Line and Wash Essentials: Planning and Composing Your Painting

Watercolour Mentor
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Welcome to Line and Wash Essentials: Planning and Composing Your Painting. In this course, we will be going through the essentials of what underpins a beautiful painting. Without knowing how to design and plan your painting, you're flying blind. I'll walk you through all the techniques you have at your disposal, and when to know which ones to use.

Understanding the steps and processes required to piece together a painting is crucial. Believe it or not, painting begins even before you put your brush to paper! We will do a variety of exercises that will build your confidence in knowing what colours to use and at what time to use specific techniques. I'll go through my 7-step process that will ensure you end up with a painting you're proud of.

The process in summary:

  • Choose a suitable scene or reference photo
  • Identify the light and dark areas - Squint!
  • Select the compositional and design elements you want to include/exclude. This also means thinking about perspective. You may need to alter the light source and shadows. Or change the colours. This is a tricky step and I'll talk about this more while we complete our projects together. I learned through trial and error and through some theory - the rule of thirds, odd-numbered subjects.
  • Sketch in pen or pencil
  • Paint the light
  • Paint the shadows
  • Paint the darkest areas and highlights

Other topics covered in this course include:

  • Water consistency/Colour mixing
  • Understanding values and colour
  • Brush control
  • Techniques: the 2 essential techniques to know in order to layer effectively
  • One Point Perspective crash course
  • Composition
  • Building confidence
  • Handling mistakes, Self-limiting thoughts
  • Building resilience, persistence
  • 7-step Unique watercolour painting process
  • Putting everything together to complete a painting

I'm excited to get started, so let's get painting!


Your course project is to sketch and paint a scene of Venice! This can be the scene featured in the final course project video or based on one of your own photographs or scenes.

You can also refer to the attached scanned drawing/painting templates. I recommend drawing each scene free hand. Drawing is an important step in improving your painting skills. This provides you with an opportunity to compose and plan your painting. Once you've finished the drawing, use the watercolor steps and processes included in the course to complete your painting. Finally, upload your project.


Use any normal or mechanical pencil/pen, watercolour paper, and brushes you have available. I recommend:

  • Mechanical pencil (0.5mm)
  • Permanent liquid ink pen (0.5-0.7mm nib) or pigment liners
  • Student or artist grade watercolour paint (only primary colours required + white gouache)
  • 100% cotton watercolour paper or sketchbook
  • Watercolour Brushes - mop brush and a variety of round and flat brushes.

Getting Started:

Review the course demonstrations on colour theory, techniques and drawing exercises first. Complete the practice exercises and sketches first. These are designed to familiarise you with my process before the final project. You can also download the tracing templates to transfer over your drawing.

As an additional challenge, research some free reference photo websites and find a reference photo you would like to paint. Using the steps and processes included in this course, create your own unique line and wash painting.

Sharing Your Work:

Once you've finished, share your final painting and progress shots with the course by uploading them to I'll provide you with constructive feedback on your painting if you ask. If you have any questions or need more tips, please let me know. I'm happy to help.

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Line and Wash Essentials: Planning and Composing Your Painting

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