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How to paint with watercolors - book reviews & resources

Updated on May 19, 2011

How to paint with watercolors

If you are looking for resources on watercolour painting which include reviews on informative books on how to paint with watercolors, then I hope you will find the information below of some use.

As an artist using acrylics and digital products, how to paint with watercolors has always eluded me as to a technique that I can master and I really do take my hat off to artists who have mastered this wonderful technique. My style of painting includes the ability to build up thick layers of acrylic paint to achieve the results I am looking for and using lose, diluted watercolour will always be alien to me.

I have certainly tried to use watercolour in the past, with mixed results, and certainly like to view a quality watercolour painting but mastering the technique will be a long process.

How to paint with watercolors - bringing together some resources

With that in mind, I want to bring together a selection of book reviews, videos and general resources that I find interesting as an artists who wants to better his watercolour painting and not be defeated by this medium. Learning how to paint in watercolours is something I will achieve and some of the resources below will help me on my way and I would like to share them with you.

Joe Francis Dowden, The landscape Painter’s Essential Handbook – book review!

I will start with a look at a book by Joe Francis Dowden, The landscape Painter’s Essential Handbook, published by David & Charles, a leading publisher in art and craft books.

As an artists looking at the book, the first glance is of an inviting colourful book with the promise of showing you how to paint in watercolour, with a specific focus on watercolour landscapes.

A paperback of just over 220mm x 220mm x10mm with 224 pages this watercolour painting guide will certain offer plenty of information on how to paint in watercolours. I am not a big fan of paperback art book as the covers can get damaged easily, but that is no reflection on the quality of the content within the book.

Like most books on watercolour techniques, The landscape Painter’s Essential Handbook covers a large subject base, above and beyond the projects, which includes the materials, composition, perspective, washes and colour. These sections are comprehensive and offer a good grounding in each of these areas.

Learn from some of the great watercolour artists

50 watercolour projects

The book boasts 50 beautiful landscapes in watercolour and covers 6 main areas which are, The Land, Tress and Undergrowth, Skies, Mountains and Cliffs, Lakes, Rivers and Seas and Road, Bridges and Buildings. Within these main sections are subjects from Sheep in pasture to Surf breaking over rocks and many more subjects in-between.

Unlike many other books, this particular watercolour techniques book does not have pages and pages of step-by-steps for each of the 50 projects. The projects are broad ranging but highlight a specific element of a painting. For example, on page 76 the project is of a 'Rowing boat on a lake' and shows an autumn (fall) scene of a rowing boat on a lake. The project step-by-steps show how to paint the boat and not the whole scene, so focuses on a specific element. This can be the case for many of the 50 projects and thus offers some precise detail on how to paint in watercolour.

From snow covered mountains to tranquil meadows, this is a great artist's reference that will help you to paint the 50 subjects chosen in the book. The author, Joe Francis Dowden, also gives clear practical advice with ingenious ideas to achieve the best results and inspiration to any budding watercolour artist with his finished paintings.

Being an artist that wants to master the medium of watercolour I find the book a wealth of information, and like the other watercolour books I have reviewed, certainly one worth referring to.

Clear practical advice from Joe Francis Dowden

Easy to follow step-by-steps on specific elements

FREE project from The landscape Painters Essential Handbook

You can view and download a free project from the book by going here to, a blog I contribute to which shows a couple of the pages from the book and the ability to download those pages if you wish.

How to paint with watercolors – use Youtube as a resource

Using Youtube as a resource on how to paint with watercolors might not always occur to many artists but the wealth of video material on Youtube can throw up some little gems. As an artist, I feel there is nothing better than watching another artist in action, and as they say 'a picture is worth a thousand words' and video a lot more. As mentioned, there are some real gems of information on Youtube and you just have to wade through the rubbish before you find them.

With this in mind, I want to save you some time and highlight a couple of such video here, that offer some great tips when it comes to leaning how to paint in watercolours. I will continue to add to these videos and as they are on Youtube, there are FREE. . . .a great resource foe any budding watercolour artist.

Great watercolour demonstrations


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      5 years ago

      Hi Irene!When you seal your wood canvas with Gesso you have to allow it to dry coetlmpely. I usually do multiple ones that way they are ready to go when I'm ready to paint on them.I usually do at least 2 layers of Gesso on all sides including the back (3 layers is ideal) for longevity.Once the Gesso is dry, then you can sketch on on it.I sketch on Vellum or Tracing paper first so all the erasing and corrections are done on that and not on the wood. Once I'm happy with the drawing then I transfer it using another piece of Velum that I have rubbed coetlmpely with a 4B pencil, you can purchase transfer paper, but I just make it my self.By transferring the drawing, you keep the Gesso clean and then begin to paint.If you do not want to deal with transferring, you can always add a layer of clear coat to the pencil sketch that is on the wood, let it dry and then start painting. The lead will be sealed and will not mix with your colors.I hope that helps.You've given me a nice idea for a blog post and I'll be explaining it using pictures.Take careMaggie

    • Jonathan Grimes profile imageAUTHOR

      Jonathan Grimes 

      7 years ago from Devon

      Hi Rich, not intended just ends up that way but plenty more lined up, thanks for the feedback


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