All about brushes

Watercolor brushes! Before you get started with watercolor painting and learning techniques it’s important to get comfortable with your brushes. The more familiar you become with holding a brush and using it, the easier it is to achieve the effects you’re trying to achieve. In other words, it’ll be easier for your mind to paint naturally. That way they can be easier to work with!

Initially, I recommend starting out with two types of brushes: Flat brushes and Round brushes. Then later on you can continue to explore different options. (Mop brushes can also be very useful) 

To begin let’s talk about the different factors of brush control:

1- Angle

Holding your brush against the paper at different angles can change the shape and texture of the brush strokes.

2- Pressure

Applying the paint with different amounts of force or gentleness will produce different results.

3- Brushload

Basically refers to how much water and paint your brush has soaked up. With different levels of wetness, you can produce different effects with your brush. 

4- Motion

The direction in which you steer the brush. This one is pretty obvious… If you move the brush up and down you get wavy strokes….etc.

You may be feeling overwhelmed, but don’t worry, Just remember the whole point of the exercises below is to help you become more comfortable with holding the brush. 

Not to mention the more you practice overtime the more familiar you will become with the process. Thus, everything will come to you naturally.

Now let’s get started with the exercises I have provided below!

Exercise one- Brush control

To get started we are going to try a few simple exercises, then we’ll go on to creating patterns and texture. 

For this exercise, I have divided my page into three different sections.

The Steady Hand

Here you are going to start by painting straight lines. The goal of this exercise is to help you practice painting with a steady hand. The trick is to maintain the same pressure and brush angle when painting each stroke.

As you can see in the images, all I did was paint horizontal lines. I occasionally changed the thickness of the stroke. 

Remember, the purpose of these exercises is to improve brush control. Repetition is key and the more you practice the more you’re mind gets used to holding the brush. 

The wave

For this pattern, you are going to practice painting thick waves like in the image. The idea here is to help you apply the same pressure while changing the motion.

The Wave Part 2

For this pattern, you are going to practice painting thick waves like in the image. The aim of this exercise is to practice changing the motion and pressure when painting a brushstroke.

Start out by painting with the tip of the brush, as you continue on add a little more pressure and adjust the angle of the brush. The key is to start out with thin lines and end with thick strokes. 

Thick to thin lines

This exercise is all about changing the pressure and the angle in one stroke. 

Let’s start with thick to thin lines. Start out with a thick horizontal brushstroke, as you go on reduce the amount of pressure on the brush and finish off by painting with the tip. Repeat this a few times. 

You can also try painting from thin to thick

Finally, try alternating between thick and thin strokes at least 3 times on one line.

Different patterns you can create with your watercolor round brush, for this one I used a flat brush:

Bonus Exercise!

Dry brush

Using a damp brush can be a huge help when creating texture in your paintings. Especially when painting foliage. 

For the dry brush technique, all you need to do is remove the excess water by dabbing your brush on a paper towel. Next, you should use the side of the belly when painting your next brush stroke. Some examples below: 

Grass lines

This exercise is similar to thick and thin.  

Begin by creating a stroke that is thick at the bottom and becomes thinner towards the top of the grass. You can use your pinky finger to help guide your hand.

Try changing the direction of each strand of grass.

Simple waves

This is a fun exercise! Painting water can be intimidating only because it’s so unpredictable. In this exercise, you don’t have to worry about how it looks or how it turns out. Instead, focus on how you create the strokes with your brush. 

Start by painting irregular brushstrokes, and leave some white spaces in between.

Start by using the tip of your brush to create small wiggly lines (as shown in the image). 

Done with all these exercises? You can also check out my post on how to properly care for watercolor brushes. They can be expensive so it’s important to maintain them so that they last longer. Watercolor brush maintenance