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Get Ready to Paint

Updated on September 16, 2008
Berries Blue
Berries Blue

Setting Up Your Watercolor Workspace

Setting up the watercolor workspace for efficiency and ease of use is a simple matter. If you’re a beginning watercolorist, you’ll minimize the possibility for possibly disastrous accidents by following my simple guidelines, as well as making your painting experience much more enjoyable and stress-free.

Always have a checklist, even if it’s a mental one. Paper, brushes, palette, water, tissues, and any extra tools should be at hand, and arranged for maximum accessibility.

I always start with an old towel laid on the table. This serves as a non slip surface for my board, as well as a handy wipe to absorb excess water or paint on my brush. I will have stretched my paper on a board (I use half inch plywood in various sizes and Arches 140 lb cold press paper) , and let it dry completely before sketching in my outline. The board is set on the left side of my workspace, as I’m right handed. This way, I’m never reaching across my painting for water or paint. Fewer accidents that way. If you’re left handed, you would set it on the right side, tilted at about a 20 degree angle.

On the right hand side, my paint palette is set in position closest to me. I find if I set it down with the same colors of paint in the same position each time, I’m never searching for a color or picking up the wrong color on my brush.

My preferred paints are Maimeru and Daniel Smith, as their colors are clear and pure. I buy them online at Cheapo Joes or Dick Blick, both of which have a great selection of colors and are very economically priced.

The mixing trays on the palette should be clean at the start of a project, but I do tend to leave my mixed colors there as I progress with the painting, as they will be used throughout the project.

Just above this, I set 2 water containers, one with clean water for mixing colors and one for rinsing out my brushes. I must admit, these often get confused, but you can at least start with clean water, and of course, you can always dump it out and start with fresh water. Just don’t place your tea cup nearby…

Behind this, on the table is my jar of brushes (all kept bristle up, and clean) and a box of tissues. Make sure you have a variety of brush sizes, from a 2 inch brush for washes to a rigger, which is used for tiny detail. Before I begin the painting, I’ll choose two or three brushes that are favorites or are suitable for the painting size, and lay them beside the palette on the towel. This way, the right brush is always within reach. The tissues are essential for soaking up excess water or blotting an inadvertent drop of paint.

So, lay out your workspace for efficiency before you start painting, and then, just have fun!


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    • Nolimits Nana profile image

      Nicolette Goff 8 years ago from British Columbia

      Yes, that's my watercolor. I'm privileged to have a great teacher, Greg Swainson, who's taught me a lot. As you can tell, I love color, and I really enjoy the challenges of watercolor.

    • C.S.Alexis profile image

      C.S.Alexis 8 years ago from NW Indiana

      Berries Blue is full of life, nice. I do hope it is yours. Do you work in watercolor a lot?

    • Journey * profile image

      Nyesha Pagnou MPH 8 years ago from USA

      Hi Nolimits, I agree with glassvisage. I prefer to work with acrylics and oil paints. Please do let us know if you painted the watercolor featured in the article. It really is very nice. -Journey*

    • glassvisage profile image

      glassvisage 8 years ago from Northern California

      Did you make that watercolor? That's beautiful! It's an art I don't think I will ever perfect... Water is so hard to control!