Learning Watercolor If You Can’t Draw | Is It Possible?

The world of watercolor painting is an enchanting and expressive art form that captures the imagination of many. A common question that arises among beginners is, “Can you learn watercolor if you can’t draw?”

You can learn watercolor even if you can’t draw. Focus on techniques like loose washes, abstract shapes, textures, dry brush, and color mixing, which don’t rely heavily on drawing skills. With practice, experimentation, and persistence, you can excel in watercolor painting despite being a ‘non-drawer’ like many famous artists.

It’s a valid concern, as drawing skills often seem like a prerequisite for any type of art. In this article, we’ll explore the relationship between drawing and watercolor painting, and discover how even those without strong drawing abilities can still enjoy and excel in this beautiful medium. So, let’s dive in and unravel this artistic mystery!

Watercolor Techniques That Don’t Rely Heavily on Drawing Skills

While it’s true that having drawing skills can be beneficial in creating detailed and realistic watercolor paintings, there are several techniques that don’t rely heavily on advanced drawing abilities.

By focusing on the application of colors, the interaction between water and pigments, and the overall mood of the painting, you can still create captivating artwork.

1. Loose washes

Loose washes are an excellent starting point for those who are not confident in their drawing skills.

This technique involves applying a generous amount of water to the paper and allowing the pigments to flow freely, creating a soft and atmospheric effect.

This can be especially useful for painting landscapes and backgrounds, where precision is not as crucial.

Loose Washes
Picture Credit: Olga Peregood & colors on YouTube.com

2. Abstract shapes and textures

These also offer an opportunity for non-drawers to express themselves through watercolor.

By experimenting with different brush strokes, water-to-pigment ratios, and layering techniques, you can create a wide variety of textures and patterns that evoke emotions and convey a sense of movement without the need for precise lines or forms.

3. Dry brush technique

In the dry brush technique where you apply paint to the paper with minimal water, can create interesting textures and effects that don’t require advanced drawing skills.

This is perfect for adding details like grass, foliage, or rough surfaces.

Dry Brush Watercolor Technique
Picture Credit: Cheap Joe’s Art Stuff on YouTube.com

4. Color mixing

Color mixing is another essential watercolor technique that can be mastered without drawing expertise.

Understanding how to mix colors and create harmonious color schemes allows you to add depth and interest to your paintings, regardless of your drawing abilities.

I have written an in-depth guide on various watercolor techniques for your benefit.

Drawing Skills and Watercolor Painting

The relationship between drawing and watercolor painting is an interesting one, as both art forms share common elements yet possess distinct characteristics.

While drawing focuses on lines, shapes, and the accurate representation of objects, watercolor painting often emphasizes the interplay of colors, light, and the fluidity of the medium.

This distinction allows artists to approach watercolor painting with varying levels of drawing proficiency. That said, drawing skills can undoubtedly enhance your watercolor paintings.

A strong foundation in drawing can improve your understanding of composition, perspective, and the structure of objects, allowing you to create more accurate and visually appealing paintings.

By mastering the art of drawing, you’ll have a better grasp of how to depict the world around you and bring your artistic vision to life.

However, drawing is not a strict prerequisite for learning watercolor painting. Many successful watercolor artists have developed their unique style without relying heavily on their drawing abilities.

As we’ve discussed earlier, there are various watercolor techniques that don’t require advanced drawing skills, allowing you to create beautiful artwork without being held back by your drawing proficiency.

The key is to find a balance that works for you. If you’re a beginner in both drawing and watercolor painting, consider developing your drawing skills alongside your watercolor practice.

This way, you’ll have a more comprehensive understanding of both art forms and can incorporate drawing techniques into your watercolor paintings as needed.

If you need a resource for to help you as a beginner, do check out my step-by-step guide on watercolor painting for beginners.

Tips for Beginners Who Can’t Draw

Embarking on your watercolor journey without strong drawing skills might seem intimidating, but with the right approach and a few practical tips, you can still create beautiful paintings.

Here are some suggestions for learning watercolor painting without advanced drawing abilities:

1. Start with simple subjects

Choose subjects that have basic shapes and forms, such as fruits, flowers, or simple landscapes.

This will help you become comfortable with watercolor techniques without feeling overwhelmed by complex subjects.

2. Use references

Gather reference images to inspire your work and guide your brush strokes.

You don’t need to replicate the images exactly but use them as a starting point to understand the shapes, colors, and light in your subject.

3. Embrace tracing

Tracing is a useful tool for beginners who can’t draw. It allows you to transfer the outlines of an image onto your watercolor paper, giving you a solid foundation to work with.

As your confidence grows, you can gradually move away from tracing and start drawing freehand.

Embrace tracing

4. Break subjects into basic shapes

Analyze your subject and break it down into simple geometric shapes.

This will make it easier to understand the structure and proportions, allowing you to build up the painting without worrying about intricate details.

5. Focus on color and value

Developing a strong understanding of color theory and value (the lightness or darkness of a color) can significantly impact your paintings.

Focusing on these aspects will help create depth and interest in your work, even without advanced drawing skills.

6. Practice, practice, practice

Like any art form, practice is essential. The more you paint, the more you’ll understand how watercolor behaves, and the better you’ll become at controlling it.

Don’t be afraid to make mistakes; they’re a natural part of the learning process.

Overcoming Challenges for Non-Drawers in Watercolor Painting

As a beginner in watercolor painting, especially if you don’t have strong drawing skills, you might face several challenges. However, with the right mindset and approach, these hurdles can be overcome.

Here are some common challenges and tips on how to tackle them:

1. Difficulty in creating accurate proportions

If you struggle with drawing, you might find it challenging to create accurate proportions in your paintings. To overcome this, try using a grid method.

Divide your reference image and your paper into equal squares, then focus on painting one square at a time. This technique can help you maintain accuracy without needing advanced drawing skills.

2. Lack of confidence

It’s normal for non-drawers to feel less confident when starting their watercolor journey. Remember, every artist has their unique path and growth process.

Stay patient and trust that your skills will improve with practice. I recall feeling disheartened by my early paintings, but as I persisted and experimented, my confidence and skill grew.

3. Overcoming perfectionism

It’s important to let go of the notion that every painting must be perfect. Embrace the spontaneity and unpredictability of watercolor.

In one of my early watercolor attempts, I accidentally spilled water on my work, but that mistake led to a beautiful effect that I never would have discovered otherwise.

4. Developing your unique style

As a non-drawer, you might feel pressure to imitate the styles of artists with strong drawing skills. Instead, focus on finding your voice in watercolor painting.

Experiment with techniques and subjects that resonate with you, and don’t be afraid to break the rules.

Inspiring Watercolor Artists Who Don’t Rely on Drawings

It’s important to remember that many successful watercolor artists have flourished without relying heavily on drawing skills.

These artists demonstrate that passion, dedication, and an understanding of color and technique can lead to stunning artwork.

Here are a few examples:

1. Z.L. Feng: Known for his loose, atmospheric watercolor landscapes, Feng captures the essence of nature without focusing on intricate details or precise drawing.

2. Jean Haines: Haines creates vibrant, expressive watercolor paintings using a free-flowing style that emphasizes color and mood rather than detailed drawing.

3. Shirley Trevena: Trevena’s abstract watercolor compositions showcase her mastery of color and texture, proving that strong drawing skills are not a prerequisite for success in watercolor art.

Inspiring Watercolor Artists Who Don't Rely on Drawings
Picture Credit: Radford University on sites.radford.edu, Jean Haines on jeanhaines.com, and Shirley Trevena on shirleytrevena.com


While drawing skills can be beneficial in watercolor painting, they are not a strict prerequisite.

By focusing on techniques that don’t rely heavily on drawing, such as loose washes, abstract shapes, textures, dry brush, and color mixing, you can create captivating artwork.

Remember to practice, experiment, and find a balance that works for you.

With inspiring examples of successful watercolor artists who aren’t necessarily skilled at drawing, you can be reassured that you too can excel in this beautiful medium.

So, embrace the journey, pick up your brush, and start your watercolor adventure, regardless of your drawing abilities.

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.

Recent Posts