10 Reasons Why Watercolor Painting Is So Difficult

Cover image: 10 Reasons Why Watercolor Painting Is So Difficult

Note: This is the second part to 6 Reasons Why Watercolor Painting Is So HardOpens in a new tab..

Painting is a craft that requires talent, patience, and knowledge of different techniques. If you’re new to painting, you may find it challenging to use watercolor paints compared to other mediums. Why is this so?

Watercolor painting is so difficult because it requires a careful understanding of color blending, application techniques, and the ability to layer pigments. Watercolor painting mistakes are hard to cover, and the layers take time to dry. You’ll need patience and attention to detail to master it.

In this article, I listed ten reasons you might find watercolor painting tricky. Read on to learn more about watercolor painting hacks, with our article 10 Reasons Why Watercolor Painting Is So Difficult:

One – Watercolor Is Transparent

Oil and acrylic paints are naturally opaque or solid. On the other hand, watercolor paints are transparent and require you to blend colors carefully. This reason alone makes watercolor the most challengingOpens in a new tab. to use as a medium.

The unpredictability that comes along with watercolor painting can be daunting. You must think carefully about each brushstroke, consider how colors will blend, and lay down layers of pigment to create the desired look.

Two – Watercolor Is Fluid

Watercolor is fluid and can be tricky to control due to its water-to-pigment ratioOpens in a new tab.. The general rule for watercolor painting is the more water there is in the brush, the less intense the color will be.

Before mixing the pigment with water, you’ll need to visualize the colors, light, and shadow the painting will require. Start with wetter washes if you are going to start with lighter colors. Reduce the water in the brush as you go to darker shades.

At the same time, you also need to be careful when mixing pigment and water. Too much water will ruin the paper. Excess water stays on the paper’s surface, making it more challenging to control.

Three – It Requires a Different Application Technique

When an artist uses oil or acrylic paints, they usually start from the darkest color to the lightest. A lighter shade or color is usually placed on top of darker ones when working with a three-dimensional image. 

Watercolor painting requires the opposite. You must apply watercolor from the lightest to the darkest color. Painters who shift from oil to acrylic might take a while to get used to this technique.

Four – Color Pigmentation Can Be Challenging

Artists layer pigments to create different hues of watercolor. This process allows the artwork to achieve depth and luminosity. However, layering watercolor pigments can be challenging as it takes time to master balancing watercolor pigmentsOpens in a new tab..

In addition to this, watercolor typically lightens when it dries. You might come up with a different shade than what you expected. When this happens, you’ll need to dab another layer of watercolor until you achieve your desired color. Allow the layer dry first before applying another layer of color. Otherwise, you may mess up the pigments. 

Five – Covering Mistakes Is Difficult

In most cases, when you make a mistake using oil or acrylic paint, you can easily cover it with another layer of color. The case is different with watercolors.

Given their transparent nature, watercolors are hard to cover. Making a mistake is as good as ruining the painting. 

Due to this, proper planning is essential. Always start with the lightest colors because it is easier to add another layer if you need a darker shade.

Six – Watercolor Doesn’t Have White Pigment

Unlike oil and acrylic paints, watercolors do not have a white pigment. If an area on your painting needs to be white, you must leave it unpainted.

To do so, cover the white part with tape so that paint will not go over it. Smoothen out the tape so that paint will not seep under it.

Seven – Watercolor Needs Particular Art Supplies

Acrylic and oil paints adhere to most surfaces. Among these are:

  • Canvas
  • Wood
  • Plastic
  • Walls

However, watercolor does not work with most surfaces. You’ll need watercolor paper and watercolor brushes for your artwork. You cannot use ordinary paper or a few brushes when painting with watercolor.

Here are the primary materialsOpens in a new tab. you need to have if you are going to start with watercolor:

  • Watercolor paint set. The two typesOpens in a new tab. of watercolor paint are tube types and pan paints. If you are still a beginner, consider using pan paints first, as they are better for small paintings.
  • Watercolor paintbrush set. Having many brushes in different sizes will save them from wearing out quickly. Changing between clean and dry brushes from time to time will preserve the quality of your paper and painting.
  • Watercolor paper. Ordinary papers are too thin for watercolor painting. Mediumweight paperOpens in a new tab., which is around 300 GSM, is an excellent choice for water-based paints.
  • Scotch or masking tape. Use tape to mask the parts of the paper you will not be painting on. 

Aside from the above, the following materials will come in useful once you have already mastered watercolors:

  • Palette
  • Sponges
  • Scrapers
  • Masking fluid

Eight – Watercolor Paintings Are Vulnerable To Water Damage

Watercolors are water-soluble and more prone to water damageOpens in a new tab.. Water damage comes in the form of mold when you place your painting inside a glass frame. 

Because of its susceptibility to water damage, it can be more difficult to preserve watercolor paintings for a long time. You can dry the paint thoroughly and take other measures to prevent this.

Nine – Layers Take a While To Dry

Watercolor needs to be fully dry before being painted with another layer of color. However, waiting for each layer of paint to dry can be tricky when working with larger or more complex paintings. If the paper is still cool, you can expect it to be wet. Otherwise, you could mess with the entire painting.

Ten – It Needs Patience to Master

With all things considered, watercolor painting is just plainly more challenging to master. It may take a while for you to get used to the proper blending of colors and application techniques. Moreover, planning the entire artwork requires a thoughtful strategy.

You may find it easier to master watercolor by knowing the right painting techniques and having the right art supplies. With all these things, you might be on your way to becoming a great watercolor artist!

Liron YanconskyOpens in a new tab.
Was this article helpful?


Caraca's self-taught artist based in the UK, Ines explores unconventional materials and sustainability.

Recent Posts