Painting: Watercolor Basics: Master the art of painting in watercolor

Painting: Watercolor Basics: Master the art of painting in watercolor

by Deb Watson

Paperback(Revised ed.)

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Whether you’re a master painter or an absolute beginner, watercolor is the perfect partner for your painting pleasure—and Painting: Watercolor Basics teaches you everything you need to know to get started in the medium.
From rendering light and shadow to creating realistic textures, discover how to bring dimension and depth to your paintings. Featuring the artwork of Deb Watson, this book includes a variety of easy-to-follow, step-by-step projects, including a landscape, still life, and portrait. With engaging, inspirational lessons and useful artist's tips, Watercolor Basics will help you master this beautiful and luminous medium.
Designed for beginners, the How to Draw & Paint series offers an easy-to-follow guide that introduces artists to basic tools and materials and includes simple step-by-step lessons for a variety of projects suitable for the aspiring artist. Painting: Watercolor Basics allows you to widen the scope of your artistic abilities, demonstrating how to begin with a basic sketch and then develop your painting step by step with special techniques that will bring your painting to life.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781633227897
Publisher: Foster, Walter Publishing, Incorporated
Publication date: 05/07/2019
Series: How to Draw & Paint Series
Edition description: Revised ed.
Pages: 40
Product dimensions: 10.37(w) x 13.87(h) x 0.25(d)

About the Author

Deb Watson is an award-winning, self-taught artist who works in watercolor and oil. Her paintings are a unique combination of precise detail with loose, glowing color. Following a career as a nurse, Deb began painting full-time, and her work has been accepted into national juried exhibitions and featured in several national magazines. She is a signature member of the National Watercolor Society, the Watercolor USA Honor Society, and past president of the Pennsylvania Watercolor Society. Deb maintains an active YouTube channel of watercolor painting tutorials, with more than 20,000 subscribers. She is the author of Walter Foster's Watercolor Basics and a contributing author of The Art of Watercolor Painting and The Art of Painting Animals (July 2015).

Read an Excerpt



Before you begin painting, it's a good idea to acquire a few basic tools that will make your foray into watercolor easier and more enjoyable. Specialty options are abundant, but the following introductory materials will get you off to a promising start.


Watercolor paints are available in cakes, pans, and tubes. It's always best to use good-quality paint, but if you are just starting out, it's OK to use less expensive student-grade paint and upgrade to professional grade later. You don't need to have a huge palette of colors; each project in this book lists the specific colors you will need.

Masking Fluid

Masking fluid, or liquid frisket, is a latex-based substance that can be applied over areas you want to keep white. When dry, the mask repels paint, so you can paint over it without staining the white support underneath. When the paint is dry, gently rub off the mask with masking fluid pickup or an old rag. You can also apply masking fluid over color that is already dry to protect it from subsequent layers of paint.


A wide range of brush types and sizes is available. Brushes come in three basic hair types: soft natural-hair, soft synthetic-hair, and bristle brushes. Synthetic brushes work well with masking fluid; however, they don't retain as much water, so you may find natural-hair brushes easier to use with paint.


Flat brushes are ideal for creating straight edges and strokes of uniform width. Their heads vary in length; the longer the hairs or bristles, the longer you can stroke without reloading the brush.

Round brushes taper to a soft point, allowing for varying stroke widths. They hold lots of moisture and don't need to be reloaded with paint as often.

Liner brushes have only a few long, soft hairs, making them perfect for fine lines and details.

Hake brushes have short, soft hairs and a wide base. These brushes create bold strokes with rough trails and are ideal for laying in washes.


Watercolor paper comes in a range of textures: hot-pressed, which is smooth; cold-pressed, which has a medium texture; and rough, which has plenty of tooth (raised areas of paper). The three different sheets of paper (right) show how watercolor paint looks on rough, textured paper (A), cold-pressed paper (B), and hot-pressed paper (C). Watercolor paper also comes in different weights, designated in pounds. The higher the number, the heavier the paper and the less likely it is to warp when you apply water.


The fluid nature of watercolor and gouache painting calls for palettes with wells for containing mixes. Rectangular wells are often slanted for better pooling. White plastic palettes are an economical choice for watercolor, as they are lightweight and easy to clean; the white also allows artists to judge their paint colors as they will appear on white paper. Some artists opt for uncoated aluminum palettes, which offer a bright, reflective surface that is durable, resistant to rust, and easy to clean. Many watercolorists use white porcelain palettes; these heavier dishes are sturdy and resist beading on the surface.


Spray bottle for rewetting paint and keeping watercolors moist

Artist tape & clips to secure paper to a painting board or tabletop

Rags & paper towels for cleanup and correcting mistakes

Sponges to create washes or add mottled texture

White ink or gouache for touch-ups and highlights




You can add depth to a flat painting by changing value, color temperature, color saturation, and softening edges.

Sketch the ladybug and flower onto watercolor paper. Then trace the outline of the flower onto a piece of frisket film. Cut the frisket slightly smaller than the subject, and lay it on top. Paint liquid frisket around the film, covering and sealing the edges.


Liquid frisket (also called masking fluid) and frisket film can be used to protect and preserve the white of the paper. Using frisket film to mask a large area is less damaging to the paper than masking fluid and won't lift the pencil drawing.

Wet the background, and drop in spots of yellow, allowing the color to spread. Next drop in a mixture of light green, yellow, and cobalt turquoise in several spots and a darker green mix of yellow and phthalo blue in a few spots on the lower half. As the wash dries, spatter it with rose droplets by tapping your finger against a small loaded brush.

Gradually darken the color toward the bottom half of the painting to create the illusion that the front of the subject is closer than the back.


1. Apply the masking fluid to the desired areas of your paper using an old paintbrush (small rounds work well).

2. Allow the paint to dry, and then rub away the mask with a clean finger or rubber cement pickup eraser.

3. Eliminate bubbles, which may allow paint to reach the paper. Once dry, paint over the mask.

4. The mask will leave behind clean, crisply preserved areas of white paper.

When the background is dry, peel off the frisket. Use the dark green mixture to paint the tiny lines between the background petals. Then paint the yellow center. Use a very diluted wash of cerulean blue to paint the back petals and lines in the foreground petals, as well as to suggest a shadow under the ladybug.


Using multiple layers of color creates shadows and soft highlights that result in a more realistic ladybug.

Graduating from warm red at the back to cool red about halfway forward, paint an initial light wash over the ladybug, covering everything but the white highlight. Once dry, apply a second darker wash, this time leaving the areas for the black spots unpainted. Create a black mixture with phthalo blue, rose, and a bit of yellow, and apply a light wash over the head.

Paint the black spots, thorax, and head, and add even more black to the darkest areas (the left side of the thorax and head). Next use a damp brush to rewet the highlights in the black areas, dabbing with a paper towel to lift color. Tone down the white areas of the ladybug with a diluted wash of cerulean blue and black.

Finish the legs and antennae. With the cerulean blue and black mix, paint the shadow under the ladybug and the overlapped petal in front. To finish, soften the edges of the white petals in the background with a damp brush. Rewetting the area slightly, lift color by rubbing with a paper towel.




Evoking a specific mood in a painting requires careful choice of color and form. To enhance the feeling of calm and wonder in this beautiful snow scene, simplify the details.

Draw the outline of the scene. Then mask the snow and highlights on the water. Next wet the paper and paint a mix of cerulean and ultramarine blue on the lower third of the water. Add a hint of the blue mixture to the top of the sky, and drop in watery rose around the distant tree line.

Wet the background snow, and drop in cerulean blue, cerulean blue mixed with rose, and cerulean blue mixed with rose and a bit of yellow. Once dry, rewet the water and paint the same colors, tilting the paper to let the colors mix and form reflections of the tree masses.

To achieve the look of distant trees shrouded in mist, let the dropped-in colors create a soft, nebulous mass of vague tree shapes. Then spatter clean water into the mass to create more mottling.

Paint the middle-ground trees with the purple mixes. Rewet the area, and paint slightly thicker masses, creating one tree on the right and a larger tree mass on the left. When dry, suggest tree trunks peeking out, as well as two bare trees. Rewet the water, and paint the middle-ground reflections with the same colors.

Mix phthalo blue, rose, and yellow to make a dark purple-brown, and paint the foreground tree. Again rewet the water, and apply another layer of cerulean blue to the foreground, adding the purple-brown mixture near the bottom edges. Once dry, remove all the masking and use a soft, damp brush to rub and soften any hard edges.

Using a light-gray mix of cerulean blue, rose, and yellow, paint the shadows on the snowbank and foreground tree. Use the dark purple-brown mix to add a few sticks and crevices.




People are fascinating subjects, but capturing human interest in a portrait requires a special approach that highlights the individual's unique characteristics. A dramatic background combined with playful bubbles adds interest galore to this portrait and accentuates the sweet innocence of childhood.

Make an initial pencil sketch on watercolor paper. Then paint a light wash over all areas. Use a light wash of yellow and light skin tone over the hair, leaving the highlight on the crown unpainted. Use a wash of cerulean blue and yellow for the dress.

Mix cerulean blue with permanent rose to make purple, and gray it down with a touch of the light skin tone mix for the background.


Adding a complementary color (purple) to the yellow in the girl's hair makes her tresses appear even brighter.


Using an opaque color like cadmium red in a skin color mix helps the skin appear solid, even with just a watery wash of color.

Rewet the face and arm, and layer on more of the light skin tone mix. Next mix the light skin color with yellow and paint between the strands of hair. Use more pigment to create darker skin tones for the shadows in the ear, the eye, and under the sleeve.

Wet the background with clean water, and use a large brush and the dark purple mix to paint. Work quickly around the figure, avoiding the delicate lines of the face and hair. Then switch to a small brush and carefully paint the dark color right up to the face and hair.

For the bubbles, paint circles of white and fill them with clean water so the white spreads into the centers. Then, after dabbing most of the white out of the centers with a paper towel, add a touch of white inside for a highlight. Use white to add hairs around the edges of the existing hair and highlights on select strands of hair.

Add more color to the hair and to the shadows between strands, and darken the neck and arm shadows. Finally, add a watery wash of alizarin crimson all over the skin. This "pinks up" the skin in a pleasing way and helps smooth the transitions from light to dark.



The prospect of painting fur can feel daunting, but don't let the challenge hold you back! Rather than paint thousands of tiny hairs, simply apply washes of color and let salt create the illusion of fur.

Use the initial drawing to mark the light and dark areas in the fur on the body, paying close attention to the details on the faces, particularly around the eyes.

Mask the edge of the log and bunnies. Evenly wet the background, and drop in lemon yellow, letting it spread. Mix different shades of green (yellow + turquoise + phthalo blue + burnt sienna), and drop them in, tilting the paper to let the water and gravity blend the colors smoothly. Spatter yellow into the dark areas and a little green into the light areas. Then, working on dry paper, paint the grass.

To pull colors into each other, apply two washes side by side and tilt the paper while wet so one flows into the next. This creates interesting drips and irregular edges.

When the washes are dry, rub off the mask and apply another layer of masking fluid to the outside edges and tail of the foreground bunny. Paint each eye with a black mixture of phthalo blue, cobalt blue, and burnt sienna. Then paint the ears with a watery mix of rose and yellow.

For a mottled texture, sprinkle salt over a wet or damp wash. The salt absorbs the wash to reveal the white of the paper in interesting starlike shapes. The finer the salt crystals, the finer the resulting texture. For a similar but less dramatic effect, simply squirt a spray bottle of water over a damp wash.

Paint the background bunny with a blue-gray mix of cobalt blue and burnt sienna, leaving the white areas. Sprinkle salt evenly over the wet area. After the salt sets for a minute, lightly apply short strokes of darker blue-gray over the salted area. Then paint the wood with various mixtures of cobalt blue, burnt sienna, and yellow, carefully painting around the grass. Once dry, remove the masking from the edges of the foreground bunny, except for the tail.

The darker color spreads around the salt randomly, resulting in an organic, furry texture

Next paint the foreground bunny with a graded wash of colors, working from left to right. Paint clean water on the left side for the highlight; light burnt sienna on the neck and upper back; and dark blue-gray on the lower back (darkest around the tail), which blends into clean water on the right side. After the body dries, paint the head with the same colors.

Sprinkle the body with salt, let it set briefly, and work back into the salt with dark gray strokes. In this wash, the dark gray clings to the salt, creating a speckled effect.


Remove unwanted spots by rewetting them with clean water and wiping them away with a paper towel.

* Finish the grass by painting the bottom edge darker green and sprinkling it with salt. Once dry, paint a few areas with more yellow. Soften the back edge of the tree trunk by rewetting it and dabbing it with a paper towel. Then blend the front and back of the trunk on the left side and add bark to the bottom right side.




Birds can stand on their own as captivating subjects, but they can also bring landscape and flower paintings to life by adding drama and movement. The trick is to familiarize yourself with the general anatomy of birds and study their nuances. Once you understand these essential details, you can convincingly capture a bird's essence.

Paint masking liquid around the sketch, and allow it to dry. Then wet the background with very light blue and drop in spots of perylene green, followed by three small spots of alizarin crimson. As the wash begins to dry, spatter it with clean water to add texture. Once dry, peel off the mask.

Apply a light wash of Winsor red on the cardinal's body. Paint the wings and tail darker, with alizarin crimson mixed with Winsor red. Next paint the orange beak with a mix of yellow and Winsor red and the eye and tree limb with a mix of orange and green. Mix blue and orange to produce a blue-gray color for the legs and the shadows on the tree limb.

Paint black around the beak and eye, and then apply another layer of orange to the beak. Paint a small black pupil in the eye, leaving a white highlight. Add another layer of warm and cool red to the body. Use a damp brush to draw into the wet area and create soft, subtle feather patterns.


Add suggestions of feathers with each wash, sometimes using small brushstrokes on dry paper, and other times painting water or a darker color into a wet wash.

Apply another saturated wash of warm Winsor red over the cardinal. Then work a darker alizarin crimson into the center of the body. Use a dark mix of alizarin crimson and green to paint the tail feathers. After using a cool black to create shadows around the toes and feet, add another layer of orange to the beak.


By capturing a bird's most prominent details-its eyes, beak, and the feather outlines that give its body form-you can make it appear as though it might soar off the paper. Start with a loose background, and layer color until you've created a fantastic feathered friend.

Paint one more layer of dark red in the middle of the body, and deepen the color of the wings and tail feathers. Then mix black with blue to make a light gray mixture and add shadows near the base of the snow.




Flowers are one of the most exquisite subjects an artist can paint. With a little planning, you can transform any arrangement into a stunning work of art.

You can "audition" colors by painting samples onto scrap paper (see "Selecting Mixes" on the following page). Paint several quick studies using the chosen colors with different backgrounds. Once you've selected your color palette, create a line drawing of the subject.


Take a few minutes to work out the best composition, colors, and background. These templates will help you feel confident in achieving your finest work.

Paint masking fluid around the outer edges of the flowers and vase before wetting the entire background. Then drop in diluted colors — rose and yellow at the top, rose and cerulean blue on the right, and cerulean blue and yellow at the bottom. Then spatter yellow with a toothbrush.


If an area begins to dry, mist it with a spray bottle.

Once dry, peel off the masking and work on the flowers. Keep each color — rose, yellow, and cerulean blue — separate, and use only clean water. Apply a light wash of color.


Use a palette for mixing to avoid contaminating your colors.


Excerpted from "Painting Watercolor Basics"
by .
Copyright © 2019 Quarto Publishing Group USA Inc..
Excerpted by permission of The Quarto Group.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Tools & Materials, 2,
Creating the Illusion of Depth, 4,
Evoking Mood, 10,
Adding Interest, 16,
Creating Texture with Salt & Masking, 22,
Capturing Essential Details, 28,
Rendering Soft Edges, 34,

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Painting: Watercolor Basics: Master the art of painting in watercolor 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 6 reviews.
lelesurfer 7 months ago
A Booklet for Advanced Beginners With "Painting: Watercolor Basics. Master the Art of Painting in Watercolor (How to draw & Paint)" published by Quarto Publishing Group - Walter foster the award-winning and self-taught artist Deb Watson offers a guide for beginners who are interested in watercolor. The 40-page booklet offers a brief introduction into tools and materials before presenting six projects (Creating the Illusion of Depth, Evoking Mood, Adding Interest, Creating Texture with Salt & Masking, Capturing Essential Details, and Rendering Soft Edges). The author lists for every project which colors are needed, how to mix various colors to get new ones, some instruction how to proceed (e.g., how to use masking fluid), and some tips. She shows the most important steps at the hand of progressing pictures in order that the learner can arrive at the final one. This was my first book created by Deb Watson and also the first one of this "How to Draw & Paint" series by Walter Foster Art Books. I liked the approach of the book and the high-quality pictures (even in the digital advance copy), but I think that the projects might be to challenging for true beginners who are working by themselves. The booklet lacks some basic information, e.g., about the color wheel, wet-on-wet painting, wet-on-dry painting, which brushes to use for which project or step of the project and there is no explanation of the terminology. I would not recommend the booklet for true beginners, but it might be a help for beginners that have already some knowledge about watercolor painting. The booklet seems to be a revised and slightly expanded version (40 pages instead of 32 pages) of "Watercolor: Basics: Discover the secrets of painting beautiful works of art in this luminous medium (How to Draw & Paint) by the same author which was published by Walter Foster Publishing in 2014. The complimentary copy of this book was provided by the publisher through NetGalley free of charge. I was under no obligation to offer a positive review. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own. #PaintingWatercolorBasics #NetGalley
MontzieW 7 months ago
Painting: Watercolor Basics Master the art of painting in watercolor by Deb Watson is a gorgeous and helpful book I requested from NetGalley and the review is voluntary. This book starts by telling you the tools and tips of watercolor. It then gets into the good stuff by showing the reader through step-by-step projects how to use salt, mask, blend edges, soften, blur, sharpen, add interest, and create depth. This is an excellent book for beginners or those that just want to improve. I loved the close up pictures and the many photos throughout the book. Simply gorgeous! I have this book on my wishlist!
leylaj 7 months ago
As a beginner in watercolour painting, this book is really helpful. It isn't a big book but the examples and instructions are extremely easy to follow and well illustrated. A great book for picking up basic skills in watercolour.
SarkuraCherryBlossom 8 months ago
Title : Painting Watercolor Basics Author: Deb Watson Whether you’re a master painter or an absolute beginner, watercolor is the perfect partner for your painting pleasure—and Watercolor Basics teaches you everything you need to know to get started in the medium. From rendering light and shadow to creating realistic textures, discover how to bring dimension and depth to your paintings. Featuring the artwork of Deb Watson, this book includes a variety of easy-to-follow, step-by-step projects, including a landscape, still life, and portrait. With engaging, inspirational lessons and useful artist's tips, Watercolor Basics will help you master this beautiful and luminous medium. Designed for beginners, the How to Draw & Paint series offers an easy-to-follow guide that introduces artists to basic tools and materials and includes simple step-by-step lessons for a variety of projects suitable for the aspiring artist. Watercolor Basics allows you to widen the scope of your artistic abilities, demonstrating how to begin with a basic sketch and then develop your painting step by step with special techniques that will bring your painting to life. My thoughts Rating: 5 Would I recommend it? yes Will I check out anything else from this author? yes I'm so glad that I decided to pick this up because I've been wanting to try water colors in my adult coloring books and this made it seem so easy to do , that what I loved about it because it showed you step by step how to do it and this would be a perfect gift for anyone no matter the age , with that said I want to say think you to Netgalley for letting me read and review it exchange for my honest opinion
PBDeb 8 months ago
Watercolor Basics by Deb Watson This is a simplified how-to with tips on the art of watercolor. Not for the very beginner, but rather a brief refresher for a novice watercolor painter. There are a lot of insets showing vivid color mixes, which are very helpful to create mood, emotion, depth and interest in your artwork. The author gives demos of flowers, bugs, scenery, people, birds and rabbits. All in all it is a basic brush up for the novice artist, but not a good choice for a total beginner. My thanks to #Netgalley and #WalterFosterPublishing for an ARC for this review.
DoveArt 8 months ago
I love how-t0 art books, I am fascinated by different artist's approaches to technique. For this book, I wan't sure who the target audience was. The book starts with a basic material guide and moves on to show the progression of specific watercolors. If it's a beginner guide, then I feel it is lacking in detail and content: more about how to choose materials, how to prep the paper, etc. If it is skipping these details because it is geared toward a more experienced artist, then why limit the examples to such specific images, foregoing creative prompts and more variety? Overall, I think this book will be useful as a complement to other guides that fill in these gaps. Thank you to NetGalley for providing an ARC in exchange for an honest review.