Watercolour References


Starting Watercolor

Watercolour: Materials & Skills by D. McLeod


Overview: Paper, Brushes & Paint


You should use watercolour paper which made from 100% cotton. Cheaper paper made from wood pulp makes it nearly impossible to apply the basic techniques of watercolour.

Initially, you should use Cold press and 140lb paper.

Comparison: Cotton vs Pulp


Brushes come in various materials, sizes and shapes. You don't need many, but each should be chosen with a definite purpose in mind. The following video, describes a small useful selection as well as their uses.
Alek Krylow's Brush Video

Picking Colours

How many colours do you need when starting watercolour... and which ones?

Paint manufacturers - like Daniel Smith - offer over 200 different colours; but students can do quite well with 6-8 well-chosen ones; and even professionals do most of their work with only a dozen.

The reason is that any colour can be obtained by judicious mixing. Theoretically, all you need are the 3 primary colours: Red, Yellow and Blue. By mixing any two of those primaries in various proportions, you can obtain all the colours in between - as shown on the Colour Wheel. For example, mixing Yellow and Blue gives you various Greens, Red and Blue gives Violet(s) and so forth.

Lighter versions of a given colour are obtained by using more water and less paint. And you can darken a colour by adding its complementary - the colour opposite on the Color Wheel. For example, to darken Red, add some Green; to darken Blue, add some Orange, etc... and a perfectly balanced mixture of a colour and its complementary can give you Black.

Unfortunately, every pigment added to a mix reduces its intensity. So, in order to simplify mixing and obtain bright colours, a practical palette usually includes pure (single pigment) complementaries in addition to the primaries. More elaborate palettes will select colours distributed evenly around the colour wheel as well a few personal favourites.

More on colour and pigments

A minimal palette: 5 colours

Any choice starts with the 3 primaries to which we add some useful secondaries - not necessarily all three. A good example is Dawn McLeod's starting palette of 5 colours which adds Green ( for landscapes ) and Burnt Sienna to use with Ultramarine. This gives: Note: Abbreviations like PB29 and PBr7 refer to standard industry pigments. See the HANDPRINT Site for more details. That site also gives an advanced colour wheel showing the exact position of each pigment.

Minimal palettes are useful for beginners who learn best with a limited number of choices. They are also popular with Urban Sketchers who must work quickly in crowded environments.

The next step: Split Primaries

It is difficult to get a full range of bright mixed colours with only 3 primary colours. Consequently, artists normally progress to a split primary system, which uses 2 versions of each primary colour - a cool (bluish) one and a warm (yellowish) one. Typical is the split primary palette used by Kateri Ewing in her colour mixing course ($$) on Craftsy. Most are from Daniel Smith (DS) .

Cool Yellow: Hansa Yellow Light (PY3) or Lemon Yellow
Warm Yellow: New Gamboge or Indian Yellow (Holbein)

Warm Red: Transparent Pyrrol Orange (PO71)
Cool Red: Quinacridone Rose (PV19) or Permanent Rose

Warm Blue: French Ultramarine (PB29)
Cool Blue: Phthalo Blue, Green Shade (PB 15:3)

Earth: Burnt Sienna (Winsor Newton - PR101), DS uses pigment PBr7

To start, you can't go wrong buying small tubes ( 5 ml ) of these split primary colours or an equivalent paint set.

Kateri also has interesting videos in her Watercolor 101 List.

Other Palette choices

Recommended Mixing Exercise

Jane Blundell is an artist who has done many tests to determine the best colours combinations for various palettes. The link below points to her Blog entry on the subject.

J. Blundell's Colour Comparisons
  • Bruce MacEvoy, HANDPRINT: Encyclopedic reference on pigments (2018) .

    More than you need to know !

    Demo Videos

    Adding Figures in your Scenes

    Portrait Tutorials

  • Demos by Masters
  • Other Outstanding Artists

    Watercolour Tutorial Sites

    Steve Michell
    Stan Miller Bob Davies
    Bob has been creating instructional painting videos for years. He is now associated to the ArtTutor commercial site.

    Steven Cronin

    Jerry's Artrama
    Jerry's is a chain of Art stores in the US which has a library of interesting Videos: I particularly like

    Useful Books


    Grid Drawing tool (Art Tutor)
    Jean Vaucher
    Version 1.0
    Dec 2018