As I said in the first part of my beginner watercolor guide, I’m going to list some exercises you can do to improve your understanding of color and watercolor techniques. On one hand, the best way to achieve an in-depth understanding of watercolors is to keep watercoloring. With enough practice and experimentation, you will probably figure out how to get the exact color you want and what the capabilities of your watercolor set are. On the other hand, we don’t all start with a ton of inspiration. Maybe after an initial burst of creativity, we get a little frustrated by our limited understanding of the medium and we feel stalled. These exercises are for those moments.
EXERCISE #1: Color Chart
With any watercolor set you have I recommend you make a color chart and, when I say color chart, I mean you should do 1:1 mixtures of each color in your set with every other color in your set. Though it can be time-consuming, it is simple and fun. Plus, you get to practice mixing your watercolors and putting your color on paper. The color chart is also a great way to get a general idea of what colors your watercolors can make. Here is a tutorial on how to make a color chart: Jenny’s Sketchbook.
EXERCISE #2: Color Wheel
The color wheel is a standard tool for learning color theory, in other words, how colors mix and complement other colors. In a color wheel, you first take the three primary colors, red, yellow and blue, and mix every duo combination of them (red + blue, blue + yellow, yellow + red) to make the secondary colors, orange, green and purple. Then, you can mix the secondary colors with each of the original primary colors to make tertiary colors. If that was confusing, don’t worry! In TheWittyGrittyPaperCo.‘s Color Theory & Mixing Demystified ~ In Watercolors video, you will find a great tutorial on how to make a color wheel and an explanation of color theory.
The color wheel is a far more in-depth exploration of the colors in your set than a color chart. I also find it more relaxing because it is methodical, yet full of room for experimentation. For example, I also like to mix the three primaries together and mix complementary colors together to find more neutral colors (browns/grays/taupes). If you have two of each of the primary colors, than you can get 2 x 2 x 2 = 8 different color wheels! And you don’t need to do them all at once. I suggest you make a list of the possible color wheel combinations and slowly go through the list whenever you want to watercolor, but feel lacking in inspiration.
EXERCISE #3: Tutorials
My first watercolor tutorial was called “Painting with Watercolors for Beginners” by Lindsey from The Postman’s Knock. In that tutorial, she teaches you how to make spheres with shading and shadows. The second tutorial was a galaxy one from LovelyLandscape Art. There are so many fun tutorials on the internet that you can use to learn and practice different techniques. As a beginner, don’t be afraid to take advantage of the tutorials out there. Even though some of them may feel hard and your watercolor might not turn out the way you hoped it would, you are still practicing the techniques. As I said earlier, the best way to be better at watercoloring is to practice and experiment and it doesn’t matter if you have a guide or not. Once you have better control of the watercolors and a better understanding of color theory, you’ll have an easier time executing your vision.