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Mastering Watercolors

4 Drawing Skills

Take Your Art from Average to Exceptional

By Robert Joyner | Posted 9/9/23 | Updated 12/30/23

Watercolors are a captivating and challenging medium that can both inspire and frustrate artists of all levels. While some seem to have a natural affinity for creating stunning watercolor paintings, others may struggle to achieve the desired results.

If you find yourself in the latter group, don't be discouraged! With regular practice and the right guidance, you can significantly improve your watercolor drawing skills and elevate your art to new heights. Let's explore four essential drawing skills that will help you master the art of watercolors, whether you're a beginner or just need a refresher on some fundamental techniques.



1. Start with Drawing Simple Shapes:

Before diving into the mesmerizing world of watercolors, it's essential to strengthen your drawing skills. Whether you're a seasoned artist or just starting out, drawing simple shapes is an excellent exercise to improve your hand-eye coordination and overall artistic dexterity. The key is to take your time, focus on each step of the process, and create a relaxed environment that fosters creativity.

Begin by using vertical, horizontal, and diagonal strokes to fill in basic shapes. Avoid going beyond the edges of these shapes to develop control over your brushwork. By practicing simple shapes regularly, you will build a solid foundation for your watercolor journey.

drawing skills

2. Embrace Gestural Drawing Skills:

As you transition to using watercolors, embrace the beauty of gestural drawing. Instead of striving for absolute accuracy, use simple shapes and lines to represent your subjects. This approach allows you to capture the essence and emotion of your subjects, adding a touch of abstract expression to your artwork.

When sketching objects or scenes, think of them as a series of interconnected shapes. For instance, sketch a flower using circles to depict its petals, or draw a face with curved lines representing the eyes, nose, and mouth. By focusing on the gesture rather than precise details, you'll infuse your watercolor paintings with a sense of spontaneity and creativity.


3. Master Design and Composition Drawing:

A perfectly drawn subject won't shine if it lacks a well-balanced and visually captivating composition. Design and composition are essential aspects of creating outstanding watercolors that truly resonate with viewers. Consider drawing a horizontal line across your paper and positioning your main subject above or below it to ensure balance.

Symmetry isn't always necessary; experiment with various shapes and sizes to create dynamic compositions. Balance a tall flower with a shorter plant, use diamonds or triangles to draw attention to specific areas, and play with curves to add flow and movement to your artwork. The key is to create a visually engaging arrangement that complements your subject.

value planning

4. Develop Value Planning Drawing Skills:

Value planning is a crucial technique to give your watercolor paintings depth and contrast. It involves using lighter shades of paint for background elements and darker shades for foreground elements. This technique creates an illusion of three-dimensionality, bringing life and realism to your artwork.

Explore how varying shades impact the overall mood of your paintings. Experiment with using lighter hues for distant objects and darker tones for objects closer to the viewer. Additionally, create contrast between different parts of your composition to add visual interest and drama.


Improving your watercolor drawing skills is a rewarding journey that requires dedication and practice. By starting with simple shapes, embracing gestural drawing, mastering design and composition, and developing value planning techniques, you'll gain confidence and proficiency in watercolors.

Remember that art is a personal expression, and there are no strict rules. Allow yourself to explore, experiment, and find your unique style as you embark on this artistic adventure. So, gather your brushes and paints, and let your creativity flow on the mesmerizing canvas of watercolors! Happy painting!

Next: Painting Expressive Urban Landscapes with Watercolors

©2023 by Robert Joyner. All rights reserved.

Robert JoynerRobert Joyner is a full-time artist and instructor from Goochland, Virginia. He specializes in blending quality fundamentals with unconventional painting techniques. Robert has a home studio where he creates art and online teaching courses.