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7 watercolor ideas to paint at home

Easy watercolor ideas are all around, you can learn from painting simple things!

Often beginner artists think that they need challenging photo references with juicy colors to paint in watercolor and improve their skills. It is not necessarily true… Look at it this way:

photo is a still image of an object with clearly determined lights, shadows, color range and angle. Since the moment you’ve started paining using a photo reference till the end nothing changes in that photo.

Now take a look around your house. Cups, laptop, chair, shoes… those things are ordinary objects you see every day, but if you look at them from the artistic point of view – they are a source of ideas, knowledge and real challenges.

Take a chair: you need to think about perspective (is it one-point perspective or two? Where is the horizon line? Where are those vanishing points?) and how perspective deforms chair lines on a sketch, then find a source of light and how it affects a shadow placement on that chair, decide what color palette you are going to use and overall temperature of your painting, then think of a composition (will you include objects around the chair? Is a chair a focal point of your work?), remember that natural light changes throughout the day which affects the object, and more. See, from a boring chair it turned into an exciting artistic project!

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The world has been going through crazy changes in the light of Covid-19 pandemic, we all had to adapt and adopt a new routine. However, it is our job to keep ourselves sane and creative. We decided to share with you 7 ideas you can paint in watercolor without leaving your home, and boost your skills!

1. Headphones

Watercolor Ideas

Paint your headphonesI love listening to music when working, so headphones got my interest for the first still life watercolor painting. I put them a little bit at an angle so that I could also work on perspective distortions. The left headphone “pillow” (how do you call that thing anyway?) has a larger opening, basically we are talking ovals and circles here. The oval on the right is turned away from me so it is more flattened (visually in life and on paper as a sketch).

The source of light is coming from the left which affected the highlighted areas on my painting. Those highlights need to follow the shape of the headphone to look more realistic.

Since the headphones are black it is an easy fist painting where I can focus on shapes and forms while using grisaille watercolor technique instead of being distracted on colors.

Here is a short demo of the painting process:

2. Phone

Watercolor Ideas - Phone

Everybody has a phone. Also, an easy painting, we are warming up here!

I used a gel pen to outline the iPhone in a funky manner not really keeping its shape perfect. I don’t want a black brick on my painting, so this is one of the ways to make a painting interesting. I also added a little bit of blue tone into this piece to diversify all-black-style. Red button is a nice accent.
Depending on the view angle the distortion of the lines will be different. On a photo we see iPhone flat out, we are looking directly at it from the top. Lines of the phone are parallel and there is no deformation. But when I was painting the iPhone, I was sitting and saw it from a different angle which affected the lines of my drawing due to perspective. The horizon line for this painting if far above the iPhone that’s why the side lines are aiming up and narrowing. I chose to have 2-point perspective here, that’s why top and bottom lines (sides) of the phone are not strictly parallel, actually they are narrowing a little as well (and eventually will meet somewhere on a horizon line in a vanishing point). Another way to make this piece more challenging!

This is how I painted this iPhone:

3. Books

Watercolor Ideas - Phone

Books are other simple-not-really objects to paint. Essentially, they are 2 bricks with rectangles on each side. I just need to decide where the horizon line and vanishing points are for each side of my books. The trick here to not get confused with all the lines since each book has its own 2 vanishing points, so we are talking 4 points somewhere on a horizon line (which we don’t see).
If it was a photo, I could have used Photoshop to digitally find those vanishing points. But hey, that’s the point of painting still life and training your eye!

In this painting I introduced some limited colors. I didn’t really bother much with the text on top of the book cover, I was more focused on perspective game here. In the end I added some watercolor splashes to bring life to this painting.

Thank you, Game of Thrones, for this opportunity to challenge myself once again!
Check out a quick video of my watercolor painting process:

This is how I painted my books:

4. Fruits

Watercolor Ideas - Phone

Paint some fruits like a mango ?

Open a fridge and find any interesting fruit or vegetable to paint. Consider its shape, color. We are spending out quarantine in Thailand and thankfully it is a country of endless summer and tropical fruits. So, I got myself a mango and indulged into this world of sweet watercolor yellows and oranges.

Again, my palette is limited, I only used yellow color as a base, and mixed different tones of yellow by adding red and sometimes green colors (mango skin had some funky green tones in it too). 

The shape of my mango is not perfectly oval so I kinda like that too. Got a highlighted area on the left side of the fruit and a reflected light on the opposite side. Of course, shadow right under the mango gives more realistic feel to the painting, so that’s what I did with mix of blue and gray colors.

What fruit do you have in your fridge to paint? This is my mango painting process:

5. Coffee cup

Watercolor Ideas - Phone

Paint a coffee cupAs oppose to a realistic style of my fruit painting, I decided to paint this cup in a funkier sketching style. I drew the outline of the cup with a gel pen without caring much about the form. The sketch is deformed and not realistic at all and that was goal! I wanted to give you a playful feeling by doing this.

Starbucks is the only coffeshop we have in a walking distance from our home. So here we go, another “around the house” simple idea for a painting. As you see, this artwork is a pure fun, no perspective, no headache about shapes or forms. I just paid attention to shadows and highlights to bring volume to this piece so it’s not totally flat.

Check out how I painted this Starbucks coffee cup in watercolor:

6. Watercolor set

Watercolor Ideas - Phone

What a watercolor artist without a painting of your own watercolor set! This was a fun and easy sketching time for me, I didn’t try to achieve 100% realism with this artwork. In fact, I have never really painted my tubes or pans, so it was a fun debut.

I have a collection of tubes from different watercolor brands, such as White Nights, Sennelier, Winsor & Newton, Rosa, Shinhan etc. Painting all of those would be a little too much, but an open palette with paint spilled around and a couple of brushes seemed about right.
Would love to see your painting of art supplies!

Here is a video of a painting process:

7. Tabasco sauce

Watercolor Ideas - Phone

Paint a Tabasco bottleTime to investigate a kitchen! We definitely spend much more time cooking now, Tabasco sauce became one of the most used dressings in our meals. It is also a very interesting object to paint due to glass texture, reflections, transparency of the glass itself and mass of red sauce behind it. All that looked like an exciting challenge for me, so here we go.

It took me a while to sketch out the bottle. I located main ovals of the bottle: cap, neck, widest part of a bottle and the bottom. I drew an axis of rotation from a center of the bottle cap down to a center of a bottom oval to help myself sketch a proportionate bottle.

The source of light is on my left as usual, so the highlighted spot on this bottle is also on the left rounded side. I left those areas blank white using whiteness of my paper sheet. The secret of painting glass in watercolor is to paint the reflection crisp sharp. In the end I even added a few strokes with a white gel pen to make those reflections stand out.

Of course, the main challenge here is to remember about volume and keep proportions of a bottle intact. Every now and then I needed to stand up and look at the painting from a distance to see if there were any deformations in my forms. A label must follow curved form of the bottle same as reflections. Everything needs to suggest the object is round. If you take a photo or look at the painting through a mirror you will see your mistakes right away. I was looking on the screen of my camera while recording this watercolor painting to check my proportions, by the way you can see the process here:

To wrap it up

If you are not sure what I mean by vanishing points and axis of rotation or would like to learn more how to paint proportions, check out our online course about proportions in watercolor: https://learnwatercolors.net/

Hope this ideas list and short videos inspired you to paint some fun stuff you find at home. Please share with us what cool objects you’ve found and what paintings you came up with in comments section below!

These are 7 ideas of what you can paint while stuck at home. Stay tuned as we are preparing a second part with other 7 projects for your quarantine paintings.

You can also take a look a this massive 50 watercolor ideas blog post we published for more inspiration!

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