We’ve all bought the standard set of watercolors for our kids and watched as they paint little masterpieces to hang on the fridge.  For kids who aren’t that into art, the standard set of Crayola watercolors may be enough. But if you have a child who enjoys painting, there are some simple ways to make the results they get from painting with watercolors MUCH more satisfying and interesting.

1. Get a better set of watercolors

For under $10 you can get an excellent set of Prang Watercolors with 16 colors that comes with a nice brush. I bought this set several weeks ago, and I couldn’t believe how much more vivid the colors were compared to the kiddy watercolor sets. They are MUCH more fun to paint with.

2. Get a better brush or 2

The brush that comes with the Prang set is pretty decent, but can be a bit limiting. I spent maybe $6 at a half-off sale on brushes at Hobby Lobby, and got a nice fat brush, and a small liner brush that allow for a lot more variety of stroke size and detail.

3. Use better paper

While 140lb watercolor paper isn’t terribly expensive, such as this awesome Strathmore watercolor paper we have, using any paper that is heavier weight than standard printer paper will yield better results.  The lighter weight the paper, the more it will tend to curl because of the water.

4. Tape the paper down

To work against the curling, tape the paper to the table or a board using masking or painter’s tape.

5. Mix colors on a palette or the tray of your watercolor set

To better control the amount of color on the brush and the amount of water mixed in, don’t go straight from the color to the paper. Instead, wet the color and use the brush to “scoop” some out onto on the plastic tray part of the watercolor set. The paint can then be diluted further for a lighter color, or mixed with another color.

6. Add variety with other media and masking

Color in an ink drawing with watercolors. Mask off areas with tape or rubber cement (like we did with our hearts recently). Use colored pencils in the artwork.  Print a coloring page on card stock and color in with watercolors.

7. Watch painting tutorials on YouTube.

I have learned a TON from just watching video tutorials. There are techniques like painting wet on wet, spattering, etc. that can make painting more interesting. Here’s one series that was especially helpful:


Watercolor is a wonderful medium! Have fun!