Confidence with your watercolor colors

If you’re wondering how to become more confident with your watercolor colors, we’ll give you a simple to-do-list. After all, mastering colors is such a huge part of watercolors.

You want to become confident with your watercolor colors. Once you have a solid grasp of what they can do, you’ll feel more comfortable exploring other areas of your watercolor painting.


Confidence comes with experience. That goes for anything. If you practice shooting a basketball free throw 10,000 times, you’re going to be better at it than someone who’s only done it 10 times in his life.

Repetition is everything. The more you paint, the better you’ll get. This also applies to playing a musical instrument and even painting. You simply have to put the time in if you want to get good.

Practice technique in a watercolor journal

If you’re rich, you can get away with practicing on watercolor paper. But not everyone has an unlimited budget. That’s why I strongly recommend a watercolor journal. You can do all your experimenting there, and they cost a lot less than quality watercolor paper.

Here for instance, you’ll see what I did with the brand new Winsor and Newton paints I bought.

Testing my watercolor colors
Yeah I know. I should have been a doctor with that handwriting

I’m not really a brand stickler. Most of my paints are Daniel Smith. However, the closest store to me only carries Winsor and Newton so if I need something right now, I’ll get those paints. But if I can make a trip to the local Blick store, I can get Daniel Smith paints.

Opium Tales fantasy pinup art
Those same two colors used in an actual painting

For gouache, I have M Graham. I bought those on a whim mostly because I wanted to see what a honey based paint is like. Yes, it’s different. But more on that another day. Let’s get back to the topic on hand.

You change the tone of the paint with the amount of water. Like for instance, I get nipple pink from my red simply by using mostly water. You’ll especially need to know your water usage when you start painting skin tones.

Practice monochromatic painting

You should do at least one monochromatic painting. I already wrote an entire article on how to do that. The quick rundown though – you use one and only one color.

This will force you to really know that one color. You get your variations in the color by the amount of water you use and also your brush technique.

When you force yourself to do an exercise like this, you’ll really master that color. You’ll know everything about it.

It might be a good idea to do a monochromatic painting in each one of your favorite paint colors. If you have a lot of paints, you don’t have to do one with every single one of your paint colors. However, definitely consider doing one for each one of your favorites.

How nicely do your colors play with other colors?

You’re going to do washes. You’re also going to mix colors. So let’s take these two things one at a time.

The wash

Sometimes, you’re only going to do a wash with one color. In this case, this is irrelevant. But when you get around to doing a wash with more than one color, you need to know how your colors run into other colors. Do they look good? Do they look bad?

Also, which color will dominate? Once again, you could try all this out in a watercolor journal without wasting a painting. It’s best to know this stuff in advance.

Dominance and submissiveness

Yeah, I kind of wrote that headline as a joke since I’ve been in Metal bands. Nope, none that you’ve ever heard of. The most we ever made in one night was $43. Not exactly enough to quit our day jobs.

But on a serious note, watercolor colors are rarely equal. When you mix, especially when you want a color that’s halfway between the two colors you’re mixing, one will almost always take dominance over the other.

So keep in mind when mixing, mix small amounts first. It’s no fun wasting a lot of paint and learning this the hard way.

Run out of your watercolor colors


Yes, seriously. Paint so much that you actually start running out of certain colors. You’ll soon realize which colors really matter to you and which ones you could live without.

For me, it keeps changing. I wrote my 7 color watercolor palette article back in February. It’s now June, and I’m not even sure if that’s my top 7 any more. I’m experimenting and playing around with colors so much that that’s all subject to change.

Whereas I was totally in love with the Daniel Smith color Moonglow, now I’m falling in love with Winsor and Newton’s Indigo instead.

You’ll experience this. You’ll have a favorite watercolor color, then something else will come along and replace it. Humans are funny this way. We’re always changing, and growing.

Heck, I used to love drinking gin. You couldn’t pay me to drink that stuff any more. People change.

But the lessons are the same. I’m quite confident in Moonglow now that I’ve used it in so many paintings. Now I’m starting to get confident in Indigo.

Be sure to use your paints. That’s the only way you’re going to master your colors.

Categorized as Watercolor

By Roman

Pinup Artist. Composer. Writer.

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