50 watercolor painting ideas in 2020
Boost your inspiration with this selection of painting ideas.
Wreaths were a design used in ancient times in southern Europe. The word wreath comes from Middle English “wrethe” and from Old English “writha”, band. A wreath is an assortment of flowers, leaves, fruits, twigs, or various materials that is constructed to form a ring. It is also a great opportunity to practice 1 move-1 leaf painting approach. Load your brush with the paint and make on confident stroke and voila! you’ve got a leaf! Depending on how many colors you load on your brush the final result changes. Enjoy the watercoloring process, it is very meditative!
Design credit: The pale paper
To continue the conversation about leaves, this is itself a great independent topic to paint in watercolor. Each leaf has its own shape, unique texture, number of veins and of course color palette. If you need to practice your gradated wash technique, this is the chance! Enjoy the proccess of moving more concentrated pigment to less concentrated one to catch that smooth transition between colors! More than that, go ahead and play with wet-on-wet technique: apply clean water on paper first, then add some wet aquarelle pigment and watch the magic happening!
Below check out the difference between the same object (leaves) depending on the techniques used.
Design credit: Lettersoflovebyjo
Birds is the whole another world in painting! Small and cute, big and fluffy, moving and cuddling, flying and sleeping, all those positions and states create an amazing opportunity to practice your watercolors! If you are into realistic art, you can spend hours diving into each feather, painting every tiny detail and delicate stroke on the bird’s body & tail. Here you stay calm and take your time while applying aquarelle layer one after another using glazing technique. This will bring up transparency of watercolor layers and create depth of the image itself.
Watercolor bird offers a vast field of techniques to practice! You can paint a realistic parrot like on the photo below or an impressionistic sparrow caught in the wind.
Warning, do not paint food art when hungry! All those creamy layers, fruity fillings, crispy covers and interesting forms will bring up the biggest appetite. Meanwhile it is still the best way to work in realistic watercolor style or basically food illustration. Here you need less water & more pigment on your brush, mixing your paint on a special palette to make sure the tone is right, and thus more control in you hand! If you are struggling with paint flow and independence, such cake illustration will make your painting life much easier. No unexpected paint movements, only well-thought lines and layers.
Cute aquarelle cake below is also a fun way to paint in a limited palette: you only use one or two pigments to work with tones and shadows, keeping the overall color of the artwork modest.
Design credit: Drawpletmy
Did you know that even before trees show up on the earth, mushrooms were already there? One of the reasons little buddies deserve to be painted in watercolor! Not to mention an interesting “model” of 2400-year-old giant “honey mushroom” currently growing in Oregon, the USA. But hey, that is just more inspiration to your watercolor weekend! Sit down, pick a mushroom shape and let the paint flow! You can use a black pen to outline a shape first, but make sure the pen is waterproof because aquarelle layers will blur the lines.
Expressive watercolors with lots of water and paint drops will also make a fun impressionistic artwork. Leave some blank white space in the mushroom (highlighted spots or edges of the cap) to give a feeling of spaciousness and light to your painting.
Design credit: ka.yansh
Flower painting never gets old. There so many types and colors of them that you can spend a year just simply painting botanical art! Besides, it can be a simplistic primitive painting “in one stroke” as much as a complicated detailed botanical illustration. Prepare all your brushes, because you are gonna need a rigger, tiny pointy brush #1, round brushes of all sizes, flat and a fan brush.
Btw if you mix your green color yourself (yellow + blue) the resulting tone will be very much in harmony with the flowers because of yellow pigment reflected both in flower and in a leaf.
Design credit: deshlate
The best subject for watercolor beginners is sunset! Here you have all the time in the world to practice your washes: flat wash, gradated and mixed. Especially joyful the painting process is when working on 100% cotton paper! It absorbs paint deep into its layers allowing you to move your layers for some extended period of time, and also stays wet longer. If you want to conquer main aquarelle techniques fast and in a fun way – cotton paper and exotic sunsets are your friends!
Design credit: mamabelle_art
Painting an eye is a challenging and yet one of the most attractive ideas ever! Don’t try to paint it still life though, remember that people blink about 12 times a minute. Anyhow having a macro photo of a beautiful eye by your side will push a massive inspiration to your creative process! Take a tiny pointy synthetic brush and work on all those details of the iris.
Don’t forget about natural shadows above and under the eye which are created due to the eyeball rounded shape. Tear-duct and reflected light will bring more realistic look together with the shadow casted by the top eyelashes.
Design credit: mari.volkova
Another exciting part of the human body to paint in watercolor is Lips! Here you can go heavy on wet-on-wet technique to achieve that shinning effect and impressionistic style. You can drop or spray some paint around the lips for more effect.
Here you can use a limited palette: red or carmine for main color, green to achieve a darker tone of red (remember, green is a complimentary color to red) and if needed some other colors to support the harmonious look. White teeth could be a tricky part though, easier just to have the mouth shut on this painting.
Design credit: wine_and_color
Fruit is a popular topic for watercolor painting but all those apples and oranges seem to be pretty boring. Try something new and exciting for your next aquarelle art, like a pomegranate! Even if the word “pomegranate” actually means apple with many seeds.
Here you have a whole range of red-orange palette to play with, nice highlighted spots on the edge or corner of the fruit and fun work with garnet seeds. Interesting shape, mix of detailed and loose style and you’ve got yourself an interesting fruit painting! Pomegranate is classified as a super fruit so better paint it still life and then eat!
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When you say illustration first that comes to mind is super realistic.
How about illustration that is cute, warm and overall lovely? Like an illustration for a kid’s book? Or for a wedding invitation? Those don’t need to be hyper-realistic or extra detailed, only cute and sending you cheerful vibes! Like a little watercolor fox, or bunny, or koala. Allow yourself to feel like a child and reconnect with those feelings to create an inspiring watercolor artwork!
Design credit: autumn.aldrich
Water is a mystery especially when trying to paint it in watercolor. But when you look closer you realise it’s not a “mission impossible”!
Painting watercolor in aquarelle you need to think of tones: ares of the wave that reflected light would be lighter than the area underneath that carried the shadow (and light didn’t get there). So as long as you learn to see the tonal differences you are set to create amazing masterpiece! You can even turn a reference image into black/white in photoshop to see light & dark tones more clearly without distraction on colors.
Or you can just wet the paper sheet and apply ultramarine blue all over it, and enjoy the paint flow! It is Art after all!
Design credit: wanderbrushpainting
Galaxy is one of the hotest watercolor painting topics of this year. No wonder, all those color mixes, paint blurs and shiny stars keep the attention for a while!
What’s cool here it that you don’t need a reference to create a painting of space. It’s a pure improvisation with no rules. Just a few secrets must be revealed: use masking liquid to mark the biggest stars before you apply watercolor paint on paper, use 100% cotton paper for better washing techniques and drop some white thick pigment (like gouache) on a completely dry painting to recreate the starry feel.
Design credit: artsplashhh
Painting portraits will never get old. It does require some knowledge of anatomy and maybe a basic academic drawing course, but overall is an amazing idea to paint anytime! Mixing skin tones, working on emotions in the look, painting realistic hair which doesn’t look like a rope and so much more is waiting for you.
It’s a challenging work but oh how rewarding!
Design credit: waterrr_vmv
#15 Circle world
Pretty much anything you paint in watercolor can get a second breath if you put it in… a bubble! Forest is just a forest but you locate it in a circle and boom! it becomes a magical landscape with a twist! Same with watercolor mountains, bears, poppies and humans. Anything ordinary gets its mysterious look after settling in a bubble. Try it!
Design credit: _creativepie_
Most influential cat and Internet celebrity Grumpy cat deserves a special shout out! Despite the fact that cats themselves are cute lovely furry balls to draw, it’s a great opportunity to combine animal art with a bright character! Also practice your layering technique applying paint on cat’s fur and working out the details aka hair & whiskers and also get your attention on that special grumpy look! Let Grumpy Cat live on your watercolor painting forever!
Design credit: annasalixart
If you notice beauty in ordinary things, watercolor can help bring this beauty to life! Once just a street lamp becomes inspiring piece of art thanks to transparency of this special medium.
Technically you can create such a glowing painting around any casual object in your everyday life. Can be a chair, a plate, a bicycle or such an old-school street lantern.
Design credit: juliabarminova
As people who travel every 3 months we definately can see ourselves painting a suitcase! It’s a good practice of painting geometric objects and work on proportions & perspective in watercolor as well as kill some time waiting for boarding at the airport. Besides all those colorful stickers are just fun to draw!
Design credit: antonio_giacomin_art
Lettering is another popular idea in watercolor world. And it’s a whole science itself! You would need to take some time to practice brush movements before some elegant strokes appear on paper. Especially helpful is using a calligraphic brush which allows a wider line and is itself more flexible to curves on the sheet. Plus with lettering you can try some additional medium like “dusty pigment” or “watercolor colorant” which are much brighter than a regular old-school watercolors.
Design credit: artbypanza
#20 Disney Character
Are you a Disney fan? Well look no more for watercolor ideas, you already have found your golden spot! We are sure you will develop a special bond (known as Hawaiian ʻohana, or extended family) while painting this cute Stitch! Creating cartoons is so much fun, who knows maybe you will draw the whole set for your animation!
Design credit: kristy_tim_leo
These little beautiful creatures will take your mind away from heavy thoughts, or any thoughts whatsoever! Just load your brush with few pigments and watch butterflies fly! Another great opportunity to use different washes (like gradated or mixed wash) on the wings and try out one-stroke-one-painting approach. In other words just apply your layers once and don’t come back to that part. The way you bend the bristles on paper is the way your butterfly turns!
Design credit: annieho.design
At first fish might feel like too simple of a challenge. But if you take a second look you will notice a vast field of potential, just how many tiny fish scales are on that body! So first steps would be to apply fundamental watercolor layers (can be done in wet technique or in layering) and after everything is fully dry you go over the body with a tiny brush marking scales.
Another fun thing to paint here is the fish eye. We would start with that!
Design credit: stephaniepalmerstudios
If you have a good feeling of perspective and proportions, try yourself at architecture in plein air. What can be better than enjoying art outdoors with a glass of wine and painting some centuries-old buildings?! Get yourself a small watercolor travel-set, portable palette and a cup of water, and you’re good to go!
Design credit: samanilai
#24 Firefly Forest
This is very similar to universe painting but requires a bit more organization…you know trees, branches and leaves, some perspective. The trees on the foreground should be darker in tone than the rest of the forest on the background in order to create a feeling of depth.
But hey, this is a cosmic art so everything is relative! If you want to paint those trees and plants upside down, that’s totally up to you. As long as you give that magical feeling with bright yellow dots-splashes flying around. Firefly forest painting after all!
Design credit: forestfoxart
If you love animals you definately have seen this Instagram star fox! He is fun, cute, playful and red-furry, so already a great watercolor idea for us!
Practice multiple techniques here, mix some warm orange-red colors, figure out the proportions of the body depending on the animal position and so much more! Challenging and yet exciting artwork to do.
Design credit: galina_bogolepova
#26 Sun Flower
After all those pets, portraits and architecture it’s the right time to chill with more simplistic watercolors. It doesn’t mean it is not fun, just a different approach! Sunflowers radiate light which make them perfect subject for aquarelle medium. You can go super easy on them painting in a loose style, splashing main shadows and highlights in the paper, or you can take the time and point out all the seeds and petals. This way or another, go for it!
Design credit: food.flowers.fantasy
Mountains are a common watercolor idea both for beginners and advanced artists. Why? Because here you use a simple gradated wash to create a light and cloudy mountain somewhere on a background in no time OR you can take the time to work through the rough texture of this majestic formation. Both will look impressive in your artwork!
Besides mountains are fun to paint on a bigger paper sheet (such as A3) with a massive brush (size #8 and more). Freedom of strokes!
Design credit: sableraexo
If you have a little one, painting a rabbit is your go to! Do it by yourself or together with a kid, you will get a lot of positive emotions! Besides it is some quality time with a child there too. Who knows maybe your kids will grow up to be artists after that!
Anyway, painting bunnies and fluffy creatures alike is just a relaxing way to spend an evening. No need to be realistic as long as it has cute eyes and a kind smile.
Design credit: cristinacilloniz
Juicy grapes is a good way to practice painting three-dimensional objects. Here you have volume, tones, game of light and shadow and organization of grapes in a group on a branch. Mind the source of light to locate reflections on grapes for some extra shinning and realistic effect!
Design credit: esraakgunaslan
If you’re fascinated by light and game of reflections, choose a glass of water (or any object made of glass) as your next model. Basic geometric shape will be turned into a 3-dimensional form with all the shadows and volume. And the most interesting part starts with working on the effect that makes the object shiny and, basically, glass-alike. The sides must be painted with a sharp pointy brush loaded with semi-dry pigment in order to create that feeling of transparent vase. And don’t forget about the reflected light and highlights on the side where the .
Design credit: early_latter
#31 Cuddly Toy
This cuddly bunny painting idea promises you a cuteness overload! Don’t think since it’s a toy it is going to be easy. Look at the soft and warm color palette, the transition of colors just in one wash and gentle stroke. We’d recommend to get 100% cotton paper to guarantee soft and blurry edges. This painting is a manifesto of kindness and care, so all the strokes should be gentle.
Another reason to learn how to paint glass. When you nail it, add a magical touch such as a whale or dolfin inside the bottle. For the sake of experiment you can create sharp outline of the bottle with a pen or ink, and add highlighted areas along with starry night with a white marker or gouache. Modern watercolor with a twist!
Design credit: danielle_foye
Netherlands is home to the largest windmills in the world. This is where we would go to paint a mill in watercolor in plein air. They even celerate the windmill day! However you could find those old-school mills in the USA and United Kingdom and probably in some remote cities of your own country too. What a great experince to sit in an open field, smell the fresh air, enjoy the sun and wind and create art!
Design credit: svekla_art
Port, port, port! Endless source of watercolor ideas! Here you have old and cracked boats, shiny and fancy yachts, shiny glass objects, plastic elements and textured ropes. All that needs an investigation and special approach to be painted in watercolor.
Besides working on a white boat you can practice mixing perfect grey tones. Or even make the whole painting in grissaile technique – just pick one color and stick to it at all times. You can’t imagine how many opportunities are hidden there!
Design credit: lauramvlad
Speaking of the port and see, this little buddy is also on our list of watercolor ideas. Thanks to a shiny surface crab gives you a lot of room to experiment with tones and subtones just on its shell. And what if you step away from a traditional approach and change the main color? Your crab as well can be blue, yellow or pink! Who knows maybe out of 5,000 species of existing crabs you will actually find those funky colors!
Design credit: iryna.boehland.art
In order to make a sea-creatures topic more challenging paint a starfish under water. Here the knowledge of your particular watercolor set would become very useful since some pigments are opaque and some transparent. Opaque pigments will make a process of painting translucent waters much harder since, well, you can’t see through. So take the time to examine your pigments to work mostly with transparent ones. Reflections on water surface can be done by lifting a layer of pigment with a brush.
Design credit: yanatravelart
Probably the most common painting idea for a beginner artist but doesn’t mean it is a bad one. Here you can explore the whole range of green colors, from warm yellow-greens to cool blue-greens. Besides green is a really complicated color so most artists recommend to mix your own: yellow + blue. Thanks to variations of yellow (cool, warm, leaning towards orange etc) and blue (turquose, cobalt, ultramarine, phthalo etc) you can get unlimited number of green options. Experiment, find your favorite or the one that corresponds to an overall mood/temperature of the painting and go for it! There are so many colors you can set up on tree branches!
Design credit: rosies.sketchbook
Strawberry, mint, chocolate and raspberry. So many flavors and so many colors! And yes, so many ways to paint yummy macarons in watercolor. Check out the texture you will work with: the top is smooth, the circumference is ruffled. Even though macarons originated in Italy (yeap!) now we can’t imagine a French coffee break without this amazing confections. Best is to paint macarons still-life, so you can eat them afterwords.
Design credit: alinatrush_art
Starry night has been an inspiration for artists of sorts for centuries. Now that we can look on Earth from the other side it becomes even more interesting to paint it! The same approach as to painting a sphere (including tricks with shadows and lights to create volume) but now you can locate familiar continents. Noone said you should stop on Earth, there are 7 more planets in a solar system to choose from for your inspiration!
For more “space” look drop some watercolor “dust” in the very end of your painting process. A brush will spray the paint better if loaded with really diluted & watery pigment.
Design credit: anna.ostapowicz.kulczycka
#40 Coffee Cup
What can be better than a good sweet cup of coffee! Any time any day! Especially if you are painting this in a snowy winter day somewhere in a cofeeshop wrapped up in a soft blanket…
It’s fun to capture the metallic shadows of the mug, glowing chocolate cream and airy marshmallows. Each of them has different texture which is already a challenge itself to paint in watercolor.
Design credit: olgatkachenok
Raven is such a stylish and majestic bird! Together with himpanzees and dolphins, it is one of the smartest creatures in the animal world! In many cultures such as in Chinese, Egyptian and Siberian ravens are messengers of bad weather. Europeans believed ravens were incarnation of evil. When actually they are very playful birds which use gesture to communicate and even can show sympathy for each other!
Hope this will set you up for the right mood to paint a raven. You can stick to black and white palette or even use muted greys for more interesting outcome.
Another way to learn to paint glass in watercolor, or rather a precious diamond. You will need the same pointy synthetic brush to work on edges of the diamond and showcase its texture. Take your time working on colors: here you will see all the colors reflected inside the gemstone and you need to catch them right. Don’t forget the golden frame. Some watercolor sets actually have a color named “golden”.
Design credit: featherparklettering
Ballet is a hot watercolor idea of 2019, especially among Russian artists. Maybe because they have one of the strongest ballet schools and really impressive art heritage. But we understand why dancers are such an attractive topic – just look at the graceful poses, body curves, and all that power in muscles and tenderness at the same time, those fluffy skirts and used pointe shoes. Ballerinas are one of the most hard working dancers out there and also a great inspiration for artists. For this painting you definitely would need some knowledge in anatomy and academic art, dancers’ bodies are even more challenging to draw due to advanced musculature.
Design credit: natalyfeo
If you happen to be by the beach use the opportunity to paint rocks still life. Hunting for interesting colors and shapes already is an adventure of its own but painting those cracked textures in watercolor is going to be even more exciting! Here all your collection of ochre and sienna pigments will get involved. Some sepia, mars brown and blues will also help a great deal. Load your brush with dry black pigment to recreate the fracture on stone.
Design credit: camilla_damsbo_art
Always different, always special. Narrow european street will make you remember everything you’ve learned about art. How to paint objects in perspective, how to analyze the source of light and work with shadows, how to showcase those paving stones and more. But trust us this work will be rewarding! In the end you get a beautiful piece of art you would want to put on the wall.
Design credit: daria_tds
If you are on the move and have your watercolor set and a sketchbook with you, use a break to sketch some feathers! They don’t need pencil sketch or photo reference, just get your paint, drop on paper and watch the magic happen. Even more impressive when painting on 100% cotton paper because those feathers will gain extra depth. You can make them blue, red, yellow, green, or all together, just let your fantasy take over!
Design credit: canotstoppainting
Everyone has felt confused, sad or lost at least once in a lifetime. Meditation can help a lot, but who said it only should be a traditional one? Take your paints and put your subconscious on paper. Usually such paintings narrow down to drops or hearts. So be it! It’s so relaxing just to not think , drop your paint and watch what happens. Just let it go and allow the watercolor to do its own thing, blending and mixing with other colors. 5 minutes a day and you are rejuvenated!
Design credit: britcolors
What is your name? How about you take the first letter and make art out of it! Add some flowers, fruits, butterflies or whatever resonates with your personality. It’s fun, simple and creative! And also useful since you can use the letters at a party to assign a seat for each guest. Ha!
Design credit: tiiarts
Summer never ends if you paint watermelons! They can be hyper realistic with their noticable fibers and seeds, or loose with no particular details. Your choice and your undeniable fun! Fruits are always a good idea to paint, especailly if you have a fruit-model you can eat afterwards.
Design credit: polyugaeva.juliet
We finish our list with one of the most hardworking and simply adorable creatures in the world – bees. Thanks to some really good marco photographs, now we can paint a bee in all its details while thinking how much value it adds to this world. While it is pretty simple to paint from a technical point of view, a bee still can offer creative opportunities: mask specific areas with a masking fluid if needed to preserve from pigment getting on a way, play with a color range for shadows (muted gray with blue or brown?), splash paint on the finished piece for more dynamic look.
Design credit: watercoloursbyrachel
To wrap it up!
Here you are, we hope this selection will fire up your creativity. Let us know what you think in comments and share your creation with us, we are always happy to see where your imagination brings you! Remember that you can always signup for our watercolor painting community anytime with a free account and access our forum :).