Watercolor Painting Ideas for Beginners

I remember when I realized I loved watercolor. It was during the early days of my blog, when I was exploring mediums. I pulled out my watercolors to make working in my sketchbook more fun and that was it! Watercolor has been my primary medium ever since. It has a magical quality that I love!

I enjoy sharing everything I have learned. There are tips and techniques that can make a world of difference for a beginner. I love designing watercolor painting projects that not only teach fundamentals but allow beginners to have the success of a beautiful final painting!

Beginner Watercolor Lessons

Below are beginner watercolor painting lessons that are a great way to experience watercolor! Each lesson is available as an inexpensive printable PDF with step by step instructions and photos. Some lessons are also available in video format.

Watercolor Coneflower Painting Lesson

Watercolor flowers - painting ideas for beginners

Embrace the fluidity of watercolor while creating this beautiful background. Learn to paint realistic looking flowers. Perfect for spring!

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Starfish Watercolor Painting Lesson

Beginner Watercolor Painting Lesson Starfish

I created this lesson while teaching a friend about watercolor. I wanted something easy, no pressure – where someone could experience creating a beautiful background with colors bleeding into one another. In the later steps experience painting layers to create the details of a starfish.

Birch Forest Lesson Watercolor Painting Lesson

Beginner Watercolor Lesson Birch Forest

This painting lesson is fun and easy. There is no pressure to draw – we let the tape do the work. In the early steps experience the magic of colors bleeding and blending. Use any colors you’d like! In later steps we work “drier” to create realistic looking birch trees.

The Birch lesson is also available in video format – click here to learn more.

Woodland Creatures Forest Watercolor Painting Lesson

Easy Beginner Painting Idea Woodland Creatures

Very similar to the above lesson, but with the added fun of cute animals! Simple steps will help you create this glowing painting!

Ice Cream Cones Watercolor Painting Lesson

Easy Painting Idea for Beginners - Ice Cream Cones

This painting lesson is a a color explosion! Creating the background is so fun as you learn to embrace watercolor bleeding and blending. And for painting each scoop of ice cream – a different technique is used!

The Ice Cream Cone lesson is also available in video format – click here to learn more.

Fall Pumpkin Farm Watercolor Painting Lesson

Fall Painting Idea for Beginners

Embrace the vibrant colors of fall with this step by step tutorial. Trace the barn and create the farm house with a few pieces of tape – no drawing required!

Irish Fields of Green Irish Landscape Watercolor Painting Lesson

Painting an Irish Landscape in Watercolor

This landscape of Ireland may look difficult but don’t let it fool you! With the help of painters tape and following the step by step directions, you’ll be painting the greens of Ireland in no time!

Polar Bear Northern Lights Watercolor Painting Lesson

Beginner Painting Idea for Winter - Northern Lights

The Northern Lights look like watercolor in the sky! Create your unique lights by following simple steps. A template is provided for you to trace the polar bear – no drawing required. Magic results await you!

Seascape Watercolor Painting Lesson

Watercolor Seascape Painting for Beginners
Seascape Painting Lesson

After practicing seascapes over and over, I developed a process to follow. In this lesson you’ll paint from a specific photo and learn the seascape painting process. Going forward you can use this process to paint any seascape! A basic understanding of watercolor is all that’s required. You’ll surprise yourself with the results!

The Seascape lesson is also available in video format – click here to learn more.

I’m excited to see what beginner painting lessons you try!

Tag me on Instagram @EileenMcKenna.

Watercolor Supplies

The supply list is included once you download a lesson. Besides more common watercolor supplies, I often use painter’s tape. I use it to tape down my paper – so it doesn’t buckle when it gets wet. I also use it to create straight horizon lines and in many painting lessons to mask areas. It takes the pressure off of having to draw.

How to tape down your watercolor paper

Painters tape is available on Amazon and at your local hardware store. See more of the supplies and brands I use here.

Coming up with your own painting ideas and other tips for beginners

  • Take photos when you are out and see something that inspires you.
  • Search on Google and Pinterest for photos that will make a great reference for an idea you may have. Pinterest is a great place to collect reference photos. (You can pin photos from Google to Pinterest also.)
  • Look through your photos and write an ideas list.
  • When you select a photo to use as your subject, make a note of the specifics (date and time). It’s frustrating when you come back to a project and can’t find the reference photo.
  • Use scrap paper or your sketchbook to test and plan out color mixes for your painting.
  • Consider a trial run of your painting. I sometimes do smaller thumbnail versions to try out different variations. If I have plans for a painting to be a tutorial, I often paint a smaller version to work out the exact steps of the painting before painting the final painting.
  • Consider painting two versions. This makes a painting feel less “precious.” You’ll feel freer to try out different things without worrying about ruining a painting. It also comes in handy when you have to wait for the layers to dry. Just switch paintings. Two versions can be a great learning experience.

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Eight Watercolor Painting Ideas for Beginners

Watercolor Zoom Lessons coming in 2021!

I have exciting plans for 2021 and I want you to be a part of them! Last New Year’s we had the privilege of visiting Paris. It was amazing. After the trip I revisited my photos and memories by painting them. Instead of doing it alone, I developed the “Let’s Paint Paris in Watercolor” program so participants could virtually “visit” Paris and improve upon their watercolor skills. This year – I’m so excited – I’m expanding on the “Let’s Paint Paris in Watercolor” program by also offering online zoom lessons.* We can meet and paint together! It is going to be so fun. Zoom lessons will start mid January. Please note – the zoom lessons will be an additional fee.  

You can start the “Let’s Paint Paris in Watercolor” program at any time. If you are interested in the upcoming small group zoom lessons please email me and let me know. There is no commitment at this point – I just want to make sure you receive all the details!

*The zoom lessons will be an additional cost to the current “Let’s Paint Paris in Watercolor” program. The zoom lessons are not included in the cost of the “Let’s Paint Paris in Watercolor” program.


Ready to get started in watercolor? The “Beginner Watercolor Exploration Guide” is for you!

  • Learn the fundamentals.
  • Practice with exercises & projects.
  • Discover a love of watercolor!

Learn more here!

Beginner Watercolor Exploration Guide pdf download | how to guide beginner watercolor


Hoping for a creative new year but don’t know where to start? Try my book Creative Exploration: A Six Week Process for Introducing Regular Creativity into your Life – Develop a regular practice of creating, explore mediums and subjects in search of your thing, and experience the joy that creativity brings. Creativity is for EVERYONE! Talent is just a starting point!

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