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Digital Subscriptions > The Artist > Sep-17 > Get started with watercolour

Get started with watercolour

Watercolour is always said to be the hardest of the painting media to master. Paul Gadenne provides a guide for newcomers to watercolour that should help you to avoid some common errors and pitfalls
Sunday Afternoon at Horse Guards Parade, watercolour, 14 × 22in (35.5 × 56cm). Foregrounds are often focal points but by using shadow the foreground is working as a frame for the buildings

Once you’ve cracked watercolour, there’s nothing like it, but before starting the variety of decisions you need to make can be quite daunting. I am talking about paper, paint and brushes.


The paper that artists use is thicker than ordinary paper, meaning it is less likely to buckle, and it has a built-in coating that makes it less absorbent. It is described by three characteristics: weight (thickness), texture and size.

The thickness of paper is defined by its weight in grams per square metre (gsm). If you use paper that is no thinner than 300gsm it will usually remain flat enough without stretching, if kept to a small size. I quite often use 640gsm papers, which remain very stable. Try to get used to using the metric system and don’t get confused with imperial measurements.

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About The Artist

Welcome to an inspiration-packed issue with great demonstrations to follow in all media to help practise and develop your skills, from Paul Riley's focus on how to depict glass and reflections in watercolour, Chris Forsey's mixed-media demonstration of a light-filled Australian coastal scene to Rob Wareing's feature on painting skin tones and portraits in oils. With an insight into up-and-coming Richard Burger's approach to portraiture and Richard Pikesley's use of studio objects as tabletop still lifes, we also step into the shoes of professional artists to see what motivates them and how they approach their work. Young artist Marie Antoniou urges you to express yourself in acrylics with just one brush, Robert Dutton explains the rules of perspective while Paul Talbot-Greaves shows how to achieve depth in landscape compositions, Barry Herniman paints boats and harbours, and Liz Seward suggests the perfect antidote to painter's block by turning to collage. For help with colour mixing, Julie Collins turns our attention to the variety of whites available, and Catherine Strong tells us how to keep our greens clean and vibrant. Enjoy the issue and email your feedback and comments to us at We love to hear from you!