View Full Version : Very Basic Watercolor Questions

10-24-2000, 12:28 AM
I am a newbie at watercolor, while I have some great reference books (and several good websites including this one), I have 2 questions:

1. I have basic tubes of color, how do you go about mixing them with water initially? What are the guidelines/rules?

2. The color mixing is confusing me, so I'm interested in painting "black and whites" to get down some of the brush strokes and the layering of the wash. What mixed colors (I have lemon yellow, 2 blues, 1 red, 1 cadium) make gradients of gray and black?

3. And/Or who knows of a really, really basic color mixing resource that won't confuse me?

Any other tips anyone has to offer would be helpful.
Thanks in advance.

10-24-2000, 02:11 AM
I usually start with maybe four or five drops of water (I use an eyedropper, or you can just drip it in from a cup) in an amount of paint about the size of two or three peas, I guess. I mix the paint and water together with a palette knife, so as not to get any big blobs of undiluted paint on my brush.

To mix grays and blacks, you need all three primaries (red, yellow, and blue), or two colors that are opposite each other on the color wheel: red/green; yellow/violet; blue/orange, basically.

I hope this answers.


10-24-2000, 09:27 AM
Glad that you are learning watercolor!! Please don't be afraid of it...and know that there are no hard and fast rules. The best way to learn the water/paint ratio is to play with it. Make some color studies for yourself...see how the blues react with just a little water...add more water...then put in an orange...or red. Just see what happens. You can even notate your swatches to form your own color experiment chart. Then you will know how you made the color.

The best advice for a new watercolorist is to practice, practice, practice. You can get a number of color theory books, or check out the color theory section in Wetcanvas. Go to your local book store or art store and check some out that are not confusing for your level of knowledge. But the best knowledge, I beleive, is one that is learned on your own...with your own hands. So, play with your paints...see what they do. And above all, HAVE FUN!!!

Keep paintin,


10-24-2000, 01:54 PM
All good advice here already for you! Welcome to the world of watercolor, and do have fun with it!
The depth of color depends on how much water you mix with your paint. Light values mean more water...dark values mean less. If you paint on wet paper, remember the values will be even lighter. The suggestion that you just keep playing with it and practice practice..cannot be over-stated. http://www.wetcanvas.com/ubb/smile.gif Carol
PS: Forgot to mention..there are many step by step lessons here in artschool online..if you do some of these you will quickly learn a lot! Keep us posted on your progress eh?

[This message has been edited by oleCC (edited October 24, 2000).]

10-28-2000, 05:19 AM
Hey Khibbert,
I understand your frustration, seems like there is so much to learn.
My first lesson would be mixing a wash ;In a dish like a small chinese sauce dish squeeze out about 3/8 " worm of paint from the tube.Add about a teaspoon of clean water and mix thoroughly with the end of the spoon.If you think this is too thick add a little more water with your spoon until you have a mixture like fat free milk.This will now allow you to fill your brush with the mix and make a pass acroos your paper.Dont forget with watercolour,to make the tint lighter you add more water.It will also dry about one shade lighter as well.
Learning Colour mixes, you must start by making yourself a "Colour Wheel". You should be able to find an example in a book from your library or even on the net.It starts with your three primary colours, red,yellow and blue.
There are obviously several different kinds of each red yellow and blue etc so experiamenting with the mixes is one of the fun parts of learning watercolour.A good book is Blue and Yellow dont make green by David Wilcox.
To some watercolourists white and black are dirty words but these are things you will find out for yourself. Often the paper is the white and what some call blacks are called darks and can be many mixed dark colours.
Do not try to run before you can walk, start at the beginning and have fun and do not give up.Watercolour is a lovely and exciting medium and can produce some lovely art work.
Happy painting.

11-01-2000, 02:45 PM
Everyone here has given you great advice! Having the books to refer to is a big help. There are lots of them on the market.
I've been painting for more years than I can count and I still keep a scrap of watercolor paper next to my work to try colors on before I apply them to my painting.
For fun, try a picture using a "limited palette". This means using only 3 colors. By mixing those three colors you will get all sorts of other colors and values that you never dreamed you could with just THREE! I think this is a good lesson in mixing colors as well as testing the unlimited possibilities of them. You'll be able to get all degrees of values from just three also.
And for a beginner, you will be less confused about choosing which colors to mix to make which color. Excellent way to become familiar with color! Sometimes too many colors available to a newbie will frustrate you.
Do enjoy this medium! It is so much fun and so rewarding!

11-01-2000, 05:20 PM
One of the keys of watercolor is knowing the state of the paper. Where is it wet, dry, or damp. Then you have to decide what to do with those states.