Watercolor Brushstrokes for the Beginner Artist
The way you hold your brush, and move it, has a direct effect on the marks you make. Here are four simple brush-holding tricks for brilliant results:
- Choke Up: Hold the brush close to the ferrule, or bristles, for more controlled, detailed marks.
- On the Tip: When you grip the brush at a higher point—further away from the bristles—you have more freedom to produce lovely loose strokes.
- Move Away: Try holding the brush at the end of the shaft while moving your whole arm in a loose fashion away from you, rather than toward your body, to produce sweeping, feather-like marks.
- Along the Side: Use the side of the brush’s bristles to produce thick, juicy lines, which are great for making larger, rectangular marks such as tree trunks and bark.
When it comes to starting out in watercolor, learning how to hold your brush to create different effects can go a long way for producing better results in your paintings.
As a beginner in watercolor myself, I often get a little intimidated by how the pigment interacts with water. However, this characteristic of watercolor is also why I am so in awe of the medium.
There is something so freeing about watching the watercolor dance across the surface, choosing practically on its own where it wants to settle. Yet, even with its loose nature, watercolor can be tamed and controlled with the right brushstrokes.
Techniques to Try
In the video below, accomplished artist Jean Haines shares how to place your hand on the brush to produce different watercolor effects — including the four mentioned above—and how certain arm movements and angles can create brushstrokes perfect for painting anything from feathers on a rooster to grasses, foliage and tree bark for landscapes.
“Practice using your brush in as many ways as possible,” advises Jean. “Try getting the finest brushstrokes you can, the thickest brushstrokes you can, and use direction toward and away from you.”
And as Jean asks in the video, how many ways can you use your brush? Let us know your favorite brushstroke tips and tricks in the comments!
Want more from Jean Haines?
Watching watercolor pigments flow across paper is a form of relaxation all on its own. Discover how watercolor painting can get your creativity flowing freely when you are feeling overworked or need a quick reenergizing boost with Jean Haines’ video workshop, Watercolor Mindfulness.
Watch the trailer below to learn some key principles of mindfulness, including being cognizant of how you move your arm when painting, letting go and not working about a finished product, and how to embrace imperfections in life and in your art!