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Basics & Techniques

Basics MATERIALS & Techniques



small guides.





By Maria Balcells



Watercolours drops1 is divided into 3 parts. Each part is equally important and explains all the basic techniques of watercolour

painting. It is a useful learning tool for beginners and a refresher course for more established amateur artists. It includes a complete

resume regarding all the important points to consider regarding perspective and composition. All the main washes and basic

watercolour techniques are included with 12 step-by-step demos to inspire you to paint to the relevant technique.

The first part considers the materials used and the importance of knowing your colours, mediums and values.

The second part considers composition and the elements & principles of design. Even if you are painting from photos you

should still consider composition.

The third part considers all the basic techniques and some of the more advanced ones. It includes the step-by-step demos to

apply these basic techniques.

I hope that this book will help you to understand the basics of watercolour painting and inspire your creative side to produce some

lovely paintings. Remember that rules are sometimes made to be broken, your paintings do not need to be the exactly the same as

displayed in this book. You can develop your own style of painting,

Maria Balcells



80 Little White Lighthouse


10: Painting room

11: Materials

13: Painting outdoors

14: Paper

21 : Brushes

26: Colours

30: Colour combinations

31: Colour Wheel, values and schemes

35: Mediums

199 a Winter Snowy Path

93 Snowy Farm

138 Somewhere in Sonora


40: One point perspective

117 Blue

and Red


43: Two Point perspective

45: Three point perspective

49: Rule of Thirds

53: The horizon line

54: Fore, middle and background

59: Elements of Design

69: Principles of Design


125 Green Fields


78: Flat Wash


Blowing in

the Wind

175 Little Bluebells


89: Graded Wash

104: Varied Wash

112: Dry on Wet

123: Wet on Wet and Dry on Wet

137: Glazing

147: Negative painting

157: Textures

181: Sponging

182 Spring


190: Hard, Loose and Soft edges

198: Masking

210: Pouring


226: Acknowledgements

227: Links and Contact

227: Copyrights






CHAPTER 1: Getting started 9

A painting room 10

Materials 11

Painting outdoors 13

Paper 14

How to add a drawing grid 17

How to transfer a drawing 18

Brushes 21

Test your brushes 23

Colours 26

Transparency and staining test 27

Winsor & Newton colour palette 28

Classify your colours 29

Colours combinations 30

Colour Wheel 31

Create a neutral palette 32

The importance from values 32

Colour schemes 34

Mediums 35

Masking fluid 37

CHAPTER 2: Composition 39

One point perspective 40

Two point perspective 43

Three point perspective 45

Rule of Thirds 49

Horizon line 53

Foreground, middle and background 54

Elements of Design 59

Principles of Design 69

CHAPTER3: Basic Washes & Techniques 77

Flat Wash 78

o Little lighthouse 81

Graded Wash 89

o Snowy farm 93

Varied Wash 104

o Sunset on the lake 105

Wet on Dry and Dry on Wet 113

o Blue and red boats 117

Wet on Wet 123

o Green fields 125

Glazing 137

o Somewhere in Sonora 139

Negative painting 147

o Autumn leaves 149

Textures 158

o Beach huts 168

o Little bluebells 175

Sponging 181

o Spring blossom 183

Hard, Loose and Soft Edges 190

o Blowing in the wind 194

Masking fluid 198

o A Winter snowy path 199

Pouring 210

o Copenhagen in winter 212


Acknowledge 226

Links and copyright 227




A painting room 10

Materials 11

Painting room


Painting outdoors

Painting outdoors 13

Paper 14

How to add a drawing grid 17

How to transfer a drawing 18

Brushes 21

Test your brushes 23




Colours 26

Transparency and staining test 27

Colour palette 28

Classify your colours 29

Colours combinations 30

Colour Wheel 31

Create a neutral palette 32

The importance from values 33


Values and schemes

Colours propieties

Colour schemes 34

Mediums 35

Masking Fluid 37


Elements of Design

Principles of Design



13- FLAT WASH: The main and basic wash….

…………………………………………….. Page 78

14- GRADED WASH: Without it, we would have our

painting looking flat……………………… Page 89

Flat Wash

Graded Wash

Varied Wash

15- VARIED WASH: Allow colours to blend and

change hue………………………………. Page 104

16- WET ON DRY: This is the controlled technique,

for precise brush strokes………………… Page 113

17- WET ON WET: This is the technique to paint the

big skies and nice loose backgrounds and good for

small details. …………………………….Page 123

18- GLAZING: Layer by layer, we give colour to our

paintings………………………….…….. Page 137

Wet on Dry

Wet on Wet


19- NEGATIVE PAINTING: We paint negative by

painting positive around the shapes we want to

create………………………………..…. Page 147

20- TEXTURES: Back runs, Plastic Wrap, Spattering,

Sal………………………………..…….. Page 158

21- SPONGING: A fantastic tool to paint trees foliage,

textures……………………………..…..Page 181

Negative Painting



22- HARD, SOFT AND LOOSE EDGES: Varying edges

to add interest to a scene……………..Page 190

23- MASKING FLUID: The technique to preserve

whites…………………………………. Page 198

24- POURING: Painting first washes without a brush.

………………………………………….Page 210

Hard, soft and loose





There is an easy way to find out if your colours are transparent or opaque. What you need is just a Permenent marker. Paint a line on a

watercolour Cold Pressed paper about 1, 5 cm wide and let it dry completely. Then paint with your brush some lines with the colours and

wait again until they are dry.

Now look at the results:

Transparent colours are nearly invisible. You can hardly see them.

Semi-Transparent colours can be easily recognized.

Opaque colours can be seen very well and cover the black line.

Non-Staining: Non- Staining colours are colours, whose pigments remain on the surface once dry and are easy to be removed. If you lift up some colour with a brush, the

white paper appears on the surface.

Staining: Staining colours are colours that when they touch the wet paper they soak deep into it and remain in the under layers. These colours cannot be removed.

Granulation: Some pigments granulate naturally; they do not dissolve well in water and have the tendency to be separated. These pigments have letter G on the label.

Cobalt Blue for example, has the tendency to granulate.



Paint the surface of a watercolour paper with one colour and let it dry. Once dry lift up with the side of a synthetic flat

brush, some colour. If you get the paper white, your colour is non-Staining.

TIP: Staining colours like to be mixed with staining colours, and Non-Staining colours do the same, they can be very

nicely mixed with their similar, but when you mix Staining with Non-Staining colours the pigments go to one side of the

wet area as if they were attracted by a magnet.



Take a watercolours paper 24 x 32 cm (9” x 12”) approx. and draw a line dividing into two parts

horizontally. Then make some vertical lines every 4 cm. and draw with a pencil the contours of


Take your colours and brushes and paint them just with just few colours alternating colours and

brushes. Once ready, cut the stripes, fold them, and make a hole on the opposite side from

where it has been folded. Fix both sides with a kitchen string. Now you have tested your brushes

and have nice bookmarks for your painting books.

Draw your lines with a soft pencil and without pressing too

much. If possible try to paint them without drawing.


2 EXTRA Step-by-Step demos:




Wet on Dry Step by Step: The Manatia

This picture has been painted wet on dry and flat wash technique, but the washes are intentionally not perfect. In this painting, we are going to take the brush with a

slightly trembling hand holding the brush in the middle because we do not want to have clean brush strokes. The sides of this boat should look a little bit as if it would

be an old boat that has been painted by its owner several times. Lines and washes may jump up and down a bit. They do not need to be straight as if you would have

drawn them with a ruler.

Paper: 300 gram Arches or any other good quality Cold or

Rough paper 36 x 51 cm (14” x 20”). Your painting may also

be done smaller, but you could have trouble with the small

objects and details.


A 55 mm or larger flat brush to paint the sky and


A No. 6 , 8 and/ or 12 good pointed round brushes.


Cadmium Yellow, Raw Sienna, Sepia, Cadmium Red,

Cerulean Blue, Cobalt Turquoise, Winsor Blue or Cobalt

Blue and Indigo.

Other materials:

Masking fluid and soap to protect your brush.

Saral transfer copy paper.


STEP 1: Copy and transfer the drawing on to your watercolour paper.



Mask the mooring lines and the upper part of the chain with a small wooden stick. You may see it better in the coloured picture the points that have been protected

with masking fluid.

Apply masking fluid here:



1. Make a very light grey mixing Winsor Blue and Cadmium Red and paint the shadow side of the boat with a flat wash. As soon

as the paper starts getting dry, add a darker wash with short brush strokes going from left to right side.

2. Paint the shadows on the

front left side of the boat. Let all


3. Paint in the same way all the

other shadows



Paint the yellow line with

a light Cadmium Yellow

and before it dries, paint a

second wash on the lower

part only. Finally paint

with pure Raw Sienna the

lower side of the line.

Paint the other side in the

same way but with a

lighter yellow.

Make an Orange (Cad Red

and Cad Yellow) and paint

the rescue boat. (The

orange object is a rescue

boat housed in a box).

Add a darker red in the

wide side of it. Add a bit

of yellow for lighter

points and Ultramarine

Blue for the dark ones.



1. Mask the red chimney of the cabin

and the left side stick. Let dry

2. Paint with Cobalt Turquoise all the

blue wood. Add some Winsor Blue

of Cobalt Blue for the shadow


3. Take a tissue and lift some colour

before it is dry to suggest light

reflections from the water.

4. Make a very light Sepia with a

small touch of red and paint with

the side of the brush, the oar.

Protect the sides with a tape while

painting if necessary.

5. Wet the mast and as soon as it’s

not shining any more, paint it with

a light yellow- orange. Add some

Sepia and Raw Sienna on the

shadow side if necessary. Check on

the values before.



1. Paint the boat floor with a light Sepia and a bit of red.

2. Paint with a light Cobalt Blue the left side of the boat.


1. Remove the masking fluid from the small chimney and the

stick on the left side and paint them. Paint the shadows with

Cobalt Blue.

2. Paint with a light Sepia plus a small bit of red the lines on the


3. Paint with Cadmium Red diluted with a bit of water (milk

consistency) the red parts of the boat taking care to make it a

bit paler on the sunny side. (The sun is coming from above)

Let dry.

4. Make a second wash if necessary with a lighter red. Add some

Cad. Yellow to your red and make an orange-red colour. This

will make it redder but not darker. Let all dry

5. Check the shadows and add darker values with a bit of Cobalt

Blue if necessary.



1. Make a very light green-grey with

Indigo, Cadmium Red and a bit of

Cadmium Yellow and paint, all the

water areas above the boat with a flat

wash. Let dry

2. Make a dark blue- grey-green with

Indigo, Cadmium Yellow and Cadmium

Red (see photo).

3. Now, make a flat wash again with a

light grey, but this time before it dries

add wet on wet some very dark grey

and green on the sides of the masked

area and on the shadow side of the

white boat. Do not be afraid if it does

not work, you may use always a water

spray and wash it away.





1. While the water is getting dry, paint with the same grey the

side of the white boat taking care of the values. Attention;

the boat is white and it gets reflections from colours in the

water. The water has a bit of light Cerulean Blue from the

side of the boat also.

2. At the waterline, paint a broken line with Sepia and a bit of

Cadmium Red.

3. Now, wet the water area from the top side of the painting

and make a nice Indigo Green colour. When the paper starts

getting dry, paint with a small fine pointed brush some zigzag

lines suggesting small water movements. Let it dry

4. Paint with a darker blue green some reflections from

suggested masts.

STEP 10:

Remove all the masking fluid carefully


STEP 11:

1. Paint the final details. The lines of the moorings and chains with small thin lines of Sepia and Indigo, not all of them just suggest some small ones. Paint some

broken wood with the side of the brush on the top white side of the cabin.

2. Pain the name and some shadows on the lower part of the label.

3. Paint the shadow side of the star.

4. Soften the edges of the white lines in the water with a brush and a bit of water as if you would erase them, but carefully.

5. Finally, I have taken a cutter and scratched a bit of paper away on the highlights of the moorings and chains, around the name label and the cabin floor to

give them a bit of raw texture.

6. Make a final check.

7. Finished!



Bluebells in April: Using a sponge to create textures

Look at these tree trunks none are similar in direction or shape but they all balance each other.

They are many different ways that you can paint a bluebell wood. A very simple and

effective one is sponging. It is important to be aware that during this time of the

year, the trees do not have many leaves. To paint all the flowers and leaves would

be nearly impossible. Keep it simple eliminating what is not necessary, and if you

need to add some elements, keep them uncomplicated also. Eliminate all

unnecessary details and let the viewer imagine the landscape.


Paper: 300 gram Arches or any other good quality Cold or Rough paper 36 x 48

cm (14” x 18”) approx.



No. 3, 6 and 12 good pointed round brushes.

Rigger No. 1 and 3 or small synthetic pointed number 1.

A big flat brush to wet the paper No. 25 mm, better 55mm and


A cheap Hog hair brush with some cutted hairs to paint the foliage.

See photo

New Gamboge

Winsor Yellow or Cadmium Yellow.

Raw Sienna

Burnt Sienna

Permanent Rose or Winsor Violet ( alternative)

Cobalt Blue

Ultramarine Blue

Winsor Blue or Hockers Blue as alternative for to make greens

May Green or ( Permanent Sap Green + New Gamboge))

Permanent Sap Green

Burnt Umber

Perylene Marron

Other materials:

Several small sponges of different sizes to paint the trees.

Kitchen paper to lift out colours (if necessary).

Masking fluid and an old sponge to apply it.



Draw the subject carefully, have a look at my lines, no straight ones. Avoid drawing straight lines but keep the proportions and perspective. Add masking

fluid where indicated below


Cover with masking fluid the fence,

stones and some small grasses.

3- Take old sponge for to mask the

foliage. Let all dry.



Wet the paper.

With your No.12 brush take some Winsor Yellow and paint

along and behind the fence, then above where the path

ends add some more yellow New Gamboge. If your paper

becomes dry, wet is slightly with water spray.

Now, spatter some yellows as if it were foliage branch on

a tree and then spatter some Cobalt Blue and Permanent

Sap Green in the empty spaces between.

Allow each colour to touch the adjacent one and make soft

transitions of colours.

Let it all dry before starting the next step.

Make a very light green with Gamboge and Permanent Sap Green

and paint the middle field just under the fence, on the left and

right side.

Clean your brush and take a little light Cobalt Blue and paint the

field below the previous one. ( Wet on dry)

Alternate the next fields on the same way. Add some Winsor

Violet and Permanent Rose to some of them before they are dry.

Paint the path with Raw Sienna very pale in the distance and

darker in the foreground. Remember to leave some spaces

without paint.

Add a bit of dark blue green under the stones and let it all dry



Step 4: Step 5:

Remove the

masking fluid on the

foliage, but leave

the fluid on the

fence and stones.

Make a very light green with Permanent Sap Green and Winsor

Yellow and paint the light foliage.

The right side has more trees than the left side, so you must paint

more greens also on the right and fewer on the left.

Sponge some of the green of the ground with the same colour.

Make a test on a separate paper, if you don't feel confident you

could paint them later with a No. 1 brush.


Step 6:

Once dry make a

stronger mixture of the

same and paint the

middle value leaves.

After drying make a

middle value green of

Permanent Sap Green

values from 3 to 5 and

paint more leaves.


Repeat step 6 now with green values from 6 and 7 and very

small points of 8. Allow to dry.

Once dry mix a bit of Cobalt Blue 70% and green 30% and

sponge the right and left upper corners and some branch

shadows on the right if necessary. Let all dry.



Start painting the big trees in the middle foreground with Raw Sienna from

base upwards. Leave some gaps for the foliage.

Paint the big tree trunks with a light wash of Burnt Siena and drop in the

shadows areas some Perylene Marron and Ultramarine Blue.

Paint the distant trees with a mix of Raw Sienna and Olive Green.

Add to your Olive Green a bit of Ultramarine Blue to make a neutral grey and

paint the more distant trees with it.

Paint the distant greens on the left and under the fence with some May Green.

Start stippling the distant bluebells with a Winsor Violet and Cobalt Blue. Paint

some greens also. Make a first check on your colours and tones.

Let all dry

Remove the masking fluid from the fence and stones

Step 9:

Paint the underside of the fence rails with Burnt Sienna and a little green. Add

a little Ultramarine Blue and paint the shadow side of the fence posts.


With your stipple brush, small sponge

or a fine pointed number one brush,

paint the distant bluebells with a light

Winsor Violet.

Paint the stones with a

blue-gray and some

Raw Sienna. Add some

dark gray on their dark

sides. Let them dry.

Do the same with the next flower

field alternating this time the

colours, Cobalt Blue, Winsor Violet,

Permanent Rose and Ultramarine



Paint some small greens with

Perylene and Cobalt Blue.

Always wet on dry and soften

some of the edges with a brush

and clean water.

Paint the right-side flowers in

the same way. Don't forget to

let the paper always dry in

between steps.


Step 10:

Take the rigger and paint with a dark brown some young

trees growing from the ground and a branches hanging over

the path.

Paint some branches coming out of the foliage on the trees

with the same colour.

Paint the shadows on the path with Winsor Violet and a very

light wash of Permanent Rose. Let the colours blend into

each other.

Add Permanent Rose.

Check your values. Let all dry.




I would like to say thanks to all my online painting friends. To write all their names would take too much space. Many people have

been supporting me on my painting way. Their comments, critiques and suggestions have always been a help and I made many new

friends from around the world.

I also would like to say also thanks to all those people who share their photos free, and make it possible to find nice pictures to paint

during the rainy winter months. Without their excellent photos, this book would not have been possible. Particularly, to:

Barbara Swinton (Essex NY Harbour), Gwen Card (Snowy evergreens), John Warren (Copenhagen in Winter), Lee Newton ( Winter

Feed), Vald Donnie ( It is snowing in Venice again), Ann Bentley (Beach huts), Karina (S’Olivera), Charles Skilton (First flowers), Silvia

Maria Lang (Ride after the Rain), Rodney Campbell ( Do you like to make sand cakes?), Mrs Sue Smith (Placa Real), Mike Simmons

(Blubbing under the trees), Elise ( Green Valley), James Swanson (Row Boats, Side by Side), ESP (Poppies2 and Blowing in the Wind),

Alena Huges-Tyrkasova (On the Beach), Aerl53 ( Little White Lighthouse), Pamela Utton (Soft Blush) Susan Porter /Sue (Poppy),

Andree Engels ( Little Bluebells), Steve Lyddon ( Fifi the happy Crow), Sue Smith (Café Placa Reial-Barcelona), Michael Yates

(Bluebells in April), Ruth Archer (Manatia), Nico Martinez ( Sailing Boats), and to all the ones I could have missed or forgotten.

A special thanks to Winsor& Newton for their support and help and also Roy Simmons ( making possible

to have a platform where we can share and find reference photos to paint.

I would like to say thank you also to my husband and son for all the help they continuously gave me. They gave me a huge time

corridor and supported me with everyday tasks making it possible for me to write this book.

Finally, my highest gratitude and thanks to John Melhuish ( was so generous to offer his time and

his enormous patience correcting and helping me to finish this book. Without him to publish this book would not have been possible.

Maria Balcells

Whilst I made every effort to credit the contributors, I would like to apologize if I made any error or omitted someone and would be happy to make the proper correction

on updates, or further editions /revisions of this book.


A little bit about me:

My name is Maria Balcells, I was born in Barcelona, Spain almost 60 years ago and I now live in Munster, Germany with my husband

and son. I am a self taught artist having had no formal art education. I have always loved art and paintings but as a child my painting

skills were a disaster and I never thought that one day I would become a passionate watercolour painter. What started as a pure hobby

has now become a very enjoyable experience. I enjoy the challenge of each new painting and my whole life revolves around watercolours. I

like the light and contrast displayed in landscapes and try to capture this in my paintings. Sometimes I paint with acrylics and ink but I

always return to my watercolours. I enjoy teaching and supporting artists in group painting and I also do commission work, but most of

the time I like to paint my own choice of pictures. I also like to participate in online painting communities which I consider a fantastic

way to share paintings and receive feedback from the painting world. The seasons inspire my works but I am also a spontaneous painter.

Why did I call the book Watercolour Drops? Well, I thought of the name when I was tidying up all my tips, information and demos that

I had produced over previous years and placing then in such an order that they would be easy both to find and understand. All these

papers were covered in drops of paint and hence the name Watercolour Drops.






The images paintings, articles, or text included within this book may only be used for private, exercises reasons, and cannot be downloaded, reproduced, or used in

way without my express written consent. Copyrights © Maria Balcells.



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