watercolor birds

How To Paint Watercolor Birds In 9 Easy Steps!

Watercolors are one of the most beautiful mediums. Since they’re transparent, you must work with the lightest value first before adding layers. This creates depth, value, and unique luminosity.

It’s now wonder that watercolors are often used to paint colorful subjects. And today’s art tutorial is no exception! In this art guide, you’ll learn how to paint watercolor birds with ease and vibrancy.

In this guide, we’ll also ask questions like, how to paint a bird with watercolors? What are the materials that you will need to paint a bird with watercolors? What are the factors and skills that you will develop? Read on below to know the answers and more!

Why Is Watercolor Paint So Expensive?

You may find watercolors pricey compared to oil paints and acrylic paints. This is due to the higher pigment concentration. Most watercolors need extra processes to keep their unique characteristics.

Artist-quality watercolors are made with higher standards. Most manufacturers use premium-quality watercolors that are lightfast and have fewer fillers.watercolor birds

Why Paint Watercolor Birds?

There are a lot of benefits when painting watercolor birds. The complex subject figure allows the artist’s skills to develop. It also enhances the color mixing predictions. Since watercolors are transparent, working with light, form, and value are essential.

The depth of your watercolor painting will depend on your ability to work with the watercolor’s characteristics. This also improves your knowledge of color tones and shades. The application of colors also depends on each artist for intensity and value to their artwork. This can also affect the texture of the painting with the right application.

It may be a simple exercise but painting watercolor birds will push you out of your comfort zone. With this art tutorial, try to explore and experiment with a few painting styles to achieve a unique scene for your painting subject.

What Are The Materials Needed For Painting Watercolor Birds?

Now that you have an insight on how to paint watercolor birds, you will need to prepare the materials. Here are the materials essential for a successful watercolor painting:

  • Watercolor paper
  • Paintbrush
  • Kneaded eraser
  • Pencil
  • Masking tape/Painter’s tape
  • Paper towel
  • Jar of clean water

It’s best to always use the right materials for every painting medium. Choosing the right watercolor paper allows the artist to paint without worrying that the surface may warp with excess water application. Here are some handy material tips when painting watercolor birds:

  • There are different watercolor paper types to choose from, including hot-press, cold-press, and rough surface watercolor paper. They all have different textures and the paint will react differently.
  • It’s best to work with heavyweight watercolor paper as they are more absorbent. However, it’s still with the artist’s style that they can make the most of each painting’s materials.
  • For your watercolor paintbrush, find something from small and medium-size brushes. The small ones are commonly used for fine details and final touch.
  • Feel free to start with synthetic paint brushes if you are starting with watercolors.
  • A kneaded eraser is more flexible when working on corner sketches.
  • You will also need a pencil as you will need to sketch your subject image. Make sure to do a light sketch of the image that you wanted to work on.
  • Don’t sketch too hard as this will be difficult to erase later and the outline will show up under the colors.
  • A masking tape or painter’s tape is optional. You can use this can to secure your watercolor paper while you are working. It will also prevent your watercolor paper from warping.
  • Watercolor tubes are more efficient if you’re traveling and painting.
  • Before you begin applying paint, test your watercolor paints by making color swatches.
  • A paper towel is also used to remove any excess water or paint on your paintbrush.
  • A jar of clean water is a must to rinse your paintbrush. You can also use this to thin your watercolors if you need to change their tones or shades.watercolor birds

How To Paint Watercolor Birds In 9 Easy Steps

Once you have prepared all your materials, you can start on your watercolor birds. Here’s a step-by-step tutorial to help your watercolor painting:

Step 1. Sketching a light image.

Start with sketching a light image of your bird’s contour. For the subject image, you can choose a picture online. A more fun way is to go bird-watching, but this may take time.

While working on your sketch, feel free to add in the details like tree branches or the background. Once you have finished sketching the whole picture for your watercolor birds, use the kneaded eraser to lift the outline. It will leave the shapes that you will use for your painting.

Step 2. Start applying paint to your outlined image.

The color you will use when painting watercolor birds depends on the type of bird you will make. First, apply a light layer of paint to your outline. Don’t hesitate to be generous with the paint because the first layer is always the thinnest.

For this process, you can work with your medium-size paintbrush. Start with the lightest color application with watercolor paints. This is important as it will be easier to fix watercolors and lift them off with light colors. Then you can work with darker colors later on.

Step 3. Work on a new layer of darker shades

Continue to add depth and value by adding a new layer of paint with darker value. You can see that your watercolor birds are starting to form with the newly added layers.

Continue applying the paint to the outline to form the bird’s head and chest. Make sure that you are still working with the light colors. This will always be transparent after they dry.

Step 4. Make darker mixture

Apply a darker mixture of colors for your bird’s eyes and bill. There may be a few colors left on your paintbrush to work with the head’s shadow.

Use a darker color to create a shadow under your bird’s eye and bill. Rendering your watercolor birds will give it a more finished look.watercolor birds

Step 5. Work with birds wing

Start working with your bird’s wing by using a different color. For this part, you can use small and fine brushes.

Work with the strokes that duplicate the texture of the bird’s wings. This can also help you highlight the details to form value and texture.

Step 6. Add dark colored value and shadow

Add a varying range of colors to create value and shadow. This will also give the illusion and emphasize your wing’s texture and form.

Step 7. Work on your bird’s legs

Work on your bird’s legs by adding darker values of tones and shades. You can now start adding stronger colors to emphasize your highlights.

Step 8. Work tree branch with texture

Work with your tree branch with texture duplicating by the paint application. Use light colors first and add darker colors later on. Work while your surface is still wet and pull some colors off.

Add water to your tree branch and lift them off with a paper towel. This will give you unique textures. Continue adding more darker shades of colors under the tree branch of your watercolor birds.

Work with your background by using different shades of green or a mixture of colors from your tree branch. To create an illusion of light that has been filtered on your painting, work with the areas around your bird and background by adding water. Then lift it off using a paper towel.

Step 9. Details of your bird

Finally, add in the details of your watercolor birds. You have the head, eyes, bill, and features for the final touch.

There you go, this easy tutorial on how to paint a bird with watercolors will help you enhance your skills.

Not just with color mixing but a new painting technique of lifting colors to create a unique texture.watercolor birds

What Are Factors To Consider When Painting Watercolors?

Watercolor is one of the most difficult mediums due to several factors. To achieve stunning results, you’ll need to use reliable support that allows you to keep your watercolor pigments’ quality.

Most watercolorists use either paper or canvas when working with this delicate painting medium. Before jumping over to buying tons of watercolor paper or canvas, there are essential factors that you’ll need to consider:


To ensure that the artwork will last for years and the colors won’t be fading, you have to work on stable support. To achieve best stability, you’ll need to work on an acid-free surface or have a neutral pH level. 

Aside from the painting medium itself, watercolor papers can also be used with various painting mediums to support various techniques and styles. This maintains the paper and artwork intact on the surface for a long time.


The white paper offers brighter images, while colored paper has more juxtaposition or opaque techniques. When you choose the surface color, you’ll need to consider the effect type you want to achieve. You must also determine how bright the artwork would look.


A suitable amount of sizing or absorbency enables the color to stay on your painting surface instead of sinking them on the paper. It must also enable transparency to ensure that light passes through your surface. This makes the pigment more vivid on your painting surface. watercolor birds

What Are The Best Surfaces For Painting Watercolor Birds?

Besides watercolor paper, you can also use canvas when working with watercolors. For most newcomers, you’ll always hear them asking the same question if watercolors can be painted on a canvas. Yes, you can actually use canvas.

However, before you jumpstart your watercolor painting using a canvas, you’ll need to check how complicated it can be and the factors that will affect your painting quality.

What Is Watercolor Canvas?

Watercolors traditionally work on watercolor paper. Since this type of paper is designed to be extra absorbent, as watercolor depends solely on support that needs to absorb moisture, you’ll want something that can do the job right.

Canvas are traditionally used for oil paints and acrylic painting as you can modify the nature of the canvas surface. For instance, if it’s non-absorbent, you can use several painting mediums to make it more absorbent.

Watercolor canvas is also the same canvas you use for acrylics and oil paints. However, it is modified and strategically prepared to allow watery paints in nature. This modified surface support can now absorb the paint in the same way as with the paper.

One thing that helps artists improve their painting skills is a venture into various options, and watercolor is not an exception. In fact, aside from working with watercolor paper, you can enjoy working with a textured canvas.

How Can You Make The Most Of Canvas For Watercolor Painting?

Primed traditional canvas with ground watercolor

Traditionally, to modify the surface of your support and use on watercolor, you’ll need to prime it properly. This allows the surface to be more absorbent and ideal for water-based painting mediums.

These traditional canvases may require several watercolor ground or watercolor gesso coating to ensure your surface is ready for your next watercolor painting.

The watercolor ground is a unique liquid coating that allows you to modify any surface to make it more amenable to watercolor’s demanding characteristics. Besides canvases, you can also use them to modify wood, stone, metal, or any fancy surface to work with your watercolors.

When applying a watercolor ground on any surface, it’s best to use a cheaper paintbrush as this can potentially ruin the fine bristles moving forward.

A single layer or coating is necessary, but several artists prefer to layer a few times to help them get the texture they want. At the same time, the ground can dry in a few hours, it’s best to leave it overnight for 24 hours before working with the surface.
Ready-made watercolor canvas
Ready-made watercolor canvas is the new norm when it comes to watercolor painting. They are a unique and special type of support that has been coated with a special gesso to accept your watercolor paints.

They come in various forms:

  • Canvas pads
  • Canvas boards
  • Pre-stretched canvas

These watercolor canvases have the same properties as traditional fabric canvas with similar teeth. Their texture is fine, which enables you to apply your watercolors on its surface easily.watercolor birds

Most artists who get comfortable with watercolor paper may get a little surprised when they work on a watercolor canvas. All you have to do is adjust your painting techniques to use a new type of watercolor paper. This will help you easily get accustomed to the materials and achieve your desired effects.

Using ready-made watercolor canvas comes with several benefits you may want to reconsider:

  • Watercolor paints tend to rest longer on the surface, allowing you to work on your techniques properly.
  • The watercolor canvases are ideal if you’ll be working with the wet-on-wet technique.
  • Watercolor canvas is more forgiving compared to paper. You can lift your colors easily.
  • It allows you to fix even the dried paint on the surface.
  • They are also durable and make them a great candidate to work on since they aren’t easily torn apart.
  • Watercolor canvas doesn’t buckle or warp compared to unstretched types of watercolor paper.
  • Watercolor canvases are acid-free and 100% cotton giving you excellent archival qualities.
  • They are easy to use and allow you to work on your painting faster than any other support can offer.

Watercolor Paper VS Watercolor Canvas


  • This has established support suitable for watercolor painting for centuries.
  • Watercolor paper is more adaptable to various techniques and styles, making it a versatile watercolor surface.
  • It absorbs paints and fixes colors on your support surface.
  • It comes in texture variance with pronounced teeth.
  • You can easily achieve hard-edge details.
  • It allows the lifting of colors with hot-pressed paper rather than cold pressed papers.
  • The artist-grade watercolor paper offers archival effects and is acid-free, ensuring your painting lasts longer, even for generations to come.
  • To achieve optimum results, it’s best to prime or stretch your paper before painting on it.


  • Watercolor canvases are resilient and hard-wearing.
  • Pre-stretched watercolor canvases won’t warp or buckle, and it doesn’t require framing the artwork.
  • It may be challenging to achieve a hard-edge or crisp edge result.
  • It enables you to lift your colors easily but can be challenging for the glazing technique.
  • With watercolor ground, you can turn any surface, even canvas, into excellent support for watercolor painting.
  • Dry watercolor layers enable lifting, making it easy for fixing and simple paint adjustments.
  • The surface stays wet for a long time, allowing you to work on your technique or manipulate your paints compared to watercolor paper.watercolor birds

Do You Need To Seal Watercolor Painting?

Watercolors are delicate, and a single drop of moisture or humidity can greatly affect the painting surface. If you want to immortalize your paintings or protect the surface, this part is designed just for you.

Here’s why and how you can effectively and properly do the process like a pro:

  • First, there are several factors that you’ll need to consider before sealing or varnishing your watercolor painting.
  • The painting surface is water-based, which makes it prone to damage by spills or water.
  • Damp air can be absorbed on the paper, which can attract molds.
  • The oxygen present in the air can and will enhance the deteriorating process, making it brittle later on.

Before the delicate nature of watercolors and artists finding ways to secure the surface, framing it behind the glass was then the best protection.

While framing on the glass is a traditional way to protect watercolor painting surface, there are several setbacks associated with this procedure, namely:

  • The framing process can be costly as it requires adding a mat board in between the painting surface and glass to avoid condensation or moisture build-up from the inside.
  • It’s expensive to frame paintings behind glass.
  • Potential breakage between transport during exhibitions is higher.
  • The glass surface is smooth, which can cause reflections if you view the painting.
  • The packaging and posting to galleries and clients are high.

Aside from the remote setbacks, there is also a huge possibility that the framer can mishandle the artwork or cause spills which results in damaging the masterpiece.

This is why sealing and protecting your watercolor surface is more effective and efficient. The sealing method can make your artwork waterproof and glassless if you prefer.

Here’s how you can seal your watercolor birds:

Mounting or sealing your watercolor painting

When mounting the watercolor painting, the paper should be supported using a solid and inflexible surface. Some use MDF or medium density fiberboards to frame one like for oil paintings. If you also seal the surface, this procedure also enables you to frame the artwork glassless.

While sealing watercolor is another option, here’s how you can effectively do it:

  • Cut an MDF board to the suitable size of your artwork and paste it in on your painting.
  • Let it dry and protect it with a wax or polyurethane process.
  • You can frame it like oil paints or acrylic paints without the need for glass or matt.
  • This won’t give any weight issues or reflection problems.watercolor birds

How Long Does Watercolor Painting Last?

Regardless of which medium you are working on, every painting requires proper care and maintenance to ensure it will last for years and prevent any potential damage on the surface. While acrylics and oil paints are known to last for centuries, watercolor paints are prone to fading, especially if exposed to various elements.

To preserve the quality of your paint, you’ll need to protect the surface:

  • Choose the right place where you will hand or place your watercolor painting. Direct sunlight, humidity, and various elements can affect the surface quality of your artwork.
  • Avoid using sellotape or masking tape as it will rapidly stain your painting and will cause irreplaceable damage. If you’ll need to protect several areas of your painting, always for artist or painter’s tape.
  • If you’ll need to frame your watercolor painting, keep a good distance between the artwork surface and glass.

As watercolor won’t last for more than 5 years, the painting surface longevity varies with how you protect your artwork. According to the most popular watercolor manufacturers, tube types of watercolors have a lifespan of about 5 years.

However, pan types of watercolors can last for up to 10 years. The condition and how you store your paint still affect the quality and longevity of your materials.

Final Words

Watercolor birds are a great way to get your creative juices going. Birds are excellent subject figures due to their varying sizes, shapes, and colors. Feel free to experiment with the paints and don’t be afraid to go abstract!

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