Watercolor Tips

easy watercolor tips, beginner watercolor techniques to get started, helpful guidelines for watercolours, art brushes, color mixing landscapes, debiriley.com

Watercolor 10 Fast, Simple, Easy Tips for Beginners.

The 1st  watercolor tip,  holding your brush is more important than you might think!

Imagine a surgeon having a death grip on the scalpel? mmmm… no thank you.   A nice light hand, sensitive to what is happening,  the grip on the tool sure and comfortable. At ease, from practice.

While painting and using a brush or a palette knife is really not the same as surgery,  it does involve a very similar  degree of sensitivity and light handedness.


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Watercolor Brushes, loose and bold


10 Watercolor Tips


  1. hold the brush loosely, without tight rigid stiff tension
  2. stand to paint if you can, sitting hunches your neck & shoulders
  3. do be ultra generous mixing your paint blends, not ‘stingy’
  4. have brush fully loaded up;  flowing with ease across the paper. Not scratchy
  5. do use a taped off section of your watercolor paper as a Testing Strip area
  6. consider as you paint, placing cooler colors behind the warmer ones
  7. ensure you haven’t over done a yellow/golden green all over in every location
  8. place yellow golden greens in a Primary location ie front;  forego mid & background
  9. have a hair dryer on hand
  10. use Dryer to fully dry an area completely… before you make Corrections



Standing to Paint

Standing,  it Loosens you up.

It helps you to use your shoulders and to express gesture, mood and movement much easier.

Sitting and using the wrist, locks us up. Blocks the flow and hinders us from expressing gesture and movement with ease.   I need to do both, these days. I stand for awhile, then sit. And Repeat.

Differing  Styles   of art require adjusting your ‘stance.’

watercolor lilies, abstract flowers, Watercolours Wild Floral fast and loose painting debiriley.com
Wild Floral fast and loose

Wild Floral,  a double sized sheet, was painted standing while it was flat on a table.


Dancing Curtains Watercolor painting debiriley.com
Dancing Curtains

Dancing Curtains,  Is a Different style of watercolor…..  and so, I needed to sit.  I needed to use my wrist for the intricacies of pattern in this small 2×3″ miniature painting.


Generous Paints

The brush just flows easier if it has plenty of liquid. Inadequate fluid in the brush creates streaks and uneveness.

Plus, you may not choose to have to spend all that time trying and trying, to mix up more paint to match the last batch.

And we all know, what happens when we ‘just add more water to make the paint go further.’

It makes the paint far  too pale and light!!  A Big Problem.


Mix up Plenty.. Be Really Generous.

And if you do have left overs, store them in tiny plastic containers with lids.  The paint will be good for about a week.

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Mix Plenty of Color!



Testing the Paints First

It is so easy, so simple to tape off a couple of inches at the bottom of your paper.

Each time you mix a color, load the brush up…. and whack it on! Don’t be shy!

Is it too dark? Is it too light?  Is it too warm, too cool?   By using the Test Strip on your paper, you figure it all out…. beforehand.

Smart And Easy!


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Color watercolor test strip



Warmer Paints –  Front

For This TIP,  it is important to pause here and really let the info sink in.


If you had a painting mainly in say, greens…. in order to get the best Depth, you need to deliberately place very cool Greens in the back.

And then progressively,  as we come into the mid area, warm the Greens abit more.   Then the foreground Greens will be the warmer.  With the Focal Point having the ……. warmest Green of all.  (generally speaking, this is a good guide for beginners.)


The same would apply to any and  all  other colors.


We must choose to change them.

To take the Main Mix,  and add a dash of blue to cool down a warm.  Or add a dash of warmth to make the cool color subtly …. warmer.


We Alter them to suit their individual Locations!!

They are all in different places,  so they need to be treated as such.     


watercolor foliage green mixes, beginners watercolours landscape greens, mixing warm greens,debiriley.com
Landscape Greens, warm colors in Front


You can see, that the warmer golden, yellowed greens are in front.  They’re not in the distant back or middle areas.

Warm golden, glowing yellow mixes belong in specific areas of a painting.



Just a note, for the curious as to what paints I used to mix these greens.

I created these colors in Landscapes Greens with  my Beginners Core Basics.

Cobalt blue pb28  &  Permanent Rose pv19  &  Winsor Lemon py175




Saving the Day – Hair Dryers

Patience is a virtue. One I’m afraid that watercolorists may find in short supply as their enthusiasm abounds.

The eagerness to get on with it is usually at fever pitch, I notice.  I’m not pointing fingers! I really am like that too. But, I have figured out how to curb it. How to work around this little quirk.

Its not difficult at all.    Most of the time, I will automatically just lay out about 3 pieces of paper.  I work on several at a time. That way when one Needs it to dry ie it is at that ‘cranky’ stage, I can easily hop on over to the next piece of paper that is laying there Waiting For Me.

If. I didn’t do this, then the next fantastic solution is to use my hair dryer to dry the painting off. That takes less than a minute.

Then, whatever Glazing that needs done, or lifting, etc.  can be done without risk of murky mud.    Because,  mud occurs so often when we are too impatient to wait for the right timing (DRY!) to apply the next layer of paint.

When we don’t wait,  those two paint applications will …. mingle and mix, to create that Mud.   yuk


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Ink Falls, (c) debiriley.com


Believe it or not,  INK FALLS,  called for the Hair Dryer.

I’d made a mistake and had part of it done while damp;  but I had to dry it completely, before I could return to fix it and carry on.   So I used the hair dryer to dry it.  Then redampened the entire paper with due care.

I then Corrected the mistake and proceeded along on my way.  It turned out fine.





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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 society6.com/debiriley and, redbubble.com/people/debijriley/shop

24 thoughts on “Watercolor Tips

    1. thank you Nico, maybe not as exciting for you this time….. but, we’ll see about the next post and what I come up with!! lol thanks and peace, cheers, and good tidings, debi

      Liked by 1 person

    1. indeed. I have it, in spades! I had to figure a way, to manage it effectively to get decent works done. LOL the putting out 3 sheets of paper, is my ‘saviour. so to speak…..

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    1. good morning Evelyn! thank you and I’m glad that you found them useful. I’ve said many of these in prior posts – but sometimes a New, fresh presentation can make a big difference. Cheers, Debi

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    1. my pleasure Jodi, I know I’ve written and said most of these before! so you probably don’t even need to read this post!! Hopefully, there was something….. new this time for YOU 🙂

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      1. I must say, your washes and allowing the colors to melt and mix together seemingly all by themselves …. is really a wonderful creative thing. I love looking! you are doing brilliantly Jodi 🙂

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  1. Love your surgery metaphor of course Debi !! Surgery requires the same control and sensitivity of grip. Perhaps the main difference is that it’s very hard to be an impressionistic surgeon 🙂 Your Ink Falls are glorious.

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    1. oh my gosh, I can’t stop laughing!! (what a visual that imparts)
      YES. a very critical difference 🙂 Thank you for your wonderful sense of humor!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. hi Jacob, thank you! that is lovely and I appreciate your comments 🙂 I’m glad you find the tips and my site, useful and interesting. I try to shake things up. To make things different and not all one subject all the time. Even though most… come on for the watercolor. There is so much more to art!! 🙂 thank you again, cheers Debi


    1. thank you Hilda. I love plein aire painting and miss doing it, it is so joyful and calm. Thank you for stopping and sharing your thoughts, I appreciate it 🙂 cheers, Debi

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