Watercolor Painting Made Easy

For everyone able to hold a brush, watercolor painting is a safe, fun activity. While some paints can create a permanent mess, watercolors are easy to clean up. They’re also among the safest paints to use as they’re essentially non-toxic with no smelly fumes.

If you’ve always wanted to be more artsy-craftsy, or you’re just looking for a new way to help your kids channel their energy, now’s the time. We’re sharing all the information you need to stage a watercolor paint-in at your house. Just follow the simple steps provided.

Supplies You’ll Need

Supplies You’ll Need Watercolor Painting

Pro Tip: Keep a sponge or extra paper towels handy for potential spills. Even though watercolor spots will usually come clean, you may want to spread out some newspaper or plastic on your work surface to be safe. Old towels work well to protect carpeted floors.

Step 1: Inspiration

What should you paint? Anything your heart desires. Some people may be inspired to paint portraits, landscapes, seascapes, or sunsets while others might try their hand at depicting objects around the house.

There may be a Picasso living under your roof, or one that prefers to channel their art from an imaginary cast of characters. Just for fun, each member of your family could tackle a portrait of the same subject – maybe your cat? – and see how your artistic interpretations vary.

Step 2: Draw Your Design in Pencil


Begin by lightly sketching an outline in pencil on watercolor paper. Your sketch should be faint enough to disappear under your painting. Feel free, however, to draw your lines a bit darker in areas where you’d like them to remain for definition. You can even darken them later with a pen.

Don’t worry if you don’t get it right the first time, second, or third time. That’s what your eraser is for.

Step 3: Start Painting


Using your brush, transfer some drops of water from your cup into your palette and mix your first paint color into it. You’ll get the hang of when to use more or less water, but it can take a bit of experimenting. Use your palette for any color mixing; don’t muddy your paint cakes by mixing colors in them.

In watercolor painting you want to paint from the largest areas and objects to the smallest details, and from the lightest colors to the darkest ones.

Begin your painting with a “flat wash,” a light, even layer of color you can build on later. Work quickly, before your paint starts to dry, to create an even background. Wonder what the blow dryer is for? That’s for quickly drying the “layers” of your painting so that you can keep adding color, depth, and detail.

In areas of your painting that are larger than a silver dollar, try to mix colors to create more interesting shades. For example, try combining shades of green or mix in a hint of yellow or brown.

Pro tip: Test new paint colors on a small piece of paper before applying to your painting and keep a paper towel or rag handy for soaking up areas that get too wet or runny.

Special Techniques

Gradient Shading can create depth and a three-dimensional appearance in your painting. Start with a darker shade and work your way up, down, or across an object or area using a progressively lighter shade of the same color to create this effect.


Wet-on-Wet is a technique of wetting your paper slightly with your brush before applying wet paint. This allows your paint to bleed slightly on purpose, and can be used to create a variety of special effects. You can even lift and tilt your paper to move the wet paint around your painting’s surface.


Dry Brush can be used to add the smallest of details. Be certain to use this technique last as wet paint can bleed into them and “melt” them. Your brush should be just about as moist as a felt-tip marker to fill in the tiniest of details, like eyelashes or a bee’s knees.


Every single person in your family can be an artist in residence.

Stay tuned for more #HereForYou tips from the Shapermint family.


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