Primary Colors Watercolor Exercise
About This Primary Colors Watercolor Exercise
The goal of this exercise is to help you get comfortable with primary colors; red, yellow, and blue. Primary colors are colors that cannot be mixed using any other color. Understand their biases and learn to control them with this fun exercise. This Primary colors watercolor exercise is the foundation to gaining confidence with using watercolors. And confidence is key in watercolors.
Below you’ll find the Primary Colors Worksheet to download and print out along with tips on choosing your 3 primary colors.
Tips: Practice daily to get better and grow more and more comfortable with your watercolors.
Don’t be afraid to make a mistake, that’s what we learn from!
Download, Print, and Paint
Download this PDF and print it out on watercolor paper made for an inkjet printer. You can also print it out and trace it onto watercolor paper using carbon paper. Lastly, you could also recreate the worksheet by drawing out the value tower, shapes, fish or otherwise, and the squares on your preferred watercolor paper.
The 3 primary colors are red, blue, and yellow. Within that, there are a lot of warm and cool combinations. This exercise is great for testing out combinations and learning their interactions.
Daniel Smith Watercolors is my preferred brand but you can use your favorite. Purchase a 3 pack of primary colors or 2 sets of primary colors in a pack of 6; 3 cool tones and 3 warm tones of primary color. There are many others to choose from, study the color biases below to choose more combinations. As you saw in my post Primary Colors and the Color Wheel each will yield different results.
- Choose your 3 primary paints – (Purchase a 3 pack of primary colors or 2 sets of primary colors in a pack of 6; 3 cool tones and 3 warm tones of primary color. Study the color biases below to create your own set.)
- Print the Primary Colors – Worksheet – (print it on watercolor paper or trace it onto one as see in the picture using carbon paper. If neither of those things are an option for you, or you’d like to get more creative, draw your own shapes following the general layout.)
- Set up a comfortable workspace with your paints, water, brushes, sponge or paper towel, and worksheet.
- Make yourself a promise to not get negative about the learning process and allow yourself to gain knowledge from your mistakes as you make progress.
Grab your paints
Grab your primary colors and a clean palette. Leave enough room around the paints to add water and also to mix them up.
You can use a palette that has wells to hold your individual colors. As with all things, it should be comfortable for you. Try different palettes and see which one you like best.
In the first, Value Scale exercise, you’ll put paint into the 3 value blocks at various strengths.
Working from top to bottom, you’ll add the darkest to the lightest of the blue, red, and yellow. To do this, control your values with water. At the top you’ll only use the tiniest bit of water to allow the paint flow. Then, each time you move down a section, you’ll add more and more water. The last box should be the lightest value.
The Wet-in-Wet Shapes exercise lets you have a bit more fun. That’s what this is all about anyway. These shapes help you work on staying inside the lines with the brush. the wet-in-wet technique give you a chance to see what happens to each color as they are mixed together while wet.
Washes & Patterns
Lastly, the Washes & Patterns exercise encourages you to play with your colors further. Use each square as an opportunity to learn about your colors. How they mix, what happens when you apply a wet color onto a dry one (glazing) and paint lines and shapes on them.
About Color Biases
Creating your own palettes can yield muddy and grey results if not done correctly. Each primary color has a bias to one of the two other primary colors. For example, a warm red contains some yellow – it ‘leans’ toward and is biased toward yellow, whereas a cooler red would have more blue and would lean toward blue, or have a blue bias.
Therefore, when selecting your palette, choose paints biased toward each other. Otherwise, the result mix will look muddy and grey.
chlorinated para red
English red oxide
cadmium yellow lemon
cadmium yellow pale
permanent yellow light
cadmium yellow medium and deep
permanent yellow medium and deep