Painting Watercolours is Easy!


Photo of Amanzimtoti River

Photo of Amanzimtoti River, Natal, South Africa.

Here are 7 basic principles governing painting watercolours that will help you become successful.

It’s easy when you know the rules:

  1. The secret is to first plan your composition design: Keep the format simple.
  2. Plan where the main point of interest and focus will be. Put the strongest contrast of tone and colour there.
  3. Consider colour scheme: tonal and colour placement.
  4. Plan procedure stages: Work from warm to cool, from light to dark, from blur to definition.
  5. To keep your washes fresh: Where possible apply translucent pigments and mix analogous colours. Warning: mixing the three primary colours, yellow, red and blue equally creates brown, muddy mixtures.
  6. Select brushes to suit the job: Big fully loaded wet brushes cover large areas easier. Small brushes are for detail, they create thin lines and dots.
  7. Start with big brush. Reduce detail where possible.

 Problems only occur when you get impatient:

Things go wrong when you slash on more paint, without first observing the state of the paper, what’s actually happening to the previous coats of paint on your paper:

  • If you want blurred effects, keep the paper wet/damp, depending on what effects you want to create.
  • If you want detail and need neat edges, wait until the paper starts drying.
  • Don’t paint close to another wet wash, unless you want to merge the colours.
  • Friendly advice: Don’t fuss and dab with tiny brushes or try to enforce your initial expectations -go with the flow of what is happening.

This week the photo demo is of Amanzimtoti River:

The town of Amanzimtoti is along the south coast of Natal. It’s so peaceful strolling along by the river. Years ago it was fun to hire a boat in the lagoon close to the beach and row down the river, viewing the wildlife and landing up having cream scones at a tearoom further down the river.

Photo of rowing boat.

Example of rowing boats used in the old days on Amanzimtoti River.


Photo of rowing boat:

This photo is of my two eldest children, when they were little. They were given a treat by my husband, when I was in hospital having our third child. As you can see they were so captivated looking around them they didn’t see the photo been taken. Both are married now, one lives in New Zealand and the other in Cape Town.

Watercolour painting of Amanzimtoti River.

Watercolour painting of Amanzimtoti River.

Painting demo example:

Main point of interest:  Naturally the slop of the foliage points to the bend in the river. So I created more definition there.

First warm under colours:  I started painting the scene with yellow ochre. When that was dry I added a ting of pink where I thought it necessary, leaving out where the light green foliage will be.

Then the cool top colours:  I kept most of the background blurred to reduce fussy detail. To create form and dimension, I dropped in darker shady areas in the background, to contrast with the light areas of the middle ground. Then keeping the water area wet, I dropped in the reflections.

Notice how warm colours were subtly introduced into the composition, to give more life to the scene.

For more insight into painting with watercolours:  Check out the ‘Free Art Books’ page, where you can download free watercolour books.

Painting is fun if you live and work within the moment of creating.

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