The usual dilemma of artists starting to paint in watercolor is that it behaves differently from mediums like oil or acrylic. For one, oil and acrylic are opaque mediums whereas watercolor is transparent. It could heavily influence and flow to the color beside it if that is not the intention and if care is not taken. Unlike other mediums then, decisions at the start of the painting must be done where the whites are placed and apply the lightest of shades first. Common practices of watercolorists are to leave the white areas for later.

To paint in watercolor, observe the following.

Center of Interest

Creating the center of interest is the heart of an artwork. When you paint in watercolor, unless the theme is formal or static, avoid having the center of interest right in the middle of the painting. To solve this, break the vertical and the horizontal axis on a ratio of 1:2. Keeping the center of interest of the painting at an unequal distance between the sides will correct the subjects positioning.

Thumbnails sketches

When the subject of the painting is already determined, drawing thumbnail sketches will help manage the canvass and prevent you from making mistakes later. The thumbnail sketches will allow you to arrange and shuffle the subjects around. Having thumbnails sketches also provides you with a good idea on creating lights and shadows to have the maximum contrasts at the center of interest

Applying the color

Having the center of interest in mind, start the painting by applying the lightest washes in the background working towards the darker hues and details later on. Having too many colors in the palette often result into a work that looks muddy and discordant. When starting the painting, have your color palette limited to two or three colors working your way towards tight details later on as dictated by the subject and the atmosphere that you want to create. Introduction of intense colors could be done later in the work. When starting to color, cover large areas loosely but do not forget to leave the white areas blank. This will enable you to create very good detail and tonal contrasts.

Harmonizing the color

While coloring and the choice of colors to be applied basically rests with the artist, a color wheel is a good tool to use to get a better idea on how the watercolor painting will appear in the end. Harmonizing the color rests on tastes and preferences and so there are no rules to that. However, the one thing that is best avoided when unsure of which color to use is to avoid neutral darks. Watercolor painting will tend to have more character if the dark color choices are either warm or cool darks. If a discordant color appears in the painting (like for example a purple lily that seems to jump out of the canvass), apply the discordant color to other areas of the painting as well.

Finally, as with all artwork, when you paint in watercolor, do not overdo details. Creating too much detail in one single work will tire the eye. Create areas of relief as well.