Welcome, we’re glad you’re here!
Our Art Projects page is designed to inspire and be a resource to help you get started painting with our Watercolor Confetti Dot Card Set, Mineral Marvels Dot Card Set and our other DANIEL SMITH Watercolor Sets! This is a resource for anyone interested in beginning to paint with Watercolors!
We have organized this page into four parts:
- Line Art: downloadable PDFs.
- Transferring line art: How To transfer the line art to use for painting.
- Suggested supplies for best experience and success when painting with watercolors (which need fewer supplies than other paints!).
- Tips on painting with watercolors, some basic tips to help get you started!
1) Line Art
Our line art makes it easy to paint with watercolors because you don’t have to draw or design something yourself, just download, print, transfer onto watercolor paper and paint!
- “Spring” Line Art PDFs – Cherry Blossom, Blue Bird, African Violet, English Rose.
- “Floral” Line Art PDFs – Peony, Crocus, Pink Orchid, Amaryllis.
- “Garden” Line Art PDFs – Gerbera Daisy, Daffodil, Marigold, Tulip.
- “Country” Line Art PDFs – Rooster, Lilac, Thistle, Sunflower.
Please click the links above to download PDFs to find the line art you would like to use for painting with your DANIEL SMITH Watercolor Confetti, Mineral Marvels Dot Card Sets or any other DANIEL SMITH Watercolor Sets, Half Pan Sets or Watercolors! After finding the line art you would like to use, download the PDF and print it out. Now you are ready to transfer it onto watercolor paper.
2) How to transfer line art onto watercolor paper
There are basically two ways to transfer line art, using A. Graphite or B. Light and tracing the design.
A. Graphite: either purchase graphite paper used for transferring designs or make your own using a soft pencil like a #2 yellow pencil.
To make your own graphite paper: Take a sheet of plain white paper (copy paper works well) and with the side of the pencil lead, rub the graphite onto one side of the paper coating it well. You can use this graphite coated paper multiple times, just re-apply the graphite when needed. You can also apply the graphite directly to the back of the line art you printed making sure you apply the graphite in the areas where the lines are.
Place your graphite paper (graphite side down) onto the watercolor paper, then place the printed copy of the line art over the graphite paper, and over the area you want to paint the design.
Or, place the line art with the graphite rubbed onto the back of the paper (graphite side down) onto the watercolor paper over the area you want to paint the design.
Once all the papers are in place, hold them down firmly with one hand so they don’t shift. Then begin tracing the lines of the line art with a blue ballpoint pen, the blue makes it easier to see where you have traced. Begin tracing the lines in a small section, check to see if the graphite lines are showing well by lifting up a small section while still firmly holding down the papers. If not, retrace that section with more pressure and keep using that pressure while finishing tracing the line art. Check again when you are finished to make sure you have not missed any areas.
Using the white plastic eraser, remove any unwanted marks, and you are ready to paint!
B. Light either using a window or light box:
Light is used to show the lines of the line art through the watercolor paper (note, 300 lb. paper is too thick to use with this method). You can use a window when sunlight is shining through it or if you have access, a light box.
Place your line art onto the glass of the window (you are on the inside and light is shining through) or light box, then place your 140 lb. watercolor paper over the line art. You should be able to see the lines through the watercolor paper, if not, darken the lines with a black marker.
Trace over the lines you see through the watercolor paper with your pencil. Press only hard enough so that you can see light pencil lines on the watercolor paper, but not so hard that the lines are too dark. It is OK to see light pencil marks but distracting if the lines are too dark and heavy.
Before removing the watercolor paper over the line art, check to make sure you traced over all the lines by lifting up each corner in turn while holding the rest of the watercolor paper firmly down. If you have missed a line or two, trace over those areas until you have traced out the entire line art image.
If you need to clean up any extra lines, use a white plastic eraser (not the pink one at the end of the pencil, it smudges!) to remove extra lines or graphite smudges.
3) Suggested supplies for painting with watercolors
The 3 most important art supplies for painting with watercolors are:
We suggest DANIEL SMITH Extra Fine Watercolors, because painting with professional watercolors which are made with high quality pigments and no fillers are a joy to paint with! You get the best colors, results, and the highest lightfastness (with the exception of Opera Pink and Alizarin Crimson) which means no color fading for 100 years or longer with DANIEL SMITH Watercolors. Lower quality watercolors are made with fillers and cheaper pigments which make them harder to use, the colors are duller, they don’t last as long, they are usually not very lightfast and will fade.
Line Art PDFs for downloading:
You will want to paint on watercolor paper which is specially designed for watercolor and will give you the best experience and results. Watercolor paper is “sized” to prevent watercolor from sinking into the paper making colors dull like other paper will. The sizing also makes the paper tougher to hold up to watercolor techniques. Most other papers (drawing, sketching etc.) will fall apart, dissolve or buckle causing the watercolor to puddle which is frustrating when painting.
We suggest 140 lb. cold press watercolor paper. Watercolor paper is labeled by both weight and surface texture. The best general purpose weight is 140 lb., 90 lb. is less expensive but buckles more than 140 lb., 300 lb. is very heavy, more expensive and the least likely to buckle. The heavier the paper, the less likely to buckle. Ninety lb. and 140 lb. watercolor paper is often stretched to keep the paper from buckling. Surface textures available in watercolor paper are cold press (the most popular and general purpose) hot press which is smoother, and rough which is rougher (more textured) than cold press.
Good quality watercolor brush, it can be either natural hair or synthetic, but it needs to be a watercolor brush which is designed to hold water and watercolor paint, and be flexible (oil and acrylic brushes are too stiff). A good quality watercolor brush will hold its shape better and offer you better control than a cheap brush making your experience more enjoyable.
We suggest choosing a round watercolor brush in either a size 6 or 8. Brushes come in different shapes, the most general purpose is the round brush which you can use for most painting. With a good quality round watercolor brush, you can use the pointed tip for lines and details, the entire brush for broader strokes (more pressure the broader the stroke) and the side can work for washes. Please see this article: “The Four Basic Watercolor Washes” by Carmen Gardner to learn more about washes.
Additional supplies for painting with watercolors:
CONTAINERS for holding water: Containers can be anything that holds water and not easily tipped over. One quart empty yogurt tubs are very popular, so are wide water glasses or whatever you have handy to use. You will want two containers of similar size, one for dirty water, and the other for clean water. The dirty water is for the first rinse of your brush to wash off the watercolor, then a final rinse in the clean water container. Be sure to refill your water containers with fresh water before they get too dirty.
- 1st TIP: keep your water containers on the same side as your painting hand so you don’t drip water onto your painting.
- 2nd TIP: keep your coffee, tea or other beverage on the OTHER side so you don’t mistakenly rinse your brush off in that container! 🙂
PLATE or PALETTE: You will want a flat surface for both mixing watercolor and adding water to “lighten” colors before painting with them. You can use something as simple as a white plate as a palette or a store bought watercolor palette that also has paint wells for keeping the watercolor paints.
- TIP: When you are done painting, allow your watercolor paint to dry on your palette, because that dried paint can be re-wet and used during your next painting session!
PAPER TOWELS or SPONGE: Paper towels or a sponge are needed for blotting extra water off your brush after rinsing it, when changing to another color, or to remove excess color.
- TIP: keep a couple of folded paper towel sheets or the sponge just below your water containers for easy access.
PENCIL: For sketching out your design or painting subject. It is perfectly acceptable in watercolor for the pencil lines to show in your painting, though you will want to keep the pencil lines very light, so they are unobtrusive. We suggest a “hard” or “H” pencil for light lines, regular #2 yellow pencils are okay, but use the lightest pressure to keep the pencil lines light.
ERASER: We suggest a soft, white plastic eraser to remove unwanted pencil marks. The pink eraser on the end of a pencil tends to smudge on watercolor paper instead of erasing cleanly.
4) Basic Watercolor Information, Painting Techniques & Tips
Watercolor Properties: Each watercolor has four basic properties: Transparency, Granulation, Staining/Non-Staining and Lightfastness. Knowing these properties helps to know what effects and techniques you can use when painting!
Transparency: Watercolors most wonderful quality is its transparency, which is how much the white of the paper can shine through allowing the color to appear to glow. Watercolors can be transparent, semi-transparent, or opaque depending on the pigments used to make them and all three have their uses in watercolor painting. Transparent watercolors are also very beautiful when glazed (a watercolor technique) over other colors.
Granulation: Granulation is the special property that some watercolors have that can seem magical because of the effects that can happen with granulating watercolors. When granulating watercolors are painted out and the water disperses the pigments, the heavier pigments separate and settle out differently giving wonderfully textural effects. Non-granulating watercolors show as smoother color and are more predictable while granulating colors can be unpredictable! “Granulating Watercolors: What and Why” by Jane Blundell is a great resource on granulating watercolors.
Staining/Non-Staining: Staining or non-staining is whether or not the color will leave a stain on the watercolor paper when you try to remove it. When you “lift” (a watercolor technique) or remove some of the color with a wet brush then blot the area with the brush or a paper towel, staining colors will leave a stain of that color, and non-staining colors will not. Staining can be an excellent property for some techniques, as non-staining can be for others.
Lightfastness: How long a color will resist fading over time in normal lighting conditions. Nearly all of DANIEL SMITH’s Watercolors have an “Excellent” or “Very Good” Lightfastness, none are “Fair” and only 2 are “Fugitive” (DANIEL SMITH makes those due their popularity and artist demand).
- I – Excellent (100+ years)
- II = Very Good (100 years)
- III = Fair (50 – 70 years)
- IV = Fugitive (15 – 20 years)
You can find each color’s 4 Properties listed on our website product page for that color.
For example: Imperial Purple
- Lightfastness: I – Excellent
- Transparency: Semi-Transparent
- Staining: 2-Low Staining
- Granulation: Granulating
Basic Watercolor Techniques & Tips:
Wet on dry or wet onto dry – painting watercolor onto dry paper or an area of dried watercolor which gives you crisp, hard edges of color.
Wet on wet or wet into wet – painting watercolor on to wet or damp paper or an area of watercolor that is still wet or damp giving you soft edges of diffused color. Wet on wet allows the colors to mix and mingle giving you unexpected and often beautiful results!
Washes – please read Carmen Gardner’s article “Four Basic Watercolor Washes” for how to and examples.
Glazing – a different technique of color mixing that is especially beautiful with transparent watercolors. After applying some color and allowing it to dry, then glazing over that color with a wash of a different (transparent) color. The resulting color is especially luminous!
Lifting – to recover some of the white of the paper, add highlights or dimension by lifting out (removing) some of the color with a wet brush. After re-wetting the paint on the paper with a wet brush, the excess color is removed by blotting the area with a paper towel or a dry brush.
The water to watercolor paint ratio is how you control the intensity of the color. Using less water keeps the color deep and intense, add more water and the lighter and more transparent the color becomes.
Test your color on a scrap of paper to make sure it’s right strength (paint to water ratio) before applying to your design. Add more water to lighten or paint if needed to deepen the color.
When mixing color, work with the lighter color on your palette first and gradually add more of the darker color until you mix the color you want.
Because the white of the paper is important for watercolors (transparent colors show like stained glass over the white of the paper) be sure to begin with your lightest color washes. Then paint over with darker washes as you need to darken the color.
Watercolors lighten as they dry, important to keep in mind when painting.
Don’t throw away your watercolor paper! If what you painted didn’t work out the way you wanted, then save all your used (painted on) watercolor paper for practicing brushstrokes, color mixing ideas, watercolor techniques like glazing etc., and always be sure to use the back side of the paper!
Here are some blog posts that you might find helpful!
- Creating Elegant Watercolor Leaves in 5 Easy Steps by Peggy Dean
- You can find all our artists articles on our Blog
We are so glad that you are interested in painting with watercolors and we hope that some of the tips here will help you get started having fun and creating with watercolors!