The Beginner’s Guide To Watercolour Painting

Perhaps during MCO one of your ways of overcoming boredom was to pick up a new creative hobby. Have you explored your creative side recently? We are huge fans of that! If you are looking to delve into watercolour painting as a hobby, look no further. This is the beginner’s guide to everything you need to pick up watercolour painting. 

Watercolour painting of a rabbit with a palette and brushes

Research has it that any form of art is a therapeutic activity that can clear your mind and melt away stress and anxiety. A creative outlet helps regulate your emotions and lower your blood pressure… in a way that doesn’t harm your liver – unlike drinking alcohol or consuming drugs. Today’s article is full of expert insight, thanks to Lenard from Drawplet, a self-trained artist-slash-chef of irresistible watercolour masterpieces. (Go to his Instagram @drawpletmy to see what I mean!)


How to paint with watercolour?

Usually, the process for producing every type of illustration is about the same. Once you have an idea in mind, begin to sketch it out with a pencil. Putting your sketch on paper helps you plan and identify which items and colours go where. Some types of paintings do not need sketching, like loose florals and abstract art. “These paintings are more spontaneous and unplanned, so the process is more abstract, and the result is slightly less predictable,” says Lenard. 


After the sketch comes the painting – which involves mixing colours, splashing colour onto paper, and layering it. One very important tip is to always try painting with lighter colours first before moving on to darker ones! It can be very easy to darken a light area with more paint, but very difficult to lighten or remove a dark patch of paint.


What kind of subjects can I paint?

You are free to choose your subject based on any of your interests. The most popular subjects are floral elements, landscape and scenery, animals, food (not a surprise, especially for us Malaysians) and even portraits!


Watercolour painting of waffles and strawberries

Photo by @drawpletmy


As you start your watercolour journey, you might be inspired to paint anything and everything around you! This is great because it means you can draw inspiration from complete illustrations and try to emulate them for practice.


Watercolour Painting Products in Malaysia

Walking into an art store will truly overwhelm you as there is a huge variety of materials and brands available. Don’t worry – Lenard’s top picks have a balance of good quality for a reasonable price. Here are five essential things you need to get started with watercolour painting.


1. Watercolour paint

Of course, a non-negotiable is the watercolour paint itself. At this point, it’s handy to know that there are a few mediums similar to watercolour! Don’t get confused by them. There’s poster colour, like the Buncho paints that we used in primary school. Poster colours are very opaque (not transparent). There is also gouache paint (semi-opaque) and watercolour paint (most transparent) too. Note that some of the techniques required for these mediums are different! 

Watercolour palette and brushWhen shopping, you’ll quickly notice that watercolours either come in individual tubes (that can be squeezed into a palette) or little cube-shaped “candies”, also known as pans. These pans can be placed into a travel palette and are very convenient if you like to paint on the go! On that note, you should also look for a palette (the ones from Daiso will do the job) and a jar to dip your brushes in.


In Lenard’s toolkit, you’ll always find Alpha watercolour tubes. Its vibrance and quality pigmentation makes it a popular choice (especially since it is so affordable!). This is his top choice next to Winsor & Newton Cotman paints.

Alpha Watercolour Paint Tubes

Photo from Techno-Graphic


Shop a set of 13 tubes of Alpha Watercolours for less than RM60!


2. Round brushes

A good quality brush will make a world of difference in the paintings that you end up with. As you get more painting experience, you’ll eventually find your perfect match in brand and material (synthetic or horsehair). The most versatile for beginners would be round brushes. Also, brushes in sizes 2, 4, and 8 are good investments as they will work for most large strokes and intricate ones as well.

Round paint brushes

Photo from


For new and exploring painters, Lenard usually recommends the Artpac Series 818 Nylon Round Brush, which ranges from RM3 to RM13 or the Winsor & Newton Cotman Series 111 Round Brush, ranging from RM15 to RM105.


3. Watercolour paper

Paper is one of the most important tools. Since you’ll be putting water directly on paper (and sometimes in large amounts), you should use proper watercolour paper to avoid the paper from tearing and buckling (curling). There are 3 main types of paper that you’ll find – Rough (Textured), Cold-pressed (Semi-Textured), and Hot-pressed (Smooth). Most beginners go for cold-pressed because it’s the most balanced and gives you more control.

Watercolour painting of a croissant

Look at that shine on that croissant! Photo by @drawpletmy


Thankfully, we have a quick pointer of what paper is ideal for watercolour projects. It should be 300gsm, cold-pressed paper made of 100% cotton. You’ll usually see these indications on the wrappings of paper.


Watercolour paper

Photo from


After trying various brands of paper, Lenard’s ideal watercolour paper is from Arto by Campap, which costs only RM13 for 10 sheets. Canson Montval’s watercolour paper pads are also reasonably effective for beginners! Get 12 sheets only for RM27.



Learning watercolour painting in Malaysia

Picking up watercolour painting is very rewarding, but it requires a lot of practice and patience. If you’re looking to teach yourself, tutorials on YouTube are available for you to pause and repeat as you wish! Having a teacher will help you fast track your learning process as you get closer guidance and expert feedback on your paintings. There are so many painting workshops taught by Malaysian watercolour artists, including Lenard himself.

Lenard Lai from DrawpletMY teaching a watercolour painting class

Lenard (@drawpletmy) teaching a watercolour class. Photo by @stickerrific


Creative spaces like Stickerrific, Cziplee and A Space To _ provide a beginner-friendly, zero-pressure environment to learn watercolour painting. For lockdown friendly situations, Lenard from @drawpletmy hosts a few virtual workshops occasionally while Stickerrific does regular IG live tutorials on their Instagram which you can tune in to, real-time!



Now go out there and unleash the Picasso within! Most importantly, enjoy the process and have fun while you’re at it!

A personal blogger since her teenage years, Ying Shan has always enjoyed stringing words together. Now, she teaches her primary school students to find the magic in writing. Her dream is to live off-grid in a cottage with all the coffee, ink and paper she can have.

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