This Fields of Green Watercolor Painting Project will get you in the spirit of St. Patrick’s Day and take you on a “visit” to Ireland!
Beginner Watercolor Painting Idea for St. Patrick’s Day
Ireland is said to have “40 Shades of Green” and in this beginner watercolor project we’ll use as many shades as possible! Beginner friendly! Step by step tutorial with photos walks you through painting this Irish landscape.
In addition to learning all these techniques – you’ll have a beautiful final painting when you are done!
Supplies you’ll need:
Watercolor paper. I use 9” x 12” Arches 140 lb. cold pressed paper. Trim to 9” x 11” to create a painting that works well in a 8” x 10” mat.
Painter’s tape – 1” wide
Watercolor paint. Colors: shades of green and/or blue and yellow for mixing greens (a touch of red can be added too), blues for sky (turquoise or other blue) and ocean (prussian or ultramarine blue), black, and orange (can mix with yellow and red) AND…
Gouache – White Gouache (Gouache can go over watercolor. It is less translucent.)
Paint brushes – 1 large round brush – #6, one thin round brush – #1
Container of water
Palette for mixing paint with water and mixing colors. Use a plastic lid or the top of a plastic egg carton.
Pencil, eraser (kneaded is best), ruler and scissors
Scrap of paper. Always test color mixes before touching your painting with your brush.
I have been painting in watercolor for over twelve years. When I first started out I didn’t know anything about paper or paint or even brushes. For months I used the wrong paper and it showed! Over the years I’ve tried different paints, papers and brushes. I created the “Watercolor Basics” pdf to give you the information I was missing when I started. I want you to start your watercolor journey with the right tools and tips, so that you’ll have success and develop a love of watercolor like I did!
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In my previous Watercolor Basics posts I covered paper, brushes and paint but there are a few other items that are also important to have on hand.
Water – With watercolor paint, you need water to dilute your paint and to clean your brushes. I like to have two containers of water on hand so I have a backup when the first container gets dirty. Jars, cups, mugs, all work well. I prefer the container be white or clear so I know what color the water is.
Paper towel – the simplest ingredient but so important. I constantly dab my brushes on my paper towel to absorb excess water.
Scrap of paper for testing what’s on your brush before you touch your paper.
Tape, cardboard, ruler and pencil – Before I start painting I always tape my paper (with painter’s tape) to a larger piece of cardboard (the back of an old pad). This prevents the paper from buckling when it gets wet. Another thing I often do is tape the horizon line. I measure and mark both sides of the paper and then apply tape from one side to the other.
Egg cartons – I have paints in my palette. I have a mixing tray that contains commonly mixed colors and then I have tons of egg cartons! I use the top of the plastic egg carton as another mixing tray.
Mug – to hold all my brushes, pencils, etc.
Ipad – for viewing reference photos.
Phoneand earbuds – for taking photos and listening to my favorite podcasts while I paint.
There are several types of watercolor color paint including – pans (or cakes), tubes, and liquid. Many paints are available in student and artists grades. Student grades are a more affordable option, but usually have less pigment.
Pans (or cakes) – When I was starting out I associated watercolor pan sets with the paints I used as a child. I have since learned that the pans available today contain rich, saturated colors and are widely used by many watercolor artists. Just like my Sakura Koi travel palette!
Tubes – I started with tubes and have stuck with them. I was originally gifted a set of Van Gogh tubes. The set includes a variety of colors. It’s a great set to start out with. As I used up my Van Gogh tubes, I began replacing them with Winsor & Newton tubes. I also began adding other colors (like pink and purple) with Winsor & Newton tubes, sometimes with their student grade brand Cotman.
My Palette – I squeezed small amounts of most of my colors into my palette. I reactivate dried paint by mixing it with water. Sometimes I work directly from the tube and use a mixing tray or the top of a plastic egg carton to add water or mix colors. You don’t actually need tons of colors – I often create paintings from primarily just three colors – Ultramarine, Cadmium Red and Cadmium Yellow.
Liquid – Watercolor paint also comes in liquid form. Some liquid watercolors – like the ones below – have an eye dropper top. This seems like a great way to guarantee that you mix the same colors every time – just keep track of how many drops you use. My friend uses liquid watercolors and her colors are rich and vibrant.
Which type of paint you use is a personal preference. I don’t think there is a wrong answer. Pick one to try and see how you like it!
Tip – always keep a scrap piece of paper nearby to test the saturation of a color and/or your color mix before touching your painting!
If you have ever stood in an art store paintbrush aisle, you know how overwhelming selecting brushes can be. There are brushes for every medium, synthetic and natural brushes, and brushes in a variety of shapes and sizes. I have a variety of brushes but in truth I only use a few.
Here are some tips for selecting brushes:
Round brushes are the most commonly used brushes for painting in watercolor
Thick and thin. If you could only buy two brushes I would recommend a medium sized round brush for larger areas (like a 6 or an 8) and a thinner round brush (like a 1 or 2)
Natural vs. synthetic. Synthetic brushes tend to be more affordable and are a good option (especially when you are just starting out.)
Over time I’ve learned:
Flat brushes are great for horizontal lines. I use flat brushes for certain details when painting seascapes.
Very thin brushes (less than 1s) are great for fine lines and detail.
I rarely use bigger brushes (10+). I may use them to wet a background or to paint a gradient in the sky but I primarily use size 8 and smaller. It’s a personal preference that may have to do with the size of the paintings I most commonly create (8”x10”). My choices may also have to do with style I paint in. Some artists paint in a looser style perhaps using larger brushes, and some in a much tighter more realistic style, perhaps using thinner brushes.
There are also specialty brushes for creating certain types of lines like a fan brush. More often than not, I stick with the brush in my hand instead of switching brushes.
Caring for your brushes:
Wash your brushes and lay them flat to dry on a paper towel.
Don’t leave your brushes sitting in water. It will cause the paint on the brush to chip off.
Use an old brush to reactivate dried out paint. I’ve squeezed my paint into a palette. When I want to use a color, I mix it with water. To protect my newer brushes I use an old brush to stir the water into the dried out paint.
The more you paint, the more your own personal preferences and brush needs will emerge. Start with a few round brushes and add from there.
Whenever I travel I bring my watercolors with me. I have a compact travel set that is the perfect amount of colors. Painting while on vacation is a great way to experience a place. I take photos while I’m out with my family and paint during downtime at the hotel. You notice so much more when you are painting something. I’ve painted in NY, South Carolina, Tennessee, Georgia, and even France.
It’s Back to School time, so I thought it would be a great time to go back to basics, Watercolor Basics. Let’s talk about paper. When I first started out in watercolor I was using the wrong paper. Watercolor paper is specially designed for watercolor paint – it has texture, absorbs the paint, and can withstand a good amount of “working” at your painting before the paper starts to break down.
I resisted at first because I wanted a very white paper. I was using a paper that had a coating on it and the coating was preventing the paper from absorbing the paint. Eventually I found watercolor papers that were the cool white I wanted. Once I made the switch I realized what a difference the paper actually makes.
“In a nutshell, the terms “hot press” and “cold press” refer to the paper’s surface finish or texture. Cold pressed paper has a slightly bumpy, textured surface. But hot pressed paper has a smooth surface finish. You will also hear artists talking about the tooth of the paper.”
Before I paint, I trim my paper to 9″ x 11″. This creates a painting that fits nicely in mats and frames for 8″ x 10″ artwork. Before I started trimming the paper my paintings were too long for the mats and too much wasn’t visible in a standard mat. I use this mat set for 8″ x 10″ artwork. It includes the mat, backing board, and a clear bag to protect your matted artwork.
Always tape down your paper to a board using painter’s tape. I use the cardboard back of old art pads. The cardboard needs to be larger than your paper.I use a painter’s tape like this one. I prefer tape that is less than an inch wide. The reason for taping down your paper is that water and paint causes paper to buckle. Taping your paper to a board helps keep the paper flat.
It is important to use the correct side of the paper. The side facing up when you take a sheet off the pad. If you have trouble keeping track – make a small pencil x mark on the back side of the paper.
Even though the paper is made for watercolor — Don’t rub your brush too hard or the paper will start to come apart. This can also happen when you overwork a section of your painting.
Over a decade ago as a young mom, I took a drawing class followed by a watercolor class. A few years later, I got serious about creating everyday and started my blog. I set out to explore every medium in search of my thing. The early days of my blog involved pencil sketches and working with acrylics. Then one day I decided to add color to my sketchbook and pulled out my watercolors. BAM! It hit me – I loved watercolor! I never put them away again.
Over the last few years I have developed watercolor painting projects and other learning resources in PDF and video form. Today I’m super excited to announce my new guide called“Beginner Watercolor Exploration.”
I started painting in watercolor about twelve years ago when I enrolled in a class. A few years later – during the early days of my blog – I gave myself the freedom to explore everything and anything. I came back to watercolor to make working in my sketchbook more fun, and remembered how much I loved it. Watercolor has been a focus of mine ever since. Here are the most impactful things I’ve learned.
Embrace the magic. When I showed my teacher my first watercolor painting she said, “No, no, no, you’re drawing.” I was quite proud of my painting and didn’t understand what she meant. But as my familiarity with watercolor grew, I began to understand. Allow watercolor to do its thing. Colors bleed into one another creating interesting effects. It’s magical!
Go with the flow. Give up control. Some people say they don’t like watercolor. I think it’s because you don’t have as much control as with other mediums. Colors will bleed into one another whether you want them to or not. But over time you will better be able to predict what will happen – how the paint will react. You have more control then you think. Embracing the fluidity creates beautiful effects.
It’s not (quite) permanent. A damp brush can “erase” watercolor. This is more effective when the paint is still wet. A wet brush can also soften edges. You can “work” at a painting to turn it into your desired outcome.
Paper matters. Always use watercolor or multimedia paper. Other papers are not made for watercolor and will wrinkle and tear, especially the more you “work” your painting. Tape your paper to cardboard if you are painting to the edges, to prevent buckling.
It’s all about the layers. Add more and more detail with each “layer” using a finer and drier brush as you go. Allow drying time between each layer. A watercolor painting is like a camera coming into focus. It’s starts out blurry – the first layer. With each layer the painting comes more and more into “focus.”
Use super thin brushes for fine lines. Years ago I began using a black gel pen for thin lines. I really liked this illustrative effect and used it for years, but unfortunately unlike watercolor every pen line is permanent. You can’t erase and adjust. Just this year, I saw on Instagram an artist using super thin brushes. I’ve been using them ever since.
A simple paper towel is one of your most important tools. How wet your brush is (with water and/or paint) is an important factor in how your brush stroke will react to the paint on your page. To control how wet your brush is, blot it on a paper towel to absorb excess water. I do this constantly as I paint.
Test what’s on your brush before painting. Use scrap paper to test color mixes and saturations. I test what is on my brush often to see how watery or dark a color is, before I touch my painting.
Mix your shadows instead of using black. Mix a color with its complement to desaturate it – make it less bright – or to create darker values. Complementary colors are those across the color wheel from each other. I keep a color wheel with my paints. There’s a printable color wheel in my Etsy shop – click here.
Preserve your brushes. Don’t leave your brushes sitting in water. Lay them flat to dry. Use an old beat up brush to mix colors or to mix water to dried up paint.
Repurpose. The top of a plastic egg carton makes a great mixing tray.
Try white gouache.White gouache (more opaque than watercolor) was a game changer for me. Instead of using frisket to keep areas white, I use white gouache at the end of a painting to “add the white back in.” (Frisket is like a glue that keeps paint off the areas you apply it to. You peel it up when you are finished painting.)
This guide is for you! Learn the fundamentals. Practice with exercises & projects. Discover a love of watercolor! Learn more here.
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