36 Watercolor Painting Ideas for Beginning Artists and Seasoned Professionals

Easy Watercolor Painting Ideas

Photo: Stock Photos from TorriPhoto/Shutterstock
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Watercolor painting is one of the easiest creative activities to pick up. There are only a few supplies that you need—a set of paints, paintbrushes, paper, and water—and there are just a handful of essential techniques to know before you put pigment to paper. This brilliant simplicity means that it’s a breeze to start and finish a watercolor painting in the same day. So, what are you going to paint?

Deciding what you’ll paint can sometimes be the hardest part of the entire creative process. Do you want a subject matter that will challenge your skills? Are you looking to hone how you depict realism, or are you interested in testing the limit of your abstraction? What kinds of watercolor techniques would you like to use in your project? Making these decisions will prove vital to what you decide to paint, but they can feel overwhelming and leave you scratching your head.

If you’re in need of watercolor painting ideas, never fear! We’ve come up with a myriad of concepts that range from easy to challenging, and they all lend themselves to the carefree fluidity that’s indicative of the medium. We recommend picking a few ideas that you like and, if applicable, make a sketch of what you'd like to paint. When you’re happy with the composition, start applying color and watch the watercolor work its magic.

Check out some watercolor painting ideas below.

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In need of something to paint? We’ve got 36 watercolor painting ideas you can try today that range from simple to complex concepts.

The great thing about many of these ideas is that the simpler concepts can evolve into more challenging ones. With flowers, for instance, it’s relatively easy to paint a daisy or a tulip. When you’re ready, try adding a rose to your bouquet.


Easy Watercolor Painting Ideas

Stock Photos from Ekaterina Iatcenko /Shutterstock


Easy Watercolor Painting Ideas


Experiment! Try different colors and test out a variety of watercolor painting techniques.

Watercolor Painting Ideas

Photo: ChrisAt/Depositphotos


Washes that resemble the sky. Try painting the sunset with the wet-on-wet approach.

Photo: ViktoriiaDyachenko/Depositphotos


The starry night sky. Try preserving your white paper with masking fluid.

Watercolor Painting Ideas

Photo: Rastan/Depositphotos


Simple landscape with hills or mountains.


Put your spin on the iconic rainbow.

Watercolor Painting Ideas

Photo: ibogdan/Depositphotos


A decorative pattern. Make sure you start easy and work up to more complex motifs.

Watercolor Painting Ideas

Photo: oaurea/Depositphotos


A single piece of fruit such as an apple or an orange. To make your composition more interesting, try slicing it in half.

Photo: Dream79/Depositphotos


Fresh flowers (like daisies, tulips, or sunflowers).

Watercolor Painting Ideas

Photo: st-design/Depositphotos


Your favorite Disney or video game character.

Watercolor Painting Ideas

Photo: sobin/Depositphotos


A tranquil lake scene or a beach. (Optional: include a boat, animal, or beach umbrella.)

Watercolor Painting Ideas

Photo: elenathewise/Depositphotos


A ladybug on a leaf.

Watercolor Painting Ideas

Photo: monner/Depositphotos


Your favorite pairs of shoes.

Watercolor Painting Ideas

Photo: drupa79/Depositphotos


An aerial view you’d see from an airplane.

Watercolor Painting Ideas

Photo: lyulka.86/Depositphotos


An interesting tree you saw on a recent hike.

Watercolor Painting Ideas

Photo: Kannap/Depositphotos


Your morning cup of tea or coffee. Use the fluidity of the watercolor to capture the steam coming off the hot beverage.

Watercolor Painting Ideas

Photo: Subbotina/Depositphotos


Balloons and confetti. Learn how to make vibrant hues with the pigment.

Watercolor Painting Ideas

Photo: IrenLo/Depositphotos


A fluffy cat or dog using smudgy watercolor washes.

Watercolor Painting Ideas

Photo: OlezzoSimona/Depositphotos


Once you've completed all of the easy ideas, you can step up the difficulty level!

Watercolor Painting

Stock Photos from sashafolly/Shutterstock


Challenging Watercolor Painting Ideas


Recreate an old family photograph.

Watercolor Painting Ideas

Photo: zurijeta/Depositphotos


A collection of your favorite glass bottles. The more you add, the more challenging the painting will be.

Watercolor Painting Ideas

Photo: tsyb.oleg.gmail.com/Depositphotos


A smattering of spoons, knives, and forks. Be sure to pay attention to the reflections in them!

Watercolor Painting Ideas

Photo: VadimVasenin/Depositphotos


A bouquet of flowers—roses are some of the most challenging blooms you can paint.

Watercolor Painting Ideas

Photo: VadimVasenin/Depositphotos


The plumage on a peacock.

Watercolor Painting Ideas

Photo: Hintau_Aliaksey/Depositphotos


Pet portraits—these make great gifts!

Watercolor Painting Ideas

Photo: Photoboyko/Depositphotos


A fire-breathing dragon.

Watercolor Painting Ideas

Photo: FairytaleDesign/Depositphotos


Go outside! Sketch a building on location. Can you capture the people around there, too?

Watercolor Painting Ideas

Photo: VIAVAL/Depositphotos


A beetle with an iridescent shell. Try to recreate all of the gorgeous colors you see.

Watercolor Painting Ideas

Photo: bornin54/Depositphotos


Part of the human body. An entire face is the hardest to paint. For something a little easier (but still challenging), try rendering the hands or feet.

Watercolor Painting Ideas

Photo: NatashaFedorova/Depositphotos


Your favorite room in your home.

Watercolor Painting Ideas

Photo: iofoto/Depositphotos


What you see from your bedroom window.

Watercolor Painting Ideas

Photo: romantiche/Depositphotos


Paint the monsters living under a bed.

Watercolor Painting Ideas

Photo: innovatedcaptures/Depositphotos


Crashing waves on a shore.

Watercolor Painting Ideas

Photo: irisphoto11/Depositphotos


A magical unicorn.

Watercolor Painting Ideas

Photo: CoreyFord/Depositphotos


Venture into Surrealism by merging two things into one—such as a bird with leaves in place of its feathers.

Watercolor Painting Ideas

Photo: cranach2/Depositphotos


Your main mode of transportation, whether that is a bike, car, scooter, or public transit. Try showing them in an environment.


A bustling underwater scene.

Watercolor Painting Ideas

Photo: GraphicsMonarch/Depositphotos


Need more art ideas? Check out our drawing ideas, acrylic painting ideas, and sketchbook ideas.


Once you’re done painting, be sure to share your work in our Art, Design, Photography, and Drawing Club on Facebook!


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Sara Barnes

Sara Barnes is a Staff Editor at My Modern Met, Manager of My Modern Met Store, and co-host of the My Modern Met Top Artist Podcast. As an illustrator and writer living in Seattle, she chronicles illustration, embroidery, and beyond through her blog Brown Paper Bag and Instagram @brwnpaperbag. She wrote a book about embroidery artist Sarah K. Benning titled 'Embroidered Life' that was published by Chronicle Books in 2019. Sara is a graduate of the Maryland Institute College of Art. She earned her BFA in Illustration in 2008 and MFA in Illustration Practice in 2013.
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