I polled the group to see what everyone was most interested in learning. Watercolor Basics was the clear front runner, so here goes! This post will cover a few topics to help you hit the ground running, including: materials, setup and basic technique.


If you want to take things a step beyond computer paper and craft paint (absolutely nothing wrong with those materials), you can find some suggestions below that will get you started.

list of materials

Watercolor Basics Kit

  • Craftamo has an amazing and inexpensive brush set. The filbert brush is great for natural, expressive strokes (e.g. leaves and petals). The round ones are great for fine point details. The flat brushes create interesting shapes and lines (e.g. stem of a flower)
  • This is my favorite inexpensive cold press paper. If you want something that's one step up, I'd go with Fabriano paper.
  • Artist tape to hold down your paper and prevent buckling. Artist tape tends to be less abrasive than masking tape and is less likely to tear your paper.
  • An old jar or plastic container for water
  • A paper towel for spills and mistakes
  • Paint (see section below)

What kind of paint to buy?

Below are a few different starter kits. Choose the one that sounds right for you!

  • Winsor Newton - ($20) This is a set of half pans (small hardened slabs of paint that you can wet to start painting). These are compact and easy to clean up. Because you have to wet the pans to capture color on your brush, you'll end up with a lighter wash than the next option.
  • Daniel Smith tubes ($30) Because these are tubes with concentrated paint that you squeeze out, you'll be able to get a darker, deeper color right off the bat, and of course you can always water them down to get a lighter wash.
  • Daniel Smith Dot Color Chart - ($20) If you want to explore which colors you like best before making a purchase, I recommend buying the Daniel Smith dot card. They give you a decent chunk of paint to work with. It's a good resource for experimentaion, but also can be used as a short term paint suppy while you're learning.
  • Dr ph. Martins - ($7.99 each - not a set) If you want the lucious, vibrant colors that you've seen on Instagram (mine included), pick out 2 colors of Dr ph. Radiant Watercolor. You will have fun! They blend beautifully together and you only need a teeny tiny bit of ink to make some beautiful things happen; however, beware! These are not lightfast paints, which means that they will fade and change color over time.

Too much money? No worries.

Start with what you already have in your home. You can make dye from old spices or even onion skins. You can also use a combination of markers and water, like in the example below.

paint with markers

Getting Set Up

Follow these steps to set up your painting space. Watercolor moves and dries quickly, so it's good to have everything that you need easily accessible while painting.

  • Grab a paper towel - I am constantly spilling. If I don't have a paper towel at hand, I am likely to knock something over while I'm running to grab one. Paper towels can be used to dry a wet spot that you're eager to paint on top of without having the layers blend. They're also great for picking up paint from your paper that you want to remove or cleaning up splatters or spills.
  • Tape down your paper - All the water you're about to use will indeed make your paper bumpy. This effect is dimished by taping around the edges. Make sure to use a tape that will not rip your paper (e.g. the tape I suggested above). If you're unsure, test it. There is nothing sadder than finishing a beautiful painting only to ruin the paper as soon as you peel off the tape.
  • Fill up a container with water - The more water, the less you'll have to change your water. That being said, change your water when it gets dirty. Dirty water can make your beautiful painting muddy.
  • Choose and mix colors before you start painting - You can use paints just as they are, but I usually mix them with other colors for more interesting and natural hues. It's best to do this before you start and test out your colors on a scrap piece of paper. If you try to do this on the go, you can end up with a muddy or unintentional color palette.

Where to start?

Step 1: Explore: The best place to start is by exploring your materials. Test out your colors and paints. Test out using a varying amounts of water. How do your colors interact with each other on the page? How much paint do you need for a light wash vs dark? Try painting with just water first and adding color on top of the water. See how it moves. Test out your brushes. How does the stroke change if you hold the brush like a pencil vs horizonally? 

brush strokes

Step 2: Keep these basic principles in mind:

watercolor tips

Use more water. too much paint is bad.

Step 3: Paint some blobs: Feel free to stop after step 3 because you've probably already made a masterpiece. Watercolor has a mind of it's own. If you're using a lot of water, it's not difficult to paint something beautiful.

Blobs are cool

That's all I have for the moment, but this is just the beginning. I'll be posting more tips and tutorials very soon. Follow me on Instagram @pinkandsalt for updates. Feel free to message me if you have questions. I can't wait to see what you create!