Watercolor painting can be intimidating when you are a beginner. The pressure to progress with your skills and paint something beautiful can actually strain your creativity!
That is why I am going to share some watercolor warm-up exercises.
They can be a lot of fun and will help loosen your mind and ease you into a creative space. I have also included video versions for some of them!
Let’s get into it…
- Watercolor Value Exercises
- Negative Painting Exercises
- 6 Easy Watercolor Doodles
- 9 Watercolor Practice Exercises for Beginners
1. Color Rectangles (Watercolor Warm-up Exercise)
This watercolor exercise is all about color mixing. Working with fewer colors will challenge your color-mixing skills. Using primary colors to work from will provide you with a wider range of possible color mixtures.
In this exercise, you’ll have to paint overlapping shapes using different colors. Here’s the step-by-step process:
- Choose 3-5 colors to work with. I chose Gamboge, Quinacridone rose, cerulean blue, and, purple (mixing ultramarine and Q.Rose).
- Paint any shape with one of the colors you chose in step 1 then let it dry. I chose to paint a rectangle. You can also use a hairdryer to speed things up.
- Once the rectangle has dried, choose a second color then paint another rectangle that partially covers the first one.
- You’ll see a new color forming through the layers(this is known as glazing). Keep layering rectangles partially over each other using each of the colors you chose in step 1.
- The image below shows how mine turned out:
To make this watercolor warm-up exercise more challenging, you can try mixing new colors each time using the colors you chose and then layering them on top of each other!
2. Brush strokes
The aim of this exercise is to create patterns using different brushstrokes. It doesn’t matter what colors you use or what patterns you create. The idea is to explore different shapes you can create with your brush.
I went with a round brush because you can paint thick strokes as well as thin sharp lines.
Feel free to get creative and use a variety of colors! Here are some of the brushstrokes I painted:
3. Salt texture
There is so much you can do with salt! In this exercise, you’ll create unique shapes and colors using salt.
You can play around with different colors and different sizes of salt. I have written an article all about how you can use the watercolor salt technique for beginners.
You can complete this exercise using the wet-on-wet and wet-on-dry technique!
- Start by painting a background using a mixture of colors
- While the paint is still wet drop some salt in a specific pattern.
- Let the paint do its thing and don’t disturb it until it’s dry.
- After the paper has dried, brush away the salt to reveal texture!
Here are some of the patterns I made:
4. Making patterns (Warm-Up Exercise)
This watercolor warm-up exercise is all about creating repetitive lines and shapes in 2D. You can get creative and use a mixture of colors and designs as I have done so below.
Painting repetitive patterns will allow you to warm up your brush control.
For this warm-up, I used the wet-on-dry technique and painted a combination of different 2D shapes. Here’s how they turned out:
5. 5-minute Memory Paintings
For this watercolor warm-up exercise, you have to paint your subject by roughly sketching it.
You can choose to work from the objects around you or a specific scene as I have done below.
To start this exercise, you will give yourself 2 minutes to observe your subject. Then without looking at the subject, you’ll have to paint your it using impressionistic strokes. It’s always best to go for a simple scene.
You have to try to paint it within 5 to 10 minutes. However, you can add more minutes if your subject requires the time for the layers to dry in between.
The image below shows the 3 layers I painted to create a quick watercolor sketch:
You have reached the end of these 5 watercolor warm-up exercises! If you enjoyed them feel free to sign up for my email list below so you can receive updates and free learning resources: