Watercolor has the reputation of being a challenging medium. It can be tricky to work with and requires a lot of patience. But with practice, it can reward you with some beautiful finished work.
Below is a list of watercolor painting ideas to help you get started with your watercolor art. These prompts utilize all of the wonderful properties of watercolor paint and will help you learn different techniques to use in your artwork.
1 Koi Fish
This painting utilizes watercolor’s natural flow by establishing the watery background using wet-on-wet techniques. Begin by wetting your paper, taking care to cover every bit so that the watercolor can flow. Then add dark blue to the background.
This technique works best when you allow the watercolor to do what it wants and flow where it likes. Drop other shades of blue into the wet wash and allow them to blend together. Add drops of clear water on top to create water-like effects in the paint.
Continue to be loose when you paint the fish. Add colorful splotches of orange to mimic the natural pattern of the koi fish.
2 Watercolor Flowers
Watercolor flowers are a classic subject to use in your watercolor painting. Small, delicate strokes will be helpful to you to make sure you can achieve the fine details. Different kinds of brushes, from liner brushes to angled and flat brushes, will help you achieve smooth, delicate petals.
Study the layering of the petals closely when you paint a flower. Let your strokes mimic the form, and chose your brush carefully so that they help you paint the correct shape of the petals.
Galaxies are a fun subject to paint in watercolor. They allow you to loosen up the application of color onto the page. You will use a lot of water while painting a galaxy, so make sure that you tape your watercolor painting down to your desk so that the paper doesn’t warp and bend when the water is applied.
Next, add a dark color to your paper to act as your space background. Alternatively, you could start with your bright nebula clouds and then fill in the spaces between them with darker pigment. Purples, blues, and blacks work well for your night sky.
For the stars, you will need an opaque pigment. Rather than watercolors, use acrylic ink or acrylic paint for the stars. Flick them onto your canvas using an old toothbrush or a regular watercolor brush.
4 The Moon
The crescent moon motif is a great beginner watercolor subject. For this simple painting, begin by sketching your crescent shape. Be careful to keep your curves neat so that your moon looks round, like the real crescent moon.
Paint your moon a soft yellow color. Then, with loose strokes and a wet-on-wet technique, add blue around the shape of your moon. Feel free to let the paint drip and flow together.
Just like with the galaxy painting, you can add stars to the background of your moon painting. Be sure to flick the paint carefully when creating the starry sky, as you don’t want to flick the white paint across the moon.
These delightful jellyfish can be painted in any color you choose and are a great addition to any art wall once you finish making them. Use a wet-on-wet technique to create the domed heads of the jellyfish. Add shading on one side of the jellyfish and a highlight on the other.
Once the jellyfish bulbs are dry, use a light wash to establish the place where the tentacles will be. Add in each tentacle with a long stroke from a thin brush. Be sure to give your jellyfish a few friends to swim around the ocean with.
6 Mountain Landscape
This mountain landscape begins with a watercolor gradient. This will be used to create a sunset behind your scene.
Use yellow and orange on wet paper to create this gradient, being sure to tape down the edges of the paper so that it does not buckle. Add streaks of red-orange in the sky to mimic clouds.
The mountains can be created using broad strokes and filled in fully like silhouettes. As the mountains near the ground, blend them out and add darker mountains in the foreground.
Finally, use black watercolor paint to add the outlines and silhouettes of trees. This will give your painting depth, giving the illusion that the trees are in the front, closer to the viewer, and that the mountains are further in the background.
Trees are a fantastic natural object to incorporate into your art. Pick your favorite variety of tree to use as a reference for this painting, and sketch it out onto your watercolor paper.
Using quick, bold strokes, establish the silhouette of the tree’s leaves with a large brush. Remember that trees are natural objects, so don’t be afraid to really let loose and give your tree some character.
Add shadows and highlights directly into the wet paint. Once the paint dries, go over it with dark green and establish the crisp outlines of leaves.
Finally, the trunk can be done with multiple strokes of browns and dark grays. If you leave your brush relatively dry, you can create a textured stroke that looks like rough tree bark.
8 Northern Lights
Begin this beautiful scene by adding a wet wash to only the top two-thirds of your page. Apply a wash of dark and light blue paint in large, sweeping strokes. Leave some parts of the sky close to the white of the paper, and others as dark as the night sky.
Finish the bottom of your northern lights painting with a snowy forest scene. Using wavy horizontal strokes and blue paint, establish drifts of snow on the paper.
Using opaque black paint, add pine trees to the edge of your snowy field, along the horizon line. Finish the painting using the same black pigment and paint the silhouette of a mountain in the distance.
9 Rowing Boat
This rowing boat is a slightly more challenging perspective exercise. However, by thinking of the boat as a rectangle and then adjusting the shape from there, you’ll be able to sketch the rowboat at a three-quarters view angle facing the viewer.
From there you can begin to add paint. Even though the boat is white, use warm yellows and blues to give the illusion of sunlight and water reflecting off the sideboards. This easy painting is a great way to be loose and free with your color choices.
Complete the painting by adding the water surrounding the boat. Start with a light wash of blue on top and a darker wash of blue on the bottom. Use a very wet brush and allow the watercolor paint to flow together to mimic the subtle gradient of water.
Try not to get too hungry while painting the icing on these delicious donuts! This easy painting is ideal if you’re looking for a cute, colorful design.
Begin by drawing circles all over your watercolor paper. Make them even by using a round object, like a bowl or lid. Don’t forget to add another circle for the hole in the center of each donut.
The icing can be painted with any bright color that you would like to use. Darken that color around the edges of your donut while using some of the colors from the surrounding donuts to mimic reflective light. Leave some parts of the paper bright white for more extreme highlights.
Finally, add icing to your donuts. You can use any medium here that is opaque, such as acrylic paint markers or gouache. Think of some fun icing and sprinkle patterns that you can use to decorate your donuts.