6 Tips for Watercolor Success with Kids

 

6 Tips for Watercolor Success with KidsWater­color is a great medium for kids! It’s afford­able, mixes well, cleans up quickly, and (usu­ally) doesn’t stain cloth­ing. Here are six tips to help you and your younger stu­dents find suc­cess when learn­ing to work with this clas­sic medium:

  1.  Choose a good qual­ity stu­dent paint. Good qual­ity doesn’t have to mean expen­sive! Before buy­ing a class set of any art sup­ply, test and com­pare if you can, or at least read some reviews to help you make an informed deci­sion. Avoid the “wash­able” paints, as the col­ors tend to be dull, and most water­col­ors will wash out eas­ily any­way. After test­ing many dif­fer­ent brands of water­color, the Prang Oval 8 is still my favorite for vivid col­ors at a rea­son­able price. Plus, the pans are refill­able. I buy refills for the blue and the green in boxes of 12.… the two col­ors that always go first. You can buy refills for all the col­ors this way, but I find that once the rest of the col­ors are used up, it’s usu­ally time to toss the set anyway.
  2. Have stu­dents place a sin­gle drop of water on each color before they start to paint. This allows the paint to become moist­ened just enough so that stu­dents won’t need to grind their brush into the paint to pick up the color they want. Avoid “bad hair days” for your brush!
  3. Remind stu­dents that they need to keep adding water to their paint. Exactly how much water to add is a skill stu­dents will learn through prac­tice! It’s easy to for­get that younger ones may have only painted with tem­pera paint prior to using water­col­ors, so they aren’t in the habit of adding water as they paint. Water­color is designed to be a trans­par­ent medium… remind stu­dents that if their paint looks thick and sticky, they need to add more water.
  4. Teach stu­dents proper brush rins­ing! It seems to be human nature to swish your brush and tap it on the side of your water con­tainer when rins­ing it… begin­ning adults do this, too! But this splat­ters (dirty) water every­where, mak­ing a mess and ruin­ing paint­ings. Before begin­ning to paint, first spend some time teach­ing stu­dents how to rinse their brush, by press­ing it gen­tly 3 or 4 times on the bot­tom of their water con­tainer, then press­ing it against the side (above the water line) 3 or 4 times, repeat­ing as nec­es­sary until their brush is clean. If stu­dents for­get, the sounds of swish­ing and tap­ping will be their reminder!
  5. Leave a clean paint set for the next stu­dent to use. If a color looks “dirty”, don’t just run water over it, or you’ll also wash away a lot of good paint! Instead, place a drop or two of water on the color you want to clean and swirl your brush over it to pick up the unwanted color on top. Then rinse your brush and repeat this until your color is clean again. A baby wipe will also work to lift out unwanted color (and is great for clean­ing the mix­ing tray in the lid), but beware… stu­dents quickly dis­cover they can cre­ate a cool “tie dye” effect on the wipe by wip­ing it over every color, which then ends up all over their hands… don’t say I didn’t warn you — haha! You can avoid this by assign­ing one respon­si­ble stu­dent to clean all the lids. Every­one wants a clean paint set when water­col­ors are passed out, so most stu­dents will hap­pily fol­low these steps if you just show them how.
  6. Always store brushes sep­a­rately from the paints, not in the paint sets. Stor­ing brushes inside the paint sets may seem con­ve­nient for pass­ing out sup­plies, but wet paint can (and will!) seep into the trays, caus­ing brush han­dles and bris­tles to get sticky. Instead, try stor­ing all the brushes together in a sep­a­rate cup or tub, then place a brush into each water con­tainer when pass­ing out sup­plies. It’s quick and easy, and every­one gets a clean brush!

What tips have you dis­cov­ered for water­color suc­cess with your stu­dents? Please share in the com­ments section!

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4 Responses to 6 Tips for Watercolor Success with Kids

  1. cheryl phillips May 8, 2014 at 12:22 pm #

    Have found if u are teach­ing a quick class at sin­day school with wster­color as craft, that with one and 1/2 year olds to put them in your lap with a brush for them and you and let them paint together with you …they will pay atten­tion to what ypu ate doing and copy along as well as doing their own thing .You will fin­ish on time with the project and they will have learned more than any one would have thpught.…

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