Embarking on Fast and Loose Watercolors

Today, we set sail on a creative odyssey with our ‘Fast and Loose Watercolor Landscape Tutorial with Boats and Dock.’ This enriching lesson is not just a visual feast but a profound exploration of the liberating world of loose watercolor techniques.

Tips for Painting Loose Watercolor Landscapes:

  1. Embrace Spontaneity: Fast and loose watercolor painting is about letting go of rigid control. Allow colors to mingle and dance on your canvas, creating organic, expressive shapes.
  2. Bold Brushstrokes: Opt for larger brushes and use bold, confident strokes. Avoid the temptation to fuss over details; let the essence of the scene emerge naturally.
  3. Color Harmony: Select a harmonious color palette. In our tutorial, we’ll explore how to choose colors that evoke the serene ambiance of a waterfront with boats and a rustic dock.
  4. Flow of Water: Water is central to watercolor, and understanding its flow is crucial. We’ll discuss techniques for painting water that captures its fluidity and reflective qualities.
Embarking on a Fast and Loose Watercolor Journey
Embarking on a Fast and Loose Watercolor Journey

Suggested Material Checklist

Materials can make or break the outcome of a watercolor study. Watch the video that covers the best watercolor materials if you need more specifics about color choices, brush sizes and such. Basically, it’s exactly what I use and recommend for all levels.

Watercolor Paints: Opt for artist-grade watercolor paints in a range of colors. Choose a basic palette that includes six primary colors (one cool and warm hue for each one including red, blue, and yellow) along with earth tones for a versatile collection.

If you aren’t aware of the six primary palette, then check out our in-depth article on how to mix watercolors for beginners. It has the exact hues I use for every painting. And, if I make changes, I always update the article so you know the exact hues that get the best results.

Brushes: Invest in a set of good-quality watercolor brushes with different shapes and sizes. Round brushes are excellent for detailed work, while flat brushes are great for larger washes. I’d recommend one medium and one large pointed round. Then get a large mop brush that will handle those initial washed that are applied in the very beginning.

You only need three brushes to do most of the heavy lifting! However, I do recommend having a dagger and possibly and Motler on hand as well. Check out the article I wrote on how to choose the best watercolor brushes if you have questions on the exact brands, sizes and such.

Paper: I highly recommend selecting watercolor paper specifically designed for this medium. Look for papers labeled “cold-pressed” or “hot-pressed” to suit your preferred texture. Experiment with different weights and brands to find the one that suits your style. Most beginners choose 140 lb. cold press to start their journey. Hot press tends to be a little slick and most used for highly detailed work and portraits.

Avoid cheap, wood pulp papers as they don’t react properly to washes and other techniques. These cheaper papers tend to break down quickly and don’t age well either, basically yellowing over time. Be sure to read the how to choose the best watercolor paper article when you have time.

If you aren’t aware of the six primary palette, then check out our in-depth article on how to mix watercolors for beginners. It has the exact hues I use for every painting. And, if I make changes, I always update the article so you know the exact hues that get the best results.

Palette: A palette is essential for mixing and diluting your watercolors. Choose a palette with wells to hold different colors and a large mixing area. Small palettes tend to get dirty too quick and I found it difficult to have enough free space to mix enough colors without having to stop everything to clean up. The Masterson Pro palette works great and available at Amazon and Blick Art.

Water Containers: Have at least two containers for water—one for rinsing your brushes and another for clean water. Make sure the containers aren’t too small, and I would recommend plastic over glass. I’ve had plenty of studio accidents and cleaning up shattered glass isn’t ideal when in a creative mode.

Masking Tape and Drawing Board: Masking tape helps secure your paper to a drawing board, keeping it flat and preventing it from warping. The tape is optional and depends if you prefer the clean edges. In the beginning you will most likely focus on sketches and studies, so maybe pass until you determine later on if you need it.

A smooth, firm board is a must! I recommend Gator foam board as it’s very sturdy, smooth and durable. Fairly inexpensive and light weight to boot. That covers materials, let’s move on to skills you need to start watercolor painting.

Need more info on the exact watercolor supplies such as brands, sizes, hues and more?

Why Fast and Loose Matters:

Fast and loose watercolor painting isn’t just a technique; it’s a mindset. It encourages artists to break free from the constraints of perfection, inviting spontaneity and happy accidents onto the canvas. This approach adds a unique charm to your artworks, making them more expressive and engaging.


So, my fellow artists, ready your brushes and set sail with me on this creative voyage. Our destination is not just a finished painting but a newfound appreciation for the beauty of imperfection. Let the watercolor waves guide your strokes, and let’s create something extraordinary together. Happy painting!