30 watercolor painting ideas for beginners
Looking for watercolor inspiration? We've found lots of watercolor painting ideas to inspire you and unleash your creativity!
Watercolor painting is one of the most accessible mediums if you want to get into painting – the materials aren't too expensive and you can create beautiful works of art.
Watercolor paints are extremely versatile and can also be used with other mediums such as acrylic paint, gouache and chalk pastels to produce stunning mixed media art.
These paints can be used to create artwork very quickly with minimal preparation. You just need some paints, paper, water and a paintbrush and you're ready to go! For that reason, travel watercolor sets are very popular because they allow you to paint when you're out and about.
Watercolor paints also dry quickly if you haven't saturated your paper with water, which is another advantage. You can create beautiful effects by building up layers of colour and overlapping translucent layers of paint for a luminous look. Watercolors don't need to be subtle – these days vibrant colours are available, allowing you to create eye-catching watercolour paintings.
If you're new to watercolor painting, we'd recommend that you take a look at our watercolour painting for beginners guide before you get started to learn the basics. We've also created a guide to the best watercolour paints to help you find the materials you need. Looking for more creative inspiration? Take a look at our art journal ideas, gouache painting ideas and fall painting ideas.
We've found lots of easy watercolor painting ideas to inspire you, covering everything from watercolor cacti to mountain landscapes. Discover lots of great watercolor projects to boost your painting skills – or spark your creativity when you're looking for watercolor inspiration!
Read on to explore our watercolor painting ideas…
29 easy watercolor painting ideas
1. Wash and pen flowers
This easy watercolor painting idea is surprisingly effective. Try going over your watercolour painting and adding extra details using a fineliner pen or a fountain pen. Start by painting a flower outline onto watercolor paper and wait for it to dry completely before drawing over the top. It's simple to do and extremely effective! This example was created by the talented Indian artist and illustrator Kasturi Roy.
2. Watercolor cactus project
Brighten up your home with this colourful watercolor cactus painting project created by Esther Curtis! This project includes step-by-step instructions to help you create your own beautiful cactus art.
3. Starry sky
Looking for watercolor inspiration? Look up at the night sky! Painting a starry sky is surprisingly easy to do and we've created a watercolor galaxy tutorial to show you how to paint your own. We'll talk you through the basic techniques and you'll learn some new watercolor skills along the way. This project is simple enough for beginners and it's a relaxing way to spend an afternoon.
It's always handy to keep a tube of white gouache paint with your watercolor paints – we like the Winsor and Newton white gouache paint from Amazon for £5.19.
4. Watercolor pebbles
Make yourself a cup of tea and relax with this calming watercolor pebbles painting tutorial created by Esther Curtis. This fun project uses masking fluid to create the lines on the pebbles – and you might find that it inspires you to experiment with masking techniques. This project includes step-by-step photos to guide you through the process.
5. Watercolor lemons
Give your home a Mediterranean vibe by painting a lovely lemon bough! In this easy project, Elise Engh Studios reveals how to make your own watercolor lemon painting in her step by step tutorial. Elise painted the green leaves while the lemons were still wet, allowing the colours to run into each other – this creates a beautiful blended look.
6. Monochrome painting for beginners
Looking for easy watercolor painting ideas? Sometimes painting in a single colour can be incredibly striking. If you're getting into watercolor painting, have a go at monochrome painting to see what you can create. This monochrome painting for beginners project by Esther Curtis is an excellent starting point if you want to give it a go. In this project, Esther has used some white gouache paint on top of blue watercolour paint to bring out the design – this is a great way to add highlights to your watercolor designs, so it's worth adding a tube to your art supplies.
7. Watercolor leaves tutorial
Painting some abstract watercolor leaves is a great way to loosen up your painting style. This is a quick painting project that you could complete in less than 30 minutes and allows you to experiment with tone and develop your painting style. You can find this project on Alisa Burke's Redefine Creativity blog. Looking for more ways to paint foliage? Take a look at our best watercolor leaves painting tutorials.
8. Cloud doodling
Nature is a great source of inspiration for your watercolor painting. Have a go at doodling some watercolor clouds and let your imagination run wild! These beautiful doodles were created by illustrator and designer Matilda Smith. Here, she's used a black fineliner pen to add patterns and details to her clouds – try it yourself!
9. Big brushstrokes
Don't get too hung up on painting fine details on your watercolor paintings – sometimes a big and bold approach can be very effective and striking. Choose one of the larger brushes from your set and try painting with loose strokes to create movement in your painting. You might find it easier to do this if you paint quickly!
10. Botanical art
The natural world is full of watercolor inspiration! If you're going out on a country walk, pick up some plants along the way and bring them home to paint. Try to avoid picking any unusual wild flowers that you come across – some varieties are rare, so it's best to leave them where they are. Emma Mitchell is an artist and author who finds that spending time in nature is great for her mental health. Have a go at this fun botanical watercolour project from her book Making Winter and see what you can produce.
If you'd like to find more beautiful projects to make, you can buy Making Winter by Emma Mitchell from Amazon for £6.41.
11. Autumn leaves
Autumn is one of my favourite times of the year – those fall colors turn the landscape into vivid shades of red, rusty orange and ochre. I love to collect autumn leaves to paint as a quick watercolor project. Start with the lightest colour (yellow), then add any reds or oranges over the top.
You can wait for the base layer to dry completely before adding shades of red or orange over the top. Alternatively, you can add dabs of darker colours over the top while the paint underneath is still wet – this technique is known as "wet on wet". Add a brushstroke stem to complete your autumn leaf painting.
12. Misty mountains
Dreaming of faraway places? You can imagine that you're there by painting a beautiful misty mountain scene. Start by using a grey wash to create the sky and the distant hills, adding a few trees along the horizon with a little green paint. Lightly paint some faint trees in green and blue in front of the hills and finish by painting some dark green trees in the foreground. Remember: when you're painting landscapes, it's a good idea to make the foreground darker than the background to create a sense of perspective. This fantastic mountain scene was created by artist and illustrator Kasturi Roy – have a go and see if you can imitate her style.
13. Abstract art
If you're struggling to decide what to paint, sometimes it's fun to have a go at making abstract patterns and make it up as you go. Experiment with different colours and patterns and see where your imagination takes you! This project comes from the Mont Marte website, which has lots of great painting ideas for you to try.
14. Folk art
Folk art is found in lots of countries around the world, but Eastern Europe and Russia are probably the best known for their intricate traditional paintings. Draw a vertical line on your paper and sketch some symmetrical flowers and leaves, as shown below. Fill in your designs using watercolour paint – if you're putting two different colours next to each other, make sure the neighbouring colour is completely dry or the colours will bleed into each other.
15. Watercolor tree
16. Flowers in a vase
We love the vibrant colours of this still life vase of flowers created by artist Kerrie Woodhouse. She has lots of beautiful watercolor ideas to inspire you over on her website. Paint your own watercolor blooms and allow the different colours to flow into one another to create this stunning effect.
17. Watercolor blending
Learning how to blend watercolor paints is an essential technique – it can help you to create amazing works of art very quickly. This watercolor blending tutorial by Inkstruck will show you how to blend colours together and build your watercolor painting skills. If you enjoy this tutorial by Inkstruck, you can find more classes available on Skillshare.
18. Watercolor pineapple
This cheerful design is bound to brighten up any room in your home. Learn how to paint a pineapple with this step by step guide from Elise Engh Studios.
19. Modern abstract watercolor painting
Sometimes the best way to find your creative flow is to paint random patterns and shapes. If you're doing this, it can be helpful to think about what colours you might like to use before you begin. The finished result will be random and uniquely yours – you can guarantee that no one else will have the same painting as you! Have a go at this abstract painting exercise from The Creativity Exchange.
20. Watercolor peonies
Find floral inspiration by painting this loose watercolor peonies project created by Blushed Design. The soft colours used in this painting creates a gorgeous pastel effect. Play around and try painting other kinds of flower in this style.
21. More watercolor cacti
We know we've already included one watercolour cactus in this article, but this watercolor cactus painting by Inkstruck is so amazing that we just couldn't leave it out. Follow the step by step guide to have a go at making your own cactus art.
22. Watercolor wreath
If you're making a card for someone, you could use this watercolor wreath for the front of the card and write your own greeting in the middle. This step by step guide designed by The Wonder Forest will show you how to paint a pretty watercolor wreath.
23. Snow-capped mountains
Is there anything more restful than gazing at a beautiful mountain landscape? In this mountain watercolor painting tutorial from watercolorpainting.com, you'll learn how to paint a snowy mountain scene from the first sketch to adding washes and details. The results will be breathtaking – and it's a lot easier to do than it looks!
24. Bunch of grapes
Looking for easy watercolor painting ideas? This bunch of watercolor grapes project from Inkstruck is a simple design to try – you can use a limited range of colours to create a translucent effect. The finished result looks almost 3D!
25. Easy watercolor blooms
This striking watercolor blooms tutorial from Fox + Hazel shows you how to create stylish watercolor flowers using a pen, watercolor paints and a bit of imagination! This guide has photos to take you through each stage of the painting, which is always very helpful for beginners.
26. Agate slice
Join in with the gemstone trend and paint an agate slice watercolor painting using this brilliant tutorial from Persia Lou. We love the vivid gemstone colours and layers in this artwork. She's cleverly used salt on the wet paint to add texture to her finished painting – try this technique for yourself and see what happens.
27. Winter scene
Brrr, we feel chilly just looking at this wintry forest scene designed by Kristin Miller. Kristin has written a detailed tutorial to show you how to paint your own mysterious winter wonderland art.
28. Easy watercolor flowers
Painting beautiful watercolor flowers doesn't need to be time-consuming or complicated. These easy watercolor flowers are quick and simple to paint – follow our step-by-step guide to try this technique for yourself.
29. Watercolor portrait
Have you ever wanted to have a go at painting a watercolor portrait? Now you can with this brilliant watercolor portrait tutorial created by artist Rhiannon Bull. It's really easy to follow and you'll be pleased with the finished painting!
When you look at a cloud, we can often see shapes that aren't there – from dragons to faces. Hirameki is a watercolor technique that allows you to find patterns and shapes in watercolor blobs or brushmarks.
Hirameki was created by the artists Peng and Hu after seeing a cow with markings that resembled a movie star. This inspired them to explore the power of shapes and the creative ways we can reimagine them. Children take to hirameki very naturally and it's lots of fun for adults too.
If you'd like to try hirameki, you can buy their book Hirameki: Draw What You See by Peng and Hu from Amazon for £7.67.
We hope you've enjoyed our easy watercolor painting ideas! If you're looking for more creative projects to try, take a look at our step by step flower drawing tutorial, pencil drawing for beginners guide and explore our how to do paper marbling guide.
If you want to get into other kinds of painting, read our best acrylic paints guide, acrylic painting for beginners guide and our beginners guide to gouache. If you prefer to design your artwork on a screen, check out our best drawing tablet for beginners guide. Looking for birthday or Christmas present ideas? Take a look at our pick of the best gifts for artists and the best art sets for kids.
Featured image by Unsplash/Dusan Jovic.
Sarah Orme is a UK-based linocut printmaker, digital editor, feature writer and award-winning podcaster. She's been editing the sewing and art sections of Gathered.how – and before that our sister website calmmoment.com – for over 3 years. She’s the host of Gathered’s We’ve Made It podcast and A Calmer Life podcast. She’s a keen crafter and artist and loves creating DIY tutorials for Gathered. Sarah has previously written features for The Guardian, In The Moment Magazine, Project Calm Magazine, countryfile.com, radiotimes.com and yourhomestyle.uk. She enjoys designing her own unique lino prints and dreams of opening her own online shop. She shares her work @sarahormeprints