A Guide to Watercolour

Author: Dana McGorlick-Appelman  Date Posted:11 January 2021 

What is watercolour?

Watercolour is a type of water-soluble paint, that is slightly transparent in appearance and typically used on paper. It is made of fine particles of pigment suspended in a water-soluble binder often made from glycerine, gum arabic, glucose and wetting agents.

Watercolour is often used for its naturally luminous finish, and comes either in a liquid state or in cakes of dry paint, and can be applied with a variety of techniques.

History of watercolour

Watercolour has a long and illustrious history. Cavemen used early forms of watercolour with pigments sourced from nature like charcoal and ochre to create cave art, which has since been transformed into a fine art medium. Watercolour was also used widely by Chinese artists for decorative art as far back as 4,000 BCE, before being adopted in Chinese brush painting and in landscapes.


It was also used during the renaissance period to create miniature portraits and studies of nature, and watercolour pigments were famously used in the Sistine Chapel for the iconic fresco painting on wet plaster.

Famous artists including Albrecht Durer, J.M.W Turner, Paul Cezanne and Vincent Van Gogh have all experimented with the medium, and the power of watercolours soft and soothing aesthetic quality has also been utilised by artists such as Georgia O’Keeffe, Edward Hopper and Andrew Wyeth to depict their creative vision.


Essential watercolour supplies