Generally speaking, watercolour is a great medium for beginners. It’s soft and transparent for those who might be intimidated by staring at a blank canvas, you can sketch your designs before committing and it’s quite convenient (you can paint pretty much anywhere, as long as you have your watercolour paints, a brush, paper and some water in tow).
So, with that in mind, let’s get stuck in to our watercolour guide for beginners.
Watercolour pans and cakes
No we’re not suddenly getting into baking. When it comes to watercolours, there are two main holders of pigments: pans and cakes.
Watercolour pans are made from a compressed pigment that sits inside a rectangular metal or plastic pan. These pans are dry and need to be activated with water to use them, the wetter the brush the lighter the tone that’ll be produced. Pans come in two sizes, these sizes will depend on the manufacturer: pans and half pans (half pans are slightly smaller and hold less water than a full pan will).
There are also watercolour cakes that are similar to pans but are circular instead of square. Watercolour cakes can be easier to hold with a round palette but it’s really up to you. So, depending on how you’re looking to use your watercolours and your preference, your choice of pan size or cake will vary. Pans and cakes are easy to use and don’t leak like a paint tube. Plus, there’s minimum waste because you’re using the paint as you go, so you can save more money in the long run.
Before you reach into a new cake or pan, wet the pigment with a drop of water and then leave it to absorb the water drop before painting, this handy trick will make the paint release easier when it comes into contact with the brush. New pans and cakes can also sometimes stick to palettes so it’s best to get into the habit of removing any excess moisture with a sponge before packing them away.
The Mont Marte watercolour range includes both pans and cakes so there’s something for all tastes, from travel products to half pan sets and even metallic watercolours. You can browse our range here.
If you’re wanting to paint large areas, or you’re looking for more diverse set of watercolours, then watercolour tubes may be a better option. With tubes, water has already been mixed in with the pigments so larger washes are easier than dipping into a pan and tubes are more fluid for mixing colours.
Like paint tubes, you’ll need to clean the tube thread before replacing the cap to make sure your watercolours don’t harden inside. However, if you find your watercolour tube paints have dried up, you can cut or slice the paint tube inside and use a wet brush to reactivate the pigment inside. This is obviously a one-off trick but it’s still good to know if you need to use them in a creative emergency.
Our Mont Marte watercolour tubes are available in a range of sizes from 8ml to 12ml and a range of sets from 12pc, all the way to 36pc. You can browse our Mont Marte watercolour tube range here.
If mixed media is more your style, or you’re looking for more controlled, lines of colour, you’ll want to give watercolour pencils a go. These work like coloured pencils but once activated with water and a soft brush, this will activate the colours creating a vibrant coloured effect. You can try dipping the point in water on dry paper, use a dry point on wet paper or dissolve the colour with a brush, finger or sponge.
Be careful not to use too much water or you may find it can flood the surface, while not enough water won’t blend your colours correctly, so take some time to find what works best for you.
Our variety of Mont Marte watercolour pencils range from 12pc all the way to 72pc so you can find a set that works for you. Browse our range of Mont Marte watercolour pencils here.
If you’re looking for the same effect as a watercolour pencil but after stronger lines, you might find watercolour markers to be fun too. These are made from a water-based ink, so once you’ve laid down your colour or lines, you can go in with a wet brush to activate your markers. These are a great option for mixed media or regular drawings where you’re looking to create a soft, transparent colour, plus they’re often fast drying so you can quickly add water to activate them.
To get the most out of your watercolour markers, make sure you don’t press too firmly on the nib, too much pressure can cause damage to the marker’s nib. It’s also best to make sure their lids are on correctly before storing them away and store them vertically so the ink stays in the nib.
Our variety of Mont Marte watercolour markers come in a set of either 12 or 24 so you can find your perfect set, browse our range of Mont Marte watercolour markers here.
Think of pastel crayons combined with watercolour pencils and that’s what watersoluble pastels are! You can create watercolour effects and glazes with this medium, while still having the control and vibrancy of an oil pastel, pretty cool hey. These pastels are great for mixed media or sgraffito effects and can be used on their own or with water.
There’s nothing worse than having your lighter watersoluble oil pastels marked by a darker colour. If these go a little muddy, you can scrape off any stubborn pigment using a hobby knife or drag the sides on rough paper or paper towel to remove any excess colours.
Our variety of watersoluble oil pastels come in a range of different sizes and styles, from fluorescent to our signature range in a tin. Check out the range of Mont Marte watersoluble oil pastels.
Because watercolours can easily be reactivated with water, you won’t have to worry as much as an oil painter over your brushes (thankfully). Watercolour brushes come in a range of different sizes from round, mop, rigger and detailing to a range of different hairs from sable, badger, mixed bristle, goat and synthetic brushes. For a full guide to our Mont Marte watercolour brushes, see our guide to Mont Marte watercolour brushes.
Next up in our watercolour guide for beginners is of course paper. Often the choice of paper can make or break your watercolour works, this is because watercolours rely so strongly on the whiteness of the paper but also because there’s usually a bit of water being thrown around. You need paper with enough thickness to soak up the water but also enough tooth to hold your washes. For beginners, you might like to try our Watercolour Pad Premium A3, it features practical tips and techniques to help give you a hand before diving in. Otherwise, our Premium watercolour pads are made from German paper with a rough-tooth, texture to hold your watercolour washes. For more information on our range of pads and papers, check out our Guide to Mont Marte pads and papers here.
For watercolours, a palette with a well is best, this way you have enough room to mix in your water and colours together, or you can store your watercolour pans in the wells too. If you’re wanting something easy and affordable to mix your watercolour tubes, check out our Discovery deep well plastic palette with six wells. Or if you’re looking to get your ducks in a row, try our range of watercolour palettes. These are airtight, have enough room for you to customise your coloured pans and include a few, large empty stations so you can freely mix up colour. We have round and oval plastic palettes that you can quickly use and re-use. Our round, aluminium palette has 10 deep wells for mixing, plus it’s better for the environment, check the palette range out here.
We hope this watercolour guide for beginners has given you the inspiration to take a dive and create something new with watercolours. Try them for yourself and #montmarteart or tag us @montmarteart on Instagram or Facebook, we’d love to see what you create.
Ready to tackle watercolours? Brush up your skills with our watercolour techniques here or try a project like our three simple watercolour fruit paintings.