Difficulties with Watercolor | Plus Tips to Overcome Them!

Watercolor painting has long captivated artists and art enthusiasts alike with its ethereal beauty and delicate color transitions. This versatile medium allows for a wide range of artistic expression, making it a popular choice for many. However, working with watercolors can present unique challenges that artists must navigate.

Some difficulties with watercolor include its unforgiving nature, mastering the water-to-paint ratio, achieving desired color intensity, working with transparency and opacity, managing drying time, and making corrections. Overcoming these challenges requires practice, patience, and experimentation.

In this article, we’ll explore some of the difficulties watercolor painters face and offer insights on how to overcome them to create stunning works of art.

The Challenges of Watercolor Painting

1. The unforgiving nature of watercolor

One of the most significant challenges artists face with watercolor painting is its unforgiving nature.

Once the paint is applied to the paper, it’s often difficult or impossible to remove or alter without damaging the surface.

This characteristic requires artists to plan their work carefully and execute each stroke with precision.

While it can be intimidating, embracing this aspect of watercolor painting can lead to a more mindful and deliberate creative process.

The unforgiving nature of watercolor

2. Mastering the water-to-paint ratio

Another challenge in watercolor painting is finding the perfect balance between water and paint.

The water-to-paint ratio determines the flow and consistency of the paint, affecting the overall appearance of the artwork.

Too much water can result in washed-out colors, while too little water can make the paint difficult to work with and result in a patchy, uneven application.

Mastering this balance takes practice and experimentation, as different artists may prefer different consistencies depending on their style and technique.

3. Achieving the desired color intensity

Watercolor paints are known for their transparent quality, which can make achieving the desired color intensity a challenge.

Building up layers of paint is one way to intensify colors, but it requires patience and a steady hand to avoid disturbing the underlying layers.

Another approach is to use more pigment in the paint mixture, but this can affect the paint’s flow and behavior on the paper.

Artists must strike a balance between transparency and intensity to achieve their desired effect.

4. Working with transparency and opacity

The transparency of watercolor paints is both a blessing and a curse. On one hand, it allows artists to create stunning effects with layering and glazing.

On the other hand, it can be difficult to achieve opaque coverage or correct mistakes without leaving a trace.

Some artists choose to incorporate opaque watercolor paints, also known as gouache, into their work to add depth and dimension.

Others embrace the transparency of watercolor paints, using it to create luminous, ethereal effects.

5. Managing drying time and preserving work

The drying time of watercolor paint can vary depending on factors like humidity, paper absorbency, and the amount of water used.

You can read my article on how long does it take for watercolor to dry completely for more information.

This variability can pose challenges for artists, as they need to anticipate how the paint will behave once it starts to dry.

Wet-on-wet techniques require the paint to stay wet for an extended period, while other techniques may call for a faster drying time.

Additionally, preserving watercolor paintings can be tricky, as they can be susceptible to fading, smudging, or damage from moisture.

Proper storage, framing, and display methods are essential for ensuring the longevity of watercolor artworks.

6. Difficulty in making corrections

As mentioned earlier, the unforgiving nature of watercolor painting makes correcting mistakes particularly challenging.

Unlike oil or acrylic paints, watercolor does not lend itself well to being painted over or easily removed.

While some corrections can be made by lifting color with a clean, damp brush or blotting with a paper towel, these methods can only do so much.

In many cases, artists must learn to accept imperfections in their work or find creative ways to incorporate them into the final piece.

Difficulty in making corrections

Tips and Tricks for Overcoming Watercolor Challenges

1. Practicing patience and persistence

One of the most important qualities an artist can cultivate when working with watercolors is patience.

Watercolor painting often requires a slower, more methodical approach than other mediums, as each layer of paint must dry before proceeding.

Persistence is also crucial, as it takes time and practice to master the various techniques and overcome the challenges associated with watercolor painting.

By approaching the learning process with patience and dedication, artists can steadily improve their skills and develop a deeper understanding of the medium.

2. Understanding the behavior of water and pigments

A key aspect of successful watercolor painting is understanding how water and pigments interact on the paper.

This knowledge enables artists to predict and control the behavior of their paint, which is crucial for achieving the desired outcome.

Observing how different pigments disperse in water, experimenting with various water-to-paint ratios, and understanding the effects of wet-on-wet and wet-on-dry techniques can all contribute to a more refined and confident painting process.

3. Experimenting with techniques and materials

Experimentation plays a significant role in overcoming watercolor challenges.

By trying out different techniques, brushes, and paper types, artists can discover what works best for their individual style and preferences.

For example, using a synthetic brush might provide more control when working with fine details, while a natural-hair brush could be better suited for broader washes.

Similarly, heavier watercolor paper can hold more water and prevent buckling, while lighter paper might be ideal for quick sketches or studies.

By exploring various materials and methods, artists can gain valuable insights and expand their watercolor repertoire.

4. Embracing the unique characteristics of watercolor

Rather than fighting against the inherent qualities of watercolor, artists can benefit from embracing its unique characteristics.

The transparency, fluidity, and unpredictability of watercolor paint can lead to beautiful, unexpected results that set it apart from other mediums.

By learning to work with these attributes instead of against them, artists can develop a more harmonious relationship with watercolor and create artwork that truly captures its essence.

5. Learning from mistakes and accepting imperfections

Lastly, it’s essential for artists to recognize that mistakes and imperfections are a natural part of the creative process, especially when working with a challenging medium like watercolor.

Instead of striving for perfection, artists can learn from their mistakes and use them as opportunities for growth and improvement.

By accepting that not every painting will be a masterpiece, artists can approach their work with a more open and relaxed mindset, allowing for greater creative freedom and personal expression.


Watercolor painting may present its fair share of challenges, but the rewards are well worth the effort.

As artists continue to refine their skills and embrace the unique qualities of this medium, they will unlock new creative possibilities and develop a deeper connection to their work.

So, keep pushing through the obstacles and learning from each experience, as the journey to mastering watercolor painting is one filled with personal growth, artistic discovery, and a profound sense of accomplishment.

Mehak Verma

I love creating both traditional and digital watercolour art. Why? As a kid, transitioning from sketch pens to paint brushes and water soluble colours was a big deal. Hope you find what you're looking for on my website.

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