Free Art Tutorials

Lesson One: Understanding the beauty of watercolours!

In these uncertain times of staying at home because of lockdown, many of us will have to keep our distance for many months to come. Despite this, I thought even if our feet cannot wander, our imagInation can!

So here is the start of your journey into a realm of creativity available to all, you may have thought you are no good at art, but I promise you, with hard work and dedication anyone can become a magnificent artist! These lessons provide a vast journey for all, an opportunity to enhance your skills what ever your age.

This guide will allow you to experiment with watercolours and learn the appeal of toning your art! Furthermore, I will assist you through the process of colour granulation to use as reference for future projects.

Let's start with materials!

You will need:


  • Thick paper (300g)
  • A thin brush set (Peferably sizes No 10, No 6 and No 2)
  • Watercolour paint set (Suggestions provided below)

Because I use a lot of water in my work, you will need a fairly thick paper at least 300g. (if you do not want to or don’t have the time to stretch pater, I will tell you about that in a separate lesson). It does not matter if its smooth or rough. I suggest when you want to put all your practice lessons together to make a final painting, use something like Daler Rowney Aquafine Watercolour Artboard, it is Cold Pressed and Acid free. The texture is a fine grain but there are other textures available, this type is also easily available as to why I suggested it. One day you may like to try the paper I use for exhibitions and commissions, it is called Two Rivers Hand Made in Somerset. One sheet cost the same as a pad of 10 sheets of Daler and Rowney.

One of the reason I suggest using this type of paper is that it is glued on all four sides which means it will not wrinkle or buckle when you add a lot of water, but for now, just use a heavy weight paper for lesson One.
The other paper I use a lot of especially in my classes is SAA (the society for all artists) practice paper is 280 gsm so not suitable for a lot water without stretching it first. Its ideal for general work and inexpensive, you can use this paper or like do these exercises.
Once you decide you enjoy painting and wish to learn more then is the time to invest in the better-quality products.
Brushes do not go rushing to buy lots of brushes at this stage, it is better to buy a good mid quality sable and mixture. I personally recommend the brush sizes No 10, No 6 and No 2.


It does not matter if you use tube paint or pans from a paint box. My personal favourite paint is Daniel Smith extra fine watercolours, but for now we will stick with Winsor and Newton Artist quality paints, but if cost is an issue their student range is Cotman’s. The difference is Winsor and Newton has more pigment, were as Cotman has some calk in it, but for beginners its ideal especially for the lessons we are doing here. The other range of paints I use in my classes at Craig y Nos Country Park, is the SAA watercolours and White Knight, I particularly love their dark green, I don’t know what it called as its in Russian, but its very affordable and the results are good.

Now its time to start our first lesson on Tones!

1. If using pans of paint from a paint box, wet the colour pan to moisten the colour, always add the pigment to the water, do not paint straight from the pan for this lesson. If you are using tube paint squeeze a little paint onto your pallet. For this lesson we are using primary colours, Red, Yellow and Blue.

2. On your watercolour pallet or if using a paint box, the lid is usually the pallet, using your biggest brush (No 10 if you have one) add water to the pallet, some people use a pipette.


3. Now we will make a series of 5 or 6 squares, on your paper as shown above. Using a little of the paint pigment from your pan or tube add a little pigment (paint) to the water this is stage 1. It should be a very faint colour and make into a square, do not draw hard line just work your brush on the page. Stage 2 add a little more paint and repeat. Stage 3 add more paint and repeat. Stage 4 add more paint, by now you will see the difference from stage one, until you achieve the true colour on your colour pallet.

4. Repeat this exercise with all 3 colour using the water first then adding colour.
Now you should see a selection of light to dark tonal colours.
Number these colours and keep for future reference, for future projects as tonal reference.

5. Now than you have the 3 primary colours of red, blue, and yellow, you can see the difference in colour from light to dark we add pigment to water.


6. Our next exercise for today is colour granulation. Start by using deep pigment or watercolour paint using your large brush still, paint a thick line of paint at the top of you sheet of paper. Then using the side of your brush full of water, just under the first line of colour, add the brush of water and drag down using the side of your brush.

7. Do not go back to the start to paint again (big mistake by beginners) Just keep going in one direction no going back.

8. Clean your brush and using clean water repeat

9. Repeat until you have gone from dark to light

But most Importantly! 

10. Have fun and enjoy, keep practicing until you feel confident and do not forget to write everything down as a reference for future projects!

Happy Painting!
Julia Harris