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Getting Started with Watercolours

I've been chatting with my Instagram tribe lately and one of the things people have said they are interested in are some tips and tricks for beginning watercolour paintings. So in this blog post I'm going to give you an overview of the things you will need to get started with watercolours.


Watercolour paints

If you've never painted with watercolour before, purchasing your first set of paints can be a bit daunting. Generally when you go into an art store or even your local Officeworks, there will be a variety of different brands and even types of watercolour paints available. Two of the most common types are tubes and pans. I mostly use tube paints but do have a few pans as well. You can purchase a both types individually or as a set but I would recommend buying a basic set which will give you a good colour range - remember you can also mix your paints so a set of 12 is great when you are just starting out.

When it comes to choosing a brand you will usually get what you pay for, that being said if you only want to take up watercolour as a hobby you won't necessarily need the most expensive paint set. I personally love Winsor and Newton and Art Spectrum but when I first started I bought a set of Reeves watercolours and they were perfectly fine for what I needed. You will also find that the more expensive brands have a larger colour range so you can buy a basic set and then top it up with individual colours as needed.

watercolour paints


There are also so many different brushes to choose from! Most stores will have watercolour brushes in their own section which makes finding what you need a bit easier. You will want a range of sizes so in the beginning I would recommend buying a small, a medium and a large brush. Depending on how detailed you want your paintings you may also like to buy some tiny brushes which you will need for fine brush strokes. I use a few different brands but my favourites are Micador for Artists,  J Burrows and Windsor and Newton.  

Watercolour brushes


If you are using tube paints you will need something to put your paints on and even with pans you will need an area for mixing. You can purchase a plastic palette from art stores (or even Kmart!) or use an old ceramic plate or saucer. I use both as I find the ceramic great for mixing!



Lastly, your choice of paper is probably the most important of all! The quality of the paper you use will make the biggest impact on the quality of your final painting. You can get away with basic brushes and paints but for a beautifully finished piece it is worthwhile investing in a quality paper. If you have never painted with watercolour before you can certainly buy a cheaper paper for practicing but for pieces you want to hang on your walls, buy the good stuff!

 For starters, watercolour paper is different to regular paper. It is a thicker paper and therefore can absorb the paint (and water). Imagine pouring a cup of water over regular printer paper? It would buckle and go soggy pretty quickly. Watercolour paper can hold its form when a lot of water is used and even more so if it has been stretched, although I won't go into stretching paper in this blog post!

There are many different types and brands of watercolour paper. It can be quite overwhelming if you haven't bought any before!  To begin with you will want to make sure the paper you choose is acid free. The size you buy will obviously depend on how big you want your painting to be. If you plan on doing lots of paintings you can always buy larger sheets of watercolour paper and cut them down when you need smaller sizes (I do this a lot!). In terms of thickness, the thicker your paper the stronger it will be and less likely to warp or buckle as you paint. I only paint on 300gsm or thicker.

You can also choose the texture of your paper - rough, hot pressed or cold pressed. This will largely be a matter of preference. Rough paper is just as it sounds - a rough texture! Hot pressed is a much smoother surface and the paint will dry differently as it doesn't absorb into the paper as quickly. Cold pressed has a texture in between hot pressed and rough and is my preference. If you aren't sure, you can try buying a small A5 sized pad in each and experimenting with them to see what you prefer.

 Watercolour Paper

 Hot pressed vs Cold pressed paper


As with brushes and paints, there are many brands of watercolour paper. Most art stores will stock good quality brands with Arches, Fabriano Artistico and Eraldo di Paolo being a few of my favourites.

Watercolour pads

As always if you have any questions, feel free to flick me an email at anna@bettybluebelle.com.au

I would love to see your watercolour work! You can tag me on Instagram @betty.bluebelle and I will pop over and check out your paintings!





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