We get it: Painting with watercolors can be challenging, especially if you're a newbie. Who out there can create a killer artwork the first time they try a new medium? Yeah, no one.
But listen up, because this beginner project is so easy and doable, and the results so stunning, it'll give you the confidence to keep at it until you're a master.
I use this project to help all of my beginning watercolor students get started. It's a simple resist painting of daisies that every new student can pull off — including you!
What You Need
- Watercolor paper
- Masking tape to hold the paper in place
- Masking fluid
- Bar soap
- Watercolor paints
- Table salt
1. Masking the Daisies
Draw a small cluster of simple daisies. You can use my painting above as inspiration, or create your own composition. Just make sure each flower has its own space.
Wet a bar of hand soap and use it to coat your bristles thoroughly before you dip the brush into the masking fluid . Cover all the flowers and stems completely and neatly with the masking fluid. You may need to wash your brush, then re-coat it with soap and masking fluid a few times. Allow your fluid to dry completely before going to Step 2.
2. The First Wash
Once you've picked your background colors, mix them on your palette before wetting your entire page. For this painting, I used Indian Yellow, Ultramarine Blue, Payne's Gray, Hooker's Green and Burnt Umber.
Your first wash is what's called a "wet on wet" wash. This one will be loose, quick and soft. Start with your lightest color; for this project, I'm laying on the Indian Yellow first. Use a Number 12 round brush for this first large wash.
Now, quickly paint on your blues and greens in upward strokes. Start with your brush on the bottom edge of the paper and stroke upwards to create a grasslike background.
3. Deepening the Colors
While your first wash is still wet, switch to a Number 3 round brush. Using a thickened pigment mixture, start adding grass strokes, alternating between the blue, green and yellow colors. Your grass strokes should always start from the bottom of the page, moving up in a quick and fluid motion.
Before your wash dries, sprinkle a bit of salt onto the grassy area at the bottom of your painting. The salt will absorb the water and colors and create a beautiful texture. Don't over-salt your painting — a little goes a long way!
You can also "splatter" the painting by loading your brush with paint and tapping it gently with one hand over the paper.
Allow the entire page to dry until it's flat. At this point, it should be completely bone-dry to the touch. Want to speed the drying process along? Use a hair dryer.
4. Removing the Masking Fluid
With your finger or a large eraser, gently pull off all of the masking fluid, taking care not to damage the paper. Your painting should look something like this:
Notice the lovely pattern that the salt made on the paper. Once you get the masking fluid off, your artwork should look something like this:
5. Painting the Daisy Centers
Right now, your flowers are basically white blobs on the page, so let's add some definition. Start with the centers: Using a Number 2 round brush and clean water, wet just the round middle of one flower. Then paint the entire center of the daisy with the Indian Yellow, barely touching in a thicker Burnt Umber mixture to the bottom edge for depth.
Only work on the center of one flower at a time. Don't wet a bunch and try to do them all at once.
If you're feeling adventurous, you can soften the edges of a center with your brush and some clean water. This is how you'll do it: While the paint's still damp, dip your brush in clean water and very lightly touch the edges, to soften them and make them bleed a little. This takes a bit of control, so it's a good idea to practice on a separate sheet of paper.
6. Petals and Finishing Touches
Let's give the petals more definition so they'll stand out. After the daisy centers are completely dry, wet one petal with clean water. With a highly watered-down mixture of the the Cerulean or Ultramarine Blue and a Number 2 brush, touch the blue onto the edges of the petals that overlap with other petals. This creates a soft shadow that sets the petals apart. The flowers should only have a hint of color on the edges of the petals. Remember, you want to keep those daisies looking white.
To pull your painting together, start painting wet-on-dry grass strokes. Use the same bottom-to-top motion that you used in the beginning wash.
Splattering a darker blue or green at the end will add a pretty finishing touch, but if you don't want that splatter to get onto your flowers, cover them with a tissue first.
And... that's it. Your daisy painting is done. Now all it needs is a signature and a frame!