After a thousand watercolors, you will find you have fallen in love with paper and paint. – Rex Brandt
Ah, watercolor paintings! Sargent, Turner, Durer… That glow, the transparency… Ever dreamed of mastering that craft? I have, and it all started with oil. I used to watch Bob Ross on PBS in the early 90s. It was like meditation. That ‘alla-prima’ wet-on-wet process while listening to his soothing voice – occasionally getting distracted by his natural perm LOL But he truly was the embodiment of the joy of painting, all pun intended.
And I bet that’s the feeling you wanna capture!
OK, so I probably don’t need to tell you much about what watercolors are or that acrylics are something slightly different. You are here to find out what the best watercolor course is. And that’s exactly what I’m going to help you with! You can skip to my picks below, or if you’re still on the fence, let’s quickly answer some questions:
- Why Even Learn Watercolor Techniques?
- Is There A Financial Benefit?
- Should I Go To Art School Instead?
- How I Picked These Courses
- My Top 5 Best Watercolor Tutorials Online
- Watercolor Training Prerequisites
- Watercolor Supplies
- How Do I Choose Which Course To Take?
Why Even Learn Watercolor Techniques?
I already mentioned your creative drive as the most likely reason you want to learn how to paint watercolor. But there could be other motivations.
If you’re already a visual artist, learning any new handmade technique can expand your creative process. This is especially true if you create only digital art. You will gain new aspects, discover what else is possible, and find new perspectives. And if that new skill uses your handiwork out in the real world, that can only be beneficial.
Painting with watercolors will also train you to slow down. It has been proven over and over as a stress-reducing activity, a form of meditation. Any artist will profit creatively by having such positive side-effects from simply doing something else.
It will also let you observe the world around you in more detail and with sharper focus. You’ll need to pay attention to the shadows and colors very carefully before you get started. And the skill you’ll learn will enable you to know exactly how to mix the colors and apply your brush to achieve what you see in front of you.
Another bonus is that unlike in our digital world, there is no undo available in painting with watercolors. Au contraire! And that kind of limitation is extremely valuable to your digital-leaning brain.
Watercolor is like life. Better get it right the first time – you don’t get a second chance! – Sergei Bongart
Is There A Financial Benefit?
As we know all too well, arts are nothing like other more practical professions. But that doesn’t mean that it can’t make you money. The US Bureau of Labor says that 60% of artists are self-employed. So for those of you looking for freedom, that will be one addition to your toolbelt that lets you live your life on your own terms.
With so many schools and workshops, there will always be job openings for art teachers and instructors. If you don’t care about teaching as a career, you can always tap into those opportunities on the seasonal or part-time basis. Do this while you’re establishing yourself, building a portfolio, or gaining expertise in different techniques and disciplines.
You can also look for work on one of many freelance sites like Upwork. There are always listings for jobs that require watercolor skills: wedding invitations, book illustrations, jewelry design, and all types of decorations.
If you are yet to be looking for employment, you may be surprised to learn that many digital positions ask for real-world qualifications. At most jobs, you would have a great advantage if you could create rough sketches using pencil, watercolor, or markers. And more often than not, you will find that having such skills is a requirement.
The conclusion is – do not ignore old-school mastery!
Should I Go To Art School Instead?
Well, only you can really answer that question! But I’ll help you with some logical pros and cons.
Before I list off my thoughts, Mr. Obvious has one thing to say. If you’re serious about a career in arts, you will attend an art college and get yourself a degree. There is a lot to be gained from years of exposure to such an environment in addition to the main benefit of acquiring a plethora of essential skills.
Now, first of all, there is the cost consideration. You can take a life-changing online course for as little as $10 if you’re lucky to stumble onto some crazy Black Friday sale. Just don’t get me started on tuition costs at a brick and mortar school! Enough said!
One advantage that in-person education has is that you will be immersed in a community of peers who are living and breathing all the same stuff that you’re into. On the other hand, I think that we’re all used to living in online communities. Still, real-world does beat virtual.
Most of us would benefit from having a teacher on hand to show us exactly what to do such as how to make that brush stroke. But you also have ways to go before you absolutely need help on that level, so you might as well start online.
One huge downside of being at school may be that you’d be only one of the numerous talented people there. And you know some people are crazy talented! If your confidence is easily shaken, then you better keep your nose buried in your work and focus on your own progress without comparing yourself to others.
The last point I will bring up is kind of important – we are lazy! I know I am, and most likely, so are you! Having deadlines is crucial for many a student. Otherwise, they would end up procrastinating until the last minute. And most often, they do.
I am going to assume that since you are here looking for the world’s greatest online watercolor training, you are probably motivated enough. So I’ll just strongly suggest that you be disciplined and organize your time well around the instruction you’re going to take. And that may mean that you need to impose some deadlines on yourself.
OK? OK. Can we get to the reviews now?
How I Picked These Courses
One of the most obvious qualities that I first considered were instructor qualifications. Luckily, that was not an issue at all. None of the courses that seem to be the cream of the crop were created by teachers who don’t have at least 10 to 20 or even 30 years of experience. That’s certainly the case with the ones I selected for you.
Next was, as you could guess, the course rating. However, there are many courses rated close to a perfect 5-star rating, so that wasn’t a straightforward task either. I had to sift through the numbers to find those that had an overwhelming number of high grades. In other words, I selected those that had more 5-stars than 4-stars as well as the lowest possible percentage of low scores or none.
Another consideration was the general appeal of each training. There are many courses that specialize in particular techniques or subjects as well as those that are too simple or too advanced. I tried to stick with those that were either appropriate for beginners or for “all levels.”
I also wanted to find courses that give you major bang for the buck. While there’s a lot of really nice looking training out there, I didn’t want to look at any curriculum that clocked out at an hour or so. So what I have here is mostly teaching materials averaging around the 3 or 4-hour mark.
Lastly, I did my best to give you a variety of teachers of different ages with different primary talents using different styles of both painting and presentation. This way I created a short list that runs down the middle of the spectrum of what’s available yet it appeals to different folks for their different strokes.
Remember that once you’ve taken one of these courses, you can look into furthering your knowledge with a specific technique that piqued your interest.
Maybe there’s a subject that tickles you: painting flowers or landscapes, or portrait and figure painting. You can also continue honing your strengths or improving your weaknesses. Whatever you do, give it plenty of practice.
Enough! Here we go!
My Top 5 Best Watercolor Tutorials Online
Paint Realistic Watercolor and Botanicals – STUDIO BASICS
This is one of two best selling watercolor painting courses for beginners on Udemy. It lays the essential foundations that will allow you to build your kickass watercolor paintings skills.
This class is about materials, organizing your workspace, and essential techniques you will need if you want to properly learn how to watercolor. You will get to know heaps about brushes, paint, tape, pencils and such, and you will get tons of tips and tricks from a very pro painter. It is not much of a “skill of painting” course and I believe that your first tutorials shouldn’t be.
In a way, this is “wax on, wax off” stuff. Not in a sense that you’ll be stroking that paper with your brush for hours on end. But there are definitely some technical principles you need to get out of the way before you can start waxing anything on. And this is the right place to get that knowledge.
Ignore starting with the basics at your own peril!
It is important to repeat that this is mainly a solid foundations course. You will not be practicing throughout the lessons, though there is a final exercise at the end. Of course, you can and should try out the techniques being taught along the way.
Heidi Willis is a world-renowned artist, illustrator, and tutor. She is a well-established leading wildlife, natural history, and botanical artist. Her intricate studies of botany and birds can be found all over the world in both public and private collections.
Her work was featured in numerous international exhibitions and has won many prizes. That includes winning one of Australia’s most prestigious art competitions (seven times!), The Waterhouse Natural History Art Prize, and a showcase at the New York State Museum.
Heidi’s work is part of the permanent collection at the Hunt Institute for Botanical Documentation at Carnegie Mellon University. She’s also been included in the highly regarded Shirley Sherwood Collection. Her features in publications are too long to be listed here.
Udemy hardly needs any introduction. It is one of the best and largest platforms for online learning. Their reliability and ever-improving technology have always been top notch. Technical issues are rare and their excellent support can sort them out quickly. Udemy has been around since 2010 and is based in San Francisco.
They serve on-demand courses with full lifetime access. You don’t need to wait for anyone or any time – simply start studying now and continue whenever it suits you, on the computer or using their app! You can self-pace yourself and attend the lessons as fast or slow as you want. If anything needs more attention, repeat it until you get it.
Each course has a Q&A section that lets you connect with the teachers and other students. Most course instructors are very active, and it’s for their benefit to respond to your questions as soon as they can.
I will be very straight with you – none of these is THE perfect course. There is no perfect course! Trust me – I looked! None of them cover ALL the topics from ALL the angles, last 20 hours, and cost $20! That’s why I believe that you need to consider taking two or three of these courses to get the most out of your online learning. As far as where to start, I think this is a great choice.
I thought about including Beginner? Watercolor painting? Easy, you learn as you play course on this list. This one has tons of painting practice, and that may be what you need! But the video quality is clearly inferior and some students were complaining about the slow pace of it and too much repetition. But again – this may be just what the painting doctor ordered, maybe as your second course.
Or perhaps you can take Heidi’s other course called Paint Realistic Watercolour and Botanicals – CHASING AUTUMN and become a master at painting watercolor leaves.
You have lots of options, especially on Udemy. They have very aggressive pricing strategies and they tend to have sales around holidays throughout the year. This is not that great for the teachers but it’s awesome for their students! And that’s why two more of my top picks are delivered on this platform.
Beginners Watercolor Techniques with Geoff Hutchins
Another quality beginner course consisting of ten exercises filmed in real-time. This one focuses on the techniques and skills you’ll need to create your first landscape watercolor paintings. But this time, there is much more focus on practice.
Watching these well-produced videos, you will quickly find yourself painting trees, boats, and skies. All that foundational stuff is crammed in one video, one PDF, and in brief intros for each lecture. The teacher was even so beginner-considerate that he kept the needed materials at a bare minimum. If you’re itching to start painting, this is the course for you! But as I said in the previous recommendation – you really need to get that essential stuff sorted out before you jump in headlong into landscapes or any other subject.
Speaking of landscapes, that’s the main painting subject of this training. In the first five lessons, you’ll be learning how to paint some of the typical elements that comprise landscapes, and in the second half of the course, you’ll be creating complete scenes.
The curriculum goes something like this:
- How to paint trees
- Painting four different skies
- How to paint basic boats
- A gated wall, brick, and wood
- Basic landscape techniques
- Church scene
- Single color snow scene
- Bay window
This training is pretty much all about practice. The multi-camera setup gives you a bird’s eye view of both the paper and the palette, and our friendly teacher has another angle where he speaks to you directly. You will not be missing a beat. Everything is explained step-by-step and very easy to follow. You’ll probably be taking this course slowly or repeating some of the lectures so that you can practice.
Geoff Hutchins is the amiable English teacher. Unlike our previous master from down under, Mr. Hutchins doesn’t have a long list of commercial achievements and exhibitions on his resume. But he sure has some serious teaching mileage! And that’s super important when it comes to learning the techniques.
He has been a professional artist for over 30 years and teaching watercolor for about 20 years. If you have any intimidation about learning how to paint, Geoff is the man for the job. You will probably feel that you’re in safe and experienced hands by simply looking at his wise gray hair. Otherwise, you’ll surely be relaxed once you hear him speak.
Do I need to repeat everything I’ve already said about Udemy? It’s one of the top online learning platforms. They are very reliable and have excellent support. You get lifetime access to each course you buy. Study at your own pace and repeat or revisit any lectures whenever you want. In each lecture, you can ask the teacher any question and see what other students are asking.
Udemy is a course marketplace so there is a lot of cross-promotion there. You will see suggestions for other courses in the same category that you’re looking at, even from competing teachers. That may be a downside in some ways, but the overall result for you is more choices and lower prices.
Like I said before – if I had to pick only one course, I don’t know if I’d be able to do it. But if I had to pick two, I’d probably include this one. I really like the teacher and there is so much for you to practice with. You will be learning on your own so you will need to be disciplined. So whenever I see that practice is built into the study, I rejoice!
Essential Tools and Techniques for Watercolor Painting
I know I just said that I couldn’t pick only one course. But if there was a contender for the most complete course of all, it is surely this one. It starts with an hour and a half of foundation followed by five hours of practical stuff! Five!!! What’s not to love?
The first section of this course is all about the foundations and building blocks. First, the teacher covers tools and supplies, then she goes into color mixing, and finally brings it home by showing you a bunch of techniques:
- Wet-on-wet washes
- Controlled washes
- Basic brush control
The second section of this training is five hours long and it’s all practice. Nope, that’s not a typo! Obviously, you could first watch each practice once and then join in on the second pass. Either way, you will need to take your time here as you’ll be creating four fully finished paintings! The whole painting process is explained step-by-step and it is executed using the techniques that are explained in the foundation section.
Lindsay Weirich is an American with over 20 years of teaching experience. She has published books, and her work has been featured in numerous arts and crafts magazines. Her blog is ten years old and she has a YouTube channel with half a million subscribers. She’s a real powerhouse, and if you like energetic teachers, she’s the one for you. No doubt.
Her teaching resume is very impressive. Not only can she do this stuff in her sleep, but she is really good at transferring her knowledge to her students. So there’s no reason to be intimidated by her bubbly personality at all.
If you were to go the Teachable homepage, you wouldn’t find any courses like you’d see on Udemy. As a company, they primarily cater to teachers. Then, in turn, each teacher creates their own school that acts like a separate website. All courses are powered by the excellent Teachable engine, and they are the ones who provide timely support in case you should run into any technical issues. Rest assured that they are a well-known reputable company based in New York City.
As Teachable is not a marketplace, there isn’t any competition on the platform and no cross-selling like at Udemy. This in turns means that prices are set by teachers and are likely to be slightly higher. To be honest, no self-respecting experienced teacher would ever price their course at $10. Unfortunately for them, that happens often at Udemy during sales drives. But one advantage of this particular course is that you can pay its low price of the course over three monthly payments so you won’t feel it much.
I already talked about not being able to choose one course as my top fave. But I must admit – if you were to put a gun to my head, even a rubber gun, or just one rubber band – I’d definitely take this course! This is some top-grade training that covers all the required topics and delivers the most practice opportunities of all these courses – by far. Its total duration is roughly double that of the other courses!
You could say that one downside is that you can’t see a bunch of reviews on this platform that you can read for the other courses on my list. But you can see that the course content rocks and that it’s extensive. Besides, it is obvious from Lindsay’s other online entities that she’s a loved and respected teacher and human being.
Another downside for some of you might be the price. But if there ever was a time to say this, it is now – you get what you pay for! Actually, here you really get a helluva lot more without paying too much!
OK, fine. You twisted my arm. This IS my top pick. I simply didn’t feel comfortable picking the one with the highest sticker price for you and leaving you with no options. But it is what it is.
Modern Watercolor Techniques: Beginner’s Level
This course covers both basic watercolor techniques and new interesting ways of mixing the paints with other mediums and even household supplies! You will get you an in-depth look into how the teacher uses her favorite art supplies properly.
For the shortest course on our list, this one definitely packs a punch! It is crammed with innovation, important tips, cool tricks, and it doesn’t skimp on the essentials either. The greatest unique selling point of this course is the teacher’s knack for innovation. Her novel approach and fresh ways of thinking are going to blow you away. You will not only have great fun, but you’ll greatly benefit from picking up some of her very cool signature techniques.
Note the 100% rating for this course. That’s a total number of positive reviews as Skillshare has no standard rating system. All they have are percentages of whether the student expectations were met or not. In this case, the students only checked “met expectations” and “exceeded expectations” and none of the negative ones, with a whopping majority voting for the top rating.
The class outline includes:
- Working with watercolors
- Using correct supplies
- Using white ink
- Creating transparencies
- Painting gradient colors
- Practicing pulse and precision
- Working with monochrome
- Experimenting with paint
- Painting a jellyfish
- Painting a galaxy
This exciting course includes a class project that’s a painting of a starry night, galaxy, or universe broken down in three separate assignments:
- Monochrome activity
- Jellyfish painting
- Final Galaxy painting
One of my favorite things about Skillshare is the All Projects tab within the course. When you upload your completed project, other students can comment on it and you can look at their work as well. There are currently almost 500 uploads there!
Ana Victoria Calderón is an American/Mexican artist based in Mexico City. As I’ve already mentioned while I was praising her earlier, she has developed a signature watercolor technique that she is now generously sharing with all of us in this course!
She paints editorial features for magazines like Vanity Fair, Glamour, and InStyle. Ana does workshops and creative retreats, and she also sells her prints and licenses her art to many large companies such as Hallmark, Papyrus, Demdaco, and Trader Joe’s.
Skillshare is a real gem and probably your best bet if you are short on funds. They have been around since 2010 and like Teachable, they are also based in New York City.
Here you don’t buy entry to any one course. You instead join with a premium membership to get access to their whole library. Monthly access is really inexpensive and you can watch tons of wonderful courses during that time. Just don’t forget to practice, please!
I think I’ve raved plenty about Ana, her course, and Skillshare. At this point, I can only add that there is also a super cool Community tab in each course. In there, you can ask any question and you will get replies from either the teacher or other students. Similarly, you can comment on their questions and replies.
This class I picked for you is Ana’s most attended one with almost 25,000 students enrolled over the years! You should know that this talented artist has six other courses – all of them to do with watercolor! Are you excited yet?
Foundations for Mastering Watercolor Painting
Watercolor painting revolves around pigment, water, and a painting surface. Most classes teach techniques without the painter having a complete understanding of these foundational elements. In this course, using an easy-to-understand teaching method, the artist guides the viewer through various important topics about these essential elements.
Some subjects are so unique that they are difficult to explain. This one is a little bit like that. Not that the topic is exotic or anything. It’s simply something that you sorely need but you have no idea that you need it.
I know that reading the description of this course won’t make it look very exciting. All you need to do is watch their excellent preview video and all will be clear to you. Basically, the artist had an “aha moment” when she realized that learning how to paint with watercolors can be so much easier when the student truly grasps the qualities of water, pigment, and surface and how they interact with one another.
The syllabus is as follows:
- The History of Watercolor
- What is Watercolor
- The Properties of Pigments
- The Properties of Water
- The Properties of Painting Surfaces
- Practical Application
- Bonus: How Supplies Impact Painting Results
Trust me when I say that this lecture list does the course no justice. Do check out the promo video and read the reviews. You will be blown away.
Jill Poyerd is a contemporary realist watercolor and oil painter. Her award-winning work can be found in private collections both nationally and internationally. She’s is the author of the portrait painting book “Fearless Portraits” and a signature member of several prestigious art societies. Jill has curated many multi-medium group shows, and she’s the founder and current head of the Fine Art Professionals of Northern Virginia. She has also produced a series of art appreciation videos aimed at enhancing the public’s art experience.
She is soft-spoken and has a delicate yet reassuring presentation style. Much of this course is similar to watching a well-produced documentary.
This is another superb Udemy release. It should probably be attended only after the previous four. Unless you already have the basic know-how that’s taught in the courses above. Jill’s course is the kind of foundation that is essential for any beginner and normally not found in the toolset of even an intermediate-level watercolor painter.
Once you’re done absorbing this important information, check out her other Udemy courses – two on mastering brushstrokes and one on landscape composition. She is really something.
Watercolor Training Prerequisites
Assumption is the mother of all funk-ups! So I feel like I have to say this – drawing skills are a prerequisite for these courses!
Sure, you can fumble through them like a bumbling idiot. And some of them even say that no previous experience is required. But unless your name is Caravaggio, you’d most certainly be much better off taking some drawing classes first.
Otherwise, you’ll find yourself frustrated with the basics, and your money and time would not be well spent. First things first.
Don’t forget that you will need to spend a few bucks on some real-world painting supplies for this fun adventure. I know that I’m stating the obvious. But maybe in all your excitement to test these waters – or watercolors (having pun again) – you forgot all about it.
The instructions for the course you take will tell you exactly what you’ll need. Until you decide and sign up, here’s a general list or tools and supplies you’ll likely be getting:
- Water container(s)
- Masking fluid
- Scrap paper
- Paper Towels
- An easel, maybe
- Prepare your workspace
How Do I Choose Which Course To Take?
I realize that this was a somewhat long read. Yet this was not an exhaustive list on purpose. I kinda wish it were because that would have taken me way less time to put together. Instead, I had to pick and choose and sort and dissect and analyze… I’m great, I know, thanks. That’s why what you got here is a finely curated list of the best of the best, something for everyone yet masterfully constrained.
At least I can be sure that this selection of top online watercolor education was very helpful to you. Something must have stood out, you must have learned a few things, something clicked somewhere. Follow your positive emotions, the butterflies in your stomach.
Have you made up your mind yet?
I’ll leave you alone with one last and sexy quote:
The flow of water and paint can be uncontrollable and crazy, but it is also freedom, an escape, therapy, joy, and, oh yes, very sensuous! – Angela Lynch