How to paint water with watercolor (tutorial for beginners)

We have made a tutoria how to paint water with watercolor

When we are kids, watercolors are some of the first approaches we have to art, together with color pencils and crayons.

They are non-toxic and easy to clean from surfaces, so they seem to be perfect for kids to explore their artistic side without their parents worrying about the well-being of their furniture!

However, watercolors are used by professional artists around the world, and they can create beautiful pieces with effects you cannot achieve with other kinds of painting.

For example, they are ideal for painting an image of the sea or lagoons, as you can make up many different shades with just one pigment. But, how to paint water with watercolor is a question that takes several steps to answer.

Before reaching that target, we need to understand how to use watercolors at all! Let’s get on it.

What do I need for a watercolor painting?

The essential materials you need for this kind of paint are pretty much the same ones you could use for other paints, such as acrylic or tempera.

These are the following:

  • Watercolor
  • Paper canvas
  • Brushes
  • Paper towels
  • Tape
  • Two jars of water

What types of paper are there?

There are many different kinds of paper available for paintings and each of them will give you different textures and effects.

However, the most important information we can give you is:

  • Use a paper of 300 grams or higher. This paper is strong enough to resist using a lot of water without breaking.
  • Besides that, you can find three main types of paper: hot pressed, cold pressed, or rough.
  • Hot pressed paper is the softest one, with little to no texture, and the rough, as the word says, is the most textured.
  • Cold pressed is an intermediate option between both. Which one you use is completely up to you and the effect you want to achieve.

How many brushes do I need?

Of course, there is a huge variety of brushes you can use for different techniques, but if you are just starting, you only need one.

Just make sure that its bristles are strong enough not to bend too easy nor too hard that you cannot create soft lines.


Watercolor types you can find at the stationers

Just like paper and brushes, there are many different types of watercolors you can use.

The most common option is watercolor pans, which are squared pieces of dry pigment, activated with water.

You can also find liquid and cream watercolors, which come in tiny flasks or tubes.

Cream watercolor might be the easiest one to start with as you can pick just a small amount of product.

Secondary materials that are also essential


Besides watercolor, paper, and brushes, you need to get two jars of water, paper towels, and tape.

Unlike other paints, you will need two jars of water instead of one because one of them will be used for cleaning your brush, and the other for diluting the watercolors.

The paper towels are used for cleaning brushes and solving accidents!

And we will fix the canvas to the working surface with tape so that it doesn’t move and there are no wrinkles after applying water.

Painting techniques for watercolor water

There are many techniques to master when painting, but there are a few basic ones you can start with and with which you can achieve beautiful results.

The first one is called “wet on wet”.
It describes the characteristics of paint and paper. For this technique, you should dampen the surface you are going to paint on before applying the paint.

This way you will create soft shapes, ideal for backgrounds and gradients.

You can also use the “wet on dry” technique.
Leaving the paper dry before applying the paint, to create detailed figures and sharp lines.

Let’s start painting!

  1. The best way to start practicing is making a monochromatic piece so that you can focus on the techniques instead of the colors.
  2. If you want to make watercolour water, we recommend painting a landscape with a lake or river and leaving that section of the picture for last.
    That way you will have practiced the techniques along the painting before reaching the water area, which might be the most difficult.
  3. Before you start applying paint to your paper, you need to know that the best way to do it is going from light to dark.
  4. Use a dish or a palette to mix a very small amount of paint with water to create a very light shade.
  5. Apply the paint on the canvas and create an ombre effect diluting the borders with water.
  6. As you move along the painting, add more pigment into the water to make it darker and deeper and create layers of paint on the paper.
  7. Combine the wet on wet and wet on dry techniques to create smoother and sharper shapes where you need.
  8. Remember to let each layer dry before applying a new one to prevent the shapes from merging or diluting.
  9. But, when you have finished painting the landscape, how to paint water with watercolor?

How to paint water with watercolor?

Once you have decided where you want to set the lake or the sea in your painting, make a very diluted mix of paint and water and create soft layers of watercolor water from the borders of the lake and into it, creating the shape of soft waves and movements.

But how to paint water with watercolor to make a realistic effect? Practice! You probably won’t get the best result ever the first time you use watercolor, but you can make a great improvement if you practice usually.

Here you can see some images of landscapes painted with watercolors to inspire you.

Always keep an open mind to the possible results you might get, and remember they will get better with time!


We hope this introductory guide together with the wonderful pictures has convinced you of trying to put your hands on a nice set of watercolors and brushes to paint the most beautiful landscapes and flowers!

We invite you to see this article about how long does paper mache take to dry by clicking here.