Top 10 Mistakes New Watercolor Artists Make

In this article, we’ll explore the top 10 mistakes new watercolor artists often make and provide useful tips on how to avoid them. From using poor quality materials to overworking the paper and lacking control with water, we’ll address these issues and more.

By identifying these mistakes and learning how to overcome them, you’ll be well on your way to unleashing your creativity and achieving stunning results with watercolors. So, whether you’re a complete novice or have some experience under your belt, stay tuned to discover how to avoid the pitfalls and develop your skills as a watercolor artist.

Importance of Avoiding Common Mistakes in Watercolor Painting

Watercolor painting is a delicate and fluid medium that requires careful attention to detail and technique. Avoiding common mistakes is crucial for new watercolor artists to ensure their journey is smooth and enjoyable. By understanding and addressing these mistakes early on, you can save yourself frustration and disappointment, and instead focus on honing your skills and creating beautiful art.

Using Low-Quality Materials
Watercolor Mistake; Using Low-Quality Materials

Mistake #1: Using Low-Quality Materials

One of the most significant mistakes new watercolor artists make is using low-quality materials. While it may be tempting to save money, using cheap paints, brushes, and paper can greatly impact the quality of your artwork. Poor quality paints may lack pigment intensity or have uneven consistency, leading to dull and lifeless paintings. Similarly, low-quality brushes can shed bristles, making it difficult to achieve precise and controlled brushstrokes. Lastly, using inferior paper can result in buckling, warping, or the paint bleeding through, ruining your artwork.

The Solution: Invest in high-quality watercolor paints, preferably artist-grade, as they offer a wider range of colors, better pigmentation, and superior lightfastness. Quality brushes with natural or synthetic bristles designed for watercolor painting will provide better control and allow for various techniques. Finally, choose acid-free, heavyweight watercolor paper that is specifically made for this medium. Good quality paper will absorb the paint evenly and withstand the application of multiple washes without losing its integrity.

Not Understanding the Properties of Watercolor Paint
Not Understanding the Properties of Watercolor Paint

Mistake #2: Not Understanding the Properties of Watercolor Paint

Watercolor paint behaves differently from other mediums, such as acrylic or oil. Its transparent nature and ability to be diluted with water create unique challenges and opportunities for artists. Unfortunately, many beginners fail to fully understand the properties of watercolor paint, resulting in muddy colors, overworked washes, or lack of control over the pigments.

The Solution: To avoid this mistake, take the time to experiment and familiarize yourself with your watercolor paints. Understand how different pigments behave when mixed, how they react to water, and how they dry. Learn to embrace the transparency of the medium and utilize it to create depth and luminosity in your paintings. Practice layering washes to achieve vibrant colors and avoid overworking the paint, which can lead to a loss of freshness and transparency.

Here are some outstanding articles for discovering the characteristics of watercolors.

Overworking the Paper
Overworking the Paper

Mistake #3: Overworking the Paper

Watercolor paper has a limited capacity to absorb water and paint. Overworking the paper by repeatedly adding layers or scrubbing the surface can lead to a muddy and unappealing result. Additionally, excessive scrubbing can damage the paper’s surface, making it prone to tearing or pilling.

The Solution: To fix this mistake, plan your painting in advance and have a clear vision of the desired outcome. Use light pencil sketches or guidelines to establish the composition and values before applying any paint. Be mindful of the number of washes and layers you apply, allowing each layer to dry before adding another. By working with intention and restraint, you can maintain the vibrancy and clarity of your watercolor paintings.

Not Controlling the Water-to-Paint Ratio
Not Controlling the Water-to-Paint Ratio

Mistake #4: Not Controlling the Water-to-Paint Ratio

Water is an essential component of watercolor painting, and controlling the water-to-paint ratio is crucial for achieving desired effects. Beginners often struggle with finding the right balance, resulting in either overly diluted or overly concentrated washes.

The Solution: To avoid this issue, experiment with different ratios of water to paint. Start with a damp brush and gradually add water or paint to achieve the desired consistency. Keep in mind that different techniques, such as wet-on-wet or wet-on-dry, require different water-to-paint ratios. Practice controlling the amount of water on your brush and the amount of paint you pick up to achieve the desired transparency or intensity.

Lack of Planning and Sketching
Lack of Planning and Sketching

Mistake #5: Lack of Planning and Sketching

Jumping straight into a painting without proper planning and sketching can lead to composition issues, proportions inaccuracies, and overall dissatisfaction with the final result. Many beginners underestimate the importance of preliminary work and skip this crucial step.

The Solution: To avoid this mistake, take the time to plan your paintings. Sketch out your composition with light pencil lines, paying attention to the placement of key elements and the overall balance of the artwork. Use reference photos or real-life objects to guide your sketches. By investing time in the planning stage, you’ll have a clearer vision of your painting and avoid potential pitfalls.

Ignoring the Value of Negative Space
Ignoring the Value of Negative Space

Mistake #6: Ignoring the Value of Negative Space

Negative space refers to the areas around and between objects in a painting. It plays an essential role in composition and can greatly enhance the visual impact of your artwork. Many beginners overlook the value of negative space and focus solely on the objects they are painting.

The Solution: Try training your eye to see the shapes and patterns created by negative space. Give them equal importance as the main subject and consider how they contribute to the overall composition. Negative space can provide balance, create depth, and help define the positive shapes in your painting. By embracing the power of negative space, you’ll bring a new level of sophistication to your watercolor artworks.

Check out this watercolor negative space tutorial.

Not Experimenting with Different Techniques
Not Experimenting with Different Techniques

Mistake #7: Not Experimenting with Different Techniques

Watercolor painting offers a wide range of techniques that can add depth, texture, and interest to your artwork. However, many beginners stick to familiar techniques and fail to explore the full potential of the medium.

The Solution: To avoid this problem, be open to experimentation. Try different techniques such as wet-on-wet, dry brush, glazing, or lifting to achieve various effects. Play with different brush strokes, splattering, or masking techniques to add texture and visual interest to your paintings. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes and learn from them. Experimentation is an essential part of the creative process and can lead to exciting discoveries.

Rushing the Drying Process
Rushing the Drying Process

Mistake #8: Rushing the Drying Process

Watercolor paint requires time to dry properly. Rushing the drying process by using a hairdryer or stacking wet paintings can lead to smudging, color bleeding, and overall frustration.

The Solution: To avoid this mistake, practice patience. Allow each layer of paint to dry completely before adding another. This will ensure that the colors remain vibrant and won’t mix unintentionally. If you’re working on multiple pieces, consider rotating between them, giving each painting ample time to dry. Patience is a virtue in watercolor painting, and being mindful of the drying process will yield better results.

Mistake #9: Neglecting to Protect and Store Finished Artworks

Once your watercolor artworks are complete, it’s crucial to protect and store them properly to prevent damage and fading. Neglecting to do so can result in your hard work being compromised.

The Solution: To fix this, invest in acid-free mats and frames to protect your paintings from yellowing or discoloration. Use UV protective glass to shield the artwork from harmful sunlight. Store your finished artworks in a dry and cool environment, away from direct sunlight or excessive humidity. Proper care and storage will ensure that your watercolor paintings last for years to come.

Fearing Mistakes and Not Embracing the Learning Process
Fearing Mistakes and Not Embracing the Learning Process

Mistake #10: Fearing Mistakes and Not Embracing the Learning Process

Fear of making mistakes can hinder your growth and creativity as a watercolor artist. It’s essential to embrace the learning process and view mistakes as valuable lessons rather than failures.

The Solution: To avoid this mistake, adopt a growth mindset. Understand that making mistakes is an integral part of the learning journey. Embrace experimentation and allow yourself to take risks. Learn from your mistakes and use them as stepping stones towards improvement. Remember, the beauty of watercolor painting lies in its spontaneity and unpredictability. Embrace the process, stay curious, and enjoy the journey of discovering your unique artistic voice.


Watercolor painting is a beautiful and expressive art form that offers endless possibilities for creativity. By avoiding these top 10 mistakes and implementing the tips provided, you’ll set yourself on the path to becoming a skilled watercolor artist.

Remember to invest in high-quality materials, understand the properties of watercolor paint, and practice restraint when working with paper and water. Plan your paintings, experiment with different techniques, and don’t rush the drying process.

Protect and store your finished artworks with care, and most importantly, embrace the learning process and fearlessly explore your artistic potential. With dedication and practice, you’ll soon create stunning watercolor paintings that captivate and inspire.

Happy painting!