The painter Robert Henri once said “All real works of art look as though they were done in joy”. Let’s face it, if we’re not having fun making art then why bother doing it?
We all struggle to master the techniques of watercolor painting, and it’s easy to get demoralized at times and you may feel that you want to give up so I’ve put together some fun to do, easy beginner watercolor painting ideas will hopefully give you a morale boost with some quick wins.
Obviously, the word “Easy” is subjective. What you find easy depends on your skill and experience level but I’m sure that even an absolute beginner to watercolor painting will be able to find at least one or two things here that they can successfully achieve and any of these techniques can be adapted and changed to complement your own ideas.
- Materials List
- Setup Your Painting Angle
- 1: Easy Abstract Watercolor Landscape
- 2. Easy Wet In To Wet Beach Sunset
- 3. Easy Watercolour Amethysts
- 4. Tree Branches Reflected In Water
- 5. Abstract Trees
- 6. Easy Decorative Abstract Feathers
Ultramarine Blue: Winsor & Newton | Daniel Smith
Cerulean Blue: Winsor & Newton | Daniel Smith
Pthalo Blue: Winsor & Newton | Daniel Smith
Burnt Umber : Winsor & Newton | Daniel Smith
Prussian Blue : Winsor & Newton | Daniel Smith
Viridian : Winsor & Newton | Daniel Smith
Paynes Grey: Winsor & Newton | Daniel Smith
New Gamboge: Winsor & Newton | Daniel Smith
Cadmium Red: Winsor & Newton | Daniel Smith
Dioxazine Purple: Winsor & Newton
Uni Pin Fineliner Drawing Pen – Complete Set of 9 Buy From Amazon
No. 2 Squirrel Hair Mop Brush Buy from Amazon
Synthetic Squirrel Flat Brush Buy From Amazon
Princeton Neptune Synthetic Squirrel Round Brush Buy From Amazon
Rigger Brush ( For thin tree branches etc)
Da Vinci No.4 Petit Gris Round Mop brush Buy From Amazon
Winsor & Newton Cotman 111 Round No.3 Buy From Amazon
Arches Watercolor Paper Block, Cold Press, 9″ x 12″, 140 pound Buy from Amazon
Easy release painters masking tape Buy from Amazon
Setup Your Painting Angle
All the following examples were painted with the paper at an angle of about 25 – 30 degrees. If you don’t happen to have an easel, then just rest your paper on an angled surface. A lever arch file works perfectly well for this. Painting with your paper at an angle means that the paint will mostly flow in one direction which brings a certain amount of predictability to this unpredictable medium.
1: Easy Abstract Watercolor Landscape
This wintry looking abstract landscape was inspired by the work of Antonio Ortega Perez https://www.instagram.com/antoniortega67/ and only uses 2 colours. Ultramarine mixed with Paynes Grey.
To be honest, the Ultramarine was probably not even needed as Paynes Grey consists of and will naturally split into black and blue.
The idea here is to simply encourage the paint to flow and let it do what it wants. When you’re happy with the way it looks, you can embellish it with suggestions of trees and foliage and Hey presto, this is a landscape that practically paints itself!
Steps 1 -2
Take a brush that holds a good amount of water. A large flat brush will do, or in this case I used a medium sized Hake. The Hake is a good brush for this because we don’t the water to go on too uniformly. The Hake, with it’s floppy goat hair, holds a lot of water and creates marks with a natural looking roughness to them.
Wet In Wet Painting
Paint two or three stripes of pure water horizontally across the paper and connect them in a couple of places. Connecting them creates a channel that will allow the paint to flow down through the painting.
Take a mop or round brush and just start making random marks with a wet Ultramarine/Paynes Grey mix onto the wet paper.
Steps 3 – 5
Carry on making marks with the brush until you’re happy with what you have.
Play around with the paint. Encourageit to flow and spread further by spraying some clean water from an atomizer onto the paper. Add some additional brush strokes if you feel like. This whole process should be an intuitive one. There’s no right or wrong, it’s simply what looks good to you.
Steps 6 – 11
After I had allowed the whole painting to dry, I took an old toothbrush and flicked some more paint on to the paper for an additional texture effect. The final step is to take a rigger brush and add some trees, grass and foliage wherever it feels appropriate. For me, the overall effect was one of a vignetted semi-abstract winter landscape. although I didn’t particularly have that in mind when I started. The trick is really is to just go with it and see what happens.
2. Easy Wet In To Wet Beach Sunset
Steps 1 – 3
I’s usually considered “Wrong” to start a watercolor painting with the darkest value. In this case, I just wanted to clearly establish the horizon line and waves before doing anything else.
First, lightly draw a horizontal line across the page as your guideline. To paint the waves. Use a flat brush loaded with a strong mix of Prussian Blue and pull it across the paper in short strokes.
This needs to be completely dry before going any further. For speed, I used a hairdryer here.
O.K that’s the hard part over now the fun starts! Once the paint is completely dry, randomly wet patches of just the top half of the paper in preparation for painting the sky. This mixture of wet and dry patches will create mixture of hard and and soft edges making for a more realistic sky.
Steps 4 & 5
For the next steps it helps to have your colors ready and mixed up in separate wells on your palette.
I used my natural hair bamboo brush here because it just loves to make messy random marks. (A springy artificial hair round brush really wants to make clean orderly lines, not what we want in this case).
If you use one brush per color it will save you the trouble of having to thoroughly clean out your brush every time you change color. This allows you to react more quickly to the dynamics of the flowing paint and helps avoid muddy colors forming.
Start with some Cerulean Blue and start painting into the wet paper. The color will start to run and bloom.
Add in some streaks of Cadmium Orange and let them run and mix. Do as little actual brushing as possible. (Orange and blue will quickly turn into a muddy grey if you brush too much) Just let them run into each other and do their own thing.
Steps 6 – 8
Complete the sky by adding some reds and purples for a darker tonal contrast. I used Cadmium Red and for convenience Dioxazine Purple which is a nice warm vibrant purple. You can always mix your own purple from blue and red of course.
Steps 9 – 11
These steps are really just a repeat of the preceding steps. You are roughly mirroring the sky in the wet sand, don’t worry about trying to make it an exact copy. Wet sand is not a mirrored surface just try and get some of the colours in roughly the right place and it will look believable.
So wet the bottom half of the paper. Some of the sky colour will start to run bleed in and you can add more color and direct the process with your brush. Again don’t overdo it with the brushing though.
Steps 12 – 14
Lift out a streak from the sand with a damp flat brush. This helps create the appearance of diffuse light shining on wet sand Wipe the brush dry again on a paper towel and repeat.
Adding Figures To The Scene
Figures add a focal point to the scene. They are not that difficult to do. Take a small round brush and place a small dot for the head. Underneath the dot paint a short tapering line downwards for the body and legs. That’s it! To ground the figures in the scene, I painted a few lines underneath them to represent their reflections.
Complete the scene by adding some dark spots in the foreground to represent stones on the wet sand. Place a little line underneath each one as they have reflections too.
3. Easy Watercolour Amethysts
These Amethyst crystals are really simple to do and could easily be made into personalized greetings cards or bookmarks.
All you need is one flat brush and a paper towel.
Using a flat brush allows you to easily create hard-edged shapes with straight lines.
Paint a shape and deliberately make one part of the shape darker. While the paint is still wet, dab it with a paper towel and lift off some of the color. This create the effect of bright flaws and facets within the crystal.
Repeat the process, using several different shapes. For harmony variation, I used a few different analogous colors.
4. Tree Branches Reflected In Water
Thoroughly wet the paper and add color with a Hake brush but leave small patches unpainted here and there.
Steps 1 & 2
I used a combination of Pthalo Blue and Viridian, both very vivid highly pigmented blue and green colors. You don’t have to use these colors of course. Use whatever feels right to you.
The overall effect I’m trying to create here is of a bright blue sky and clouds reflecting in water that is itself colored with green algae and other vegetation.
Steps 3 – 5
To create the effect of light shimmering on the water I lifted some of the paint with a scrunched up paper towel. Next take a pinch of salt and sprinkle liberally over the painting. The salt crystals will absorb the water and create an interesting textured effect. To speed up this process use a hairdryer, not too hot, as it can “bake” the salt crystals onto the paper making it difficult to remove them after afterwards.
Steps 6 – 10
When you are certain that the paper is completely dry brush off as much of the salt as you possibly can.
Using a round, or flat brush. Start from one side of the paper and paint the thickest branches of the tree, using a dark blue such as Ultramarine or Prussian Blue toned down with Paynes Grey . Start with the thickest branches and then switch to a thin Rigger brush as the branches taper out and become thin and tapering. For more tips on painting trees, please take a look at this post.
5. Abstract Trees
These abstract trees were also inspired by the work of Antonio Ortega Perez and they’re a lot of fun to paint.
In one large well of your palette, mix up a range of greens. dark greens, light greens, blue greens, that you can just dip into randomly. It’s the variation of tone and color that really brings this technique to life.
If you feel limited in your ability to mix greens, or you only ever use convenience greens (i.e. pre-mixed greens from a tube) then definitely take a look at this post first.
Steps 1 & 2
Begin by wetting a roughly oval area on your paper.
With a medium-sized mop, or round brush, start dropping in greens to the wet paper.
You can tap your brush against the handle of another brush and spatter more color on.
Steps 3 – 5
Keep spattering greens on to the paper and allow them to run and blend.
With the darkest green you have, bring the trunk down and ground it with a shadow at the base.
Flick in some thin branches with the rigger.
6. Easy Decorative Abstract Feathers
These organic repeating feather patterns are simple and fun to do. Like the crystals we did earlier, these abstract patterns are perfect for personalized bookmarks and greetings cards.
Steps 1 – 3
Begin by sketching in some curved lines. The feather patterns will follow these lines.
Premix a range of colours. I used an earth colour. Burnt Umber. Together with a range of blues and greens.
A small round synthetic brush will help you cleanly paint these shapes.
Start in one corner and work your way down the page, following the guidelines that you have drawn. Just go slowly and carefully and don’t let one shape touch another or they will bleed into each other. Unless you want that to happen of course.
When the paper is completely filled with feather shapes, add highlights of white paint with a small detail brush.
You could leave it there if you like. I went one stage further and added some black lines with a fine liner pen.