoy More of my "one-of-a-kind" expressive art at and,

33 thoughts on “Fresh Watercolors

  1. Nothing like yummy, clear color and you are helping us to achieve that 🙂 thank you so much! I will have to pour over these links once again to refresh my mind. Prussian Blue is another one I want, I think in times past I had gotten Antwerp blue and I loved it, so you are saying that it is one in the same? I don’t know which brand I had at the time but it was not DS. So, a question for you, I am finding that my Aureolin is a warm yellow, I was hoping for a cool yellow. It doesn’t really mix well with my other colors, seems flat and doesn’t create the green I want. I seem to have bad luck with yellow 😦 You recommended Hansa Light to me not long ago, is it a cool yellow? does it behave well and play fair with other colors? Is it just me or is yellow tricky? I love your painting by the way, fresh and lively and colorful! Woah, I just kept slinging all the questions and thoughts at you….duck!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. thank you Margaret! Yes, prussian blue is a wonderful color I think, so handy and versatile a mixer. my all time, fav maker happens to be Maimerblu for Prussian Blue. Thats just me. and Hansa Yellow Light DS is a cool, and imo does play well with others!
      “Yellows” are notorious. They are a trickster to work with, in the beginning…but great fun as knowledge of the types of Yellows starts to really cement. Great comment M, as usual!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. yes! this is so easy to do…. I still can do it, let me tell you 🙂 I get color happy after not painting for a long time and POOF… all my pretty colors get used. and its a mess. LOL

        Liked by 1 person

    1. well, ms Jodi, imho….. YOU DO!!! its so clear the difference in the past few months has made, with all your practice – they are all FRESH ! this info is really cementing in 🙂
      thank you, and cheers, Debi

      Liked by 1 person

  2. You make it look so darn easy and I know it is not. Goodness this is another goody that I just deeply stared at. Bless you for sharing your knowledge to help those who do paint. Oh, Debi, what a big Heart you have!!! ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks!!! I’m so pleased the info is useful 🙂
      and gosh, Amy, its just like you made that last photo look so stunning, so easy too!! my word how I love it!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. yes, it that it exactly that gets us trouble!
      so many colors… we would get into some real trouble if we went into an art shop together I’m betting!
      these days, I either go alone for a lovely afternoon… or have a dire appt. I must get to right away, so its in and OUT.
      so many colors…. 🙂
      cheers, Debi

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Great advice as always Debi. I have sometimes livened the colours up with a thin acrylic wash of a similar color if the painting looks dull the next day after it has lightened and dried. Thoughts? Have a great week ahead 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Oh such a wonderful post Debi! Thank you! The steps are so simple yet so difficult when it comes to budget and resources (so very true in my side of the world) Yet, there are unexpected blessings and supplies coming from the US and Canada. Thanks again for sharing this, I will take note and remember.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. thanks! I do like the part about 3 paints as it is less cost too 🙂 the paper… well, it gets both sides used!!! and then, acrylics over the top of that. I just don’t waste it. miserly me. lol

      Liked by 1 person

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